The Church is most certainly the oldest and most enduring network of loyal followers in the world. That thought struck me as I engaged in a digital strategy summit recently. Social Media-savvy hipsters and corporate executives stood before the audience, reminding us that what drives our digital strategies, should be a well-thought through plan that will result in engaging more and more customers in such a way that they will eventually be loyal to your brand or product for life. How do you move them along that path? How can you possibly manage to see your name as their identity? The answer is story. You want them to see how their lives merge with the story you are telling and then you want them to tell that story to others in their relational circles so that their friends will begin that journey as well.
Delivering the Story
So how is it that the church is so far behind in using digital strategies? The gospel narrative is the greatest story that will ever be told. There is not a person in the world that is not affected by it and yet we have neglected the technology that is able to deliver that message to more people in that audience than Paul himself could have ever imagined! Not only that, it gives us the power to connect people to one another so that they can enter into meaningful, transformational relationships with others who follow Jesus, as well.
I confess, I arrived at this event feeling sheepish, almost like a “conference crasher.” Would I even understand the jargon the speakers were using? When I answered the question, “Who do you work for and what do you do?” would they roll their eyes and look for the nearest conversational exit? The honest truth is that every person I met treated me seriously. They were interested in what I had to bring to the conversation. They wanted to hear my opinions and were patient when I asked clarifying questions. They acted just like I want to act when those outside my faith are willing to engage in a conversation about Jesus.
A Billboard or a Conversation?
For the most part, the church has gone about using technology, when we use technology, very awkwardly and ineffectively. We have been lazy and we’ve used it more like a billboard than a conversation. We see it as a one-way transfer of information. And whether you are standing on a street corner shouting at people, painting the cryptic “John 3:16” on a poster board at a football game or posting “The Four Spiritual Laws” on a URL, we are missing a lot more people than we are engaging. Talking at them doesn’t even constitute a transfer of information, much less connecting them to Jesus.
Most people define “technology” as something invented in his/her lifetime. My friend, Rick Smith, defines it as a God-given force of transformation. He’s right. So, church, let’s humbly learn from those outside our faith who have been stewarding this force much better than we have and join the conversation. Let’s use technology to help people enter into the greatest, most compelling story they’ll ever have to tell!
Cheryl Boyd serves Cru in Dallas as part of the city ministry. She helps to give national leadership to our use of Digital Strategies. Before that, she served the campus ministry in Russia for almost 12 years. She loves telling stories and processing life on her blog, http://cheryloboyd.wordpress.com/.