THE 21ST CENTURY VIRTUAL CHURCH AND DIGITAL EVANGELISM
“ For we will surely die and become like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away a life; but He devises means, so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him.”
- 2 Samuel 14:14
“What if the next global awakening is digital? What if the next “Lekki 98” will be online? What if the question posed in Isaiah 66:8 of a nation being saved in a day was God’s invitation to our generation?”
The Covid-19 Pandemic has forever changed the world and impacted the Church in significant ways as well. A critical observation on the Digital pulpit or Church is vital and we need to create ways on how the Church might navigate this period. Although, some denomination responded and were prepared differently, most every ministry has had reasons to shift from the familiarity of physical spaces, to the unknowns of the digital world. This has challenged the Church to consider the way ministry is executed, specifically, how technology is employed and at the same time maintaining the integrity of biblical pattern and our core values we are known for.
As the church embraces this development, many Churches all over the world, are seeing unprecedented spiritual growth, freedom and possibilities in this virtual space. The command of Jesus to “go” into all the world and preach the gospel is now possible more than ever before.
As our vision in the Redeemed Christian Church of God, to have at least a member of RCCG in every family of the world, today, the internet and social media where people are situated in their millions, has shown clearly to us that God was the originator of that vision and that He has the internet and social media in mind at the birth of the vision.
Concept of a Virtual Church?
“… I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some.”- 1 Cor. 9:22b
A virtual Church is a church not in the real world of bricks and mortar but in the virtual world of IP addresses and shared experiences. This type of Church is unlike any type of Church the world has ever seen. Although, a virtual church has the capacity to break down social barriers, unites believers from all walks of life, and build the kingdom of God with a little or no finance. It is a completely different types of church from any the world has ever seen.
Virtual, online and digital church are being used to describe what churches are doing to provide services and community in a time of when they cannot gather due to social distancing. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, it might be helpful to more clearly delineate these terms to enrich our knowledge and understanding.
Virtual Church is a service or church that meets in a fully virtual environment (world). Though the term “virtual” is often used as a synonym for online. It is helpful to use virtual exclusively to describe church experiences in virtual environments like Roblox, and AltSpaceVR.
A virtual church creates something entirely new where worshippers can move around in and be a part of the service. One other key factor is that participants are almost always anonymized through avatars and screen names rather than video and real names. This anonymity presents both advantages and disadvantages when it comes to the level of intimacy and security individuals have.
A Virtual Church in a Virtual World
A virtual world is a created space where people can interact as if they are in a real world, but through some form of computer-mediated communication, which includes not only some parts of the internet but also any other digital network or electronic interface.
A virtual world behaves more like a virtual reality (VR). A virtual world must have two basic elements:
- A space created to be occupied and
- Effective social interaction.
There are many possible worlds. There is a real world which is you, seated in this conference. From the biblical point, most or other worlds are subsets of the real world, but they relate with the real world very differently. Virtual worlds are as real as the real world.
Please note the followings:
- A virtual worlds are real worlds and not imaginary worlds. They are created by man and not God for social interaction.
- A virtual world church will never replace the real world church in the future neither will all things spiritual comes from the virtual church, but both will complement each other.
- Segments of the society will be members, not just of a real world church but also a virtual world church
- Many individuals, particularly people who are technologically savvy will prefer worship experience from a virtual church because of its flexibility, diversity and transparency
- The real world church will change in the future as the virtual church will be affecting it.
Basic Contents and Characteristic of the 21st Century Virtual Church
The 21st century Virtual Church must be able to have the following characteristics:
- It must be able to interact with the real world.
- The Church must have a functional website with consistent interaction and immersion.
- It must be able to offer spiritual instructions through blogs, downloadable teaching points, or sermon podcast.
- It must have a virtual church building and create seats for Virtual Images (Avatar) to attend weekly services.
- It must be able to carry out evangelism, mission outreaches conveniently.
- Church members who met in the virtual church also join to build God’s kingdom in the physical world (church).
A major shift we must all embrace.
“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.”- Acts 17:26.
This time is being marked out for you and I in the agenda of God for this world. No generation has ever enjoyed digital tools and technology like this generation.
When Jesus Christ was on the earth, the Bible was in scrolls, but in this age, we can possibly have the entire versions of the bible on a mobile phone.
The world is changing gradually. If we must reach all the nations of the world with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must engage tools that can get to all the nations of the world-virtual and internet tools
Concept of Digital Evangelism
- What is Digital Evangelism?
Digital Evangelism is the systematic and intentional use of internet platforms to spread the Gospel to the online population. The goal is to introduce people to Christ and then connect them to a living Church.
Digital Evangelism is strategically using internet, mobile, and social media platforms to meet the needs of others and share the Gospel with the online world. Making use of digital means to further the Gospel work means that more Church members can be digital evangelists or missionaries, RCCG presence online will be stronger, and more people will know of the saving love of Jesus.
Digital evangelism should be incorporated into the traditional forms of evangelism. It does not replace traditional methods such as canvassing, tent meetings, or distribution of tracts.
Types of Digital Evangelism?
- Social Media Evangelism
- Email Evangelism
- Video Evangelism
- Blog Evangelism
- Podcast Evangelism
- Audio Evangelism
- SMS Text Evangelism
- Social Listening Evangelism
For time and space, we shall critically examine the Social Media Evangelism, which is one of the most important type digital evangelism to the church today.
What is Social Media Evangelism?
Social Media Evangelism is the act of spreading the Christian gospel contents through digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other popular social media platforms.
The Social media evangelism method is the most common digital evangelism method of the six. It involves creation of content to reach, connect, and engage with people on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
As at the end of the first quarter in 2022, it is recorded that, there were over One hundred and thirty social media platforms in the physical world.
Essentials of Social Media Evangelism?
- Content creation is not as essential as content engagement. We must strive not only to create content but also to engage your audience.
- Don’t simply post content promoting events at your church, but do everything possible to engage them and initiate gospel interaction.
- Social media is not broadcast media. It’s about relationships and interaction.
- Your ministry’s social media platform should seek to be a two-way relationship where you give your audience a chance to respond to you.
- There are Social Media Platforms of some churches that have no engaging contents or that has no response or feedback mechanism. In other words, we should be deliberate in engaging our online explorer on every of our social media platforms and get a feedback mechanism.
- Treat your social media audience as you would treat the audience in your parishes with attention and care.
- One effective way to make sure that your social media ministry reaches your target audience is by creating a dedicated social media groups or pages.
- Facebook Groups are a great way to find and engage with like-minded individuals, and you will be assured of great engagement and reach.
Why is Digital Evangelism Needed in this 21st Century?
Every revival leader from the book of Acts of the Apostles onward has made used of media of their times. Paul apostles used letters, William J. Seymour used the printing press to advertise the Azusa street revival, and Daddy G.O now televised Crusades and Holy Ghost services. The use of media for evangelism is nothing new. A fresh array of evangelists have risen up. This time around, it is not one but thousands of evangelists who are sharing the Gospel. It is not crusade built around one man that people gathered to hear, but an army of people who are in their various homes, workplace and community who God is working through them. Those people are you and I. So what are we waiting for? A snap look at the highlights bellow will interest you.
- There are approximately 7.8 billion people in the world.
- 89 billion use the internet.
- 02 billion are on social media.
- Digital Evangelism helps us spread the Gospel into all the world at a rate we never could’ve imagined before. Moreover, it connects us to the younger generation.
- It is a way to activate social influence of a church membership, building bridges to the local community, developing a meaningful understanding of their felt needs and determining relevant ways to serve the community, both within and outside the church.
- It is also a strategy to boost friendship evangelism and empower individuals to actively involved in larger goals and the mission of the church.
- The role of digital in the evangelism process cannot be ignored. “The digital space is no longer just for entertainment, but it has become the way many groups work.
- In Matthew 28:19, Christ says “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Digital evangelism and discipleship are important because as Christians, we are to be spiritually guiding people toward Christ. But first, that means we need to meet people where they are. Right now, millions of these people are online.
- Churches need to strike a wise and biblical balance as they venture into evangelism and discipleship in a digital age,
- It is imperative to note that the ultimate God-ordained means for evangelism and discipleship is the local church. “There is absolutely no replacement for the physical gathering of the saints, the preaching of God’s word, the faithful administration of his sacraments, and the proper exercise of pastoral care and church discipline.”
- We must also not forget to note that the commandment of world evangelization of all nations of the world will only be possible with the tools and technology that covers the world, that is, the digital tools in the digital world.
- The digital world is vast and growing at an alarming rate. Many programs and activities are now scheduled in the digital space. For instance, there is a Church now in the MetaVerse world.
- According to chrissniderdesign.com, Facebook has over 3 billion monthly active users, Twitter as 300 million daily active users, and Youtube has 2.5 billion monthly active users. This is where billionsof people who need Christian council are. Christians need to have an online presence to bring light to the dark parts of the web.
- Theologically sound answers to questions are needed for people who are asking, and Digital Evangelism and Discipleship strive to be that answer and to turn them toward Christ.
Basic Structure for Digital Ministry involves three people:
- Content Creators
- Content Distributors
- Content Engagers
Content creators are those who package the gospel message and teachings of Jesus into various digital friendly formats such as: video, blogs, images, podcasts, etc.
Distributors are organizations or individuals who use digital tools and technologies to share content within their sphere of digital influence.
Engagers are empathic individuals within an organization, or operating independently, who engage in online conversations for the purpose of building meaningful relationships, better understanding needs, and determining meaningful ways to serve others in the community.
Digital Evangelism Tools
Digital tools for evangelism and discipleship are numerous. It depends on the work an individual intends to do or tasks at hand. Here are some of the digital tools for evangelism and discipleship:
- Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.)
- Blogging and writing articles
- Creating videos, short or long, narrative or documentary
- Bible app to study the Bible with people
It is expedient for the church to use all of the above resources, but there are some other separate list of digital evangelism and discipleship tools that specifically relate to the church:
- Recorded sermons
- Church app for teachings and other resources
- Financial tithing online
- Church Website
How do I begin evangelism in the digital world?
- Spend more time in prayer
If we used the time we spent talking, reading, and preaching about prayer in actual prayer, the Gospel work would be done.
Any ministry work that can be done in your own power is not worth doing.
Although starting an online small group might sound like something simple, do not start without spending significant time praying for strength and wisdom, as well as for those who will participate.
The success of your ministry depends on God’s help received through prayer.
- Define your target audience and demography
Your target audience is the group of people you intend to reach with your evangelistic message.
One of the biggest mistakes online missionaries or evangelists make is to say, “I’m trying to reach everybody.”
Although there is a lot of heart behind this goal, it won’t help you achieve success in digital ministry.
- Pict a Social Media Platform that is easy for you.
There are about one hundred and thirty social media platforms. They may look intimidating, but pick one for you evangelistic outreach per time.
- Create your Content
Content creation is all about what you want to feed your audience with. How your message is presented is important. Are you using videos, photos, and infographics? Be sure to consider your audience when creating evangelistic content.
Graphics, Questions, Live Videos , Videos, Photos, Quotes, Infographics, Links, Blogs, Written Posts, Announcements, Live Events, Holidays, Greetings, Polls Or Video Stories etc
Content creation help
- Create design with Canva
- Create Logo with Canva
- Test and evaluate your Content
It is very important to test what content is working and what is not working.
Are people engaging with one kind of posts more than another? Does your audience respond more to a specific CTA than another? Is it effective (accomplishing the goals you want)? These and many more are the questions you must be able to answer.
- Respond and Engage with every Response on your Social Media Platform without any delay.
Digital evangelism is not complete if you are unwilling to respond to every question and reaction made on your social media platforms
- Promote your Digital Evangelistic Contents Online
If possible, run a social media campaign for your evangelistic contents with an eye on engagement as your main purpose. This will help your content to be seen and reacted to by many more people outside your organic reach.
“… I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some.”- 1 Cor. 9:22b
If we do not wake up to use internet and social media, we may be a “disconnected” church- cut off from the very people we are sent to reach and our vision and mission statements may be almost impossible to achieve.
We should arise and do anything short of sin to reach the whole world particularly the unsaved souls for Christ. To reach people no one is reaching, we will have to do things no one is doing.
God has certainly given us an amazing open door through technology, today. I hope we will all embrace it?
Thank you for your audience