I’ve been writing about the inherent problems of Digital Discipleship, and now in my fourth installment I’d like to indicate a number of benefits:
- The ability to get prayer requests and ministering needs out quickly to those who can help.
- Easy access to online bible study resources and teaching videos. The quality of these resources continue to get better and better. I intend to pass along, in the future, recommended resources or articles under the title: Briefing.
- The ability to communicate via email, voice and video with missionaries and churches throughout the world. I have personally done this with those across the sea many times.
- Visibility for the church – many have come through our church doors simply because our website came up as they typed in the word Presbyterian. For those in business, digital visibility is a key part of their business and commerce.
- The ability to coordinate ministries and calendars in the church – this is becoming more and more of a necessity in a digital world, especially when a congregation is growing. We are implementing new software here to help us pay attention to the growing needs of our congregation.
- People pass along to me theological questions, emails of gratitude, as well as information such as who has recently gone into the hospital or who could need a visit.
- The advent of video communication has made it possible for me – for example – to have a weekly pastoral support and accountability meeting with friends located throughout the United States. This technology has also enabled my parents to stay connected to their grandsons here in California. This is a good thing.
- The positive side of social media – to be encouraged by thoughtful comments, to see pictures of family adventures, to stay connected with others when physical proximity is simply not possible. Too bad social media is filled with such vitriol, anger, sermonizing and politicizing everything (even from Christians) and frankly for too much inappropriate material. This has largely ruined the experience for me.
The benefits are certainly there, and I try to utilize them regularly. Yet, the benefits still don’t replace your need for relationships. It still is not the forum for confrontation, debate, and personal concern. It still cannot indicate the number of real friendships by the number of “digital friends” or “followers.” It is still impersonal and in no way, shape or form, a substitute for your need for real, personal friendship.
And, finally, in my own view, in many ways consistent absorption into the digital world can be a complete waste of time – hours, days, months that you simply can’t get back. Draw boundaries around it for yourself and your children. And go for a hike or a run, read a book and mow the grass, play catch or walk the dog, talk with your spouse and with your children, teach your kids Greek or Hebrew.
You just might find yourself less anxious, less angry, less insecure and more aware of the real life with God around you – and that’s a good thing.