3 Keys to Digital Discipleship
Disciple making is the name of the game. It is why we exist and what we aim to accomplish as the church. With all of the advancement in technology since Jesus stood in Galilee and spoke the Great Commission for the first time, you would think we would have found a simple and easy way to make disciples. But making disciples is much more like developing maturity in your children than it is like inoculating someone from smallpox. There is no easy path to developing disciples – no pill or secret trick. It takes time, investment, hard work, and a healthy dose of the Holy Spirit to be successful.
One of the realities of disciple making is that it is difficult to measure spiritual growth. How do you measure the intangible? While you can’t really measure it exactly, there are a few things that may help you evaluate and improve your ability to make disciples. Churches that are looking at these indicators and finding ways to improve upon them, often see a high correlation with maturing believers.
But a common mistake is confusing participation with growth. If you fall to this common error, it can lead your church towards proliferation of programs and events. People are coming, it’s a church thing, so it’s safe to assume that we are making disciples, right? Not necessarily. The number of groups at the church or the number of people at an event is not an accurate measure of spiritual health.
So how can you measure spiritual growth?
When I was younger, I was processing a mistake I had made with my mentor. I apologized for my lapse in judgment. His reply has stuck with me for many years. He said, “Mistakes are a great teacher. You can show that you learned the lesson by demonstrating the right behavior, consistently, over time, and in a variety of circumstances.” I expected him to say, ‘It’s ok. I forgive you’, but what he actually said was much better. It taught me that growth is proven by demonstrating change. And not just one-time change. Change that is consistent over time and in a variety of circumstances. That sounds a lot like discipleship to me.
From that, I drew the conclusion that spiritual maturity is something that is ‘lived out’ consistently, over time and in all of the challenges, opportunities and circumstances we find ourselves in. That is not easy to measure, but you usually know it when you see it.
Real spiritual growth results in life transformation. For each person, it may look a bit different, but you can see these trend lines as people move from visitors towards being involved, from non-givers towards tithers, from observing to serving. In these trend lines, you begin to see evidence of spiritual growth.
What is the role of technology in this?
Speak their Language
In 2006, Merriam Webster added ‘google’ to the dictionary. A day doesn’t go by without me googling something. How about you? That is a natural part of how I interact with the world now. If I am making plans for the weekend with a friend, I don’t call them, I send them a text. You might remember being in school and passing notes in class. I bet that doesn’t happen very much at all now! So no need to learn the origami folding techniques for school love notes, because that is not people’s native patterns of interaction. People are increasingly becoming digital native speakers. In fact, many school districts are considering a shift to allow learning to write code to count towards a foreign language credit. Go where the people are, and people are on their phones.
Go with the Flow
As our culture continues to change, the flow and pace of our lives continue to change. With the change in technology, we have seen a huge growth in the ‘celebrity pastor’. Now, if you have a favorite preacher, you can just jump on the interwebs and watch their latest sermon, or read the most recent post. 25 years ago, that was not the case. Now, people have an expectation of ‘instant access’ and waiting for Sunday to engage with a sermon or worship music isn’t realistic. Using technology, you can provide meaningful ways for people to connect with your church, Bible studies, and others within your congregation when it fits into the natural flow of their lives.
As stated previously, attendance is not a measure of transformation. But, with the use of technology, you can measure those trend lines as people move towards deeper and deeper engagement. You can identify the behaviors that you believe are the byproducts of spiritual growth and begin measuring them. Technology provides the visibility into measuring those behaviors, whether they are giving, serving, or something else.
Technology gives us the tools to engage with people in their native patterns. It provides access to them that fits in their flow of life, and it makes it easy to measure the consistency and frequency of common indicators.
How is your church using technology to make disciples?