Posted On January 28, 2019

Introduction to the Plugged in to the Vine

by | Jan 28, 2019 | Plugged in to the Vine, Featured

I grew up with the computer. The timeline of my youth is punctuated by the invention of new, disruptive technologies. As I got bigger, the computers got smaller. This makes me a digital native, albeit one who can still remember a world where none of this technology existed.

Plenty of books and articles have warned Christians against the dangerous and addictive properties of the internet, and we do well to receive their wise guidance. But the fact remains that many Christians spend time here and have become not just consumers but creators of internet-based content. Rather than focusing on the dangers this poses to the church, we’d like to use this series to highlight the ways in which online ministry can be done well.

Digital publishing removes many of the traditional barriers and invites a whole new generation of thinkers to join the conversation. No matter where we live, we can read the testimony of believers from every tribe and tongue and nation. No matter how little our name is known, we can interact with well-known writers and thinkers online. This series will celebrate the ways that digital tools make ministry more accessible, more diverse, and more personal.

Recently, Tim Challies began a conversation about the shifting trends in Evangelical blogging, particularly the shift from writers developing their own blog towards writing for larger collective blogs (like Servants of Grace) that publish a variety of writers and produce a steady stream of content. He mourned the loss of individual blogs like one might mourn a favorite ethnic food restaurant being replaced by a generic chain serving burgers. Some bloggers have returned to their blogs, with a renewed commitment to developing a readership with a taste for their particular brand of writing. Others have defended the larger blogs, explaining how the overwhelming quantity of blogs makes it difficult for individual writers to gain a following without turning their own lives into clickbait. Not only that, but these larger sites provide editorial support that writers appreciate. Sites like Servants of Grace can serve up fresh content on a consistent basis which means writers can focus on their writing and spend less of their energy on web design and social media. This conversation was a reminder of just how many of us there are: writers who are using their digital presence to glorify God and who are seeking to do it well. Surely these tools of digital discipleship are influencing the local church, so we want to discuss how we can wield that influence wisely.

The internet was not invented to share the gospel, but creative and persistent Christians can find a way to use any technology to their advantage. We can learn from one another as we seek to use these tools well. After all, we are among the first generation of Christians to navigate this terrain. Many of us admire those well-known pioneers who paved the way with their larger platform ministries. But along the way, most of the writers in this series have discovered ways they can use their talent for writing to honor God on a smaller scale. The writers in this series are committed to being rooted in our local church even when our online lives can reach far beyond. I look forward to learning from writers who value faithfulness over fame. My prayer is that this series will remind those of us who write online to consider it an honor that we have been “approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).

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