“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14, ESV)
As a follower of Jesus, this is one of the of the most challenging, complex, and exciting verses in all of the Bible. It’s exciting because we have a promise from Jesus himself that He will return. But it’s challenging and complex because in order for Jesus to return, “this gospel of the kingdom” must be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations.
WHAT?!? It’s going to take proclaiming the good news of Jesus to the WHOLE WORLD, and more specifically ALL NATIONS? That’s a lot of work…
And yet, missionaries have been engaging in this work for hundreds of years. One of the first missionaries who pioneered modern missions as we know it today was William Carey (1761–1834). But how much closer are we to reaching the goal of proclaiming the good news of Jesus throughout the whole world? Well, according to the Joshua Project, we’re currently about 58.7% of the way there. Not bad, right? But what would it take to get to 100%? Another 200 years? Or another 2,000?
An excellent commentary on this is from George Eldon Ladd in his article “The Gospel of the Kingdom”:
“We have done more in the last century and a half in worldwide evangelization than all the preceding centuries since the time of the apostles. Our modern technology has provided printing, automobiles, aeroplanes, and radios. These and many other methods have allowed us to speed our task of carrying the gospel into all the world.”
This is an amazing insight, that advancements in technology have been the means for some of the greatest quantum leaps in global evangelization. Whether it be the roads in Rome that provided Paul with the access to reach cities in shorter time, or the printing press that gave hundreds of people access to the Bible that had previously never had access, technology has helped the Church to advance the mission of telling the world about Jesus in exponential ways. Even in the modern era, airplanes have provided physical access to countries within hours that were previously months out of reach. And even the Radio has allowed large audiences to hear the good news for the very first time.
What if the next technological advancement that will exponentially propel the mission of the Church forward is already here?
If we look back at each of the innovations that have advanced the cause of missions over the last few millennia, we find that each technology has generally worked to help missions in two arenas:
- Physical Access / Proximity
- Distribution of Information (i.e. the Gospel)
If we consider the second category, technologies like the printing press, radio, and T.V. have been some of the most recent advancements in this providing more people with better access to the good news of the Gospel. But there are two new technologies that have been quantum leaps in information distribution across the globe today:
The Internet & Cell Phones.
Consider a few statistics about the prevalence of these technologies globally:
That’s right — 50% of the world now has access to some form of internet connection, but over 95% of the global population lives in an area that is covered by a mobile-cellular network.
That means that nearly 95% of the world could hear about Jesus using a smart phone with at least 2G data coverage. And at this time, 66% of the world has some kind mobile device. I’ve also seen other figures that estimate that number is closer to 73–75% today. A LARGE portion of the world today has a portal to receive various kinds of information. And large corporations like Facebook (Aquila drone) and Google (Project Loon) are urgently trying to increase that number.
Imagine… we have been looking for ways to get the good news of Jesus (information) to people all over the world, including in some of the most hard to reach regions of the world, for centuries. That dream has never been as possible as it is today with the advent of the internet and cell phones.
As many people are now gaining access to this portal for information distribution, we face a new question for a new generation of missionaries. Are we ready to engage people where they are living their lives, even if that includes a non-physical location like their 3.5" computer in their pocket, a.k.a. their cell phone?
We live in exciting times. Never before has the fulfillment of the great commission looked as possible as it does today with this new medium for telling people about Jesus. But the biggest question facing us today is this:
Are we ready to engage a broken and hurting world with the good news of Jesus, via the internet?
Answering It’s that question that I hope to address in future medium posts like these. And while it may never replace the need for in-person missions work, it does provide a new means for the Holy Spirit to touch lives all over the world that have never had the opportunity to meet Him. This new method of missions is already advancing quickly through several ministries’ work to address this question, and I’ve recently joined one of the leading ministries paving the way.
This new form of missions, using the internet and technology to help people discover, treasure and share Jesus all over the world, is what we’re calling Digital Missions.
I’m excited to share more with you about how God is already at work to introduce Himself to people for the very first time through websites, mobile apps, and other technologies. There’s a lot left to be discovered in this new and exciting arena of missions, and I hope you’ll join in the conversation as we continue to explore what Digital Missions is, and what it could look like. For now, I hope you’ve gotten a glimpse of the possibilities.
I look forward to unpacking this new mode of missions with you as God continues to reveal how He is at work in the digital world.