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Technology: a new way to ministry

By September 22, 2016

USA (MNN) — Technology has become a source of wonder and great criticism. It can be used to communicate with people halfway around the world or cause accidents from texting and driving.

Technology and Christianity

But when it comes to faith, can technology and Christianity mix? Yes.

(Photo Courtesy Fernando Jorge Agüero via Flickr)

(Photo courtesy of Fernando Jorge Agüero via Flickr)

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Director of Ministry in Digital Spaces and games expert, Bret Staudt Willet, is currently a Ph.D. student studying how technology affects our humanity, sense of self, generosity, interactions with others, and more.

Basically, Willet is interested in how communities connect and form, and what role the internet and other technology sources play in bringing people together.

“I love Twitter for that reason. Hashtags I think are phenomenal for this. They’re a gathering place for people who want to share a conversation,” Willet explains. “Video games are actually pretty interesting for this, too. Video games are becoming more and more social. It’s not just about the content anymore or the experience of the game. It’s about the whole ecosystem of the social layer.”

Virtual Reality vs. Reality

And ministry begins with just that: being social and building relationships. However, Willet says there is this thing called “digital dualism.” The term refers to a separation between our lives spent in the “physical” world and what is spent in the “technology/online” world.

“Those two worlds are just all real life. It’s all a part of who we are and how we’re going about our lives and experiencing the world,” Willet says.

As a part of this, Willet doesn’t look at technology as good or bad, real or fake, but instead as a tool. He urges people to ask themselves, ‘What am I trying to do with this technology?’

(Photo Courtesy of Global Panorama via Flickr)

(Photo courtesy of Global Panorama via Flickr)

For example, Facebook or Skype can be used as tools for staying connect with family members who live far away. Or, things like Pokemon Go can be used to build relationships to share the Gospel through. But these very same things can be used for bad as well. What it really comes down to is the heart.

Because honestly, being in the same physical space as other people doesn’t guarantee a real relationship. And being in a digital space with people doesn’t guarantee a fake one either.

Everyone Matters

Still, technology has received a lot backlash, even when used for ministry. But Willet hopes to see this change and to see technology become a normal part of ministry and building relationships.

“To realize that those people who are through the screen, that they matter too. That somebody on the other end is having some kind of day, could be bad or could be good. But they’re a real person…these are people,” Willet expresses.

And they’re real people with stories worth knowing.

Regardless if it’s your next door neighbor or a person thousands of miles away, both deserve to be recognized, cared for, and to have relationships with people exhibiting Christ’s love.

And believe it or not, for some of these people, the only place where they may meet and build a relationship with a Christian is in a digital space.

So before knocking all technology, social media, games and more, think about the impact that can be had by being social, even though it’s not in the physical realm.

(Photo courtesy of Jason Howie via Flickr)

(Photo courtesy of Jason Howie via Flickr)

“From a ministry perspective, this [is] like, wow, we have 76 to 80 percent of young adults are playing some kind of game. Whether it’s on their phone or console or computer, and almost all of those games have a social layer,” Willet shares.

But it’s a layer we can all be a part of and love people in.

To learn more about Ministry in Digital Spaces or maybe volunteer, click here!

In the meantime, pray for InterVarsity’s Ministry in Digital Spaces, the relationships being built, and for the intersection of Christianity and technology.

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