International (MNN) — Generation Z is growing up fast, and a new generation of believers is already making decisions about how to follow the Great Commissions. But where will they go? What does the future of missions look like?
To find out, we’re looking at some of the new and creative ways the Church is doing missions and talking to leaders from the forefront of these new fields. We’re starting with James Kelly, founder and director of Faithtech and guest speaker at Intervarsity’s Urbana ‘18 conference.
Unreached People in the World of Technology
“[FaithTech] is a network of technologists that love Jesus and love pursuing Jesus in some capacity, and we’re essentially saying that they feel lost and alone and underutilized in the Church globally,” Kelly says.
Kelly says Christians are somewhat rare in the growing field of technology, which is unfortunate both for technologists and for the Church.
“Technology is the fastest growing industry in the world. Every year, hundreds of thousands, even millions of people are graduating from tech fields, going into tech, and almost no one’s [moved out] from it. And yet there are very, very few Christians.”
Kelly sees the field of technology as one of the largest unreached people groups. That’s a problem, especially since this particular group has enormous impact of the world. People spend their time predominantly around screens, and Kelly says the top 5 most influential companies in the world are tech companies.
If the Church can recognize that, we can make a plan of action.
Bridging the Gap
Faithtech brings technologists and Christian thinkers together. They teach technologists to be missionaries where they are and show the Church why technology is so important.
“The global Church is struggling really deeply right now with how to understand technology, use technology, think about technology, and leverage technology, and what’s so unique is that you have two camps that are struggling to uniquely but the way to solve them both is to bring them together,” Kelly says.
“There is an enormous, enormous opportunity right now to leverage technology in the context of missions, and we’re not even close to tapping into it.”
Kelly thinks the first step is understanding technology, not from a practical and technological standpoint, but from a cultural standpoint.
“Understand it not from a standpoint of ‘here’s how to use Powerpoint better.’ Instead, understand that it is drastically changing culture,” he says.
High-tech Solutions to Real-world Problems
Kelly has a background in pastoral ministry, but he has always seen technology as the future of missions.
“One of my fundamental mandates as a pastor is to contextualize culture, figure out what its idols are, figure out where it’s going, and then help my people figure out to understand that culture and use their gifts and abilities to advance the kingdom within that culture,” he says.
The problems are tangible. Tens of thousands of North Americans regularly search the internet for ways to kill themselves – and they find them.
To combat this epidemic, FaithTech brought together web developers, psychotherapists, communications specialists who bought the domain howtokillyourself.org. Open up the website, and the first words you’ll see are “You’re Not Alone.”
Now, stories are starting to come back to Kelly from people who had their lives changed by the website.
And that’s only part of how the Church can use technology. Some organizations are using drones to find landing strips and determine where materials are needed, and Christians in creative access countries can use social media and websites to meet people where they’re at
Meeting People Where They Are
Our primary communities, even in poor communities, are online
“The poorest of the poor in my city in Canada are spending the majority of their time online, and that’s where they see their community,” Kelly says. “If that doesn’t drastically shift the way we do missions and the ways we need to be communicating the gospel, that’s crazy!”
The Church needs to learn how to share the Gospel effectively on digital platforms. Somewhere around 80% of the world will have a phone within the next five years, and cell phone owners spend an average of five hours a day on their phones.
When the Church understands technology, they make a difference. Kelly points out that even the printing press was at first protested by the Church, but the first thing printed by Gutenburg was a Bible.
“Technology has no boundaries. It has no walls. What that means is that it can reach people that you never thought you could reach.”
Header photo courtesy of Unsplash.