Last week I attended a workshop led by James Kelly. With a commerce degree in entrepreneurship along with a Masters of Divinity and a passion for technology, James brings a unique perspective to the possibilities for church in the 21st century. After serving with his wife as short-term missionaries in South Sudan for three months, James helped launch Radiant City Church in Waterloo and is the founder of Faith Tech, which exists to bridge the gap between faith and technology. Let me share some of the things I learned.
1. Taming the God of Google
James talked about ways that Google is changing is our world. Questions that we used to ask our parents, we now ask Google. It’s not just that children refuse to bring their questions to their parents, for more and more children, it doesn’t even occur to them.
Faith Tech hosts hack-a-thons that bring together Christians with skills and passion to make an impact in the digital world. One of the problems they sought to tackle in one of these events was suicide. Over 8,000 people per day Google the phrase, “how to kill yourself.” After brainstorming the issues and the technology options, they purchased the domain https://howtokillyourself.org/, optimized it to float to the top of the Google search rankings, and filled the site with hope and resources to minister people in crisis.
At another hack-a-thon in Vancouver, the Faith Tech team brainstormed the problem of prostitution. They learned that in Vancouver alone, 20,000 people per month go to Google to find out how to hire a prostitute. They purchased the domain, www.howtobuysex.com and, once its complete, will seek to dissuade potential users, showing the background, impact and the consequences of sex trafficking. James encouraged churches to think about the kinds of questions people may be bringing to Google, and look for ways to have a voice in responding to those questions.
2. The Dark Side of Technology
While fully immersed in innovating technological solutions, James is not naïve about technology’s dark side. He shared recent statistics that show people averaging 4.5 hours/day on their cell phones and 1.23 billion people using Facebook for an hour per day. The five top companies in the world are now tech companies and so, like it or not, they will inevitably transform our society in deeper and more profound ways in the years to come. He talked about the impact that technological changes are already having. Our attention spans are shorter. We expect communication to be short and immediate. We are constantly connected and more globally aware than ever before. Entertainment ensures that we are never bored but we also have far less time to think.
James shared Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. While we tend talk about sin, he felt that it’s important that Christians start to think more about the “weights” that keep us from running the race with endurance. There are many digital choices, today, which aren’t in inherently sinful, but can get in the way of us living the lives God calls us to.
3. Be a Part of the Solution
James meets a lot of tech people. He was talking to a Christian who was on the development team for Blackberry’s original messaging platform and he asked him, “How are you using your gifts in the church?” He said, “I don’t know my place in the church. I don’t preach. I don’t play a musical instrument. I’m a techie so they have me running PowerPoint.” James asked him if he could build a software platform that connects missionaries to local churches. After staring at the ceiling for a minute he said, “Yes.” He shared that story to encourage churches and Christians to think creatively about ways to unleash people’s potential for the kingdom of God.
Our digital strategy at Grace is in its infancy, but there are some important ways that you could help:
- Would you take a moment right now to like our page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/gracebcrh/) and follow us on Twitter (https://twitter.com/gbcrh)? This will not only help you get connected but ensure that our message gets a broader reach.
- Would you leave a review on Google and mention something you love about Grace?
- Would you let me know if you’re interested in being a part of the Digital Ministry Team at Grace? Let’s dream together about how we might use technology to impact our community.
In awe of Him,