How the Internet is Changing Ministry

November 16, 2006

I ran across two recent articles that reinforced the notion that the Internet is radically reshaping how we will do ministry in the 21st century.
Brian Bill pointed out an article in CT called What’s Next: Publishing and Broadcasting. Here is the money quote:

Already, industry insiders are talking about on-demand kiosks that will print paperbacks right in bookstores within seconds. These kiosks’ product lists could number into the hundreds of thousands, offering bestsellers, stand-alone book chapters, and self-published titles from authors around the globe.
They also imagine broadband sites and iPod/cell-phone services that will broadcast original programming from media giants alongside YouTube-style self-productions. The old media won’t die, most agree, it will just be distributed in new ways, and it will face greater competition from new technologies. Radio will confront popular podcasts; TV, viral videos; books and magazines, e-publications.

The second article deals with the decision by Desiring God Ministries to take John Piper’s radio broadcast off radio altogether. Calling their approach Radio Without Radio, they offer an impressive array of statistics to show that alternative means of media delivery are skyrocketing in popularity, offering the chance to reach huge listening audiences at a fraction of the cost of traditional radio ministry. Here are the four key words that shape their strategy for the future. Media must be …

Accessible: We want people to have convenient access to as many of our resources as possible. Our new website has been designed for this purpose.
Portable: We want our resources, whenever possible, to be in a portable format, so that you and others can read, listen, or view them where and when it’s convenient for you.
Transferable: We want many resources that you can easily pass along or show to others, so that the vision of God we love together will most effectively spread.
Economical: We are pursuing strategies that we believe will be the most effective at spreading a passion for the supremacy of God, while keeping our costs and prices low.

Readers of this weblog know that I keep hammering away at this point. We’re not living in the 50s or the 60s or the 70s. It occurred to me recently that the world that seminary prepared me to minister to bears almost no resemblance to the world we live in today. That’s not a criticism, just an observation. When I attended seminary in the mid-70s, we were still following models that worked in the 50s and the 60s. Change on the horizon, and we sensed it was coming, but no one foresaw the cultural and technological revolution of the last fifteen years.
Frankly, I can’t think of a better time to serve the Lord. We have tools for reaching the world that D. L. Moody (who died in 1899) and Bill Sunday (who died in 1935) never dreamed of. If we are going to reach our own generation, we must be at least as proactive with technology as Moody and Sunday (who were both innovators in terms of their evangelistic methods) were in their own day. By the way, lest anyone think I am advocating watering down the gospel message to somehow “make it relevant” to the post-moderns (or whatever term we’re using nowadays), just check out John Piper’s website. Everything he writes is saturated with strong biblical content, but his ministry in Minneapolis is also very innovative in the best sense of that term. He offers an excellent model for the rest of us to follow.
Occasionally I visit churches that seem to think that this is 1956 instead of 2006. And they wonder why they aren’t reaching people. I am not calling for changing our message one iota, but in the name of Christ, for his glory, in order to follow his command to take the gospel to every nation, if we truly want to make disciples in our own day, we must let go of some things that worked well a generation ago and rethink how we do church, how we reach people, and how we harness modern technology for the sake of the gospel.
I keep saying this, and I intend to keep saying it because I believe it so deeply.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?