Last week I posted a link to an article on search engines as the future of evangelism. At the same time I have been carrying on a discussion with members of the MSA futures watch group on web trends and the implications for the future.
Why are we concerned is probably the question at the heart of both these discussions? Life is going virtual and we are more and more immersed in the web and its tentacles. We engage in virtual philanthropy by clicking a button on Facebook. We participate in virtual friendships that result in real divorces and disruptions to other face to face relationships. We participate in virtual wars and disasters that make us feel we should be able to control the real disasters that beset our planet without any pain or real engagement. And of course we attend virtual church without feeling the need for commitment or real discipleship.
Our devotion to the web increases exponentially with each new app and technological tool we embrace. And part of the problem is that we do see these as tools rather than as value systems that are competing with the values of God’s kingdom and the way of life Jesus asked us to follow.
As Jason Fowler commented in a recent email the real problem is that we cannot have two masters – Jesus and the web. What tends to take our time also tends to take our hearts. Which brings us back to the questions that French philosopher Jacques Ellul first raised 50 years ago – technology is not neutral.
I think that part of our problem is that we have defined “being Christian” as a decision we make in our minds rather than as a commitment to a way of life. What we need is radical discipleship material that educates us into the ways of Jesus and into the ways of God’s kingdom.
God took the children of Israel into the desert so that they could be educated into a new value system and a new way of life and we need to be educated too. This is part of what the season of Lent is about. Lent is a 40 day celebration because it commemorates the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness and also reminds us of the 40 years that the nation of Israel spent in the wilderness.
This is the season of the liturgical calendar which we are meant to devote to serious study of what it means to be a follower of Christ, not so that we can increase our head knowledge but so that we can join Jesus on the walk to Jerusalem, committing our life purpose, our resources and our time to God’s kingdom ways. Serious discipleship should challenge us every step of our journey drawing us into a counter cultural way of life that is as all embracing of life as the immersive web can be.
And that for those of us who spend so much time on the web means seriously evaluating how that time and that commitment helps or hinders our walk with Christ. Do the virtual relationships we establish undermine the real ones? Do the virtual causes we champion move us away from real life commitment to real causes of brokenness and pain? Are we becoming virtual disciples with little commitment to the ways of Christ in the real world?
These are questions that we need to take very seriously during this season.
How do we follow Jesus in this walk toward the Cross?