Volume 3, Issue 2 - May 2012
The teaching faculty of Ministry, Theology, and Culture at Tabor Adelaide are committed to serving the church by thinking about the gospel. We believe that individuals and the church can be transformed by the renewing of our/their minds. Too often college lecturers are characterized as living in an ivory tower and being too theoretical. This stereotype doesnt apply at Tabor; we are part of the church, and we want to see it grow in faithfulness to Jesus. This is why we have committed ourselves to producing this themed magazine for free distribution to the churches of South Australia. There are three issues of Thinking About... each year; we trust you find them helpful. We value your feedback and your contributions; please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rev Dr Stephen SpenceDeputy Principal (Academic)
their way down to the deepest level of who we are - for good or for ill?
And is this true for the church too? The church of today is on many levels unrecognizable from the first Jerusalem church. But is it, beneath the outward changes that time brings, the same in essence and character now as it was then? And if it is not, to what extent is that the result of the technologies that it uses? Has using technologies changed who the church is? Is the change for better or for worse? We need to Think About...Technology.
In this issue we do just that with members of the faculty of Tabor Adelaide.
Are we shaped by our technology? It is easy to see that what we do has been massively shaped by changing technologies. Our jobs, the way we amuse ourselves, and how far we travel from the place of our birth have all seen massive shifts in the last 50 years and massive massive shifts in the last 500 years.
If I had been born in the land they now call Scotland at the time the church was born in Jerusalem my (much shorter) life would have had a totally different shape. But would I have been different? My hopes and fears; my values and character?
In this example the answer is easy; yes, I would have been different because the coming of the gospel to Scotland changed our culture and so would have changed me. But while we can see how religion and culture change us, the question we
are Thinking About in this issue relates to technology: does technology change who we are in the same way it changes what we do? Are we shaped by the tools we use to shape our world?
Most of us will readily admit to some level of superficial change in who we are caused by our use of changing technologies. On the negative side we are a bit lazier; we are a bit more self-indulgent. On the positive side we are more informed and more engaged. (Studies suggest that social-media rather than allowing people to isolate themselves from others actually increases their likelihood of engaging in social events.)
But when it comes to changing ourselves, are there any changes which remain superficial? Do not the cracks that appear first on the surface eventually allow real changes to worm
Did you observe April 29 as Internet Evange-lism Day? Naturally, it had its own web page: www.internetevangelismday.com. It is worth look-ing at the website and reflecting on how internet and digital/social media provide opportunities for creative and sustainable evangelism. These oppor-tunities will only increase as the number of people with mobile devices increase. For the first time anonymous intimacy the ability to access the web in private allows enquirers to read evangelis-tic articles and scriptures and ask deep questions in relative privacy. The Internet is an economical means of procla-mation, and Internet missionaries do not need visas!
If you google Mobile Ministry Forum youll discover a coalition of ministries working towards the goal of giving every unreached person a chance to encounter Christ and His kingdom in a compelling, contextualized fashion through their personal mobile device by 2020.
Church leaders have important roles to play in equipping and preparing faith communities
to seize opportunities to be salt and light online. As cultural brokers, church leaders can help those who are hesitant to understand the importance of the need to respond and grapple with the ministry issues.
You can get ideas from Global Media Out-reach, Jesus Central, Top Chretien, and GodRev.com. You will need to provide training for church members in how to creatively use social media and avoid the use of jargon. Find resources at mobileadvantage.org or kioskevangelism.com.
Does your church have an Internet evange-lism strategy? Has it appointed a specialist to help people in Internet evangelism? You might be surprised by who volunteers for this role. How many in your church are already blogging? On facebook? On twitter?
Yes, there are limitations and difficulties, but they should not deter us. Many stories exist of the impact of such participation by believers which should encourage action.
David Turnbull, Senior Lecturer in Intercultural Studies. He is enrolled in the PhD program at Flinders University.
In 2nd semester, David is teaching Christians in a Multicultural World and Evangelism.
Rev Melinda Cousins is a Lecturer in Biblical Studies and will help lead our first study tour to Israel in June.In 2nd semester Melinda is teaching Introduction to the New Testament and Reading the Bible Faithfully.
2Facilitating Internet Evangelism
Check out @TweetTheBible. It tweets one Bible verse a day (they will finish in 2097). But just like putting a verse of Scripture on a calendar or wall hanging, a tweeted verse runs the risk of being taken out of context, potentially twisting its meaning.
Gods Word wasnt originally written in bite-sized chunks, even though the 16th century addition of verse numbers might sometimes give that impression. In my class this year, we had an interesting discussion about how taking a single verse as a kind of divine oracle might be like basing your whole view of someone on one status update. While its accurate, its also incomplete.
But could insights from our social media experience actually help us read the Bible? One Jewish rabbi suggests thinking of Old Testament narratives as tweets and facebook status updates that might help us engage with the text afresh. David: Jst saw d most btiful wmnFriend 1: Serisly man, ur married!
David: Jst lookinFriend 2: Go 4it man! ur king, w/e u do is cool.
Certainly, Hebrew narratives are known for their brevity, leaving us to discern peoples motivations and how we should respond. They teach implicitly, and so entering into the story to figure out where God might be speaking can be a useful exercise.
The Bible was written to be heard by a community rather than read by isolated individuals, and so reading the Bible in community (even a digital one) might help us hear God speak anew. It would depend on whether were really willing to listen to one another, or as too often seems to happen in my news feed, simply seeking to get other people to agree with what we already think.
In the end, social media is a tool which could be useful for hearing the Bible. But the Word of God seeks not just to be heard, or even understood, but to transform us. And that can only happen when we let it come off the page/screen, and into our lives.
The Bible and Social Media
Many Christians are debating the value of web-based social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google services. Most of the debate is around what these get us to do: eg, do they stop us meeting people face-to-face? But lets go deeper.
Here is a 3D visualisation of internet usage in September 2009, called the Experian Map (This was shown on the excellent documentary series, the Virtual Revolution). In it, traffic flow between sites is displayed by the width of the beam between them, and overall usage is displayed by the size of each planet:
Its early Church History 101 that, at the perfect time, God sent His Son (Galatians 4:4). But why was the time of the Roman Empire so perfect? Because it had some key technologies that helped the gospel spread, including a common language (Greek), ease of transportation (roads), and urbanisation (cities).
Missionaries could consistently speak in a way people understood, travel to people more easily, and talk to large groups of people simultaneously.
The same is happening now with the internet as the Experian map shows, it has become urbanised, with virtual cities being linked together by easily travelled roads, most of which have a common language or increasingly effective translation software.
We can thus look to the Church in that period, examining how they utilised those technologies in mission, and apply those lessons to ourselves. (This is just one example of how fruitful finding historical resonances could be missiologically.)
Facebook is the second biggest planet behind Google. And if we change the metaphor, we have here roads and cities.
Matthew Gray is Lecturer in Church History. He is enrolled in the PhD history program at Adelaide University.
In 2nd semester, Matt will teach and Exploring the Christian Faith and Early Church History.
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