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  • • an annual worldwide focus day on a Sunday in Spring, as the culmination of Digital Outreach Month. Churches and other groups are encouraged to create a focus spot or digital training day, either on that Sunday, or indeed at any time of the year. Next IE Day is 1 June 2014.
  • • a year-round resource guide about web, mobile and digital media outreach

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Did you believe digital usage was this wide? Opportunities for ministry

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If you want to get a sense of the remarkable penetration of digital media around the world, or use some of these slides in seminars to present the challenge of digital ministry worldwide, this is for you:

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Africa internet and mobile use: infographic

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These stats are already out of date, but you get the incredible picture! For more detail, download this free 43-page PDF ebook Emerging Nations Embrace Internet, Mobile Technology from Pew Research. Digital is a major key to leverage all types of existing evangelism and discipleship, not least in the Majority World.

It’s easier to equip someone to be 10 times more fruitful, than to try and mobilize 10 times more workers,”

… says Curtis Sergeant to missiologist Justin Long in this blog post. Check more on the amazing opportunities for mobile, in our recent blog posts.

There are an encouraging number of training days or conferences in Africa this year. I have not heard of anything similar in India, or many other Majority World countries. Consider arranging sessions like this, and please share about any you know of

Created by Mushroom Networks

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iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives – new book by Craig Detweiler

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Communication scholar, film-maker, and cultural commentator Craig Detweiler’s new book iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives (Brazos Press 2013) should be essential reading for any Christian interested in the impact of contemporary technology on their faith. In one of the most thorough and eclectic studies I have encountered, Detweiler examines how the technologies, web services, and social media networks of Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram hold the potential to transform contemporary theology and practices of worship.

Read sample pages using Amazon’s Look Inside feature. Book available on Kindle | best price for the paperback in many countries (with free delivery worldwide) seems to be The Book Depository.

What are ‘iGods’?

Detweiler’s central term ‘iGods’ refers to the power these technological monoliths hold to become idols in our lives as well as to the god-like features they possess: Google’s ability to amass seemingly infinite information and answer seemingly every possible query, Amazon’s ability to predict our likes and interests, and Facebook’s way of networking us instantaneously across the globe, throwing geographic boundaries to the wind. There are facets of contemporary technology that seem omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, and Detweiler asks us to consider: What are we, as Christians, to make of this? How can we use technology to build instead of erode our faith? How can we more conscientiously approach the adoption of technology in our everyday lives, worship practices, relationships, and churches?

An iGod per chapter

In each chapter, Detweiler takes on an iGod, exploring the theological risks and potential positive spiritual benefits. In his chapter on Apple, for example, he considers how the sleek simplicity and beauty of Apple’s product designs can remind us of God’s love for aesthetics and approachable but wondrous design. It can teach us about how we might design church spaces to draw guests. But he points out as well the symbolism of Apple’s logo — a bitten apple — which serves as a reminder to not be consumed by the lust for more and more products, upgrades, and iDevices, convincing ourselves that the next product will complete us, or committing ourselves to a commercial brand rather than more eternally-valuable causes.

In his chapter on Google, Detweiler considers how the act of searching is inherently religious and how the act of seeking is central to Christianity. However, we must avoid the ‘Tower of Babel’ trap, or the notion that we can be masters of knowledge because it appears so readily at our fingertips with just the click of a mouse. We must avoid the lure of the eternal search as well, keeping in mind that, in Christianity, seeking ultimately leads to finding and contentment. In the chapters on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, Detweiler discusses the dangers of self-promotion and oversharing while considering the potential benefits for ministry, relationship, and spiritual conversation.

Diverse sources

One of the great strengths of this text is Detweiler’s ability to draw on a diversity of sources to support his arguments: his knowledge of scripture and ability to apply it to our contemporary context is adept and insightful, but he is also equally familiar with the theories and scholarship of a diversity of works by theologians, philosophers, and communication and media scholars. He draws on both popular and academic sources as well, guaranteeing that all readers will be able to connect with his claims and evidence.

Other strengths of the text include the discussion questions that conclude each chapter and the practical suggestions for how a more conscientious approach to technology adoption might be applied. For example, Detweiler suggests the value of using private messages rather than public comments to reach out to friends on social media, both as a way of avoiding the trap of self-promotion and of showing greater care for personal relationships with the potential of engaging in more authentic conversation. Another wonderful suggestion is the idea of an electronic Sabbath, or one day a week in which we disconnect entirely from technology to become more connected and engaged with our immediate surroundings and relationships.

Marshall McLuhan and Edgar Allen Poe

While Detweiler stops short of condemning specific practices of churches or individual Christians in regards to technology use, he does firmly push for much more regular, purposeful, and prayerful critical thinking, resisting any sort of mindless or passive adoption. He is firmly in the camp of scholars who maintain that technology is hardly a neutral force and could easily change an entire culture’s values and shake its core foundations if not approached with care.

I was reminded frequently of communication scholar Marshall McLuhan’s analysis of Edgar Allen Poe’s tale of the maelstrom. McLuhan describes how it is only the sailor who is able to analyze how the storm functions and identify its effects from within the swirling currents who will ultimately survive its force. McLuhan’s point is that if we are not “studying the process as it happens,” that is, studying how technology is shaping us, it will be given free reign to do so without our consent. We will be swept away by the storm rather than mastering it.

The lens through which Detweiler suggests we go about mastering the storm of social media, the web marketplace, and the abundance of technological devices that consume our world is biblical. His claim is that technology can teach us both about God’s original and desired intent for humanity as well as provide us with reminders of the particular types of vices — self-promotion, greed, jealousy — that our current technological moment must lead us to side-step. Detweiler neither suggests that we abandon nor wholeheartedly embrace technology; rather, we should maintain an arms-distance posture, taking its best assets, using it to draw us and our neighbors closer to God and to better our world, leaving its detrimental effects behind.

amberGrateful thanks to Amber Stamper for this guest post.

Amber M. Stamper holds a Ph.D. in English (Rhetoric and Composition) and is an Assistant Professor of Language, Literature, and Communication at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina. Her research and publications center on religious rhetoric and communication, especially issues of Christian evangelism and the digital church.

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Digital alters everything, everywhere, for everyone

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“My two-year-old is teaching my one-year-old to use the iPad,” a Christian writer tweeted recently. As these two young ‘digital natives’ grow up, they will barely distinguish between online and offline, face-to-face or virtual. They will be unaware of that strange world just 20 years ago, which was almost untouched by digital media. They may never see, except in a museum, such ancient artifacts as typewriters, rotary-dial phones, or film cameras. Their use of digital will be totally instinctual, a seamless extension of minds and fingers. As the years pass, they will effortlessly handle digital tools and platforms yet to be invented.

Digital has transformed our societies faster than any previous media revolution. And it is transforming evangelism and discipleship too.

Read more on the new Evangel-vision blog, produced by the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton.

Photo credit: po1yester/flickr | Creative Commons some rights reserved

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3 Revolutions Impacting Internet Evangelism: new shareable infographic from Global Mapping

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Infographics are a great way to communicate a strategic visual overview of any topic. Global Mapping’s new series of mission-related infographics are very helpful. This month they have summarized some vital trends and opportunities for digital evangelism, in this ‘missiographic’ entitled 3 Revolutions Impacting Internet Evangelism ▼

Grateful thanks to GMI for creating this valuable resource, coincidentally in the very week that the Mobile Ministry Consultation is taking place.

What opportunities does this infographic highlight for you? What other areas of digital ministry would you like to see crystalized into an infographic? Please add your comments.



Infographic by GMI Missiographics. Add to your site or blog | Sign up for twice-monthly email alerts with new infographics on global mission.

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Prevent your site visitors being confused and leaving, says Jakob Nielsen

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Two very helpful pages from Jakob Nielsen about website usability. A confusing website is one that visitors will leave. Quickly and permanently.

Jakob Nielsen is a recognized website usability expert. You can sign up for his AlertBox newsletter here.

1. Flat vs. deep website hierarchies

Virtually every website that has more than a few pages uses some structure for organizing the content. The most common (and most easily understood) structure is to categorize pages into groups, often with distinct subgroups. The end result is a hierarchy of content, a structure familiar to most of us from our interactions with organizations, families, and the natural world. Read more.

2. The halo effect

The Halo Effect is when one trait of a person or thing is used to make an overall judgment of that person or thing. It supports rapid decisions, even if biased ones. Websites can be impacted by the halo effect. Read more.

Related page: You cannot escape the blink test

Human brains are wired up a certain way. You cannot break human cognition rules and still communicate – this applies to a vast variety of situations. That the message is ‘spiritual’, or otherwise beneficial, makes no difference. Online, everything is subject to the brutal ‘blink test’ – the lightning fast algorithm our brains apply to a website, magazine article, video short, or anything else. Read more.

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December’s Mobile Ministry Consultation: amazing opportunities for cross-cultural missions

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The growth in mobile phone usage across Africa, Asia and the rest of the Majority World has been phenomenal and transformative – see detailed study from AllAfrica.com. 99% of Kenyans accessing the Internet do so on mobile phones, reports the Communication Commission of Kenya.

While over 96% of the world’s population has access to a mobile phone, 1.5 billion people do not have access to electricity. In the Majority World, 79% of people have no electricity. But they can talk on their phones while they carry drinking water home. Mobile access is not just for urban dwellers.

So what is the best way to reach these people for Christ? Their mobile device.

Come to the Consultation?

The Mobile Ministry Forum (MMF) Consultation at the Wycliffe Bible Translator Headquarters 9-11 December 2013, in Orlando, FL, is the key gathering for people interested in learning how to use mobile technology for ministry outreach. This 3-day conference includes TED-style presentations, discussions, ministry field reports, workshop breakouts, and networking time. The call is to anyone using mobile technology in a ministry context, creating apps or content, or anyone interested in starting a mobile ministry.

Keynote presenters include…

Tomi Ahonen – Forbes ranked this former Nokia executive as #1 “power influencer in mobile.” He lectures at Oxford University and has been quoted in over 400 articles and presented at over 250 conferences.

Ken Cochrum – is currently serving as VP for Global Digital Strategies. Ken and his wife, Ann, recently founded Indigitous.org, a movement passionate about connecting people to Jesus using digital means.

Gary Nelson – has 35 years of senior and executive management experience in the domestic and international financial payments industry. He currently serves as Chairman of the Nelson Family Foundation, Chairman of Every Tribe Every Nation (ETEN) and Founder of Alkami Technology.

Fee to attend the Consultation is $230 and includes meals. The remote participant fee is $25. Please register and pay online at mobileministryforum.org/mmf-consultation-2013

Feedback from previous consultation

“The content was exceptionally good and I’m still amazed at the quality of the participants and the key ministries represented. Of all the different conferences I attended this year–and I do this a lot–yours was overall the most valuable experience.”
- Tom Watkins, Director of Strategic Initiatives & Partnerships, TWR

The opportunity for cross-cultural missions

Mobile ministry is not some special esoteric thing only for specialists. Any mission agency, any pastor, any national believer anywhere in the world, can be leveraging the huge opportunities for mobile evangelism and discipleship right now.

Missions – consider sending a representative to this Consultation! You will be glad you did.


The Mobile Ministry Forum (MMF) is 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.

Ministries include: Biola University, Campus Crusade for Christ, Christian Broadcasting Network, Cyber Missions, International Mission Board, and Wycliffe Bible Translators.

• See more recent posts about mobile ministry opportunities.

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You cannot escape the blink test

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Human brains are wired up a certain way. You cannot break human cognition rules and still communicate – this applies to a vast variety of situations. That the message is ‘spiritual’, or otherwise beneficial, makes no difference.

Online, everything is subject to the brutal ‘blink test’ – the lightning fast algorithm our brains apply to a website, magazine article, video short, or anything else, as the infographic ▼ below explains.

Also read the excellent book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. See 26:14 interview ▶ about this book.

His other valuable books, to understand more about human cognition. Whether you are a communicator or just want to understand more about how you, and other people, tick, these simple and non-academic insights are vital.

Gladwell’s latest book is just published (with very good reviews): David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. See 3:01 video clip ▶ of Gladwell explaining his inspiration for writing this book, and read Catalyst Conference blog interview with him.

• Check our other ministry-related infographics.

Infographic by Calvin Sellers | InstantShift.com

Eye graphic: Gerardofegan/Flickr | Creative Commons some rights reserved

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Getting the other 5 billion online: Zuckerberg’s incredible ambition

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In a short video ► Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg introduces briefly his vision for Internet.org – a project to get the entire Majority World online.

But to learn more about the actual concept and vision, better to watch his CNN interview ▼ below, read about it, or see Zuckerberg’s 10-page PDF manifesto.

Facebook, Wikipedia and World Reader have already implemented ways to make plain text web-pages and books available on dumb and feature phones, piggybacked on the mobile signal rather than through true internet access.Presumably Internet.org’s vision will include more of this technology, and be primarily targetted to mobile phones, the only piece of electronic equipment that many in the Majority World will ever own.

Digital media have already revolutionized the opportunities for evangelism and discipleship in the Majority World. The Internet.org vision could enhance these opportunities by a whole order of magnitude. Every mission agency, every national church and parachurch group should be researching, preparing, and training for these opportunities. Find resources, ideas, news, and strategies from Mobile Advance, Mobile Ministry Forum, and Visual Story Network.

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What happens on the Internet each minute

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It’s always mindblowing to get a sense of worldwide online activity like this. The infographic also makes an interesting comparison with the figures in this 2-year-old infographic.
Qmee Online in 60 Seconds Infographic
Online in 60 Seconds [Infographic] is an infographic produced by Qmee

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