Digital communication is an astonishing resource for us, isn’t it? Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp!, text messaging, email—how incredible that we can easily connect with so many people at one time!
Our youngest son has DiGeorge syndrome, and as our family has walked through related challenges, it’s been amazing to not only request immediate prayer from hundreds of friends and family members at once, but also to have the opportunity to invite them into celebration as we see God preform healing miracles in his life. What a support system, to know that people are praying with us, and for us all to know that we are praying together! However, when it comes to discipleship, is this digital age we live in really helping us connect with people the way we should?
How I engage others in following Christ is extremely important to me, because I believe it is important to Him. Looking at Mark 1:16-20, we see Jesus going to the beach to engage His first disciples face to face. Granted, Jesus didn’t have the media we have today, but couldn’t He have sat in the temple and sent messengers or scrolls to invite these men to follow Him? Would doing so have impacted those disciples as profoundly as his face-to-face invitation?
Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus bringing these men along with Him to ministry opportunities. They were with Him when He healed the sick, fed the hungry, spoke to the crowds, raised the dead—and at other personal times in the garden, and at the Hill of Skulls. It speaks something to me that He had these people in His presence during these times; it’s important to recognize they were with Him.
I don’t have a negative view of social media—quite the contrary, actually. I’m a tech junkie. I love buying new computers and software, and I read blogs and keep on eye on rumor sites to see what next-best-thing might be coming. However, what is digitally available today will be replaced by something else tomorrow. Alternatively, our ability to engage with others face to face has remained unchanged for generations, and will continue to do so.
I think of those people in my life who have mentored and discipled me. Those times of shaping and encouragement didn’t come through text messages or emails; they came through being together. They came through being invited into their homes or having them in my home, through eating and praying with them—through watching how they live life behind the digital curtain. Those are the men and women who have made an impact on my life. The impact I experienced was because they gave more than a tweet or post on my wall, they gave themselves.
I continually have to remember that there is as difference between ministry and discipleship. Jesus ministered to thousands of people at a time, but He only discipled twelve. I have set for myself a standard of discipleship that has been exemplified by Jesus and other men and women who follow Him. I have a choice. I can invite people to follow me digitally, or I can invite them to join me in following Christ.
By: Bob Penberthy, senior pastor of Graystone Chapel (Alta Loma Foursquare Church) in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
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