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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Should Your Ministry Go Digital or Stay Traditional?

Written by: on January 25, 2017

 

 

Introduction

The book, Networked Theology: Negotiating Faith in Digital Culture, was written by Heidi A. Campbell and Stephen Garner. In their point of view, media studies and theology can offer insight to help Christians assess the impact of media on our lives and on our religious orientations. The Internet holds promise for the future direction, shape, and influence of religion.[1]

The authors state, “In this book, our theological reflection is focused on technology, and specifically on the Internet and digital technologies, often described as ‘new media.’”[2] In this era of digital media, the meaning of interaction has been redefined by the technological advances. This change is vital to the extent that it has a profound effect on our social and religious lives.[3]

Summary

In Networked Theology, American professor of sociology and theology, Heidi Campbell, and Australian theologian, Stephen Garner, examine the theological implications of our digital culture. According to Quentin Schultze, professor of communication at Calvin College, “The book offers a fine introduction to the major themes at the intersection between theology and technology in the today’s world of digital media.”[4]

Campbell and Gartner introduce the metaphor of network, which they use to show how the Internet functions and how our social interactions work.[5] Within the digital culture, our relationships with each other and information have changed from “static controlled structures to more dynamic and adaptive connections.[6] Campbell and Gartner then proceed to build on the concept of the network to show that networked religion has five main characteristics: networked communities, storied identities, convergent practices, shifting authority, and multisite reality.[7] Of the five, the fourth one, shifting authority is of particular interest: Digital media not only reflects who we are, but will drive the future and define who we are.[8] The authors argue, “The Internet is a place where negotiations are occurring over who and what constitutes legitimate religious leader and gatekeeper of knowledge.”[9]

The first chapter, “Understanding the Relationship between Theology and Technology,” starts with a basic coverage of the connection between theology and technology. The content sheds light on the advantages, disadvantages, and three recorded reactions of the Christian church: positive, negative, and instrumentalist. The authors state that the representation of network, “Stresses that within digital culture our associations with information and others have altered from stagnant, controlled structures to dynamic, adaptive associations.”

Modern technology has become embedded in our lives.[10] Despite the reality that technology is important, it has the power to redesign our religious orientations, which makes it crucial to consider learning the art of adaption. Chapter two, “Understanding New Media and the Network Society,” provides an understanding of the changes erupting in our society. The authors’ statement, “An advantage of networked individuality is that it supports active contribution. Examples of this are crowd sourcing, problem solving via blogging,” highlights the magnitude of the Internet.

Furthermore, the book poses questions such as, “Who is my neighbor in digital culture?” and elucidates aspects of diminishing privacy and how connecting to a larger group of people can prove to be beneficial. In addition, as the digital media is being accepted progressively more, the precedence of religion must be considered. Understanding how religious beliefs and technology work together requires us to be aware of what they are; the book explains them in detail.

They provide readers with few guiding principles to understand the impacts of technology. They advance a threefold outlook of Micah, “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”[12] The application of this approach can be reached by firmly believing the word of God and by communicating this in this new networked society: “In an age of speedy transactions and angry tweets, the idea of walking humbly might mean not relying on technology or the church for fixes.”[13]

Reflection

The importance of the web in our daily lives, from expressing ourselves to our personal and working environments, means that for religious organizations to remain relevant and be able to work effectively, “they must migrate their churches online, where most of their followers are.”[14] By combining their expertise in matters of online theology, technology, and religion, the authors show, through the concept of networked theology, how digital media can shape theology. In particular, they highlight how technology has become influential in how people practice their faith today.

Personal Note

I like how the authors define and discuss the concepts of both technology and theology without becoming too technical for their nonspecialist audience, which makes the book easier to read. The authors urge church leaders to take technology seriously and to develop constructive ways of dealing with it. I believe the book is an important resource for those studying media and theology and how to help Christians engage in a meaningful and faithful evaluation of the new digital media technologies in our lives, the church, and society as a whole.

This book made me ponder the significance of technology in today’s world. As technology has advanced to occupy our daily lives, there is a looming need to use its power constructively. The authors leave readers with an urge to grow their own religious beliefs on how to intermingle with the new technological change. However, the   Leaders at the Restoration Christian Outreach community is being challenged in our planning strategies that will facilitate the spiritual growth or discipleship of the community culture believers into Christ-likeness in ways that best fit the community … “sharing the good news in a new ways”. This book will be helpful for us, while struggling with how to use digital media positively to spread the news of creation of a faith-based drug program in southwest Mississippi that can change recovering individuals’ social environment, that can be adopted by other drug-recovery programs.

 

Bibliography

 

[1]. J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, “‘Get on the Internet!’ Says the LORD: Religion, Cyberspace and Christianity in Contemporary Africa.” Studies in World Christianity 13, no. 3 (2007): 225–242.

[2]. Heidi A. Campbell and Stephen Garner. Networked Theology: Negotiating Faith in Digital Culture (Ada Township, MI: Baker Academic, 2016), 17.

[3]. James Paul Gee, “Digital Media and Learning as an Emerging Field, Part I: How We Got Here.” International Journal of Learning and Media 1, no. 2 (2009): 13–23.

[4]. Campbell and Garner, Networked Theology, 124.

[5]. Campbell and Garner, Networked Theology.

[6]. Aleks Krotoski, Untangling the Web: The Internet’s Transformative Impact on Adoption. New York: Faber & Faber, 2013.

[7]. Sullins, John. 2012. Information Technology and Moral Values. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2012. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/it-moral-values/ (accessed January 20, 2017).

[8]. Harrison Rainie and Barry Wellman. 2012. Networked: The New Social Operating System. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

[9]. Campbell and Garner, Networked Theology.

[10]. Thomas, Michael, ed. Deconstructing Digital Natives: Young People, Technology, and the New Literacies. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2011.

[11]. Campbell and Garner, Networked Theology, 74.

[12]. Ibid., 124.

[13]. Ibid., 140.

[14]. Krotoski, Untangling the Web.

About the Author

mm

Rose Anding

Rose Maria “Simmons McCarthy” Anding, a Visionary, Teacher,Evangelist, Biblical Counselor/ Chaplain and Author, of High Heels, Honey Lips, and White Powder. She is a widower, mother, stepmother, grandmother, great grandmother of Denver James, the greater joy of her life. She has lived in Chicago, Washington, DC, and North Carolina, and is now back on the forgiving soil of Mississippi.

6 responses to “Should Your Ministry Go Digital or Stay Traditional?”

  1. You win for the most footnotes used in a blog!
    Question #1: What is the difference between “Reflection” and “Personal Note?” They seem the same to me.
    Question #2: In your work with people recovering from drugs, where does technology fit in progress? I read a quote once from Dallas Willard who said something like churches should be more like 12-step groups. I am wondering if your answer to #2 would be helpful for churches as well.

    • mm Rose Anding says:

      Thanks Aaron P,
      The answer to your question, “What is difference between “Reflection” and “Personal Note?” They seem the same to me”. Yes that are except, my blog posts are written in this style, because we are required to write a Personal Reflection within an academic context.But they are really the same

      However, I used the word “Personal Note” as a way to share, explore, my personal experiences, feelings, also an opportunity to reconsider how to the use the events, thoughts and feelings from a fresh perspective in my personal development plan.

      The answer to the second question is yes.Because in our Understanding the Scriptures segment, we will explore what God’s Word says about habitual sin.
      Thanks for sharing Rose Maria

  2. mm Garfield Harvey says:

    Rose,
    This was a very comprehensive blog and a great read. You suggested that of the five characteristics, “shifting authority” was most intriguing. I agree with you that technology is playing a major role globally. I do believe the shifting of authority is close but not quite there. In 1995, the internet users grew from 1% globally to more than 40%. However, if observe local churches, you’ll find that not all churches are taking advantage of the global useage. It would be interesting to see what percentage of internet users subscribe to religion. That would tell us a great deal of where we’re heading. I know you’re working on an artificat so it would be interesting to use ho you integrate technology.
    `
    Garfield

    • mm Rose Anding says:

      Thanks Garfield, I don’t know what percentage of internet users subscribe to religion. However, there has been a study done by Emerging Technology from the arXiv, which shows how using the Internet can destroy your faith. That’s the conclusion of a study showing a dramatic drop in religious affiliation in the U.S. since 1990 is closely mirrored by the increase in Internet use. (April 4, 2014).
      And how Allen Downey, a computer scientist at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, has analyzed the data Says “Conversely, it is harder (but not impossible) to imagine plausible reasons why disaffiliation might cause increased Internet use.” An interesting read.
      On the other hand, Christian leaders should use and take a vital position in leading on the internet. The technology is not the revolution… for my artifact. The revolution is in human awareness and aliveness. It is just made clearer by technology. Therefore, the Computers, internet are the shill that I purpose to use to get drug addicts in the tent, the community so to speak. Once they get inside the tent, then we get them to share the good news of the gospel, provide the environment for change, because that they’re sick and in need of a savior. We cannot possibly know how this is going to turn out. but I think the revolution is in the fact that we’re in a position of not knowing. That’s why I’m so excited about how God will reveal himself to us through technology.
      Thanks for sharing! Rose Maria

  3. Rose,

    That was a great summation of this book and I agree with your assessment that this book was written for a non technical audience. As you have been involved with technology and the changes that have taken place, how have you adapted to this new “normal?” I have watched it happen with students but how have you seen it come into the world of helping addicts? I know that my students who have gone into a facility or Teen Challenge have had to give up all of their technology so that they could focus in and do what was being asked. How have you managed this subject. Also, I believe you have done a great job doing all of our school work and interaction since day one, so there must be a level of comfort for you to do all these “new” things.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Kevin

  4. alexatmedia says:

    Digital channels Evolved Daily So We Have To Include Education Digital Education Like Search Engine Optimization
    it will Be Great For Students after They Finish they Education also Social Media .

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