DMINLGP

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

Speed The Light…Kindleschool?

Written by: on January 26, 2017

 

 

In 2011, I had an opportunity as a youth pastor to do something extraordinary.  I could provide a complete Bible school education on an electronic device called a Kindle.  I have raised money for all kinds of things, sound systems, computers, buses, a bicycle, a Land Rover (that cost a pretty penny) and all kinds of cars and trucks and buses.   For thirty years, I have been a part of providing our missionaries around the world with equipment that would connect them to their own local culture and to their outside world.  Our “networked theology” is that teenagers do the work of providing these essential tools for our missionaries, but this opportunity was different.  For simply $149 per unit, a student in a closed country could have access to acquire a Bible school degree.  It took off like crazy…  I had students doing everything that they could to raise the funds.   Do you remember the birth of this technological wonder:  Go Fund Me?  One of my students posted online (which was seriously frowned upon because of the sensitivity of the country) that he wanted people to “go fund him” to provide for students (and he named the country.)  So much for being covert!!  I experienced the surge of people gravitating to this project and we provided hundreds of kindles.   The rest of the story is that the country has become open now!!  But since that time hundreds of students have taken this little tool of technology, loaded with theology and has exploded their knowledge to let them be prepared at this pivotal transition time in their country.  Their education could not have happened traditionally instead it had to happen covertly because bringing a piece of technology into the country was so much easier than bringing a Bible or a stack of textbooks.   

Overview

I completely identified with Heidi Campbell and Stephen Garners book, Networked Theology.   What a detailed history of the progression of technology and theology.  I have lived this book in so many ways because I have stayed in youth ministry for so long.  I have seen all of these trending products (bought a bunch of them) and ideas come and go that the authors have so intricately described and detailed in their book.   This book is very intriguing and has drawn a detailed picture of our culture as it has developed and then they have taken the subject of theology and how it is integrated into the future and the present.   There is no escaping the changes that have happened and there must be a way to continue to capture the platforms that are created and cause them to have a spiritual thrust.   How they said it more clearly was ” we argue that theology can and must engage technology and new media to offer a holistic theological response to new media culture.” 11  Their purpose was to constructively explore the theme of the network considering the intersection between contemporary media culture and the Christian faith.   I believe they have done a stellar job of writing a book about this very crucial topic.

Summary

The shift for the church into this new arena of platforms has not been easy or seamless but it has been accomplished.  It has been challenging and it has cost time and money.  It has forced the message of the gospel to go from mustard seeds, the yeast in bread, a treasure in the field, a pearl in a field and a net cast into the see to “the kingdom of God is like a smartphone with endless battery life and unlimited data or the kingdom of God is like a wireless network connecting all kinds of people.” 13  This example and illustration is what was so fresh about this book.    They took the time to define technology and then looking at the path that the church has taken to interact with it.  They defined the new media theory and clarified language so that anyone could understand what they were talking about.  The look they took at the impact of technology on our values and behaviours in our daily lives.  This has only increased as the years have progressed.  How does this advancement engage and shape our areas of theology?  Redefining who our neighbor is within this new “community.”  How can all of this give us a framework for religious communities that exist and operate within this “new theology of new media?”  There must be a strategy to do this.   Their conclusion has to do with the church and the wider public.  How can you develop a “robust, theologically informed appropriate technology?  It is possible and their presentation of implementation is really well thought through.

Thoughts

As I was reading all I could think of was what kind of platform can all this new media provide for discipleship?  Can it happen through pictures?  Sounds?  Word stories?  Can I be a part once again of something revolutionary by being in tune with the world as it changes.  How can it progress even further?  The words the jumped off the pages to me were about the change that happens in our language and the process of the past to the future.

Concerning discipleship:  “To challenge the idea that entry into the kingdom of God is only a movement across a boundary as a result of a particular event or action, such as saying the sinner’s prayer or being baptized.  Instead, mission in a networked, relational environment focuses on how people reorient themselves toward God and begin a trajectory of movement toward Christ as the center of their lives.  Thus, this is a paradigm shift from encouraging a single-moment event or decision to recognizing a process of alignment with Jesus through relational connections.”13  The Bible gives us the words multiple times that “anyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  I fully believe that!  I also find evidence that aligning our lives with Jesus is the content of the New Testament.  So instead of theology being a one-off event or action it becomes a life lived in alignment with Jesus.  It can happen through all this technology that is constantly shaping our world.  What if every platform was just another way for someone to align with Jesus?  The development of this new language and new way is ever changing and this book is an incredible handbook to guide the progression.

Heidi A. Campbell and Stephen Garner, Networked Theology:  Negotiating faith in digital culture, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016),11.

Ibid., 13.

 

About the Author

mm

Kevin Norwood

My name is Kevin Norwood and I have been in youth ministry for the past 28 years. On February 14th, 1994, 23 years ago, we moved to Owasso OK and wow what a ride. My wife, Ann, is an RN and specializes in Clinical Documentation working from home. Maci is a my 17 year old daughter and she loves and shows horses. Her horse's name is Charlie. She is a straight A student and is excelling in her work. She just got her drivers license!! London is my 6 year old son and he keeps me young. He absolutely loves life!! Off roading in Sedona Arizona is one of his latest adventure. I have started a coaching business for pastors at www.kevinnorwood.com and it is exciting the doors that God is opening.

11 responses to “Speed The Light…Kindleschool?”

  1. I resonate with your concept of aligning with Jesus as a life-long process and not a single event. I think working with teens for as long as you have has implanted this concept in you and makes you easily adaptable to new media. You are living it. As a 45 year old, I will always approach new media as an immigrant. I envy you because in so many ways you are on the mission field front lines with so many native new media speakers and users. What has been the most helpful piece of technology this year for you?

    • Aaron,

      You should tap into the students around you daily to keep you up to date. I spend a lot of time asking students how they use the apps and their smartphone.

      I think the one thing that is new this year is the use of stories. Students can create on multiple sites stories. Using their video, pictures and their own narration, they can tell a story. Sometimes their stories in just a matter of seconds or spaces tells so much about them. It cuts all the fluff out and gets to the heart of what is going on in their life. Even if it is just their sense of humour or viewpoint.

      Challenging students in thinking about how they can use their technology for sharing the good news and caring for their neighbor as themselves is where we are at as we start this new semester.

      Hope that helps.

      Kevin

  2. mm Garfield Harvey says:

    Kevin,
    As someone in the youth ministry for 28 years, I’m sure you’re constantly evolving with technology. You suggested that aligning with Jesus is not a singular event. There are approximately 4 billion using the internet and I believe we have an opportunity to leverage these resources to reach more souls. You’ve been training youth for years and many have gone overseas to become missionaries. How has your minitry training changed to allow your trainees to become more sensative with this network theology?

    Garfield

  3. Garfield,

    Thanks. That is a great question. What I know is that my students who are overseas understand the volatility of the internet. They understand their own personal risk of not only being exposed but also that their physical life could be threatened by how the distribute information. To communicate with some of them it is a covert operation.

    I have challenged our current students to think of ways to follow up and interact with their neighbours so that they can become friends. I believe friends become family and then you can explore faith. We have changed our model to those words to simplify the mission so it is understandable.

    Kevin

  4. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    Kevin:
    Great stories of effective ministry through the avenue of technology. I was told that preachers preached against the bathtub when they first came out. The analogy of the Amish in the book was an interesting point in how they view technology.

    All that said, you, your church, your youth group were the “hands and feet” that tangibly made the Kindles possible. Do you think we can ever get away from the personal touch and go hologram?

    Phil

    • Kevin Norwood says:

      Phil,

      Thanks for the response. Here is what I see. Jesus invested the whole kingdom into the hands of people. He has continued over the course of life to invest it with people. I don’t ever see the moment when ministry goes away from the personal touch. There still has to be a person somewhere in the mix. I guess you call that job security.

      Kevin

  5. Claire Appiah says:

    Kevin,
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog and the pioneering work you have done and continue to do through youth ministry utilizing technological innovations “loaded with theology.” I’m impressed that your protégés are enthusiastically living out networked theology even to the peril of their lives. How do new technologies shaping our world impact the manner in which you disciple privileged, insulated American youth in conducting their lives in alignment with Jesus?

  6. Kevin Norwood says:

    Claire,

    That is a great question. I do reach students who are very first world. On purpose I expose them to third world students and situations so that they have some global experiences and that they have global knowledge.

    How to get students to align their lives with Christ. I has to have purpose attached to it. We encourage and talk about all the time. Love God first and then your neighbor as yourself.

    So invite or invest in your neighbor.
    When they become friends let them in close enough to be family. All along the journey talk about your faith. So the purpose….

    If you as a student are inviting others to go from Friend to Family to Faith then it keeps you grounded in what is important. Not all of our students catch this but the ones that do become life changers and authentically Christians.

    Kevin

  7. Jason Kennedy says:

    Kevin,
    Fantastic blog. With the ease of access to Bible studies, sermons etc online, how do we keep our doctrine pure? How do we help people weed out the sheep and the wolves? Will we ever be able to do that?
    Jason

  8. Kevin Norwood says:

    Jason,

    That is where there will always be space for a human being. People will always need people in their guidance to living out faith.

    Jesus entrusted everything to a group of young men that had all kinds of issues but that was his plan.

    Job security!

    Kevin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *