How Does Digital Discipleship Work?

In an article entitled Discipleship: Cutting through the Buzz, published in Adventist Record, Dr Leigh Rice, leader of discipleship ministries for the South Pacific Division shared a clear and succinct message about what it means to be a disciple.  He said,

A disciple is a person who in every way is becoming more like Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:15). So discipleship is the process of making better and more disciples.

In the narrow sense we could say that mentoring is making better disciples and evangelism is making more disciples. But Jesus’ model of making disciples was very relational and this is perhaps the defining focus of discipleship.

Disciples who make disciples, who make disciples—a disciple-making movement. Or as the parable in Mark 4 says, multiplying “30, 60 and even 100 times”.

Two Digital Pioneers

Recently, I put a call out for two people who would like to test the idea of being digital disciples.  Prayers were sent out and two hands went up. 

Several weeks ago, I met them individually over the phone.  At that time, we discussed their hearts for God and how they’re currently involved in the digital space.  One of the individuals really enjoys blogging and the other one has Snapchat as his platform of choice.

This week, I had a meeting with them to start our discussion as a group about becoming pioneers in our digital discipleship movement.

At that meeting, we decided me needed a bit more structure as we venture out into the digital space.

So we started with the Multiply the Harvest model of discipleship that is outlined in Mark 4 and was shared in the Discipleship: Cutting through the Buzz article.   

Our discussion focused on how we can translate this model into the digital space.  We understood that there would be some overlap between what was already outlined and what we would identify.  We know from our own lives that some relationships span both the physical and digital space.  As we’re working to create a discipleship movement in the digital space, including those aspect of our digital lives in the model is very important to what we’re doing.

Here’s what we came up with:

Online Persona

  • In our online persona, we need to be approachable as well as approaching
  • Be empathetic: share others’ happiness and sorrow as we are encouraged to do in Romans 12:15

Prepare the Soil

  • Reach out to your online community, especially on special occasions like birthdays, accomplishments, etc.  Let them know you’re fully invested in their lives.  Live out Romans 12:15
  • When you see someone online express sadness about a personal life challenge or excitement about something great that has happened, empathise with them.  Like the post, comment on it or send them a personal message to let them know you’re with them along the way.  Be consistent in your relationship building with them
  • Slowly introduce spiritual content onto your social media account, especially if it’s not something you typically do.  You want to continue to be your authentic self, who is evidently in relationship with Jesus.  If you previously posted cat pictures, don’t stop doing that now that you’ve decided to  be a disciple in the digital space.  If you love sharing pictures of your family, vacations or food, keep being who you are.
  • Share practical content, especially if it’s content that will “prepare the soil” and help you have conversations with people down the road.  Some examples are:
    • Relationship articles
    • Lifestyle content
      • The Table TV show is a good example of material that can be shared to “prepare the soil”
    • Healthy living
      • Videos showing healthy and delicious food being prepared
      • Recipes
      • Workout tips
      • How you’re making health changes in your life
      • Mental and emotional health tips 
  • Create opportunities to pray online
    • Potential ideas for this can include:
      • FB groups for prayer
      • Host a FB Live once per week that takes prayer requests and prays for them online
      • Message someone to say you’re praying for them and follow it up with an online prayer.

Sow the Seeds

  • Find opportunities to share you story of faith online.  You can do this in a variety of ways:
    • Video
    • Blog
    • Snapchat stories
    • Instagram
    • Facebook Page
  • Share spiritual content on your social media platform.  This can be done by:
    • Sharing Jesus’ message of salvation and reading the Gospel of Mark together
      • If this is done in the online space, try utilising an online tool, like YouVersion
      • If this is done in person, even better, use whatever tools you have at your disposal
    • Reviewing Digital Discipleship’s future directory of online ministries
    • Reviewing the future repository of online content that digital disciples can choose from to share online

Cultivate the Plants

  • Continue conversations with people you’ve started talking to online
    • Visit and eat with people in the physical space if possible
  • Use online tools like YouVersion (online Bible app) to create Bible studies and go through the Bible with them.  Teach them how to learn from Jesus for themselves
  • Invite the person along to a small group
    • The small group may meet in person, which is ideal
    • The small group may meet online either for prayer meeting (see Waitara Churches an example) or for Bible study
  • Be prepared to connect the person with someone in their local area (if they’re not located near you)

Harvest the Crops

  • Keep teaching them to pray and learn the Bible stories for themselves
    • When it’s useful, utilise online tools to help them through the process
  • Involve them in the five purposes of the church.  This can be done in the physical or digital space.
    • Connect
    • Grow
    • Serve
    • Share
    • Worship
  • Let the Holy Spirit lead people to use their gifts
    • Be sure to consider the areas covered through digital discipleship as areas of giftedness.  As the question, could this person be a content creator, a content distributor or a content engager?  Assess if they have any giftedness in these areas as well as the traditional areas of giftedness
  • Invite them to join the church family through the public declaration of baptism (in person)
  • Connect person with a local church or live stream.
  • Plant a church if necessary

Multiply the Harvest

  • Identify leaders
  • Develop leaders who train leaders
  • Take those who are interested and gifted in this area through the digital discipleship process
  • Use testimony to put back into digital space

As you think of what discipleship might look like in the digital space, do you have anything additional to add to the process?  We’d love to hear your thoughts!  Let us know what you think!  Message us at digitaldisciples {at} adventist.org.au or send us a message on our Facebook account at https://www.facebook.com/DigitalDisciples.info/

-Rachel Lemons Aitken