Experiencing God in Cyberspace
I am definitely not an expert in the world of technology. In fact up until a few years ago, my husband had to turn the computer on for me! I clearly remember the first time that I realized communication technology could offer me the support and encouragement I needed as a career missionary. We had just returned from Africa and were in the beginning days of starting up Touching Miami with Love. Two teachers in the public school system who had contact with our children became aware of our faith and asked me if I wouldn’t take time to pray with them weekly. I queried as to where and when we could meet and they informed me of three way call. That began a ministry of three way call groups that continued until we left Miami.
For the most part I used technology for my own purposes. That is for my personal relationships, for my prayer needs, and for encouragement. Of course, we eventually became virtually paperless in our work as well. But over time it began to occur to me if I entered cyberspace and experienced help and encouragement, were there not other seekers in cyberspace as well?
Here are some ways that I am hoping to see a greater use of communication technology:
- Online outreach: Nearly 75% of North America is online with only a bare 21% in the Middle East. Yet the rate of growth for internet users in that area has increased almost 1200% in the last 8 years.* Women, who are often closed off from outside contact, are among those users. The internet affords a certain amount of privacy and freedom. While exploring, wouldn’t it be wonderful if these seekers found God in cyberspace? Years ago at the UN I heard of a project for low powered “hand crank” laptops for children in Africa. That project, One Laptop Per Child, is growing. “Give a laptop and change the world” is their vision. They recognize that cyberspace is a place where education and connection can take place. See http://www.laptop.org/ . Acts 17:26 & 27 states that God has determined the times set for people and the exact places where they will be. Cyberspace is not out of God’s domain. Shouldn’t we be there to greet and love in the name of Christ – to be the presence of Christ – in cyberspace?
- Equipping the church: We have been doing webinars and online gatherings for a few months now. We have been wonderfully surprised at the numbers of individuals and churches who have responded to this resource. Everyone is cognizant of the economic downturn. Everyone is counting pennies as budgets – both personal and organizational – must be carefully guarded. Normally, substantial sums are paid for those with a certain expertise to come and help equip the church for her ministerial tasks. The church faces new and unique challenges in a world that is experiencing prolific migration and rapidly advancing technology. Doesn’t it make sense to connect to those who can help but at a fraction of the cost through the use of technology?
- Building community: I have wondered why I would become involved in promoting technology, when I am the least tech savvy person I know. I think it is because I am a very relational person. I enjoy communicating. I enjoy connecting. I enjoy relationships. My career has often lent to times of extreme loneliness. I have welcomed an age that permits me to keep up with my friends and family. But I am also meeting new people. I enjoy learning. Online communities are facilitating that. While there are a lot of questions out there about the worth and value of internet church, etc., it does not negate the value of connecting with those that can stimulate our thinking, challenge our values, and encourage our faith. Isn’t it to our advantage to build networks and communities online rather than wait for that rare opportunity to travel expensively to gather together in order to be about the work God has given us?
- Where two or three are gathered together: Those 3 way prayer calls have continued. Now, however, I connect online using a program that permits my fellow prayers to call in via their cell phones. They may be out having their morning walk, I may be in a hotel room on the road, or we may all be in our “prayer closets” at home. But the point is that no longer are we completely bound by time and space. Though there are infrequent exceptions, we are able to connect for 45 minutes each week of intercession for the nations, for the hurts, pains and needs of individuals, for our families, for ourselves and more importantly to offer a sacrifice of praise. If God is omnipresent, doesn’t it make sense that God is in cyberspace? And doesn’t it make sense that rather than permit the busyness of this life to inhibit our ability to gather together, we should use technology to gather in the name of Jesus and find him in our midst?