Occupying Digital

So proud of our OneHope Regional Director for East Africa, Ishmael Macharia, pioneering digital evangelism opportunities in Africa. This powerful composition applies not only to the churches in Africa, but should inspire all of us. I don’t think we fully understand the impact and opportunity that the digital disruption provides for the Church in our generation.  


“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Colossians 1:15-17 

This scripture is a good reminder to us that God holds the whole earth and all its elements within the power of His Mighty Hand. Nothing pre or post exists Him. Nothing happens but by His will and power.  This scripture echoes the words of the Apostle John in his Gospel when he said’ “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:3 ESV) and David when he said, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.”. (Psalm 24:1,2 ESV). 

Technology is one of those things that was created through Christ and exists within the fold of His power. But it also continues to be a very controversial thing in the Church. What do we embrace and what do we reject has become a great debate within the Church. Very understandably so, as technology has become such a great tool of evil.

But a look into the history of the Church shows how the same technology that was used to propagate evil also helped in the advancement of the Gospel. This confirms the preeminence of Christ in creation and subsequent inventions and innovations. And from this, we can learn how the African church can take these tools that exist within the world that God has created to advance the Gospel to the young generation. 

The Romans were well advanced in road construction. To them, they wanted to conquer and dominate the world. Their armies and merchandise travelled the Roman roads and with them causing death, immorality and idolatry. But these same roads also gave us the early Church. The Apostles walked and rode these roads to spread the Gospel and plant many churches. Where the road ended, ships took over. With advancement of ship building technology, came advancement of influence across the high seas bringing with it goods, armies, death and slavery, just to name a few. But on the other hand, missionaries, Bibles, hope and life. And where water and roads couldn’t go, the railway line did. 

One of the greatest nodes in Christian history was the age of reformation. Again, Johannes Gutenberg’s printing technology would greatly revolutionize culture on both sides. The printing technology helped in not only spreading liberating information during reformation but also put the Word of God in the hands and hence the hearts of billions of people over time. 

In our time we are experiencing such a great advancement in information technology. But what does this mean for the African church? It means we have a great platform that God has given us to advance His Kingdom.  African youth and children are getting more connected on the information grid. According to Global Digital Report 2019 by Hootsuite and We are Social, Africa has 80% mobile penetration and 36% internet penetration. Digital innovation in Africa has transformed life so much that even established institutions are finding it hard to sail through the resulting disruption. 

Digital revolution is transforming the lives of millennials. A report released by GSMA shows that 60% of young people in Africa have social media as their primary source of information. It further reports that 46% of young people are active in one to three WhatsApp groups daily. The smartphone phenomenon has taken over the lives of many young people in Africa. 

As Africa rises and tech companies set tech hubs and labs across the continent, shaping the culture, in particular the Next-Gen culture, will the Church be caught napping and run to fire-fight afterwards? My challenge is for the Church to become pioneers in the digital innovation front. Most of these young innovators are members of our youth groups in our churches. What kind of platforms are we as the Church creating for them to invest their talents and creativity? 

We are in a disruptive cycle, where we can have much more quality interactions with young people without having to wait for them to gather for the evening youth groups. Many young people are receiving Christ online and being introduced to physical fellowships that were spiritually far from them. 

The African Church must occupy the Digital Space with authority as given in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). We must allow our minds and attitudes to be transformed so that we can be where the Lord wants us to be. We should not be caught up like the servant who buried his master’s talent. We need to invest in the moment and meet with the young generation where they are spending most of their time, Online!
 

Ishmael Macharia

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Ishmael Macharia is OneHope’s newly appointed Regional Director for East Africa. He is also the Associate Pastor for Young Adults at International Christian Center in Nairobi. He is married to Diana and they have 4 beautiful children.

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