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Mission and Discipleship in a Digital Culture

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Abstract Digital culture technology has opened up a whole new realm of virtual life, relationships and community that seem to exist above and beyond the banalities of ‘real life’. It seems that more and more people are spending more and more time jacked into ‘cyberspace’, and some even get lost there. This compartmentalized view of virtual life has prompted various cross-cultural approaches to mission, exploring how we might become immersed in the online world as a witness to unreached virtual peoples. On the one hand, there is an ever-growing literature on how incarnational mission in this context can be accomplished through various approaches to internet evangelism, web ministry, and planting virtual churches. On the other hand, there is a good deal of theological reflection that warns us that enthusiasm for virtual life and mission must be tempered by a concern for the disembodying and dehumanizing power of digital technology on Christian life and communities. Recent studies have shown that digital culture does not merely lead to the compartmentalization of embodied and virtual realms, however, but to an ever greater convergence between them. In particular, the development of mobile computing devices and wireless network connectivity has woven our online activities and virtual relationships into the routine flow of everyday life. From the perspective of convergence, this essay argues that the future of mission will necessitate a reorientation from planting churches in virtual worlds to living as mission-shaped disciples at the interface of embodied and virtual life. The promise and pitfalls of digital culture are explored, along with a critical survey of various theological and missional stances towards it. In conclusion, some practical-theological reflections are offered towards developing a ‘rule of life’ for mission-shaped discipleship in a culture of convergence.

Affiliations: 1: Cliff College Derbyshire UK


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