WeeklyTech #149

Leading Your Church in a Digital Age

People may spend five to six hours a week hearing from God’s Word, worshiping our triune God with the church, or in community with fellow believers. Compared to those five to six hours, their phones and devices are with them almost twenty-four hours a day and easily seven days a week.

These tools are one of the most effective discipleship tools in our digital age—even if they’re primarily being used to form us into people fixated on ourselves rather than into people who look more like Christ. So, we must understand the power these tools have over our discipleship before we can ever use them for good. Said another way, there’s no harnessing technology for good without first understanding its sway over us.

In Christianity, one of the main ways to think about ethical discipleship is through the cultivation of virtue. But you can’t cultivate virtue in yourself or others without some sort of vision of who you want to become. This is why good discipleship begins with the end in mind.

What kind of person do I want my people—and myself—to become? What is the end goal for us? For the Christian, the end goal is the Great Commandment, meaning, it is to become a person who loves God and loves our neighbor (Matthew 22:37–39, Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 5:17). And yet, when we watch many in our ministry online, we see the opposite happening sometimes.

Once your eyes are opened to the issues at play in the digital age, and how it’s shaping your ministry and the people within it, you’ll have much greater odds of countering the negative effects of technology as you challenge them to pursue Christ in this digital age in light of the Great Commandment. I want to offer two words of encouragement in your ministry.

The Rundown

Lies, big lies, and free speech – Brad Littlejohn | WORLD

Earlier this month, a Texas jury ordered the high-profile conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay $49 million to the parents of a child slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, concluding a gripping and instructive defamation lawsuit.

Perspective: Protecting teens from Big Tech – Jean M. Twenge, Clare Morell and Brad Wilcox | Desert News

Around 2012, something began to go wrong in the lives of teens. Depression, self-harm, suicide attempts and suicide all increased sharply among U.S. adolescents between 2011 and 2019, with similar trends worldwide. The increase occurred at the same time social media use moved from optional to virtually mandatory among teens, making social media a prime suspect for the sudden rise in youth mental health issues. 

Biblical Confidentiality: Hold Your Tongue. Preserve Your Integrity. – Gregg R. Allison | The Gospel Coalition

Several high-profile churches and denominations have begun to face a reckoning. We’ve seen decades of sexual abuse by pastors and church staff members along with persistent cover-up of these heinous sins by leaders at the highest level of denominational authority. This phenomenon isn’t limited to churches and other religious organizations. Educational institutions, sports programs, and more have similarly been called to account.

What does GPT-3 “know” about me?  – Melissa Heikkilä | MIT

For a reporter who covers AI, one of the biggest stories this year has been the rise of large language models. These are AI models that produce text a human might have written—sometimes so convincingly they have tricked people into thinking they are sentient.

Spirals of Delusion – Henry Farrell, Abraham Newman, and Jeremy Wallace | Foreign Affairs

In policy circles, discussions about artificial intelligence invariably pit China against the United States in a race for technological supremacy. If the key resource is data, then China, with its billion-plus citizens and lax protections against state surveillance, seems destined to win. Kai-Fu Lee, a famous computer scientist, has claimed that data is the new oil, and China the new OPEC.