The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

Is This the Greatest Challenge for Discipleship Today?

Posted on: May 26, 2015

Chess Board 568x420

Electronic media may present the greatest practical challenge for discipleship today. The presence, power and perversion of much of electronic output certainly creates unprecedented challenges.

Regarding the presence of electronic media, it is now possible to be in contact with electronic communication 24 hours a day. From televisions that often go on when families arise in the morning and do not go off until they fall asleep in front of them at night, to computers that have become a part of many people’s daily life at work and in social media, to smart phones and smart watches that are always with us, our modern culture is awash in electronic communication.

Regarding the power of electronic media, have you ever tried to read a book and watch TV at the same time? If you have, then if you are like most people, the TV won. Of course, this is the reason why electronic media is exploding and printed media is shrinking. Electronic media is more engaging and powerful than written or spoken media. Visual images have great power in and of themselves, but when combined with voice and music, they typically overwhelm other forms of media.

Regarding the perversion of electronic communication, it is important to make the distinction that electronic media is neither good nor bad. This blog is communicated through electronic media, and I am hoping it will be used for good. But it doesn’t change the fact that much of what is communicated via electronic communication is counterproductive to Christian spiritual formation. On the one hand, it may be an affront to the moral standards of God. The input may include violence, hatred, greed, perversion and sexual immorality. On the other hand, even if the input is not an obvious affront to God, media typically represents life and values that do not include God or accurately reflect Him. So, even if a given thing is not morally reprehensible, it still tends to teach us to think and live without God because an accurate and authentic relationship with God is virtually never modeled. All we ever learn by example is how to live without Him.

In a dramatic instance of the impact of electronic media, which I mention in my book Brave New Discipleship, I was presenting workshops at a discipleship conference in England a number of years ago. Delegates were there from all over the world. In one of my workshops, there was a delegation from central Africa, and after the session was over, we sat around talking about discipleship issues. This delegation said that their mission was to try to reach the rural villages in central Africa with the Gospel before the villages got electricity because before a village got electricity, their interest in spiritual things was very high. After a village got electricity, however, their interest in spiritual things dried up almost overnight… because electricity brought, not only light bulbs and refrigeration, but also television, movies, music, and the internet. These things captured the minds of the villagers and made them almost impervious to the Gospel. Like trying to save people from a coming tsunami, this delegation was trying to save rural central Africans from the coming tsunami of electrification. (Brave New Discipleship, pg. 4)

If discipleship is to be effective for younger generations in this time of rapid cultural and spiritual change, we must find ways of offsetting the impact of negative electronic output. In the weeks ahead, we will continue to explore ways this can be done. I hope you’ll joie us!

If you know someone you think may find this blog valuable, please share it with them. I am always glad to hear from readers and you can write to me at I will not be able to reply to all emails, but I will answer some, and I may address in future blogs the questions/issues you raise.