Being a Witness in a Virtual Age

Uncategorized // January 25, 2021 //

Last week, our family took a trip to the mountains. We wanted to rest, reset, and refocus as we began a new year. We also sought to take a pause from technology.

Currently, students work on computers daily, college students participate in zoom meetings all day, and much of the world works from home. I am thankful for the advances in technology that facilitate our activities, but with technology comes two major obstacles: distraction and an absence of new relationships.

I was in my last semester of seminary when the pandemic started. One of the requirements for one class was to share the gospel with at least one person a week. Ever since then, I have wondered how we can faithfully build relationships and share the gospel in the virtual season we are in.

Have you ever thought about the impact technology has on our witness?

Over Christmas break, we had missionary friends from another country come visit. They explained the laws in their country. They are literally not allowed to have anyone else step foot their property. They have had very limited face-to-face interaction with others for months. I was left wondering, how can we faithfully build relationships and tell others about Jesus when face-to-face interactions are so limited?

These questions remined me of a book I read a couple of years ago called Disruptive Witness by Alan Noble. This book has helped me wrestle with our witness in this virtual age.

Here are a few take aways I have tried to implement in my own life:

  • Identify distractions: To be a faithful witness, I must first take time to evaluate what distracts me. What is preventing me from contemplating the majesty of God? You might be surprised at how long this list can grow. A multitude of things can grab my attention in a minute: a text, an email, work, social media, a to-do list, a news headline, dinner, kids, my spouse…
  • Consciously approach God’s Word: Now the list above is not full of bad things, just things that can distract me from God’s Word, especially if they are always at the forefront of my mind. I must habitually and intentionally take steps to silence those distractions so that I can consciously approach God’s Word. For me this means turning off my phone for a set portion of time, being intentional in planning my time alone with God, and relying on my spouse to help me get that uninterrupted time alone in God’s Word.
  • Rest in silence: Noble explains “It’s not just that this technology allows us to stay “plugged in” all the time, it’s that it gives us the sense that we are tapped into something greater than ourselves.” We are so comfortable with the distractions around us, to the point that silence makes us uncomfortable and rest makes us feel unproductive. To hear God’s Word, we must be able to sit in silence and listen. We must re-learn how to rest and how to be silent in our loud culture. This will take practice. Try spending 20 minutes alone in silence once a week, and then increase the frequency and length of that time each week.
  • Prioritize my time in worship: I love how Noble describes worship. He explains that worship is a time when “we are joined together through Christ across time and space in a way that simply is not true of any business team. Through singing together, we enact this mystery in worship.” Technology is a large part of our worship experience now. Whether you watch online or attend in person, technology is at our fingertips. Noble suggests that as a church we make intentional decisions to encourage healthy cognitive habits. That may be encouraging one another to bring a physical copy of the Word instead of relying on our phone, where notifications can grab our attention. It could be longer periods of time for self-reflection and prayer. As a family, I encourage you to evaluate ways to encourage a focused worship experience.
  • Encourage contemplation: They are few opportunities to meet new people in this season, and many of our interactions are virtual now. Intentional relationships are key to sharing the gospel in this season. I am also learning to be more intentional with existing relationships through activities like checking in on those at home, being a better listener, and asking question that encourage reflection. One way that Noble suggest we do this is through participation in our cultural works (tv, music, movies…). Nobles explains this when he says, “We participate in stories when we receive them charitably and dialogue with other about how to interpret them.” Use everyday conversation about the events and works around you to encourage others to contemplate the majesty of God.

Technology will only grow louder as the years pass. I would encourage you to take time to evaluate how you can silence those distractions in your own life and how you can disrupt the noise in other’s lives.

About Caitlin Taylor