Digital media has changed the world. Jesus commissioned believers to make disciples of all nations, and that work is directly impacted by the accessibility provided through the internet. The ancient Roman Road opened the way to share Christ with the world in the apostle Paul’s day, and today the internet is opening the world in a new way for believers
IMB is capitalizing on this provision through training for our missionaries and partners to engage the lost through information shared over the internet. These strategies include texts, video calls and social media often accessed over a cell phone.
“We have to engage digital natives,” said Brant Bauman, training leader of digital engagement in Europe. “The tools were there before COVID, but COVID dumped gas on a fire, and now openness to function and communicate digitally has increased because people were shut in. However, this new way of doing things is definitely not just a response to COVID — it’s something that is not going away, and we want to ride that wave.”
Many IMB teams in Europe have begun using digital engagement as a priority strategy in reaching their people. Bauman wants to help foster the natural trend by building teams in each region where the IMB serves that can help facilitate the use of digital media.
He stresses that this generation is naturally competent in digital media. Millennials and Gen Zers are often criticized for their love of devices, but now that expertise is being used for God’s glory.
“This is the heart medium of people now,” Bauman explained, referring to the natural way that many people receive information.
“We have to be willing to contextualize ourselves in the way we reach our people with the good news. I want people to ask, ‘How do we reach them in their heart medium?’ In 2021 from Baby Boomers down, the heart medium is behind a screen.”
One example of the mission team’s digital strategy was a social media page with ads designed to start spiritual conversations that lead to gospel presentations. A young student responded to an ad that asked, “Who is Jesus?” Missionary team members met with him on Zoom to talk and then met with him in person in central London. They got some coffee and walked through the streets of London talking about who Jesus is and why His life is so important to humanity. As this young student pondered the gospel, he surrendered his life to Christ and has been one of the team’s most faithful local partners since.
Large-scale training is ongoing across Europe. Teams in Poland, Greece, Canada, Germany, the Balkans and UK are learning to use the best tools available now to reach people with the gospel message. This strategy involves people who are gifted at evangelism, technology, prayer, and one-on-one interaction. It involves the local team, the missionary team and even the virtual mission team.
Virtual mission trips are a new frontier that’s opened with IMB’s intentional strategy through digital media. With ever-changing visa restrictions, opportunities to experience other cultures virtually cross geographical boundaries and can take different forms.
In Poland, cancelled trips for college teams coming to teach English to university students caused them to reevaluate possibilities. They set up several “trips” using social media platforms. Some virtual trips involved groups, and some engaged in one-on-one conversation between the volunteers and students. During the meetings they discussed culture, travel, hobbies and, most importantly, each student heard the gospel. IMB workers in Poland were excited that this option worked well. It was affordable and effective.
Bauman also voiced how digital engagement is also a good use of financial resources. Placing ads or creating effective outreach tools costs money, but one effort has potential to reach thousands of people. Newly established digital engagement strategies in Poland reached over 37,000 people within three weeks. In Greece, the team is reporting one new contact every day through targeted ads.
“We have roughly 70 city teams in Europe, and we want to have more,” said Bauman.
“How do we get to 200 or 300 cities?” asks Seba Vazquez, European training coordinator for the IMB. “We know it can’t be through traditional deployment practices, so, digital engagement is part of the answer.”
Bauman and teammates are looking toward the possibilities of future engagement. “Can we even imagine what that would look like to have each team with one new contact every day?” asked Bauman.
Ideally, IMB teams and partners can transition those digital contacts to in-person relationships. As exciting and effective as a digital strategy is, nothing can replace face-to-face relationships and gospel conversations. To that end, Bauman has designed this strategy to be a natural launching pad to real-life relationships not dependent on a screen.
Please pray for Brant Bauman and the digital engagement teams that are forming.
Pray for them to have wisdom to use the tools for God’s glory.
Pray for those who see ads or promotions about these IMB missionaries’ local churches or outreaches to respond.
Pray for many to come to Christ.