Be digital kingdom builders conference is told
Around 500 Christian digital specialists attended an inspiring and equipping Premier Digital Conference at The Brewery in London last Saturday, including some of the Network Norfolk team. Report by Keith Morris, Kevin Gotts, Mark Sims and Helen Baldry.
Opening the conference, Krish Kandiah, president of the London School of Theology, said that the internet and social media can be commandeered for any use, and Christians need to use it for good: “We have incredible influence and we need to use it for the Gospel and be part of the solution not the problem,” he said.
Krish urged delegates to be a digital kingdom seeker, not empire builder; a digital peacemaker, seeing others as collaborators not competitors; and be a digital luminary, being salt and light in every sphere in which we operate.”
Fusion student mission leader Miriam Swaffield spoke about being creators, she said: “The future belongs to the story tellers and connectors. We need to create sacred spaces and stories online. The whole world can then engage with you and you don’t know who you might influence.”
There were 24 specialist break-out sessions.
In the Create a Buzz session, Daniel Jones from Stewardship outlined some ingredients to create excitement and therefore gain interest and a reaction from people.
He quoted US author Malcolm Gladwell and his Tipping Point theory – the moment when an ideas crosses the threshold and becomes a virus. Malcolm cites The Law of the Few – when key influencers and connectors get involved; Stickiness – an idea becomes an epidemic when it is naturally infectious or sticky; and The Power of Context – ideas that fit well into the context of when and where they are launched spread fast and wide.
He also quoted Robert Cialdini and his six principles of influence: reciprocity - the power of a gift; scarcity - the power of missing out; social proof – the power of the herd; consistency – the power of yes; liking – the power of favouritism; and authority – the power of experts.
He then talked about how some of these principles were present in the huge success of Stewardship www.40acts.org.uk idea.
Digital marketing author and lecturer Bex Lewis spoke about Creating Engagement in the very social digital world: “It’s about participation and not dictation,” said Bex. “People love telling and hearing stories, but you must have content that is consistent, compelling and contextually relevant. Organisations especially need to be authentic and transparent online.”
She quoted the www.humansofnewyork.com project as one compelling example.
Writer Vicky Walker spoke about how to set up a blog, covering why people blog and the different platforms used, including Wordpress, Medium and Tumblr. She spoke about how to reach an audience and the importance of interacting with them and responding to comments.
Illustrator and artist Matt Lawrence spoke of the prophetic quality of art that can touch people in his presentation "Create Digital Art". He said that anyone can produce art and produced a live drawing depicting Jesus' trial and crucifixion using readily available software timed to some dramatic classical music.
In Create A Space For Creativity, graphic designer and conceptual artist Micah Purnell's overall message was that we need to find a way to 'declutter our brains to make room for creativity.' He stressed the importance of taking a Sabbath day of rest and 'working from a place of rest, rather than resting in a place of work', i.e. creating a work/life balance when digital creatives, who usually work from their laptops, can do so anywhere.
During a brief group discussion, one delegate mentioned how he works at home and his children only normally see half of his face because the rest is concealed behind a laptop screen. Micah also used a few examples of his own striking artwork to illustrate how we can challenge consumerism which, according to artist Steve Lambert, 'dominates because we can't imagine a better alternative'. Lambert's fascinating website provides the 'Add Art 2.0' programme for replacing browser advertising with NASA images and 'Self Control' for blocking distracting websites.
Dr Tim Hutchings' Creating Disciples session explored how the digital age affects the church's teaching and outreach. Expanding on the phrase 'teach them to obey and follow me' from Jesus' Great Commission to his disciples, Dr Hutchings looked at how effectively we can spread the gospel online through examples like YouTube sermons, which worked in terms of providing flexible viewable and the scope for improvement through music and editing (which could also be manipulative) but which removed the directness of watching it in person, as well as the control over and interaction with an audience.
Twitter is less successful in preaching. 'A tweet that works,' Hutchings said, 'has to be the equivalent of a kitten video - bland but easy to digest.' Good preaching does not work this way and, of course, social media is not designed for evangelism but spreading rumours, basically. Activism, however, can work well online. Social media enhances offline efforts and creates community, education and awareness. Hutchings did wonder what 'awareness' really means. People discovering a charity online does not mean they will support it.
Hutchings also asked if we can really 'follow' Jesus on the internet? What kind of discipleship can we live out online? Despite our best efforts to stay pure online, are we really becoming disciples of Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, the co-founders of Facebook and Twitter? Finally, after speaking on the web's benefits in building the church, Hutchings challenged us to consider what we can and should still do about this in our face-to-face dealings with others.
Pictured top, opening the conference, Krish Kandiah and, above, delegates taking it all in. Pictures by Kevin Gotts.