CODEC - Christian Communication in a Digital Age

an amalgamation of three research centres at St John's exploring:

- Biblical Literacy
- Preaching and Communication
- Theology & Cultural Engagement

Working in partnership with:
Churches Media Council & The Bible Society

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Christianity in the Digital Space

We spent time trying to define ‘digital space’ but not ‘Christianity’. Which might be needed as this has so far been a Bible-free and prayer-free zone, pretty well. There was ‘Worship in the chapel’ but this simply underlined the sacred/secular divide – which may explain the heavy emphasis so far on recreating outdated forms of ‘church’ in the new environment.

Woops – should say that it has not been all Bible-free. Two and three quarter hours after the start we did get three short quotes from Jesus. But there is a sense that the strong presence of media and ecclesiastical people means if this group is to do some serious theological application it may have to be dragged to the Bible screaming.

Meanwhile I am still having a good mull on some of the key lines that were thrown out –
‘How can people trust anything in a Wikiworld?’ – but Wiki is no more or less trustworthy than the worlds of politics, business or the media.

‘What is the future and place of preaching?’ – but isn’t the question ‘How can we bring God’s word alive for others in today’s world?’

Meanwhile, a question of my own. If we can envisage a church in ‘digital space’, to be authentic what would it mean to wash each other’s feet?

Enough is enough. Off to the bar.

Pete Meadows, Bible Society


  1. Dear friends

    I'm sorry that I was unable to come up to Durham this week, I would very much have liked to! But I'm picking up on the blog and also the GoogleDocs that are posted!

    I'm the coordinator for (based in Derby) so of course believe that these are vital questions that you are discussing.

    May I add my own few thoughts to the mix:

    1. Digital communication culture
    The digital media are not just 'another' way to share the gospel. THey are actually changing the way people interact and think - the whole brain-wired-up thing. I find 'Flickering Pixels' by Shane Hipps and 'The Millennium Matrix' by Rex Miller very strategic reading about this. Digital communication culture is many things. One is that the user is in control, and will only read what she wants to read, and will expect Web 2.0 interactivity and dialogue, as well as a non-preachy dialogue/questioning type approach.

    In addition, digital communication culture is far more story-based. For instance, Lee Strobel explains here:
    why apologetics for outreach is no longer possible in terms of merely presenting abstract truth. It needs to be story-based.

    I also very recently read 'Tell Me a Story: The Life-Shaping Power of Our Stories' by Daniel Taylor which I found very insightful on this whole area of story. I have included a video clip of him speaking at

    2. Attractional and relational
    There is much discussion about methods of evangelism in the physical church. The Web is both different and the same. Ultimately, any webpage, video clip, blog posting, etc, has to be attractional in the sense that there must be a reason for someone to bother to click through to it, and having got there, stay for more than 2 seconds.

    In addition, since most non-yet-Christians are, by definition, not seekers, we need particular means to engage their attention. (I have heard it suggested that about 2% of people in any population are active seekers at any one time, though cannot find the research to back it up. But we do have some good research studies here:

    I am convinced that there are two main ways of reaching them: Bridge Strategy starting points on affinity interests, and life problem felt needs:

    One particular area of affinity interests is popular culture - as covered in the earlier link about story.

    In terms of relational there are two aspects to this I think. As far as attractional websites, blogs, etc are concerned, it means offering the opportunity to relate and dialogue with people. We have several stories on the Internet Evangelism Day site of people who found God online. Significant in all of them is that although they first encouraged evangelistic material online, it usually took a considerable time of asking questions, building a relationship with a mentor, etc, before coming to faith. Just like it always does.

    The other area of relational is the whole social networking thing - building relationships online, meeting people in dozens of different online contexts, and just establishing relationships, across which faith gets mentioned from time to time, as appropriate.

    Church websites
    One area that particularly interests me is church websites that are not just internal noticeboards for members, but actually relate to outsiders in the community. Our site self-assessment tool at
    encourages people in this direction, hopefully.

    Blessings to you


  2. Good stuff Tony. I was only able to attend in person for the first day (I think it was me who quoted Jesus!) but followed the rest via you tube and twitter - which was an interesting experience in itself.

    I started to wonder what 'Christianity' meant in this context, was it just a cultural artefact which we were all interpreting in different ways? I wasn't there long enough to tell for sure, but there did seem to be an authentically church like emphasis on how to get people to consume what we wanted to provide - maybe inevitable but given the level of traffic on the Internet now I think you might as well stand on a motorway bridge shouting 'Jesus loves you!' at the traffic as set up a website or blog to make an impact on the whole of the Internet. I think we need to be much more realistic about the actual potential reach we have via one outlet rather than throwing large numbers around. Talking about millions of 'Internet users' in the world as if that automatically gives each of us a potentially huge reach is about as helpful as talking about the even greater numbers of people in the world! Hence my point that 'think global, act local' applies to Internet based activities just as much as those we do offline.

    Another book I'd recommend re how the culture of hyper interactivity works is Here Comes Everybody by Clay Sharky.

    He explodes a few myths as well!

    I'd also recommend 'What Wikipedia is not' - in particular the section 'Wikipedia is not a democracy' - and 'Wikipedia power structure' as essential reading for anyone who wants to talk about 'the Wikipedia generation' in terms of how we deal with authority and decision making online!