Sometimes, we exaggerate a point to make the point. Technically, it is referred to as hyperbole. In respect to how people treat technology, it is used quite often in order to warn us of being so consumed with our video screens that we miss what is actually happening around us. I believe we no longer need to refer to that warning as hyperbole.
As of this month, the number of mobile connections in the world has exceeded the human population of the world. According to GSMA Intelligence, as of 7:00 am CST on December 11, 2014, there are more than 7,323,485,000 mobile connections in the world. As of the same time, according to Worldometers, the human population of the world is around 7,280,336,000. The crossing of these two statistics likely signals significant changes that have happened and will happen in the future.
As believers, we need to seek to understand how this has been affecting and will continue to affect how we interact with the people around us. As our mission is to reach people who are separated from God, knowing how they give and receive information is critical to our ministry. I would offer the following subjects for leaders in ministry to consider for the work of our churches.
- How people consume information is knowledge for us to have but not knowledge that controls us. No matter what, people need to encounter the gospel in speech, word, and deed.
- The manner by which people communicate is an opportunity to seize, not an obstacle to overcome. We should celebrate every means of telling the truth.
- Mobile connections is the natural environment of communication for some while still an optional environment for others. Even in places like North America where having a smart phone is easy, we have not fully tipped into a purely texting, SnapChatting, Instragramming, Pinteresting world of communication. We must still maintain a spectrum of communication methods.
- The landscape of human communication methods has been evolving for centuries. The current change is not an issue of despair. The church has not always done well in seizing new technologies. I am hopeful that this is a change that we can leverage for the good of our mission.
- We now have even easier access to much of the world’s population for delivering the Scripture as a whole and the Gospel in particular. It is good news for the way we prepare and engage for international mission work.
- It is not a signal that there are more tech savvy people but that technology has become a more accessible manner of life for everyone. The church has an opportunity to step in and even step ahead of the curve if we will choose to do so.
- The numbers do not mean that every person on the planet has a smart phone or digital mobile device. It means that some people have more than one while others are still operating outside of the mobile device ecosystem. The church must still be ready to reach into the disadvantaged cultures of the world with the hope of the gospel; which is untethered from any technology.
- The number of people reading from video screens instead of physical books has increased. But it does not signal the end of the printed page. Churches must help people interact with the Bible not just in regularity but in the very method of consumption.
- Neuroscientists continue to study what the impact is of reading and studying through digital screens versus consuming the same information through the printed page. The educational process of people may yet go through several iterations in the next two decades. Church leaders cannot be absent from this conversation as it has a serious impact on the discipling process of believers.
- Anyone and any church can have a worldwide impact because of such changes in how communication occurs. A few decades ago, the only way to impact a larger number of people was through radio, television, or cassette tape ministry. A decade ago, podcasts changed our ability to communicate with anyone who had an Internet connection. With the crossing of this numeric threshold, we must seek the new ways that worldwide and local impact interact with one another for every church.