It all started in August of 2016, though we are now fully aware of how much longer God has been working and moving in Derek's life.
When I arrived to Spain, I knew only a small handful of people, but I had immediate access to a Facebook group of about 500 people who were hired as English teachers, like myself. Hoping to utilize technology as one of God's many tools, I posted about the church here in Madrid, giving as much information as I could, and also providing my phone number and other useful information within the comments.
To my surprise, there were a lot of people interested in church, many of which private messaged me or texted me to ask for more information. In the following few weeks, there were several visitors that came at least once, some bringing friends with them. It was an encouraging time, and a great opportunity to be faithful in a new country with new people.
Among those people that came was a guy named Derek.
On September 3rd, nearly a month later, Derek sent me this text message: "Hola! I'm with CIEE and I came here for the August 29 orientation. I went back and search the Facebook group because I remembered you posted about a church. Do you still go there? Are the services always in a park? I'd like to find a church while I'm here and I figured I might as well start with the one you mentioned. Gracias!"
After messages exchanged back and forth for about three weeks, Derek came to church on September 24th and was greeted by a warm family of disciples in la Iglesia de los Discípulos de Cristo en Madrid. Another week or two went by when a guy here in the Madrid Church asked Derek to study the Bible. Through God's grace and the combined effort of different brothers here in Madrid, using both the English language and the Spanish language, God has saved another soul in Derek.
Derek told me what caused him to reach out to me that first time, and it's inspiring and faith-building:
"Well I just remember that I wanted to attend a church because I thought it would be a good way to meet new people in a new city and country. I honestly probably would've been too lazy to actually look into churches and do research myself. I've been wanting to do several things since I arrived in Spain, but haven't actually ever put in the effort to make some of those things happen-- namely, going to church. Also because churches are so split with so many different denominations, I really wouldn't have even known where to begin looking. I wasn't connected to any "church family", so I would've had to just try out random places to see which one I like best. I was originally planning to do that after visiting your church. I had two other churches lined up to go visit. However, being lazy, I never went to them. So I think you posting on the Facebook page made it super easy for me. You sounded friendly too, so I didn't feel intimidated. Plus you posted your number so I didn't even have to use Facebook messenger or send you a friend request."
How many of your hundreds (or thousands!) of Facebook friends could tell the same story? How many of your friends are already hoping to find a church to attend, but just don't know where to begin looking? Social media is a double-edged sword. Depending on how we conduct ourselves in our personal profile, we can cause divisions between us and our friends, stir tension, make people angry, become angry, or even sin in the use of our language and in the way we behave.
Social media is a tool that God can and wants to use for his own glory. When we focus our thoughts and our energy on Him and on glorifying him in the way we conduct our lives, both in person and online, then the whole world becomes a platform through us for God's mighty change. Each of you reading this has the unique opportunity to change the world like never before. Like never before in history, you can change the world where you are and where you're not. Imagine how the first century Christians would have utilized Facebook, Twitter, Smartphones, and other forms of technology to change the world!
Now, where you are, you can do these things to completely alter the life and afterlife of someone you may not even be aware is seeking God in their own life. What are you waiting for?
Eight Ways to Use Technology For Evangelism
1. Change the world on Facebook; invite people to church, share your heart. You don't have to share a scripture every single morning, or be that guy that only ever posts Bible scriptures while never engaging in a conversation-- but think about how you do post things, and what someone reading them might think, and how they might respond. You can make a Christian right now using your Facebook! Please read the recent article Trump, Christianity, and Social Media here.
2. Use Craigslist! There is an entire "free" section. In years past, I have created an ad titled "Free Bible Studies." Give it a try! Who knows who might come across it and have their life changed forever!
3. If you're a student, you're likely part of a campus listserv (Blackboard, Canvas, or some similar operating system or mass email group). Have you ever considered emailing your entire class to tell them about your church service or Bible study groups? I did this in college, and it was great!
4. If you're a student, your university may also have a campus-wide email system that you're allowed to advertise with. In college, I leveraged the campus-wide email advertisement system to tell the entire school body (about 20,000 students) about our Bible study groups each week. What an incredible way to reach the masses by using technology!
5. Your workplace likely has human resources policies set in place about using work emails for personal use. However, there is no reason you can't ask your co-workers for their personal email. Or, what's better, now LinkedIn is an excellent option. Add your co-workers, supervisors, understudies, interns-- add everyone!-- on LinkedIn and then there are no rules for what you can or can't say in a private message to someone. Evangelize away!
6. Any gamers out there? Believe it or not, you can evangelize while you're playing online with your friends! Why not? Try something like: "Hey guys, I can only play for a few more minutes. I'm going to a Bible study with some friends. Have you ever read the Bible?" Have a mock Bible study right then and there on Xbox Live.
7. Have a Snapchat? Instagram? Twitter? Tinder? (I hope you don't have a Tinder. The way to use the Tinder app in order to glorify God is to delete it). Why not periodically share something personal on these social media platforms; something thought-provoking. Make yourself available for people that are watching you to feel free to approach you with the questions they have about faith. You never know who is watching you.
8. Have you ever heard of MeetUp? If not, go learn all about it, and reach people in your local area who may be interested in a personal Bible study or a group Bible discussion. You can even start your very own ministry of evangelism by leveraging the amazing resource that the MeetUp website provides.
There are countless more ways than just these eight. Be creative! How can you use the technology in your life to glorify God and to evangelize the Gospel? God wants to use YOU, every part of you, and every part of your LIFE to change the world. Allow your smartphone and your Facebook and all the technology in your life to work as an extension of yourself, and as God's instruments of righteousness. When this is the case in your life, God will change the world through you like you never thought was possible.