The work of Ministry in Digital Spaces (MDS) is to empower students and faculty to engage fully with their peers in new and emerging digital spaces, relating deeply and honestly in these spaces. As we do this, all of our efforts will be rooted in our core values of RELATIONSHIPS, RECONCILIATION, and PROPHETIC IMAGINATION.
The work of MDS is one of human connection, first and foremost.
This ministry is not primarily a technological endeavor, and we are not particularly interested in debating the merits of contemporary technological tools. We understand and sympathize with many of the concerns regarding the Internet and digital spaces, but also believe that each past generation has faced similar questions about emerging technologies. The Apostle Paul, as far as we know, did not miss a beat when it came to using letters and Roman roads to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Instead, he assumed his mediated relationships were real and consequential when he wrote, “Let such people understand that what we say by letter when absent, we will also do when present” (2 Corinthians 10:11). Martin Luther did not worry about how the printing press would affect social relations and how that might prove detrimental to the fabric of society. Instead, he described the innovative technology of the printing press as: “God’s highest and extremist act of grace, whereby the business of the Gospel is driven forward.”
“It’s kind of crazy to me that we’re here in 2016 and the defining relationship we have with computers and phones is apps, not people.” - Mark Zuckerberg
For Paul, the defining relationship with letters was not the type of pen, but people. For Luther, the defining relationship with the printing press was not typography, but people. We desire to follow Paul and Luther in our approach to the Internet: it’s about the people.
We believe that focusing on a particular technology distracts from a more important conversation, that of human connection and even more so, the connection between people and God. We are interested in the bits that compose digital spaces only because we are interested in the souls of people.
With this in mind, we will use technology to be present in people’s lives. There are currently a little more than 20 million college students and faculty in the United States, and all of them are on the Internet somewhere. We want to go wherever they are online: wherever they spend time, build relationships, and search for community.
We are interested in de-centering conversation from places we own and control. As Patrick Fung said in his Urbana 09 interview, the most honoring act of hospitality is to allow ourselves to be hosted, to go to someone else’s space, not just invite them into where we feel safe and comfortable. This is the MDS posture, to go, to be sent.
We long to see technology be used to transport ministers to those students and faculty not being reached by InterVarsity or the church.
The work of MDS is one of healing and wholeness, particularly around the American legacies of race and gender in the university world.
We believe that all things were created for good but have been subsequently damaged by evil (as James Choung explains). This damage includes both internal brokenness within people as well as inequitable systems and structures that fracture humanity and the university.
We will work for justice, forgiveness, and understanding, but ultimately our aim is reconciliation. We root this pursuit of reconciliation in the model of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection: that people and God were created for intimate connection but separated by people’s rebellion and flight, and that God is actively at work to reconcile all things.
We long to see homecomings between people and God, between people and themselves, and between groups of people.
The work of MDS is one of hope, to speak into being and work toward the world as God intended it to be.
The core task of prophetic imagination is hope (as per Walter Brueggemann): to move from numbness to grief, from anger to anguish, and from despair to amazement. We will not settle at critique but continually press into God’s redemptive work; we will journey with people especially where hope is painful.
One of Brueggemann’s most helpful contributions is to describe the prophets of old as poets; we are seeking to build communities of poets who will speak and create together. We will plant networks of these hub communities in digital spaces and nurture their growth as they seek to see the Kingdom of God made manifest in the university and in our world.
We long to see the people, ideas, and structures of the university be renewed through engagement in digital spaces.