At age seven I touched my first computer. By age thirteen, I was connecting multiple computers together over a public telephone network, just for fun. The idea of computers calculating unthinkable amounts of data in mere seconds fascinated my impressionable young mind, but it was the connecting that sent my brain signals leaping over synapses. If computing had a soul, this is what it would be: linking, networking, using all that power to connect not just computers, but people.
The Internet was created initially to share resources and information between universities and research centers. Over the years, it expanded beyond a simple research network into a web of artists and entrepreneurs, activists and dreamers, followers and leaders—all eager to relate and explore the potential of this technology.
Human innovation also has carried forward God’s great commission of building relationships with Him and with others by spreading the love of Christ around the world. Unfortunately the reality of these creative endeavors falls prey to other intentions. Where we desire to do good, evil is right there with us.
Protecting Our Digital Freedom
The Internet is no longer a digital playground—it’s a battlefield. Dirt roads and barbed wire have given way to electronic highways, drawing each country’s frontlines to within keystrokes of each other. And in hostile regions, where authorities ban Christianity and plot to destroy the work of religious freedom, governments are intercepting information as it enters and leaves their cyber borders.
Stories of persecution range from local law enforcement hand-slaps to the living nightmares of people like “Claire,” a young woman who returned to her Middle Eastern homeland from college in the United States a changed woman—a Christian woman. After searching Claire’s laptop, her brother discovered she had been communicating with believers back in the United States over the Internet. Her family confronted her, demanding she deny Christ, yet she refused. They killed her.
Her communication, like that of other believers trying to grow in their faith while living in hostile regions, was too easily discovered. It needed to be hidden away in a virtual safe house, disguised, or masked. Information and interactions that expose a person’s faith and threaten his or her life should be harder to unearth—and they can be. Skilled people in the technology sector are developing methods to protect Internet-based interactions of believers in vulnerable settings.
A good friend of mine whom I’ll call “Steve” runs a private business whose sole purpose is to provide secure email and communication services for Christian missionaries serving in hostile countries. Steve’s vision is to build technology roads to the far reaches of the globe and educate those believers and new converts on how to traverse them safely. Steve protects these cyber highways and their travelers by implementing innovative security technologies and other tactics. Had Claire been sent home with a computer installed with these protective measures, she might still be alive today to quietly witness and be strengthened in her faith.
Neither stones, bullets, nor bombs can prevent the love of God from penetrating every tribe and nation, and the Gospel message will continue advancing as men and women like Steve wield computer keyboards in one part of the world to cover the work of believers in another.
We All Have a Part
Certainly the need exists in the mission field for quality information technology professionals like Steve to implement security countermeasures, but the need grows beyond Christian IT pros alone. We need the blogger, the Twitter user, the missionary support teams emailing monthly newsletters, and as in Claire’s case, we need believers reaching beyond the digital borders of a free country to communicate love and encouragement to someone whose only outlet to Christian community is found over the Internet.
Through each of our stories, God has given us a message that can help someone, and we are no longer limited to those we meet in person, nor are we to leave the work of national and international ministry to only those who can travel to remote regions. If our God is a God “who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:4), then certainly his intention for modern technology is established on that premise. All corners of the earth can now be reached in milliseconds from the comfort of our homes, and we have been given the privilege and the responsibility to use these channels as the next step in furthering God’s work in our world. Instead of shying away from the alleged social ineptitude of the online generation, how can we embrace this crucial time in our history and find new ways to enter into it?
Consider social media platforms as your mission field. Start a blog and tell your story. Share positive messages on Facebook and Twitter. Engage an online community (such as The High Calling) that matches your values and beliefs. Support and pray for risk-takers like Steve, who are investing their lives to bring these virtual communities safely to those threatened because of their faith. People like Claire are waiting for someone like you to reach them. What part will you play?
Technology at Work
Will there be technology in heaven, or is technology simply for our use while we’re here on earth? What technology will we take to heaven? And what is technology, anyway? God placed humanity on the earth and gave us instructions to take care of it. Does that mean God had technology in mind right from the beginning? We are quick to judge technology and find it wanting, but what if technology can help us as we partner with God as co-creators and restorers on the earth? How would we steward technology differently if we thought it might actually have an impact on the kingdom of God? Our theme Technology at Work explores some of these questions and more.