Does the Bible Require Incarnational Ministry?

Read the essay:

Discussion Questions:
When do you prefer incarnational ministry?

What technological modes of ministry do you use?

What do you see as the pros and cons of each?

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I think this is an important question to discuss if we choose to participate in a an online Christian ministry like UP. As for me, I was searching for answers to questions of faith and when I didn’t find any answers in my local community, I started searching online and stumbled upon your ministry.

As soon as I joined, I was surprised that some christians in my local community were quite against online ministry. Some common pushbacks I received about online ministry were -

  • Its easy to hide our true selves in an online communication
  • It doesn’t result in relationships that can grow over time because of the distance that separates people
  • It is impossible to lay hands and pray in an online setting. (Rom 1:11)
  • It is not a pattern seen in the Bible. Even though letters were used, Paul confessed that meeting in person would bring greater joy (2 Tim 1:4)
  • We cant meet many of the needs of a fellowship online.
  • There is little return for all the time and effort put in ministry

In response to these objections, I would say its possible to hide in any relationship. I have found that in-depth conversations over spiritual issues online surprisingly develop more trust than multiple in-person groups where people dont share from their heart. While its is true we cant lay hands on each other and pray, there are instances in the Bible where God answers remote prayers ( Acts 8:26 -27, Acts 9: 10-11) . I too believe meeting in person is optimal for showing genuine love and care but online communication has a greater reach and flexibility of use. When it comes to following patterns in the Bible, its easy to become legalistic and I have experienced true Christians divide over “patterns”! While I can understand the sincere motives of honoring the Word and protection from worldly influences from those who oppose online ministry, I dont see harm if love and scriptural wisdom are used in navigating approaches that are not expressly forbidden in scripture. Its far better than dividing over secondary matters when we are called to extend love to those of the household of faith (Gal 6:9-10).

With those who live near me, I would choose incarnational over online ministry as much as possible. It helps to see facets of a person that go beyond thoughts on a specific topic. Conversations are more natural and its easier to get to know people.

Online communities, videos, podcasts, blogs, journals, Zoom calls, phone calls, books. Calls have been great to meet for prayer. Online resources usually help find input that may not have been considered locally.

I have already discussed some of these but I could share more on when I have preferred non-incarnational ministry. I have enjoyed being able to partcipate in streamed church services when traveling overseas. The familiarity of known people though online brought comfort. Online ministry with passionate Christians from diverse settings are a constant reminder to value and appreciate diversity. Interactive Zoom church during early stages of the pandemic was helpful to stay in touch with local community. Online groups like UP have been great to discuss questions and find some personalized, researched thoughtful responses and grow in awareness about issues in the global church.

The cons would be the need to pay greater attention to tone when writing. Its important to keep in mind the ‘reader’ as a person with deep spiritual questions and needs. Though we can make some good godly friends online, it takes more time and it may be practically difficult to maintain long distance online friendships.

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I’ve had this experience so many times. I am so grateful for the resources available to us online.

One of the most powerful parts of an online community is that together, we can surface far more questions than nearly any “professional” ministry can. If you think about 100 people asking a question each month, that’s 1200 questions discussed yearly. It’s hard to keep up that kind of pace from the perspective of a ministry with paid staff, but a team of dedicated volunteers, who want to love and serve one another, can maintain that conversation quite naturally.

Another benefit is seeing charitable conversations modeled. It isn’t just the answer, but it is how people from different backgrounds approach the question, and the person asking it, and each other, that can be just as instructive. To see kindness and empathy in the midst of seeking truth and wisdom.

What a helpful list! Yes, I’ve seen this too.

I think that many of these objections have some merit. I also think that, too often, online activities have been designed with little return for all the effort!

What we are doing is unique, and it will take time to earn the trust of those who have been burned so many times.

Same here! :slight_smile:

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