Recently I have been giving a lot of thought to the idea of being off the grid. First, as I understand it, people believe less contact with the outside world and less technology will mean one or all of the following: less stress. less government interference, more safety, and/or more spirituality. Sometimes there are religious reasons, not necessarily Christian. Sometimes there’s a fear of some type of world-scorching event (Zombie apocalypse, anyone?) or a police state takeover. Sometimes it’s just a desire for simplicity and bringing your fragmented family, friends, or church back together.
Many Sundays we stop in at a Truckstop Chapel. We bring our Kindle and tablet as Bibles, and sometimes even our laptops. We get some strange or merely uncomprehending looks. Many traditional Christians have computers but they use them like typewriters. Sometimes they send emails. (I might note that I put our email on every chapel visitor card we have gone to but have never, ever had anyone respond, nor do they have a way to contact them online that ever gets a response. Call us, they say.)
So many believers still use print Bibles and hand out paper study materials and spend very little productive ministry time online. If we get as far as telling people we have a blog and talk to a lot of people online about our books and about spiritual issues, that blank look comes back.
They know about websites. They know about blogs. Sometimes they might look up something bible-study related. But when it comes to everyday interaction and use of technology for studying and sharing, they just don’t do it. I thought maybe it was a generational thing — we are a little unusual for being in our late fifties and active online. But many people our age are comfortable online and with digital devices. And many young truckstop preachers still have no concept of going digital. They’re already off the grid, I guess, but should they be?
So I have to ask … What is it that makes some Christians already in ministries ignorant about technology and digital opportunities to minister? Why do they barely understand what a Kindle or a tablet is? Why do so many good people still say things like “What do you do on there? Look at pictures? Play games? Are you messaging each other with your two laptops there?” And when we respond that we write books and have a blog and get into spiritual discussions online, that blank look comes back.
Many people are active online with a cause like the ones I listed at the beginning of this post. You’d think they’d be offline, off the grid, afraid of the government or the distractions or whatever … but they consider online communication important enough to risk staying on the grid. Some of these people have great, needed messages. Some of them are crazy, unimportant, or heretics.
So maybe it’s Bible believers who need to step up their game and understand that they might have dwindling church attendance or few truck drivers visiting their chapels because they appear so limited in knowledge and message. Yes, you can get online and get caught up in more heresies and cults and crazy wrong ideas. You can also waste time looking at cat pictures and pithy sayings.
We don’t want to be monks or hermits or have cultic compounds. We want to go where the people are. We want to reach out and touch lives. So we pound the pavement, or staff the chapel, or outreach center, or whatever we do to physically connect with people and invite them in. But they blow us off. They don’t come.
I don’t know why. But I know I’m going to go online, where some of them are, and write books that are available in digital format, and meanwhile, try to stay on the grid and keep the lines of communication open. I want to “Speak a word in season” in a digital world.