What is Ministry in a Digital Age?

Back to What is Ministry in a Digital Age?

Proclamation Evangelism in a Digital Age

Desmond Henry, Lisa Pak & Nick Parker

Understanding Proclamation Evangelism

Proclamation evangelism rests upon the presupposition that God, as divine proclaimer, reveals himself through his word, calling humanity into a covenant relationship. As the messenger of eternal salvation, God’s authoritative and faithful proclamation brings about redemption in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), offering hope to all who respond to his call. Understanding God as the ultimate, creative, eternal innovator and proto-evangelist gives credence to our posture toward the development and adoption of innovative evangelistic approaches in the digital age, and moving toward 2050. Drawing inspiration from the commissions of Jesus,1 Christians have embraced innovation and creativity, boldly proclaiming the good news from Jerusalem to Judea, to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Through diverse approaches, they continue to engage with the world, bringing hope, reconciliation, and the message of salvation to all. 

Understanding God as the ultimate, creative, eternal innovator and proto-evangelist gives credence to our posture toward the development and adoption of innovative evangelistic approaches in the digital age, and moving toward 2050.

The purpose of this article is to examine proclamation evangelism in the context of the digital age, taking a missiological perspective and looking towards the future. We will discuss the present realities, challenges, and opportunities and provide strategies for engaging in meaningful dialogue while remaining true to our missional calling.

Proclamation Evangelism and the Digital Age

Each age has brought unique challenges and opportunities, and the believers of each generation have done their best to leverage the latest technologies and innovations in obedience to Jesus’ Great Commission mandate. Examples of this abound in the New Testament, where we see Jesus employ various innovative methods of proclamation evangelism during his ministry—using parables (Matt 13:34–35; Mark 4:30–34), signs and wonders (John 2:1–11; John 9:1–7), and dialogue and questions (Matt 16:13–16; John 4:7–26). He proclaimed his message to the masses in marketplaces (Matt 11:16–17; Luke 7:31–35), to the religious in synagogues and the temple (Luke 4:15–30; John 8:2–52), and in many different spaces. Jesus proclaimed the good news in diverse settings, including homes, near water wells, on mountainsides, and along shorelines, even utilizing a boat as a platform for preaching.

Creative proclamation evangelism is also demonstrated throughout church history. Some such examples include papyrus scrolls, the use of stained glass windows to visually depict biblical stories, the printing press, the distribution of gospel tracts during the Great Awakening, the microphone, and the onset of the age of the radio and live broadcast television. In short, technological advancement and proclamation evangelism have always gone hand in hand, because the church has been called out (ekklesia in Greek) to be a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth: ‘But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?’ (Rom 10:14-15, NLT). 

The Cape Town Commitment states: ‘We embrace new opportunities for global mission through advances in technology and communication, recognizing the potential to reach every person with the message of Christ.’2 Since Cape Town 2010, we’ve seen incredible advances in technology, particularly in tech that connects people, making our world smaller than ever before. With 5.16 billion people now accessing the internet and 4.76 billion of those active on at least one social media platform, our world is ‘connected’ in a new way. We are actively engaging in online communities while sitting in the comfort of our own homes. 

These exponential advancements of the digital age present an unprecedented opportunity for the proclamation of the good news.

These exponential advancements of the digital age present an unprecedented opportunity for the proclamation of the good news. It is now possible, at least in theory, to imagine a world where we can reach everyone with the good news. The borderless nature of digital cyberspace means that we can now have access to individuals from nations and cultures who were previously, for all intents and purposes, assumed to be restricted and/or unreachable. Simply put, we have entered into a reality where no one is unreachable. 

Through social media marketing, ministries are now able to reach more people in one day with a single ad than many crusade evangelists could during a month of outdoor meetings—and at a fraction of the cost. The onset of the digital world has exponentially accelerated the rate of connections and multiplied the number of touchpoints. As we look to 2050, the interconnectivity we are increasingly experiencing will require believers to embrace new strategies and approaches in digital and in-person evangelism, utilizing various forms of multimedia, social platforms, and interactive technologies to effectively communicate the good news. In the words of Carl F. H. Henry, ‘Good news is only good news if it gets there in time.’ Much work remains to get the good news in front of the masses who are unreached or otherwise inaccessible. 

At the writing of this article in mid-2023, Starlink is currently rolling out their service across the African continent, providing first-time access to the internet to millions of people. This increased accessibility coupled with the steadily decreasing cost of data may mean that access to the internet will in the near future not be seen as a luxury, but rather as a human right. It is all-pervasive, according to Shoshana Zuboff, a Harvard professor: ‘The digital realm has been transformed into a vast, continuous data stream that captures, monetizes, and shapes every aspect of our lives.’3

There is no doubt that the digital age is upon us. And yet, like so many novel innovations and technologies, access to this new digital world is still limited.4 Digital deserts exist in vast pockets around the world, most notably in developing nations, which is important to note for the global church, since the developing nations are where so many of the remaining unengaged, unreached people groups (UUPGs) live.5

Still, interest and necessity—eg the COVID-19 pandemic—are pushing even the latest adopters to venture into this brave new digital world, and leaders of all sectors are actively investing in digital solutions and innovation. So much so that it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that we may be entering into the golden age of digital development.6 Digital strategies are essential for the church in this modern world and are integral to the reaching of the least and the lost. In nations where access to the good news is prohibited or severely restricted, the creation of secure digital portholes and channels allows for access in a way that mitigates exposure in circumstances where anonymity equals safety.

And as the best minds of the world’s businesses, governments, intelligence agencies, banks, and other institutions battle it out to secure their corner of the digital world, the best minds of God’s people need to apply themselves to the application of these tools to get the salvation message of Jesus Christ out to those who have never heard. And they are. Many ministries that have pioneered the use of technologies for mass outreach and evangelism continue to lead in innovation and in the development of evangelistic tools and are actively incorporating digital evangelism into their existing strategies. These ministries include the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association,7 the Luis Palau Association,8 Pioneers (through their Media to Movements strategy), Cru, and the Jesus Film Project. Newer ministries and organizations, such as Global Media Outreach (GMO), Christian Vision (CV),9 OneHope, Renew World Outreach, and Jesus.net, are also actively developing tools for the digital age. 

But parachurch ministries and organizations are not alone in their digital evangelism efforts. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the local church into the digital world, and churches, although restricted in terms of physical gatherings, have found that through online portholes, they were able to interact not only with congregants, but also with people outside the church who may never come to a physical church building. In other words, for the first time, a church’s ‘community’ was no longer bound by a geographical location.

Online discipleship courses such as Alpha (which launched Alpha online post-COVID-19), online communities like FaithTech, and Bible studies through apps like YouVersion have opened up the digital door for people to encounter Jesus through these new mediums and channels. Moreover, Bible agencies like Biblica and SIL are exploring how AI could help accelerate the translation of Scripture into minority languages.

Our connectedness brings an opportunity to share the good news through the Metaverse, esports, gaming platforms, social media, and streaming platforms, in addition to the traditional broadcast media and anything hybrid and in between.10 Still, many challenges remain, both internal and external, that we must consider regarding the proclamation of the good news in the digital age.

Internal Challenges

The biggest challenge that ministries face in this digital age is that of perceived success. With the nature of social media and the aggressive algorithms that promote content at all cost, it is very easy to ‘share’ the good news with millions of people at a time and think that it’s making a difference, when in reality these numbers don’t reflect true gospel engagement. This in part is due to how social platforms report data and the metrics they use. For instance, the number of people ‘reached’ doesn’t mean the number of people who have viewed and engaged with the content. Leveraging digital technologies ought to lead to community transformation and real world impact. This can be measured through responses (comments and messages), people attending physical spaces (church service or events) and the establishment of real community (this could be both physical or digital). 

We also cannot assume that as we proclaim the gospel across these digital platforms, people are being discipled and connected into genuine faith communities. The challenge here is to make sure that evangelism doesn’t happen in a vacuum, but rather in collaboration with churches and ministries who are able to engage and facilitate conversations with seekers.11

The biggest challenge that ministries face in this digital age is that of perceived success.

Many people also don’t consider the culture of content consumption that exists in the world. Anything done in an online environment is seen to have a shelf life. Therefore, ministries can often find themselves consumed by the drive to produce more content that is bigger and better than before. And while the spirit of excellence is applauded, this desire to become bigger, better, and more ‘viral’ often leads to ministries negating the message of the gospel in pursuit of clicks, likes, and views. Proclamation evangelism, however, regardless of the medium, is about proclaiming the good news without compromising the message. The tools of proclamation may evolve and follow trends, but the message has always been the good news about the truth of who Jesus is. And this is always relevant to all people and in every age.

This leads to the final internal challenge that we face not only as ministries, but also as individual Christians: unity in our wonderful diversity. As much as we love that the world is connected and smaller, this smaller connected world also means that everyone now has a voice, and often those voices have differing opinions and ideas about God, church, and the world we profess to love and serve. Still, we must recognize that our strength in unity lies precisely in our differences. In genuine John 17 unity, if we are to truly make an impact in this digital age, we need to do so from a place of unity, humility, grace, and love, allowing ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit.

External Challenges

By ‘external challenges’ we refer to those factors that are outside the control of individuals, churches, and ministries. As much opportunity as there is for evangelism in the digital age, we currently find ourselves in unchartered territories.

One approach to the digital space asserts that no one can (or should) own it, and all people are equal in it, regardless of their physical location or demographics.12 In fact, what we see now is that our ‘tribes’ are no longer restricted to a geographic location, but exist cross culturally, in online communities. 

It is very easy now to find someone who believes the same thing as you, and this confirmation bias means that communicating the truth is often received as communicating ‘personal’ truth. This shift in the understanding of the very nature of truth leads to a challenging environment when proclaiming the good news.

At the same time, despite the porous nature of the digital world, more governments are increasing their efforts to secure their digital borders and censor content in their countries. This isolates individuals in these countries and instills fear. In some instances, governments have completely switched off the internet for strategic intervals (eg Ethiopia, Iran, Uganda).

This rise in censorship means that although we live in a digital society, our methods of outreach need to be hybrid in nature, consisting of both online and offline strategies.

Beyond Proclamation to Collaboration 

Digital proclamation isn’t the only opportunity that our digital landscape offers. In fact, leaders in the mission world have already been working to un-silo the traditional fields of Scripture translation, evangelism, and church planting so that together, they can have a greater impact and lasting sustainability (eg Finishing the Task13). Bible translation and evangelism work together to increase effective and meaningful Scripture engagement, which then leads to discipleship in communities and healthy multiplying churches. In the same way, leading Christian digital innovators are exploring how digital proclamation can lead to online discipleship and authentic Christian communities, ie churches.

leading Christian digital innovators are exploring how digital proclamation can lead to online discipleship and authentic Christian communities, ie churches.

One example of note is a recent collaborative study conducted by the digital team co-led by Aaron Thomson (head of product for Jesus Film), Raeli Miller (Jesus Film), Thomas Harley (One Hope), and Justin Murff (Strategic Resource Group).14 The study focused on digital strategies in the MENA region and explored how digital platforms might be effective in connecting interested individuals and new believers from a Muslim context to others in their local areas who could answer their questions about faith and be the first contact point. The study centered around prayer and demonstrated that connecting digitally over prayer could be a strategic pathway in moving Muslim background believers into a faith journey. Eventually, after mutual trust is established, the initial online contact could be complemented by in-person meetings with local church leaders and mentors, which increases the likelihood of an individual staying the course of the spiritual journey and joining a faith community, whether online or in person. In other words, digital proclamation and access to the good news can lead to prayer communities, personal discipleship, and even digital church.15 Thus, digital resources are fast becoming an indispensable tool of proclamation in the least-reached and hardest to reach places. Specifically in the hardest to reach places, digital portholes offer a degree of anonymity and social distance that allows those in potentially hostile contexts to explore Christianity in safety. 

The study’s summary findings were as follows:

  • Outsiders need access on their terms.
  • There must be a mutually agreed-upon purpose that prioritizes progress.
  • Trust must be an integral part of any digital community. Sustainability starts with trust.
  • Relationships beyond the regular meetings are important.
  • Hosts who are empowered to own the front-end of the online experience increase retention in digital communities.
  • Prayer is the most valuable interaction in the digital community experience.

However, the report cautions against ‘moving on’ from analogue strategies. Rather, the suggestion is to embrace digital proclamation in addition to the traditional methods. The Roman roads and the Silk Road are still used today, in addition to planes, trains, and automobiles. The conveniences that a digital world offers may tempt us to believe that digital is superior, but this would be technological hubris. The digital world, born out of the modern and industrial ages, may seem to us to be the most efficient and direct route, but digital strategies, innovation, and efficiency do not necessarily translate to efficiency or superiority in the field. Rather, any digital tool/resource created for a particular region and/or people group must consider the context in which the tool/resource will be used. In many rural areas of the world, digital access is limited for a variety of reasons. Therefore, digital tools must marry well with indigenous solutions. 


Proclamation evangelism is here to stay but embraces the use of innovative approaches in the digital age to share the good news. The digital era we are accelerating into presents unprecedented opportunities for reaching people globally. Ministries and churches are leveraging social media and digital platforms to engage with individuals and communities. However, our many challenges include the need to measure true gospel engagement and avoid compromising the message for the sake of popularity. Unity and collaboration among believers are crucial in this interconnected world. We must also navigate the shifting perception of truth and the rise in government censorship. Beyond proclamation, collaboration between Scripture translation, evangelism, and church planting is essential for lasting impact. Digital resources offer opportunities for prayer communities, personal discipleship, and digital church, particularly in hard-to-reach places.


  1. It is now widely recognized that the New Testament contains multiple passages that could be understood to be Great Commission texts. Ed Stetzer unpacks the four commissions of Jesus, making the case that other than Matthew 28:19f, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:46–49, and John 20:21–23 should also be considered as equally valid commissions. Refer to the following for greater detail: John Piper and David Mathis. Finish the Mission: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012). Accessed June 9, 2023. https://document.desiringgod.org/finish-the-mission-en.pdf?ts=1439242122.
  2. “The Cape Town Commitment.” The Lausanne Movement. October 2010. Accessed June 9, 2023. https://www.lausanne.org/content/ctc/ctcommitment.
  3. Shoshana Zuboff. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (New York City: PublicAffairs, 2019).
  4. Read more here: https://fortune.com/2023/03/01/starlink-satellite-internet-africa-spacex/ 
  5. This book explores innovative and unconventional methods for reaching UUPG’s, including the use of digital technologies: Peyton Jones. Reaching the Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020).
  6. This resource may be a helpful one to engage as it relates to the moral and ethical considerations such development in this field may bring: Klaus Schwab. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (New York, NY: Crown Business, 2017).
  7. You can learn more about BGEA’s digital evangelism strategy, called ‘Search for Jesus’, here: https://searchforjesus.net/ 
  8. The Palau Association shares that in their experience, with USD 1 you can get a gospel ad in front of 1,800 people, of which 31 people will click to read the gospel presentation, and 6 will indicate a decision for Jesus. People who indicate decisions for Jesus through Hope With God are then given the opportunity to grow in Jesus through their highly engaged Facebook community of nearly 20 million people around the world. You can read more about this strategy here: https://www.palau.org/hopewithgod 
  9. Christian Vision, a leading voice in digital evangelism, uses Facebook campaigns as a way to digitally reach people around the world who have never heard the gospel or the message of salvation. Through their National Pioneers Initiative (NPI), they deploy digital pioneers (online responders) and pioneers on the ground (similar to a traditional missionary) to help evangelize and disciple. Read more online: https://www.cvglobal.co/the-power-of-digital-evangelism/
  10. For a detailed opinion paper on the Metaverse from a multidisciplinary perspective explore: Yogesh K. Dwivedi et al. “Metaverse beyond the hype: Multidisciplinary perspectives on emerging challenges, opportunities, and agenda for research, practice and policy.” International Journal of Information Management 66 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2022.102542. 
  11. CV, as an evangelism ministry, has always believed that discipleship happens within the context of relationship, and that relationship should sit within a local church. For this reason, whenever possible, CV will always provide an online seeker with an opportunity to connect with someone in their physical community. This individual would be connected with a local church and would then take this online seeker on a discipleship journey. This model also allows for online evangelism to be done at scale, without creating pressure ‘downstream’ for volunteers who may help with large volumes of seeker engagement and response.
  12. Much has been written on this topic by numerous authors and from varying perspectives. This will accelerate in our age. Vaidhyanathan argues that Google’s expanding reach and control over information, communication, and commerce have profound implications for privacy, democracy, and the overall landscape of knowledge: Siva Vaidhyanathan. The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry). 1st ed. (University of California Press, 2011). Crawford, for instance, contends that AI systems are not neutral or objective, but rather embedded with power structures, political influences, and significant environmental costs: Kate Crawford. Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence (London: Yale University Press, 2021).
  13. ‘Finishing The Task unites and mobilizes the global body of Christ to courageously take up the mantle of catalyzing, multiplying and supporting church planting movements in every unreached people group and place, until everyone, everywhere has access to a Bible, believers and a Body of Christ.’ Read more about their unique approach here: https://finishingthetask.com/wp-content/uploads/FTT-Global-2020-Update.pdf. 
  14. Thomson, Aaron, Tom Harley, Raeli Miller & Justin Murff. Bottom of the Funnel: Summary (Orlando, 2022).
  15. This study underscores the growing recognition of the potential of digital tools and platforms in fostering meaningful connections and providing access to resources for individuals seeking spiritual guidance and support in challenging contexts.

Authors' Bios

Desmond Henry

Desmond Henry is a missional thought-leader, professor of missiology, author, pastor, and speaker who serves the global church in evangelism and mission. He is married to Lara and has three daughters. He serves as the executive director of the Global Network of Evangelists for the Luis Palau Association and is passionate about elevating evangelism globally. He currently serves as a catalyst for the Lausanne Proclamation Evangelism Network

Lisa Pak

Rev Dr Lisa Pak currently works alongside Rick Warren on the Finishing The Task (FTT) lead team. Her previous experience includes serving as a Regional Director at the Canadian Bible Society, in addition to her pastoral experience in the United States, South Korea, Singapore, and Canada with a particular focus on the Korean Diaspora community. She is a second-generation Korean Canadian and Toronto native, ordained by the Korean Association of Independent Churches and Missions (KAICAM). She holds a MDiv and a MABL from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has earned her DMin in Leadership at Tyndale Seminary. She is passionate about diverse and young leaders, women in leadership, and global missions.

Nick Parker

Nick Parker is the Global Partnerships lead for the evangelism ministry Christian Vision (CV). Having studied Public Relations, Nick spent four years working in the production and events industry before joining CV’s community department in 2013. Initially, he served as a Community Specialist before being promoted to Community Manager. In 2022 Nick stepped into his new role as Global Partnerships lead, looking at how CV can strategically partner with churches, ministries and individuals to further the gospel.Nick lives in the beautiful city of Cape Town, South Africa. He is married to his wife of ten years, Kerryn, and together they have two sons, Caden and Roman. He is passionate about Jesus, people, music, fitness and coffee.