Would Paul have used modern technology should it have been available to him in the first century? Indeed, I have read many blogs and articles suggesting he would have or would not have. Though interesting to consider, it is impossible to know what Paul would have or would not have done with modern technology. Thus, perhaps the better question is how does Paul’s use of first century technology inform the way we should use twenty-first century technology?
What technology did Paul use to make disciples?
Though Paul used all sorts of ancient technology, I am focusing only on the tech he used to communicate on behalf of the Gospel and message he received from the Lord. In regard to writing, he most likely used parchment, papyrus, and lead ink. All of these were the most modern communication technologies available during that time. Paul would write letters to keep in touch with the churches and instruct them in theology and discipleship. He relied on carriers who would use roads that were created using the most modern engineering technology available to the Roman empire to deliver these letters to other churches. Though so ancient we do not think of it as technology anymore, those were all technologies that Paul used to spread the gospel.
Primarily, Paul used this technology to compose letters and we know that Paul’s letters were read aloud to the entire church, and that often the letters were circulated to other churches (see Colossians 4:16). Paul was utilizing the best he could the technology available to him to communicate to mass amounts of people. He used these methods to teach, to correct, to encourage, to pray, and more. Paul relied on the written word to be delivered via Roman roads and read aloud to the churches at large.
So what are the implications of Paul’s use of technology? Essentially, Paul used the technology available to him in his time to spread the Gospel so we should seek to do the same thing. Consider the following ways Paul used technology and how we may use our tech the same way.
Paul’s teaching through letters are still used today as the Word of God. Of course, you will not be writing the Word of God, but a core function of the church is teaching. How might you leverage blogs, websites, Skype, FaceTime, or other communication technologies to provide sound teaching? A note of caution: Paul was very specific to his audience in his letters. So I do think he would prefer teaching through interactive technologies such as FaceTime and Skype based on the personal aspect present in his letters. Blogs and sermon videos are good, but sermons and blogs do not make disciples. Communities in digital spaces can make disciples, it just requires more time and to be more personal.
In 1 and 2 Corinthians, specifically, there are many issues that Paul has to deal with: a man who is sleeping with his mother-in-law (1 Cor. 4), rich church members refusing communion to poor church members (1 Cor. 11), bickering about the importance of who baptized someone (1 Cor. 3), and more. You can feel Paul’s sincerity, burden, and tender firmness in his letters (2 Corinthians 2:4). It is not hard to imagine that Paul would FaceTime the elders of those churches and discuss these issues as he is traveling to a new city. I often have an image of Paul walking on Roman roads with an iPhone in his hand Facetiming Timothy in Ephesus.
With the busy schedules of most Americans, why not utilize FaceTime to have some hard conversations? Why not do accountability over the phone, skype, or even through video apps like Marco Polo? I have seen many hard conversations delayed or ignored because the parties involved were not able to meet together. FaceTime them. These conversations are vital to growing in Christ.
Encouragement & Prayer
In every epistle, Paul has some sort of exhortation and encouragement for the audience. Again, it does not seem incredible to imagine him sending a daily reminder to his Whatsapp group chat: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thes. 5:16-18), following by something like, “love you guys, keep pressing toward the prize!” It is not hard to imagine that Paul would comment on someone’s Facebook an actually prayer rather than a simple “praying for you.” I like to imagine that Paul and Timothy would schedule a time to call each other and pray daily for the work of ministry when they are separated.
Stadia is getting ready to launch another round of their Phygital Learning Communities. Almost 70 churches right now are learning how to THRIVE, GROW, and MULTIPLY. We want to help your church learn how physical and digital can work together to achieve your mission and vision, meanwhile letting your Church, Online, be authentically you. Phygital Learning Communities are starting soon. Check out http://stadiachurchplanting.org/phygital for more information.