“Jesus started a mobile ministry. He didn’t stay in one place to plant a church or establish a base for his ministry, but travelled around the country for three years. He trained his disciples on the road and in daily life. Jesus had a ‘mobile-first strategy’ to mobilize his followers into the mission of God in this world.”
With this insight Christian Trendwatcher's Marc van der Woude challenged participants of a consultation of the Mobile Ministry Forum, a global network of ministry organizations that are working together to use mobile technology for the advance of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Today mobile technologies can help catalyze Kingdom movements. An inspiring example of this was published in JNI 889. Stanford University professor Paul Kim shared how God gave him a vision to change education by designing better learning environments for children around the world.
'Mobile devices have become the 'mission controls' of our daily life.'
“When it comes to mobile, the classic approach many ministries choose is to move Gospel content from desktops to mobile devices,” Van der Woude observed. “Of course it is good and helpful to have a Bible and discipleship materials on your mobile phone, but mobile devices have so much more potential - they are true ‘mission controls’ in our daily life.”
In mobile evangelism ministries often try to pull people out of their natural habitat into a Christian setting. “We see non-Christians as fish in the big internet sea that we have to catch with our website nets and then pull into our Christian boat to ‘save’ them,” Van der Woude said. “But when we do that, one thing is certain: the fish will die, which - ironically - is what is happening in so many churches. New Jesus followers are christianized and loose their ability to reach out to their former social network. It’s better to leave people in their environment and empower them right where they are.”
Often in (mobile) evangelism ministries try to pull people out of their natural habitat into a Christian setting.
'Jesus used Truth and Dare to train his disciples.'
“Mobile phones can help us make discipleship actionable,” Van der Woude asserted. “Not just reading the Bible, but living it. Not just hearing the Gospel, but experiencing it. Think of the well-known game Truth and Dare. Some people associate this with sex and fun, but it’s actually the real-life game Jesus taught us. In the gospels Jesus trained his disciples by confronting them with godly truth and by giving them daring assignments, that pushed them out of their comfort zones. In Matthew 10 and Luke 10 he sent them out two by two. They had to go to villages, find people of peace, meet their needs, and then report back to Jesus how it all went and what they learned from the experience. This learning by doing it the most effective way of discipleship.”
A good way to train people in this ‘truth and dare’ type discipleship is by gaming, or to be more precise: by gamification, the use of gaming dynamics in the pursuit of real-life goals. “It’s following Jesus by playing missions,” Van der Woude said. “The Millennial generation understands this because it’s already part of their culture. There are lots of ‘daring‘ television programs and Youtube channels, challenges for good causes, road trips and crazy bucket lists. An astonishing 1.4 billion people play games. The average kid has played 10,000 hours by the age of 21.”
'The Kingdom of God is an adventurous mission with an epic purpose.'
Some people think that gaming is a waste of time, but often the opposite is true. Dr. Jane McGonigal, a real-life game designer, researched the gaming scene extensively and found that there are four key qualities that position gamers for positive action in the world:
1. they have an urgent optimism: a can-do mentality;
2. they have a good sense of community and cooperation;
3. they are productive: work hard, play hard;
4. they love epic meaning and want to connect to a meaningful mission.
“The Kingdom of God is such a mission, it’s adventurous and giving epic purpose,” Van der Woude stated. He elaborated on what mobile gamified discipleship could look like. First of all: (young) people play real-life missions - not virtual missions like in computer games - that they receive on their mobile phone. These missions help them to engage with God’s world, they learn by doing, and they can share the mission with friends. Typical gaming elements are built in: there’s a storyline/goal, different playing fields, missions to accomplish, levelling up, rewards and fallbacks, and a feedback loop.
Two examples of gamified discipleship
An example of this type of gamified discipleship is Mission Path, a board game developed by New Forms Resources that draws players into the process of prayer, finding people of peace, sharing the gospel and planting a simple church. By playing the game, people incarnate the principles and start putting them in practice.
Another example is YourStory, a mobile real-life game based on 7 areas of life formation and impact. Organizations make missions, young people play them, and more mature mentors coach them. These missions are assignments in prayer, compassion, health, social justice and community development, and go from simple personal assignments to more challenging collaborative missions that require teamwork to succeed. When players reach the master level, they can start mentoring others in the game. In a special dashboard players and mentors can see their progress.
How would you gamify your mission?
Van der Woude challenged ministries to think about how they would gamify their mission. He also asked for input and ideas for the development of existing and new mobile discipleship platforms.