Skip to content

Unlocking Digital Bible Mission to Digital Culture with Digital Tribes and Nations

There is a lot more to someone’s sense of identity than language and location. Last year I met a ten-year-old whose eyes lit up when she realised she could make the Bible her own.

She is a metaverse native and she was reached with digital Bible Mission – a missional approach where Bible and digital cultural engagement go hand in hand.

In Digital Bible Mission we recognise the unique value of digital culture. And it’s a vast culture, comprising many digital nations and tribes.

To illustrate this I’ve put together this map which represents the top 50 or so digital nations as represented by the platforms they use – those with over 100 million monthly active users. Some, like Facebook, have as many as 3 billion.

What happens if we imagine the digital nations as unreached people groups? 

What if the subcultures within them – every single Facebook group for example – we treat as tribes, each with their own dialect and customs?

Now what does that mean for our mission to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ  to every tribe and every nation in their own language? 

There’s a lot of opportunity here!

In my work at British and Foreign Bible Society, I’ve started experimenting at a small scale. I will share a couple of real examples.

We started with a day trip. We assembled a team of digital missionaries in the office. 

Then we drilled down into the digital continent of gaming  and within that to the 132 million-strong Steam digital nation  – the people who play video games on their laptops. 

132 million people play games on Steam

As you immediately see from the Steam home page, we’ve crossed into a new, unfamiliar culture. The language, the colours, the idioms all feel different. We’re on mission and no longer at home.

a few of the most played games on Steam

In  Steam culture there are thousands of tribes, each clustering around a particular game. 

We chose Golf It! and created an 18-hole map to play   based on the parable of the lost coin – we called it ‘Lost Holes’. That was a fun day out.

the parable of the lost coin reimagined in an online golf game

Let’s now leave Steam and go back up to our world map of digital nations   

Next  we assembled a group of 7–11 year-olds from both church and non-church backgrounds with a mixture of special needs. As a little crew of ‘Bible Transformers’ we set out over several weeks to transform Bible stories for other digital nations,  including the metaverse and mini arcade games. On one memorable occasion we headed to the continent of search engines and to the nation of Bing. 

Within Bing we head to Images and then to Image Creator, Bing’s ‘Dall-E’ generative AI art assistant.   Again it starts to feel culturally not quite the same.

We asked the children to illustrate Mark’s Gospel in a digital culture meaningful to them. 

As an example, one child chose the game Roblox and here’s the prompt she used. 

And here is the illustrated gospel she created.

Her eyes lit up as she generated a Bible illustrated according to her world, not ours.

Both these activities were examples of what I call ‘Bible Transformers’ – a group of people transforming Bible stories into digital media, for a particular digital culture and tribe.

I think any church mission group could go on a Bible Transformers-style mission – it just takes a little vision. 

Of course it helps if you can be inspired by others doing something similar. So, to help with this, I’ve set up a Bible Transformers Discord Server – please do come and join, and introduce yourself. You may like to attend an online Bible Transformers event or simply organise one yourself.

I want to finish with a quote from Vincent Donovan from Christianity Rediscovered, one of the foremost missionary books of our time, because I think it is relevant to this call to digital cultural mission. It is as important an insight now as it was when first written.

‘Do not try to call them back to where they were, and do not try to call them to where you are, as beautiful as that place may seem to you. You must have the courage to go with them to a place that neither you nor they have ever been before.’

Toby gave his live online demonstration via EMDC Academy on 27 March, if you missed it you can go to the site, register and watch it! Enjoy it here… EMDC Academy

2 thoughts on “Unlocking Digital Bible Mission to Digital Culture with Digital Tribes and Nations”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.