On our latest episode of the Ministry at Scale Podcast, we met with Dan Darling, author and Senior VP at National Religious Broadcasters (NRB). Dan walked us through what it means to do ministry in the digital space, from Christian leadership to conscious communication. Listen to the full episode at fiveq.com/podcast.
Who is Dan Darling?
Dan Darling is the Senior VP at NRB and an author of over nine books. He referred to himself as a “digital immigrant, not a digital native,” like many who worked for Christian organizations before the internet became mainstream. Dan began as a writer and editor for a Christian organization, pastored for a while, and then found his way to ERLC and NRB.
We asked Dan how his experience as a pastor helped to shape the way he views communication online, and he drilled it down to two key things to think about when it comes to digital speech:
The way the Bible talks about our speech. Humans are communicating beings because we were created by a communicating God. The Bible also reminds us that it’s not just what we say, but how we say it that impacts others.
The digital age makes communication easier than it’s ever been. Now, we can send a message to the world with just a few taps of our thumbs, so how do we steward that ability well, especially as Christian leaders? Dan shared his sage advice, “What a leader does in moderation, their followers will do in excess.” We need to remember the power that the tongue has, and the amplification of that on the internet.
How Christians Can Be Conscious Communicators
In the digital space, it is more important than ever for Christians to be conscious communicators, both in what and how we say things. Dan gave us three things to remember when communicating online:
When we’re online, we’re in public. It’s easy to think of having 100 followers on Instagram, which really isn’t that many in today’s culture. But imagine having 100 people in a room – and they’re watching everything you do. You’d be a lot more conscious of your actions, right?
The people we interact with online are real human beings. In person, we moderate what we say. Online, we tend to reduce people to the sum of their arguments, dehumanizing them.
Think, “Do I need to say something about this topic at this time?” Dan mentions how this is particularly important for leaders to think about how to speak in a way that is heard and not misunderstood.
Ever Learning, Never Arriving
Dan’s latest book, A Way with Words, is geared towards Christians who spend a lot of time online - especially on social media, where the danger of curating a perfect version of ourselves is so prevalent. He reminded us that, “The Kingdom of God is mostly built of ordinary people – don’t forget who we’re serving online.”
The first chapter of the book is titled, “Ever Learning, Never Arriving” so we asked Dan what he recommends as ways to have a constant learning mindset.
His first piece of advice was to carefully discern between genuine and “busy-body” pursuits of knowledge. He explains that genuine pursuit of knowledge is encouraged by Scripture, especially in Proverbs. On the opposite end of the spectrum, an example of “busy-body” knowledge is keeping up with all of the latest celebrity gossip. The internet gives us an opportunity for both types of knowledge, and we can easily end up chasing knowledge that is simply not true.
His next piece of advice is to read widely across various genres and opinions. It’s easy as humans to want to stay in our like-minded bubble, but when we read outside of that bubble we give ourselves room to grow. Dan recommends reading biographies, theologies, and books written by people he disagrees with.
In a similar vein, his last piece of advice is to build healthy friendships with people we know we are going to disagree with, so that they challenge us to continue learning.
Have Ideas, But Hold Them Loosely
At the beginning of the podcast, Dan identified himself as a “digital immigrant,” while Gen-Z can be identified as “digital natives,” so we asked Dan for his best advice to digital natives that have some difficulty getting ideas approved by older leadership teams.
His first piece of advice is to remember that change happens slowly. At a young age, we have lots of energy, ideas, and opinions, so we have to understand that older generations might have more wisdom on certain processes than we do. Dan noted, also, that the older generation deserves some respect for starting a lot of existing organizations – what seems outdated now was the cutting edge back in the day!
He also recognized that it takes equal parts of cooperation from all generations, and sometimes digital immigrants need to be nimble toward digital native’s ideas.
Lastly, Dan advises young people to “have ideas, but hold them loosely” – be willing to be scrutinized and edited without taking it personally.
Dan takes his own advice to keep a learning mindset read outside of his comfort zone, so he provided a few books for Christian leaders to check out:
- Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman
- A Promised Land - Former President Obama’s memoir
And of course, we recommend reading Dan’s latest book, A Way With Words to learn how we can become conscious communicators in the digital age. For more information about Dan Darling, visit danieldarling.com.