I have mixed feelings about this book. On the positive side, Barcelona sees this digital age as perhaps the greatest opportunity for spreading the gospel. He has a different perspective on social media. For him, it is not something that leads one away from God but is rather “something that gives my relationship with God purpose and worth.” (102) He sees it as a place to give the opportunity of salvation every day. He came to this conclusion when COVID precluded his traveling. At home, he realized (after encouragement from his wife) that the mission had not changed but the method had. “The age of digital missions has arrived.” (54)
Barcelona writes of his encouragement to use social media to spread the gospel in the context of telling his own story. We read much about his experiences. He tells many stories, giving good examples of young people living out the gospel using digital technology to spread the Good News. “Gen Z,” he writes, “is and will be the greatest proclaimers of the gospel.” (69)
There are a couple of aspects of the book that puzzled me. One was Barcelona relating he “loved” Kanye West coming out with an album in 2019 he called Jesus Is King. Barcelona admits West “had no lifestyle of living for Christ.” (76) That admiration for West making such a bold statement, even though his lifestyle does not agree, is countered by what Barcelona follows with in identifying what this generation wants. Not living the gospel validates “the hypocrisy that has driven so many away from God.” (78) “Gen Z is not interested in flashy lights or a well-known speaker.” (83) “Gen Z sees past the big screens, fog machines and over-rehearsed worship sets.” (86) They want authenticity. Why in the world world would Barcelona voice his admiration for an entertainer who, by his own admission, makes a statement but does not live a Christian lifestyle, when those to whom he hopes to share salvation want authenticity?
I was appalled at Barcelona's use of the concept of a shotgun wedding. “A shotgun wedding is when two people get married in the spur of the moment. The reason they call it a shotgun wedding is because the man has to fear the father of the woman coming out with a shotgun.” (96) That is so wrong! Even a quick Google search would have clarified that a shotgun wedding is a forced one when the woman is pregnant, the father holding the shotgun to make sure the man does right by his daughter. I just shook my head at the wrong use of that phrase.
I was a bit disappointed there was not more practical help for people who might be challenged in the use of digital technology. “Let me give you instructions on how to use these platforms,” Barcelona writes. (118) Download the app and watch examples from his ministry. “See what we do and do the same.” (119) No information on which apps are best for certain types of gospel presentation. No information on how to set up a profile. No information on search engine optimization or how to increase the number of followers. While he says censorship is a given, he has no suggestions on how to avoid using triggering language. Although he encourages readers to go to https://brianbarcelona.com/dontscroll/ for more resources, “Coming Soon” was all I saw as of this writing.
You'll find lots of encouragement in this book for churches in general and young people in particular to use digital opportunities as additional resources to share the gospel. You'll also find lots of stories showing the fruit of digital ministry. It looks like you are on your own as to practical ideas on how to get the ministry going.
You can read an excerpt here.
My rating: 3/5 stars.
Brian Barcelona (www.brianbarcelona.com) is an author, a speaker and the founder of One Voice Student Missions and The Jesus Clubs. He ministers to millions each month through digital media, including Instagram, TikTok, Zoom and YouTube. Brian lives with his wife, Marcela, and their three children in Dallas, Texas. Photo credit: Manny Gaitan
Chosen, 176 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review..
(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)