Chapter Six

Communicating Faith in a Digital World

He has prepared a table before you in the presence of your enemies. Focus on the table and not on your enemies, many are missing out here.

 Poju Oyemade

 

Digital Leadership Lessons from Daystar Christian Centre: Nike and Sam Adeyemi

Nike (@NikeAdeyemi) and Sam Adeyemi (@Sam_Adeyemi) are redefining what it means to be faith leaders in a world where the sermon has ceased to be the preserve of only the physical congregation. Whether intended or not, messages preached by religious leaders now defy the walls of their churches, mosques and other places of worship; rather, they are gaining momentum and extending their reach on the internet. Many religious leaders were asleep to the internet phenomenon for a long time. Though some of them woke up early enough to smell the flowers, and many are still waking up to it, there is a sizable number that has not caught up with moment, because they continue to pretend it does not matter or they just do not know how to deal with it. Some even assume they have the powers to ‘shut down all the blogs and bloggers’. There is a lot to explore as we discuss communicating faith in the digital space. This is both an opportunity and a problem.

With Nike Adéyemi, the intention was clear from the start. She wanted to understand what social media was doing to the messaging of the church and how she could engage and share her ideas and thoughts in this space. She has come a long way ever since. At a time, in Nigeria for instance, when church leaders are facing a barrage of attacks and criticisms for several reasons such as the role of the church in the prevailing socio-economic and political reality of Nigeria; the inconsistency of prophecies, especially political prophecies; and the debate on tithes among other issues. While it appeared that some church leaders unravelled under this scrutiny, Nike Adeyemi and her husband Sam thrived. It is not unusual to see tweets from non-Christians admitting they are regular listeners to their messages. While Nike Adeyemi speaks around love, family and relationships, Sam Adeyemi speaks on Leadership in the reality of Nigeria and Africa. While the messages are predominantly Bible based with biblical texts and references, they are applicable to everyday living. Most listeners of Sam Adeyemi’s messages agree with him and find humour in the things he says. While their church, Daystar Christian Centre hosts about 30,000 people in the Ikeja area of Lagos—plus satellite services in a couple of other parts of the city—their messages reach millions, primarily via the church’s app, website and shortened clips on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. The services are broadcast live on all the major social media platforms. Broadcasting a church service live on digital platforms is an invitation to unprecedented scrutiny. Some church leaders face consistent attacks on their messages, but Sam and Nike’s are hardly in the eye of the storm.

The One Minute Church

Today, Daystar’s audience on Sundays include those physically present in its Ikeja campus and its satellite services around Lagos, and its online church with its own pastor and department for those following the service from the church’s app, website, Facebook and Twitter live feeds. This audience is massive, at least 100,000 combined, but its biggest audience is its one-minute members, that is, those who watch and share one-minute cuts of the pastors’ messages. This audience includes potentially Sam and Nike’s close to two million combined online followers. In addition, those on WhatsApp and its groups are often inundated with Daystar videos. In a given week then, when you add the live audiences and those who see the viral one-minute videos, you can take this to the bank; Daystar reaches at least two million eyes per week! And a sizable number of those people are not Christians. This is the new reality of what it means to be a preacher of the word. When Jesus charged his followers in Mark’s book, chapter 16:15, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature…” he obviously was not thinking there would be digital platforms to make that charge literal, but that is exactly what we have here. In the digital world, no one is limited to only the members of their church; rather it extends to everyone they can possibly reach. Before you account for the ubiquity of their TV presence on the major TV networks in Africa, Europe and America, with the power of digital, Nike and Sam have plugged Mark 16:15 to the power of digital.

Building, Growing and Leveraging Online Communities: The Church and Social Media

Irrespective of the changing audience, you would have to work really hard not to appreciate the essence of a man like If your church establishment is over fifteen years old, chances are that your messages used to be in cassettes. If you saw a church recording its messages in cassette tapes today, you would ask them if they were carrying out a research. Ten years ago, it was unlikely that your members could watch your services live conveniently on the internet. A decade ago, if someone told you that as a church leader, you would have an audience much bigger than the sum of your church members at any point in time, you would think a successfully syndicated TV programme would do that magic. Instagram will be nine years old in October 2019 as it was launched in 2010. Twitter launched in 2006, while Facebook launched two years before. None of these platforms looked anything like they do today when they started. Chances are that voice commands will be enough to help post text and pictures on these platforms, just a few years from now. “Siri, post my last photo on Instagram. Add text, ‘I am having a great time with my family!’” A CD hawker came to market a Fela compilation CD to me recently, I did not know when I said, “I can’t buy this, I have no use for it.” It was after I said it that it occurred to me that I had become dependent on streaming music via digital platforms. What is the point of all these? The point is, how much has your church’s strategy changed in ten years? As a church leader, how do you engage the digital age? Is it from the point of “those Twitter people”, or from the point of “you will never see me on Instagram”? I like how author and strategist, Godwin Uwubamen, uses digital platforms to help people unleash their potential, improve their business opportunities and processes. The Abuja based pastor is engaging digital platforms in a way that looks to enhance productivity and prosperity in a unique way, via management principles and strategies. Pastor Bolaji Idowu’s Harvesters International Christian Centre constantly engages its communities by supporting scholarships for indigent students, while making sure to provide civic education to the populace before the elections. The church always looks to cover gaps left by poor infrastructure. Pastor Idowu himself stays engaged with young people online, constantly engaging on contemporary issues that most millennials need answers to. The masses have a need, one they carry everywhere and only those who meet those needs with have their attention.