I have been doing some thinking on the future lately. Someone who does a lot of thinking about the future is global futurist Dr. James Canton.
In his latest book Future Smart he writes,
The world is moving rapidly toward ubiquitous connectivity.
The world of 2025 will offer a range of essential services powered by a vibrant mobile web eco-system that connects the physical and digital worlds…
If all systems of knowledge, business, technology, communications, and commerce are connected, then the convergence of these systems will shape the future…
This Connected Planet will be dominated by mobile, wearable, and embedded computing that will be linked together in the Internet of Things (IoT). The Internet of Things is the emerging technology wave of wirelessly connecting products, systems, computer chips, and devices to each other so they may sense, understand, analyze, predict, and exchange information, such as location awareness, and communicate with each other over the web.
The Internet of Things combined with Big Data makes it now possible via our digital devices and connected clothing to make almost anything we do measurable in real-time.
- Geographic analysis Where are we going?
- Work flow analysis What are we working on and for how long?
- Food and calories consumed
- Exercise and movement
- Media consumption (books, music, videos , etc.)
- Finances and purchases
- Physiological data (pulse, breathing rates, hours of sleep, etc.)
- Proximity and relationship analysis – who are we spending time with (time near spouse, kids, friends, etc.)
Our daily lives will more and more be turned into sources of data.
We have entered into the earliest stages of the era of digital discipleship and big data decision-making for churches.
For example, the Bible app on your phone uses the phone’s own internal microphone to listen to your day. The app evaluates all your texts, and reads your emails. The device’s high-powered processor runs a sophisticated algorithm that analyses the words spoken, digital text, time of day, location, proximity of certain people, etc., and creates a suggested discipleship map for you to follow that includes scripture, breath prayers, podcasts, worship music, readings from spiritual classics, etc.
The app then pushes a notification to your small group and accountability partner providing them suggested ways they could be praying for you.
If all the small group members are using the app, a further analysis of all the data is performed and the group receives suggested small group studies, scripture, group discussion questions, worship songs, local serving opportunities, etc.
The journal app evaluates your emails suggests questions that might help you reflect on your day.
Your wearable IoT device or clothing allows your church to track your physical attendance as allows churches to track church attendance as people walk across sensors in the doors or walls.
During the message, the church app you interact with on your devices uses your camera to track eye and head movements and receives data on heart rate and respiration allowing the pastoral team to learn with part of the message was the most impactful of engaging for you and then push customized discipleship suggestion to you.
The app allows you to make an offering and tithe via a digital currency.
Big Data Decision Making
During the message you may learn about the new service time that was determined using big data analysis of members bio-metric data that determined the ideal time for learning and alertness.
The new multi-site campus location in announced, its location determined through a massive data analysis of demographic, sociographic, and psychogpraphic analysis.
The new counseling courses were listed in the digital bulletin. These new course offerings were based on a big data analysis of the discipleship data provided to the counseling team through members digital discipleship apps the discovered trends in some of the issues people were struggling with.
A testimony about how someone was plugged into a ministry perfect for them is shared. This was accomplished through a big data analysis of the persons online digital social media profiles and alogorthymic evaluation of the person’s voluntarily submitted school records, work history, personality profile, emotional quotient, social quotient, spiritual quotient, cultural quotient, resume, health records, etc.
How Will We Respond?
This is just a glimpse of what will be possible. Some will view this something we must prevent while others will embrace it. I simply know this is the possibility that lies before us.
Will churches embrace or reject this possibility?
Will churches help explore, research, build and develop these realities even further?
Will church members demand it or reject it?
What would it mean for discipleship and the Gospel?