- WEA General Assembly 2019
Rob Hoskins knows a lot about disruptive innovation. As president of OneHope, a Christian ministry that seeks to bring the Bible to children around the world, he helped to develop the Bible App for Kids, which has been downloaded by 32 million children in 50 languages and is the most frequently downloaded children’s app in Iran and Iraq.
Hoskins, senior advisor to the World Evangelical Alliance, addressed the opportunities and challenges of disruptive innovation in his plenary message at the WEA’s 2019 General Assembly near Jakarta, Indonesia on Saturday evening (November 9).
Hoskins recalled being on a plane 30 years ago that stopped in Ulaanbataar, Mongolia. He was excited to see what Mongolians looked like, but the Mongolian university students who came on the plane looked just like Americans. “Most were wearing Levis; one of them had an AC/DC [Australian rock band] T-shirt,” he said. “They knew about Maradona and Madonna, Michael Jordan and Michael Jackson. But they had no idea who Jesus Christ was.”
And change, he noted, has only accelerated since then. Hoskins said that Africa now has an 80 percent mobile device penetration rate, 60 percent of young Africans use social media as their primary information source, and 46 percent participate daily in Whats App groups.
But amidst such disruptions, Hoskins said, God is engaged too, working through history for our good. Sometimes, in fact, God has been the disrupter—destroying the tower of Babel, sending a flood, letting his chosen people be taken into exile. But he promised the exiled Jews a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11–13), and similarly today God “will redeem what we have built even in defiance of him. God enters the miserable world we have built and promises to make it new.”
Hoskins noted instances where Christians have positively harnessed new technology in amazing ways, such as the Every Tribe Every Nation initiative, which has greatly accelerated the production of needed Bible translations, and digital outreaches to closed countries.
But he expressed concern that too many Christians are “anchored to traditionalisms that prevent us from seeing the future and knowing what to do.” He quoted 20th-century Yale scholar Jaroslav Pelikan: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”
Hoskins warned in particular about a reluctance to prioritize the needs of youth and to entrust them to lead. “We [older generations] are not digital natives,” he stated, “but young people are, and we are called to serve them. Let’s not ask them to get on our bus; let’s give them the keys and get on their bus.”
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