You may well have heard the story about the conversation Gabriel had with God when he observed the band of disciples whom Jesus had chosen to spread the Good News. Obviously not impressed, Gabriel asked God, “And what is Plan B?” To which God replied, “There is no Plan B.” God was content to let the most important task of all time be reliant on the efforts of a dozen very ordinary men, not the religious elite, who were taken from their normal jobs and given a three year apprenticeship. It was a plan which seemed doomed to failure but with the aid of the Holy Spirit the Good News has spread throughout the world from those tiny beginnings.
Reading the story of Gideon (Judges 6 & 7), the numbers may not be quite the same but a similar principle was at work. The 32,000 troops who set out to fight the Midianites were whittled down to 300 by removing those who were fearful and those who knelt down to drink water. I can understand the first test but the second seems rather random! I wonder how Gideon felt as he saw his huge army so diminished. God doesn’t have to explain himself to us of course, but he did give a reason for reducing the number of troops to an improbably low level. Had there been enough men carrying out the attack, they would have taken the credit for the victory. With only 300 men against a whole army, victory could only be ascribed to God.
I’m reminded of God’s liking for low numbers and apparently impossible plans when I think of the digidisciples who are seeking to bring the Good News to the digital space in various ways. We are a relatively small number called out of all the Christians in the world. Most of us are not counted among the religious elite or the experts but are ordinary people, with the majority probably engaging with digital media in their spare time rather than as their primary occupation. Did we all put out a digital fleece to make sure God actually meant to call us into this very odd form of ministry? I doubt it, but here we are anyway.
According to the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8552415.stm ) today there are 2.3 billion internet users worldwide who between us have sent nearly 155 trillion emails and added nearly 330,000 blog posts in this one day. There are around 4 trillion indexed web pages at the moment. Into that monstrous army of content, digidisciples march with their blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter updates, chatrooms or internet churches of various kinds.
When I log on to Second Life there are usually somewhere between 30-70,000 others logged on, depending on time of day. Anglicans of Second Life occupies one island in a virtual world which is now reputed to be too big for anyone to fully explore in a lifetime. Using the search facility reveals scores of churches in Second Life, though many of those are just buildings rather than active Christian communities. Our little band of 27 volunteers doesn’t seem very significant in such a place. Recently one of our longstanding Leadership Team members resigned due to real life time pressures and another is taking some time out. Yet we carry on doing what we God guides us to do, as other digidisciples no doubt do also.
If there is no Plan B, which seems likely, we must trust God to bring Plan A to fruition. Certainly, like the men of Gideon’s army or Jesus’ disciples, we won’t be able to claim that any success we have is due to our brilliance but purely to God’s enabling. As the Psalmist reminds us: “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)