Daryl Gungadoo, Heretical Innovator
If Daryl Gungadoo had been born a few hundred years ago he would have been one of the great inventors heralding the modern age or he’d have been burned at the stake.
Daryl sees and does things very differently from most people. He’s got the heart of a missionary, the mind of an engineer and the spirit of a Silicon Valley innovator.
The adventurous Daryl once got on a refugee boat going from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos, filmed the experience on a GoPro and sold the footage to the BBC in a bid to highlight the harrowing dangers experienced by those fleeing their homelands.
Daryl reads Scripture through what he calls “innovation lenses.” Take Nebuchadnezzar’s statue in Daniel 2. Daryl believes Babylon was symbolized by the statue’s head of gold not just because of its wealth and power but also because of its innovation. Among other things, Babylon invented cuneiform, the first known form of widely spread written communication, and used it to communicate information throughout the empire on clay tablets. Daryl points to the major inventions of other nations symbolized in the statue: Medo-Persian—the postal system for letters; Greek — science and philosophy; Roman roads, etc. To Daryl, innovation was behind the immense influence of the nations foretold in the prophecy. These innovations were specific to expanding communciations which helped allow for the spread of the gospel as predicted in Matthew 24:14.
In his official role he’s head of the Adventist Review Media Lab, a job he does remotely from a home office in a scenic corner of Southeast England near Windsor Castle. The Andrews University and MIT graduate loves what he does.
If you haven’t heard of the AR Media Lab, think of it as the Adventist version of the Skunkworks experimental project by Lockheed or X, the Google-founded, hyper-innovative research and development facility that invents “moonshot” experimental technologies aimed at making the world radically better. Where X may work on self-driving cars or dramatically faster global internet, the AR Media Lab is about harnessing the bleeding edge of tech to completely reinvent how Adventists share faith.
Daryl says Adventist evangelists need to pivot away from a focus on ever-bigger conversion numbers and instead target the influencers in society — once influencers are interested in something, they bring along their followers.
“You might call me a heretic for looking at it this way,” admits Daryl, as he talked to me via Zoom.
In one sermon reinvention project he’s working on (called Promenade Sermon), the “audience” members put on virtual reality headsets and are transported to ancient Babylon in the time of Daniel. A lead “pastor” guides the group on adventures around the city, retelling the story of Daniel as users fully immerse themselves in the environment. Promenade Sermon launches on September 19, World Pathfinder Day.
Daryl is betting that early adopters who use the new tech will alert their followers to it, leading to an evangelism snowball effect.
Daryl is passionate about what he calls “generational gap appreciation” as well as creating content that appeals to different learning styles. Rather than take the one-size-fits-all approach to sharing the Bible via preaching series, Daryl says the Adventist community should focus on reaching specific age groups on the digital platforms they use.
Older generations may be fine with traditional media and perhaps Facebook, while Millennials could be best reached on Instagram. Gen Z might ignore a sermon but love TikTok videos or VR gaming. Daryl thinks it’s smarter to be surgically precise in targeting specific demographics rather than taking a ‘spray and pray’ approach to sharing the Bible.
“I believe in the concept of God as our Creator, the Ultimate Innovator,” said Daryl, adding that he believes God has given humans, “the seed of progress, innovation, inventing things.”
He says he wants to build an Adventist environment where innovation can happen. Daryl has registered more than 90 patents and is funneling all the funds from them into a future project involving an incubator lab to help Adventist inventors. In the meantime, he’s leading by example with the AR Media Lab.
“My way of life and thought is evangelism by innovation,” he says.