Why social media matters for churches (and why you don’t need to feel guilty!)
Edited extract from ‘Church Online: Social Media’, available here:
Social media matters because people matter. People are social, and social media is where people socialise. Jesus moved towards people and entered their crowds.
In one crowd, Zacchaeus used a tree to watch Jesus from a distance, to spy on him. Some may have called him a voyeur, but actually he just wanted a friend. How did Jesus respond? He spoke to him, asked him to come down, and the space between them disappeared.
If you suspect that people may be watching you, your church or your faith from a distance on social media, be the one who closes the gap. That way, you may even get invited into people’s homes, whether digitally or physically.
- If our church doesn’t address the reality of social media as a normal communication tool in people’s daily lives, a characteristic of our times, we will fail to make the most of the enormous opportunities it presents for outreach and relationships. We will miss out on its theological, behavioural and missional depths.
- If our church doesn’t have a social media profile or presence as a community of faith, we might be invisible to those wanting to speak to us.
- If our church has a Facebook page or Twitter account but ignores it, we come across as neglectful at best, rude at worst.
- If our church regularly dips its toe into new social networks and is fully submerged in some, but has forgotten why, or who it’s really for, we risk being the ‘resounding gong’ or ‘clanging cymbal’ without love (1 Corinthians 13:1).
In case you’re feeling got at—choose conviction, not accusation!
It’s easy to feel guilty. We feel the accusation of those outside the church: ‘You’re so behind the times.’ We feel the accusation of those within the church: ‘We’re so behind the times’ or perhaps ‘We’re so missing the point.’
We feel the accusation of our energy levels: ‘This is one thing we can do without.’ We feel an accusation from this book: ‘You should be doing more.’
First, the fact that you picked the book up and have read this far shows that you’re doing more than you realise. There’s no condemnation here. Those who are working tirelessly in churches, to serve their community and God, deserve support and respect, not further demands. It’s not that you should be doing more—it’s that you can take the next step with vision, motivation, purpose, even excitement.
The Bible describes the devil as ‘the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them… day and night’ (Revelation 12:10). Satan actually means ‘accuser’. Accusation leads to defensiveness and passivity—not to action. It’s not the voice of God.
One of the most liberating truths I was ever taught was the di erence between conviction and con- demnation. ‘There is now no condemnation’—no condemnation!—‘for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1). When I feel condemned, it’s not from God. When I feel convicted, however, it can be the power of the Holy Spirit, calling me to action and probably to repentance. ‘Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth,’ says 1 John 3:18.
When we communicate as a church, in action, in truth, it is an act of love.
In one of his last pieces of communication before he ‘retired’, Pope Benedict XVI put it this way:
“The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young. Social networks are the result of human interaction, but for their part they also reshape the dynamics of communication which builds relationships: a considered understanding of this environment is therefore a prerequisite for a significant presence there.”
The fight for people’s attention grows.
You don’t need to do much to stay in the sight lines of those looking for you. What you can’t do is be invisible.
It doesn’t take much—not really. Not in the context of a year. Not in the light of eternity.
All you need is a plan.