Into All the Digital Universe – Part 1: The Need

Ephesians 4:29 – Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

It is not easy to look in the Bible and find discussions about social media.  The world during their time took days and weeks to go from place to place.  Today, a single click of a button and I’m in Africa or Japan or Australia.  And if this week is any indication, social media can significantly affect how we operate our lives.

This week my phone died.  In the “old days” (a mere 5 years ago) a phone was just a phone.  I could only talk on it.  Texting was a pain.  I had to press each key up to three times to get the letter of my choice.  Then I got my first smartphone.  And the world opened up to me!  Without my phone this past weekend and much of the week, I felt like I lost a friend, or 1,264 of them!!

I started a Facebook account several years ago and found myself having to check my phone and computer regularly.  Because of personal reasons, I removed myself from the Facebook world.  But since then many other options have come about and I believe that we as Christians need to be on social media.  And I don’t just mean once in a while.  I mean regularly, perhaps even daily. 

But we need to be careful when we engage in social media.  There are some big wins that can happen from using social media but there can be some significant problems that, if not understood, we could potentially lose our ministries, our families, and worse.  Ephesians 4:29 above, needs to be on our minds as we engage in social media.

Acts 17:17 – So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.

The Pew Research Center put out data to show the importance of social media in the lives of people today.  72% of all people they surveyed used social media to some degree.  The largest ethnicity to use social media is Hispanic.  The age groups that most used social media were 18-29 (89%) followed by 30-49 (78%). 

The church is constantly looking for ways to reach young adults.  This is it.  And many populations, at least near where I live, are very high Hispanic populations, one of the fastest growing populations in America.  Social media could be a significant win for these aging churches looking to bring in the next generation!  If churches can mobilize the young, Hispanic population, then can you imagine the potential for the growth of the church in America?

Every church needs to be on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Facebook is a complete social site that can be very beneficial among the members and regular attenders of church.  It can help keep your church connected easily to events and messages you want put out there.  Facebook can be dangerous, and we will talk about that later.  To this day, I believe it was a big reason my marriage ended.

Twitter opens your church up to the rest of the world that Facebook does not.  Anyone can follow you at any time.  My personal Twitter account I had to laugh about.  When I started it, I expected to have maybe 10 or 20 people finding and following me.  But combining my blog with Twitter, I not only have grown to almost 1,300 followers, I regularly interact with people on Twitter (and I even met my girlfriend, Mimi, on Twitter!).  Twitter can be just as dangerous as Facebook on relationships, but it also holds a secondary danger, over-contextualizing Scripture.  Twitter only allows you to type in 140 characters at a time.  With that small of space, you need to choose what you will and will not say.  But there is no doubt that it can be a great tool to reach every nation in the world.  Just recently, my blog was retweeted by someone in Brazil, sharing with that person’s over 200 followers.

Instagram is a great tool, similar to Twitter, that can be seen by anyone at any time (unless you are set to private viewing only) that lets others see your pictures and videos.  This is a great opportunity to show off that great worship team or your community outreach events.

Matthew 5:16 – …let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven

Finally, every pastor should blog.  A blog allows you to expand on ideas.  I know people who blog daily.  Yea, that is not me.  I post weekly, usually on the weekends.  This is a great outlet to place a shortened version of your sermon.  It is also a great way to connect with your congregation.  But what is amazing is that your congregation now becomes the world!  Just today my blog was read by people in the USA, Australia, and Austria.  Since I started blogging, people in over 58 countries around the world (30% of all of the countries in the world!) have read my blog, it has been quoted in seminary papers of at least 4 seminary students (they probably failed after citing me!), and has been placed on links websites of Christian organizations.  The message that God is giving me to speak is getting out there.  Imagine if pastors did this regularly! 

1 Corinthians 10:31 – So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

That said, there are many definite reasons to get involved in social media.  There are also major problems that need to be addressed when dealing with social media.  In next week’s blog I will discuss the benefits and the problems that can come through social media.

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