Go Into all the Digital Universe: Part 3 – Twitter & Instagram

Acts 17:22-30 – Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.  “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’  “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill.  In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

The next big site is Twitter.  This is where I spend a majority of my digital life.  There are over 50 million tweets per day going out on Twitter.  I’m not saying to create a Twurch (Twitter church), but there are some very major benefits to Twitter.  First, it gives you an opportunity to reach people who may never be reached with the gospel.  I currently have over 1,270 followers on Twitter.  They come from all across the globe.  Almost everyone who follows my blog found it from Twitter, either following a post of mine or someone reposting my blog on their Twitter site.  Twitter also allows you to see what people are saying about your church.  For example, a few days ago, someone posted a tweet about the church I attend under the heading “Military-Friendly Churches” with a link to the church website.  So now, people in the military will know that they are more than welcome at Chesapeake Christian Fellowship.  Another benefit to Twitter, and this goes for Facebook as well, is that it is a great way to find lost members.  All good shepherds go after the lost sheep, right?  This is a great tool to do so.  Twitter also offers great opportunities to raise funds for ministries or projects.  Money is not a gauge of a successful ministry, but money is necessary for ministry to happen.  It is always nice when we find ways that are user friendly for making that part of our ministry easier.

Twitter does have some pitfalls, however.  Twitter has all of the same dangers as Facebook, but there is one that is specific to Twitter.  In Twitter, you can only type 140 characters per tweet.  With only 140 characters available, it is very easy to over-contextualize the Word of God.  The best thing to do if you are worried that your tweet will not fit is blog what you want to say and use Twitter to link others to your blog.  One other problem with Twitter is that anyone can follow you.  I have almost 1,300 followers, but there are some that I wish were not on my list.  There are two things you can do.  First, don’t follow them back.  I check everyone out before I return a follow.  If their website looks to go against that which I believe, I will not follow them back.  If there are outright racy pictures, crude language, or other major violations to my own personal morality, I block that person, which is the other option you have available.

1 Corinthians 15:33 – Do not be deceived:  “Bad company ruins good morals.”

Another important site for pastors or ministries to be on is Instagram.  Instagram is an online photo and video sharing site.  There are plenty of ways that a church can use Instagram.  Churches should be posting pictures and videos of services, baptisms, concerts, small groups, mission trips, and community events.  You can also take Instagram posts and connect them with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.  One post fills all sites, so to speak.

A few things to remember with Instagram is that the quality of the photos or videos far outweighs the quantity.  The better the quality of the end result, the more interest you will have on the web.  Next, make sure your photo or video captures the true story of what is happening.  A picture can tell more stories than most people can say with their words.  Making sure the pictures capture the moment correctly is very important with social media.  Third, use hashtags.  You can create themes or tags that other people around the world can find just by searching for the hashtag.  Finally, there are plenty of apps that will help you post the most amazing Instagram photos or videos.  Create collages by using Frametastic or PicFrame.  Add flare to your pictures with Hipstamatic or iPhoto.

But beware of your posts.  Just like Twitter and Facebook, Instagram has its own set of challenges that need to be overcome.  As most of the ministries out there that are using Instagram regularly are youth ministries, I want to take the time to caution all youth ministers, or any minister really.  Do NOT, under any circumstance, take a picture of you hugging one of your female youth group members.  Please keep in mind that 1 Timothy 3:2 says that we must be “above reproach.”  These pictures are being seen by almost all of your teen youth.  Posting a picture of you and your female student leaves a lot of room for speculation and rumor.  If one of your teen students becomes angry with you, they can create a story about you easily with subsequent documentation to back up their story.  I understand that it is the very rare student pastors who are creeps out to cop a feel.  But churches wouldn’t let their male pastors counsel a woman alone.  Churches wouldn’t let their male pastors ride alone in a car with a woman.  Why on earth would churches allow selfies while hugging a member of the opposite sex?

Ephesians 5:3 – But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.

Next week I will look into blogging and why I believe it is one of the most important things a pastor can do.

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