Where Do Christians Fit In with Social Networking?

Image courtesy of GeekandPoke

Share. Share. And share some more. It’s almost everywhere you look nowadays, and every second of the day there’s someone around the world writing a blog post or sharing an article, or buzzing or tweeting (you get the idea). Influence is no longer a localised phenomenon–it spans timezones, continents and cultures. The breadth can be, in a word, staggering. Whatever is put into the public domain can now potentially reach and/or influence thousands of other people. Is that not incredible?

If you’re not familiar with what social networking is all about, here’s a quick definition. Personally I think the entire phrase is a misnomer, because the true definition does not capture, in and of itself, any information regarding the actual platform that may enable the activity. As anyone about social networking nowadays and they’ll probably point you immediately to FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Hi5, or some other popular sites or communities. But the sites define social networking services and are not social networking. They simply enable it. Social networking is really centered around groups of people who maybe connected via some kind of relationship, whether that be filial, business, demographic–you name it, once it defines some kind of shared categorical dependency, it’s a connecting factor. And, by the notable observation in nature that birds of a feather do indeed flock together, it goes without saying that people that share a certain subset of commonalities will inevitably seek out each other. Whether that’s a good or bad thing really depends on the nature of the commonality, personal ethics and any interpersonal dynamics that come into play. I personally would love to hope for the best in that regard, but truth be told, as much as the Net is awe-inspiring, it also has its dark corners and alleyways that I’d rather not know about. In the long run, keeping your head on straight and your message clear is what has always mattered.

A little over two weeks ago, I delivered a presentation to the leaders of a university campus ministry demonstrating how we as Christians can make use of blogs and social media to reach far more people than ever before. I prayed about how to approach this carefully because nowadays social media, not as a term but rather as a movement is become rather close to nothing more than a viral marketing strategy. That is not the vision for Christianity. We’re not selling salvation, we’re trying to connect with others in a meaningful way by firstly exemplifying Christ in our lives and also understanding the needs of others and how Christ can help them through their lives. This mandate is not new, this is something that has been around for ages. Just Google “The Great Commission” and you’ll see what I’m referring to. And for the record, that isn’t the only verse that encourages us to go into the world and to become connected to others. Check out Proverbs 18:24 and Matthew 18:20 if you’d like.

In handling this topic I presented the usual textbook stuff about humans being social creatures as a rational for using social media. But for Christians, I think it’s more than that. As they say, the end justifies the means, and there are many ways we can use the Web to really sow the Gospel throughout the earth. Here’s some of the things that I believe we could do:

  • Reach Beyond Local Audiences to Global spaces
  • Encourage Christian-specific conversations
  • Connect with and mentor young Christians
  • Journal about Christian events
  • Promote Christian media
  • Access wider knowledgebases and communities

I really wish I had more time to elaborate, but that eludes me at this point. If you’d like more information, simply check out the presentation here or drop me a mail. In closing, I’m sure there are people out there with innovative ideas of leveraging the social movement that would just blow the above clean out of the water. I’ve always held to the notion that to have a tool is one thing, but its really how you use it that determines its value. Social media can be put to good use to advance the cause of Christianity far beyond just local communities–we could touch lives globally. I strongly believe that Christian leaders should not pass off all this FaceBook’ing and Tweeting as just nonsense, we are charged with taking everything on this Earth and making it subject to the will of God. This social movement is no exception!

Til next time.

Blessings.

Josh.

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