What Facebook Can Mean for the Church

Let’s say that you were called by God to be a missionary in a foreign country.  What would you do?  Well, if you were like me, the first thing you’d want to do is learn the language.

If you were a missionary in Mexico, you’d learn Spanish. If you were in Germany, German.  And even if you were going to the United Kingdom, you’d still need to learn the colloquialisms of our friends across the pond.

Maybe you aren’t called to in the foreign mission field.  Perhaps your church is in small American town, like mine, and not in Korea.  Does that mean that you are not called to be a missionary?  No.

All of us, whether we are foreign missionaries or lay people in a local church, are called to be missionaries, or ambassadors, for Jesus each day of our life.  And we need to learn the language. What language is that?  Well, in our current environment, I believe it is the universal language of social media.

In other words, you, and your church, need to be on Facebook!

But Andy, you say, that’s only for teens.  First, if that statement was true, then what we as Christians are saying, and the church is saying, is that teenagers and kids don’t matter to God.  And I don’t know about your Bible, but mine says for God so loved “the world.” Teenagers included.

Second, that statement is absolutely not true. Currently, 86% of all adults 19-30 are on Facebook.  And they are not alone.  According to recent studies, 61% of Facebook users are 35 or older.   In fact, the average age of a Facebook user is 38.  And 47% of all adults between the ages of 50 – 65 are on Facebook. This is a huge section of the population that uses Facebook as a means of connection.

But are they connecting to a local church?

Let’s go back to our missionary example. Some in the Body of Christ are called to the foreign mission field, some are not. However, as we all well know, we are all called to be in ministry. Through our baptism, we are each marked by God and called to represent Him in all that we do.   As United Methodists our mission statement is “Make Disciples for the Transformation of the World.” That’s you. That’s me. That’s each of us. That’s what we are about.

But perhaps that vision of mission isn’t enough for you. Perhaps you need a little more encouragement to understand your role in the world today and to represent Christ in all that you do. Listen to what the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:20:

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

As a missionary or ambassador, you are charged with reconciling others to God. And in order to spread that message, you must know the language, the culture and modes of communication of the people you are trying to reach. Simultaneously, we, as the Church, and as Christians, must be willing to reach and communicate with people however possible.

All of these people – young and old – matter. They matter to God, and they should matter to us to as the church.  And we as the church need to be invested in whatever ways we can to reach and connect with them, including Facebook and other social media and/or networking.

A missionary would never see it as a source of pride or badge of honor that they didn’t speak the language of the place they were called.

Do you, and does your church, see it as a badge of honor to not be connected?  If so, ask yourself, is that really what Jesus wants for His church? I believe, personally, that Jesus wants us to use every means at our disposal to further His kingdom.

The notion of reaching out to the world isn’t the only reason why we as the church and as Christians should be on Facebook.  Social media also can be used as a tool to reach into your church and touch the lives of your congregation.

As a pastor, I use Facebook to be in connection with the members of my church on a daily basis.  Sometimes the connection is just silly stuff, like making Ole Miss/MSU jokes (Go Rebels!), but other times it is quite serious. I’ve been able, as a pastor, to reach out to people in a way that fits into their schedule and helps me stay within mine.

Through Facebook, while I’m in my office and my congregation is at home or at work, I’m able to be a part of their day.  I’m able to share in their happy moments.  I’m able to be a part of their joys, their achievements and their victories.  Yet, at the same time, and through the same medium, I’m also able to reach out to people who are struggling, who are having a bad day, or who need encouragement and let them know that I love them and care for them.  And so does their church.

And as the pastor of a church that is experiencing dramatic growth, I’m able to connect to visitors quickly and keep them in the loop of what’s happening at Asbury.  I’m able to interact with people not just on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights, but throughout their entire week, keeping them connected not just to me, but to the church as a whole.

And it isn’t just me, as a pastor, who can do this. Daily I see messages of members wishing each other a happy birthday, or offering prayers, or giving encouragement. As the people called Methodist, we treasure our connection above most everything, save for God’s grace. Facebook and other forms of social media are, for many people today, just the newest form of connection. And as a people of connection, this is our calling.

And that’s why I, and Asbury Church, are on Facebook.

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