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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




Social Media and the Church

By Paul K. and Kay Compton Logsdon
Feb. 23, 2014

“Not me. I don’t want to give them my personal information.” “Why would I care when someone orders coffee?” “It’s a time waster.”

Those are just some of the comments we hear whenever we talk about social media, and responses cross age groups, gender, and ethnicity.

There are also those who use and love Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

“It’s how I keep up with my grandchildren.” “It’s the best way to connect with my friends.”

As Christians, where should we stand when it comes to social media? Of course it depends on your own inclination. Are you comfortable with digital devices? Are you OK with sharing information online? Are you diligent to ensure social media don’t take over all your free time?

But once you have those issues settled, have you ever considered social media can be tools to reach others with the gospel?

Why talk about social media?

Social networking statistics keep moving, as more and more people get connected via smart phones and tablets. Facebook alone claims 1.2 billion users, with more than 250 million people accessing the site over a mobile device.

What’s more, social media are not just a young person’s purview. By some estimates, at least 1 in 4 people age 65 and older is part of a social networking site, and it’s growing every year. Twitter users send more than 400 million tweets a day, and that’s 10 times what they sent in 2009. In other words, social media have significantly changed how people communicate, and it’s around the globe.

Social media is simply the term used for electronic communication or connections with others. You’ll often find it used in conjunction with the term “community,” and a community can be anything from a group of close friends, to a fundraising cause you support, to a way to talk to people about what you are working on at any given moment. That’s the key: It’s about turning communication into interactive discussion.

Experts define various types of social media, including blogs, social networking sites, virtual gaming worlds, and video sharing. New technologies to help distribute the huge influx of user-generated content are popping up continually.

Social media allow you one-on-one discussion or one-to-many discussion. Reach is just one of the features of social media, along with accessibility, usability and immediacy.

See any of the themes of the church there? Think about social media in these four ways: communication, accountability, fellowship, and spreading the gospel.


Communication

More and more churches are using social media to let people know about events, prayer requests, and opportunities. No need to wait for a mailing, no need to start a chain of calls — one message can get out to everyone. What’s more, users can easily share information through their own channels.

With real-time communication, users can influence the discussion as it happens. How many Christians are in the discussion, offering informed, positive information when needed, or a carefully thought-through comment to help set someone on the right path? Communication is available to us all, and we can’t shirk our responsibility.


Accountability

Opening up your life means you have to be accountable. Employers are watching; friends and family are watching. You can use social media to hold yourself accountable.

A friend in Pennsylvania told us how her church used Facebook for people to post their testimonies during a 21-day fast, “so we can encourage and inspire each other.”

When you simply begin to participate in the conversation, who knows what influence you may achieve.

As with any tool, social media require common sense — even training — to use effectively. We’ve all heard the stories of careers ruined by hasty tweets, or hashtags that went awry. Social media talk back, so you have to be prepared for the conversations.

This has led to a new culture of what’s called “reputation management.” As a result, some people have shied away from using the tools — and that’s not necessarily a bad decision. However, just think if you weren’t in the conversation but were being talked about. How would you ever manage your reputation, have influence, or correct what may be out there unless you are engaged?

Fellowship

Ever been to a  “Meet up” or a “Tweet up”? They are simply meetings, usually held at a restaurant or other public place, where people can find each other locally through social media. Occasionally they will be held to unite people around a cause, but just as often they are purely social, so you can meet the people you’ve been following online.

With or without face-to-face interaction, though, fellowship is an important component of social media. You can talk to anyone and give them positive messages or encouragement. You can keep in touch, see a new child or grandchild, and feel connected. You can even know where they are and what they are doing if they use a “check in” tool.

People who are introverted often find social media a great way to connect, because they have the chance to think through their postings and still be engaged. And just as in any group, you’ll find different types of social media communicators.

We like to think Jesus would have been in the conversation in an active way. He went where the people went. He was in the temple. He went where the crowds were — to the busy intersections. We like to think He’d have a lot of followers on social media.


Spreading the gospel   

Which leads us back to our responsibility. How do we keep up with it all, and why should we?

Social media offer Christians avenues through which they can spread the message of the gospel with just one or two sentences to people around the world while connecting them to each other. Now you can reach out to someone in another country and pray with them, not just for them, as though you were in the room with them. Now you can gather other Christians in an emergency with the touch of a button.

In an open source world, we have to consider the implications, don’t we? That means there is relevancy and importance to faith-based blogging, to opening up dialogues about faith, to being available and using your influence online. Social media has taken our message out of the hands of the mainstream media so that we can talk to people directly!

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15) has never had more meaning, or more accessibility.


PAUL K. LOGSDON is director of public relations and publications at Evangel University (Assemblies of God) in Springfield, Mo.

KAY COMPTON LOGSDON is editor in chief of thefoodchannel.com.

 

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