I read an interesting article today by Brandon Cox, who I follow because he’s planting a church in Northwest Arkansas, which is an area I’ve always felt called to. I think that’s a God thing, but sometimes I suspect it could also be related to the Catfish Hole and easy access to Razorback games.
Also, I follow him because he follows me on Twitter. Continuing the trend of personal honesty, I don’t have a lot of Twitter followers, so I tend to cling like grim death to the few I have. (Honesty Update: I currently have 33 followers, and one of those is a joke account I made for our cat.)
(On a related note. @bs_townsend. Do it.)
Anyway, back to Twitter. That’s why I recognize the name Brandon Cox when I see it on an article, and it also happens to be what his article was about in the first place – Who Invented Social Media? His premise is that, since God invented social media – which he defines as “the sharing of information through relationships” – why are we, as Christians, so terrified of exploiting it?
Why does that matter? Why is it so important to realize God is the inventor of this newfangled fad? I believe it matters because the church has struggled to adopt social media on the grounds that it is something new, something scary. We have actually come to believe that mass, impersonal media is the best way to share the story of God with other people. We see social media as an add-on, a toy, and something for teenagers to dabble in and grandparents to see pics of their grandkids.
I can’t argue with that.
About thirty seconds before I stumbled on Brandon’s article, I was contemplating writing a clever (possibly?) status about a current trend I’m noticing among my Facebook friends. It’s happened this time of year, every year I’ve been on Facebook, but this time it seems more prevalent. I’m talking about the, “I’m gonna turn off my phone/stay off Facebook/get to know some REAL PEOPLE” rant that seems to be every other Christian’s New Year’s resolution.
It’s as if we view social media as the enemy, and something to be avoided. Hey, I get it, too much can be a bad thing. My wife and I, for an example, make a serious effort to stay off our phones while we’re eating dinner together. We don’t want to completely shut out the real world. But that’s a problem with my self-control, not with Facebook.
It bothers me for a different reason, though. I’ve spent a lot of time online in my life, since I discovered a local BBS in junior high. And while I can testify that there’s bad stuff online that needs to be avoided, that doesn’t make the Internet itself evil. I’ve made numerous really good friends online. I’ve been able to share my beliefs with a lot of people online. I even met my wonderful, amazing wife on eHarmony!
So here’s my big issue – those people out there online, that so many of us are quick to toss aside in favor of “real relationships”? Those are real, actual people. People who need God’s love, and His mercy, and His forgiveness. Our technology gives us amazing opportunities to interact with, on a personal level, people who might never wander through the doors of a traditional church building. Let’s not toss those people aside. Instead, let’s do everything we can to understand and utilize social media to reach them.