For the average non-cave-dwelling person, we no longer really have a choice of whether we do social media; it’s really a matter of how well we do social media. This is especially true if you’re in ministry of some sort, but even if you’re simply just not into be a recluse. We have to change, or maybe just refresh, the way we view these matters. I’d like to help you by proposing a simple philosophy of social media.
I’ll forego the majority of the stats on things, but toss out a couple just to back me up here. Skipping straight to the big one: Facebook has over 845 million active users per month, and if it were a country, it’d be the 3rd largest in the world! That’s huge. Those may not convince you of much alone, but they’ll at least offer the scope to back what I’m about to say…
WHY A “PHILOSOPHY?”
I recently had the opportunity to teach a workshop on these matters to a bunch of college students and collegiate ministers of the Christian faith. The response was great in many ways, and disturbing at the same time. Suffice it to say, for a people who believes in making the most of every opportunity (Eph 5:16), we’re sadly letting one of the largest we’ve ever had slip straight through our fingers – or more appropriately, scroll right past our eyeballs!
I teamed up with an older gentleman and friend (and in a way, my boss) to present this idea with him first setting up the idea that effective evangelism is relational. Without this first part, what I say won’t make much sense, or possibly, just make things worse. I don’t want to simply give you advice to further be owned by the machines, but instead equip you to take control of your life’s extension into social media – utilizing it to make a difference in your school, your industry, and your friend’s and family’s lives!
THE SOCIAL MEDIA PHILOSOPHY
I’m assuming you understand the gospel in the first place as well as why to share it and how to share it. If not, let me know and we can talk about it. With that though, let me walk you through my simple 4 steps to thinking through the importance of maximizing our online presence.
- It’s no longer about technology, it’s about relationships…
There’s no doubt, the world has moved to social media. The numbers are staggering, so this is a lot like the base assumption that I stated. It’s no longer just about convenience for you, it’s about communication and connection. Granted it can be misused, but so can a hammer – Facebook is completely amoral.Many people seem to be existing in this idea that “things will return to normal” Like “the good ol’ days”. They won’t. This is the new normal. Smartphones even outsold computers last year I believe. Tech and social media is for many, already considered “the past” now. Catch up or render yourself irrelevant. Might be hard to hear, but it’s true.1b) …which means, don’t make them come to us! They won’t! Christ never said, “Go make a subculture, see if you can sit things out till I get back, and maybe interact with a few if they accidentally stumble onto you.” If we’re told to “Go into all the world…” (Mark 16:15, Matt 28:19) then it’s this simple: If the world is there, we GO too!
- So be a student of your culture. “Be IN it, but not OF it…”
The idea of IN and not OF is a fairly accurate Biblical paraphrase. (John 17, 1 John 2:15-17, 1 Cor 9:19-23) However, this again doesn’t mean we study what the culture likes and try to do what they do, only better. Perhaps at times, but more so it means we add value to who, what, and where they already are. Seems crazy, huh? Well that’s cause most people suck at it!Take Paul in Acts 17 for example – perfect case study. He walks into Athens (the social network sphere of the time) and over to Mars Hill (like logging into a giant blogathon). All the intellectuals and opinion spewers go there to word vomit on each other. Then, he notices they have LOTS of idols (sound familiar?), and troubled by this, he addresses it. Notice! – he doesn’t begin condemning OR even just launching into apologetics or the best gospel sermon he could. He appeals to what they already think they know and through who they already are! He quotes two of their poets!New Testament authors do this fairly often. They don’t just say the gospel, they connect it to the culture so that it can be received! We have a responsibility to do both! The gospel always was and always is relevant (and will always be what changes people and gives hope), but our methods may need some refreshing from time to time!
2b) …so that you are capable of adding value, not just more noise! Listen, don’t just speak, and then speak with understanding and something substantial to offer to what they already are!
- If our primary aim is to be entertained by it, we will not and can not engage it missionally!
This is HUGE! Often in practicing the second idea, we fail at this one. We become acclimated to the culture around us and we fail to see our own derailment. We’ll go out to the same places, post the same pictures, watch, listen to, and even say the same stuff! After a while, we’re simply just consumers of the culture instead of healthy critics trying to engage our culture.I hear this so often in my work, “I’m just wanting them to know I’m okay with them”, or “like them”, or at the least “they don’t have to earn my love”. What it really means though, is I like what they like so I want them to like me too! It NEVER works! If you’re going, logging on, or doing, and you’re not there to engage it with mission and intent, then you aren’t doing a thing – worse you’re being destructive.Admiring the art (for example) is half of it, the other half is offering a valid, intelligent, educated, alternative viewpoint. If you aren’t ready for that, stop entertaining and start educating yourself! Seriously. It may seem like a buzzkill, but evangelism and entertainment are rarely synonymous. We were saved by suffering, ya know; it’s kinda the pace that’s been set for even us subredeemers.
3b) Christ said we’d be hated by the world; don’t expect to be the most liked and most friended! If you are, something’s seriously wrong. You are likely seeking entertainment and not engaging it with missional intentionality (a good sign you care about yourself more than them, actually). The big question is: Who’s glory are you seeking?
*Now would be a good time to mention Social Media addiction – a growing and disturbing area of study with grim results. This happens due to us seeking our hope and fulfillment from the wrong things – it’s that simple, though huge. More coming on this soon!
- So, develop a personal strategy for your social media engagement!
We are ambassadors. (2 Cor 5:20) We are to glorify God in all things. (1 Cor 10:31) We are to make the most of every opportunity. (Eph 5:16) So let’s capitalize on some of our biggest.Just like those in Mark 2:3-5, we need to be friends who do whatever it takes to get our friends to the feet of Jesus – because we know he’s what they truly seek and need! As our example, this takes strategy and sometimes extreme measures.This concept is good for every area of your life. Yet, I know the pushback here. I’ve heard it: “If I’m always strategizing then I’m not letting the Spirit work. How can I listen to him then!?” And I submit this to you: How come the Spirit can’t lead you to develop a strategy?
We develop them for getting jobs, planning events, romantic pursuits, running businesses, etc., so why not for evangelism and engaging our culture!?
This is especially important in dealing with such things that have a tendency to control us instead of vice versa. I would submit to you that even if you deal with social media in a “oh I don’t hardly touch it” type of way, and you just dump at random, then you’re still controlled by it in a sense – desiring to utilize it but being chaotically utilized by it.
4b) In my experience, most people who are like this (above) in their social media life are like this in many other areas of their life. Unorganized. Inconsistent. Poor follow up. Poor planning. See my theory these days is that social media is simply an extension of ourselves, and thus it will only amplify and make you more of what you already are.
Let us not be a people who blame the Spirit for our apathy. God in creation and through history used strategy. Jesus, Paul, the early church in Acts, and many others used strategy throughout their ministry. It’s wise! Be wise.
TACTICS MAKE A STRATEGY
Everyone’s strategy will look different. Many factors influence your own personal strategy. So I can’t tell you anymore than, “GET ONE!” Your knowledge, credibility, maturity, your schedule and roles in life, and much more will greatly affect your own strategy. So do what works best for you.
The point is that you and I must decide to do all we CAN and all we MUST to reach our friends, and ultimately the world, with the good news we have. So find tactics and add them into your own strategy. It’ll take some refreshing for a while, but keep trying to find what works and always feel free to modify.
After this post, I’ll be routinely providing you with many different tactics that have helped me as I’ve intentionally engaged social media. Be sure to SUBSCRIBE or check back and hit “SOCIAL MEDIA” to get the updates! Now, GO…!
Q: Would you add anything to this? What has worked for you?