I served as a worship leader for nearly 30 years prior to joining the convention. This means I lived through the “worship wars.” I had to be able to make a defense for the richness of the hymns AND the relevance of the choruses. SPOILER: They both have a rightful standing in the 4-centuries long catalog of worship music, but the battle between “familiar” and “innovative” was real. I couldn’t envision another time in history when people would fight for the right to “do church” in a modern context (whatever “modern” meant in any given era).
And then my mom told me that when she was very young, somewhere around the turn of the 1960s, her church was embroiled in a battle royale over bringing in a microphone. One side argued that it would be easier to hear and thus understand the message, and the other side countered that the Word of the Lord should be delivered purely from the lips of the preacher straight to the ears of the listener, and no machine should come between in its transit.
It nearly split the church.
As technology and our means of communication advance, church leaders are again questioning whether to adhere to what’s comfortable or to step out onto those strange and unfamiliar platforms. And at the rate technology is advancing these days, the gap between the two is widening at an alarming rate. When we read “Go into all the world…” can we make the case that “the world” is on social media? I think, perhaps, we can.
In Phil Bowdle’s book, “Rethinking Communication,” he reminds us that “We’re currently living through the most radical shift in how our culture communicates since the printing press changed the world. The digital revolution has changed everything.”
Bowdle isn’t wrong.
Since the pandemic, the rise of the “once-a-month” church attender has steadily climbed. This means that your ability to reach your average congregant could be reduced to as few as 12 hours a year! Meanwhile, there are 8,760 available hours in the year for the church to have an impact on its people if the church is utilizing social media.
For all its cons, social media has a bounty of wins. Here are just 4 reasons why I think it’s worth the trouble to join the cyber conversation.
1 – Message delivery is lightning-fast.
- When we were getting set up for our Halloween alternative event, we knew we were short on candy. We posted a quick message, and the church family immediately began dropping off bags. “I was at the store when I saw your post! Here’s five bags.”
- Do you have an important business meeting on Tuesday night? Send that reminder out on social media 3 hours beforehand. “Don’t forget about our special-called business meeting tonight at 6:45. Childcare is provided!”
2 – People like to see their friends (and, let’s be honest, themselves) being featured.
- Do you have that ever-faithful volunteer who comes early to set up tables every Wednesday night? Post a pic of that guy and thank him for always showing up. You might even get a share out of it. “How cute is my grandpa? Doing what he loves the most. Serving at his church.”
- That photo of your church’s 3 preschoolers digging for worms will get a TON of likes. (But maybe get permission from their moms first). #FBCNurseryLife
3 – Congregation members can share the “vibe” of your church with their friends from the palm of their hands.
- By having a vibrant social media presence, you equip your members with a tool to invite their friends. “Oh yeah, our church is multigenerational! See that cute pic of those 3 preschoolers, right next to Fred our faithful volunteer?” or “You should bring your kids to our VBS. See how fun those decorations were last year? I hear this year is going to be even better!”
- You keep your people informed on your upcoming sermon series. “Oh, friend. I’m so sorry to hear you are going through this. You know, my pastor is going to be preaching on this very thing next week in a sermon series called (looks for graphic on Instagram) … called “Yea though I walk through the Valley. Why don’t you come? We can sit together.”
4 – Social media gives the church the ability to combat our cultures’ lies with the truth of the Gospel.
- Of all its ills, ear-tickling is one of the worst parts of social media. Messaging like “accept me as I am,” or “love is love” is plaguing society. And doesn’t it sound lovely… at first? The church knows that God calls us to lay aside our former selves in pursuit of something greater (Ephesians 4). And we know that “love is love” is a fallacy because “God is love” (1 John 4). When the gospel truth is withheld from social media, it is being withheld from the entire cultural conversation.
- Once you post your sermon, you don’t need to obsess over the click count. You just have to trust that the Lord is working everything out for the right person to find your message at the perfect time for their situation or need.
Listen, I get the hesitancy; social media has made enemies of long-enduring friendships. A miscommunicated status can cause all kinds of havoc, but to be afraid to the point of forsaking it all together is like throwing the baby and the gospel out with the bath water. When we void ourselves from the conversation, we are leaving the door open for other agencies to step in. And those may not be God-fearing, Bible-teaching churches.
Imagine if every California Southern Baptist church was proclaiming the truth about Jesus where the lion’s share of conversation is happening. We might just beat out that girl from Friends and break the internet… in Jesus’ name.
Bonus Resource: 18 Ways to Ruin Your Reputation on Facebook