As some of you know I am currently taking a class on using computers for ministry. One of the big questions I have encountered this semester is whether or not using computers and technology to reach people for Christ is a good thing. As part of my coursework I had to write a brief paper on my philosophy regarding the use of computers and technology in ministry. I had meant to post this several weeks ago, but here it is. What do you think? Should we embrace the use of computers or should we fear their use? Are they our friend or foe when it comes to reaching others for Christ? Enjoy reading and I look forward to hearing from some of you.
Jon Swanson, in his blog Levite Chronicles, wrote,
“Church is by definition about community and relationships. So are social media.”
The church I grew up in was all about community and relationships. These things were created by attending Sunday morning services, Sunday school classes, Sunday night services, Wednesday night services, youth functions, pot-luck lunches, prayer meetings, and other various social functions at the church building. The members of the church became connected by attending as many of these types of events as they could fit on their calendar. That was 30 years ago. Now it is the year 2011 and, while many people still get connected by attending church functions, I believe that for the church to thrive we need to learn new ways to connect with community. In our world getting connected is no longer limited by the walls of the church building.
Today we have technology that keeps us connected more than ever before. We have smart phones and tablet computers that we can carry everywhere we go. We have wireless networks set up in our homes and wireless hotspots practically everywhere we venture outside of our homes. More and more of us are utilizing social media to connect to friends (old and new), family, and businesses. According to a 2010 study by Edison Research the percentage of Americans age 12 and older who have a profile on a social networking web site has reached almost half (48 percent) of the population – double the level from two years before (24 percent in 2008). The reality of our world is that very few moments go by when we are unable to know what is going on with our friends, family, and world.
As followers of Jesus Christ we should be doing something with this connectedness. We desperately need to redefine church community to include and utilize social media. To do this we must move past whatever fears we have and embrace this new tool for connecting people with a community and with God.
It is already being done by many believers. Utilizing various social media sites Christians are blogging, connecting with their small group, connecting with ministry opportunities across our nation and world, and posting meeting and event information online. This is all just the beginning.
Movements within the church all over the United States are leveraging social media and technology in new and fantastic ways to advance God’s kingdom. One organization that has taken steps to train leaders (both current and future) to use media in this way is Catalyst (catalystspace.com). I encourage you to take a moment to visit their website and possibly attend one of their many scheduled events. The Vision statement from their website provides a glimpse of their forward thinking:
“The core vision of Catalyst has always been to impact the next generation. By creating “change agents” throughout the church that possess wisdom and understanding, the opportunity is created to usher in the necessary adjustments to an ever-evolving church.
By helping these leaders grow in their leadership ability – Catalyst can have impact on an entire generation. We have a high belief in the impact that one changed life can have on another and therefore focus our efforts towards personal change with a community application.”
Catalyst sees a need to ignite and unite the next generation of leaders allowing their passions and gifts to flourish and have maximum impact in our churches and culture.
What does the future hold? The possibilities are only limited by our imagination. I am dreaming of Bible Study blogs and small groups blogging together. I can imagine sharing short term mission trips in real time through photos, videos, and blogging. Imagine connecting churches online in communities so they can pool their resources and serve their local community better. In all of this we can stay true to a biblical definition of the church. It is all about community and relationships. I am not suggesting that we don’t need buildings or that we shouldn’t be meeting together on a weekly basis. Social media does not replace church. Social media enhances what we are already doing. By using it we are speaking the language of this generation and the next. We are better able to build community and relationships. Most importantly, the Kingdom of God can be advanced and we can better serve our local communities and the world.
“About Us: Vision.” The Leadership Filter for What’s Next in the Church | Catalyst.
N.p., n.d. Web. 28 February 2011. <http://www.catalystspace.com/>
Swanson, Jon. “8 Ways to Use Social Media in Church.”
Web log post. Levite Chronicles. N.p., 25 Mar. 2008. Web. 28 February 2011.
Webster, Tom. “The Infinite Dial 2010: Digital Platforms and the Future of Radio.” Edison
Research: Media, Market and Opinion Research Leaders. Edison Research, 8 April
2010. Web. 28 February 2011.
Image courtesy of <http://www.avtecmedia.com/>