The social media phenomenon obviously needs no introduction to those reading this blog! As with all things, there is good and bad and it can be twisted and perverted for nefarious means (love that word – thought I’d slip it in for Christmas :)). Being a good old missionary I, of course, believe that it can be ‘redeemed’ and used for gospel purposes.
There is a tidy and helpful little article here on using Facebook as a tool to encourage fellow Christians and also to engage with non churched family and friends. It is from the Missional Outreach Network and includes their top 10 tips for engaging with people. A few ‘Niddrie’ caveats though.
1. Some people over the age of 50 will just not enter into Facebook or anything they consider to be ‘stealing my identity and wanting to empty all of my bank accounts’. I have family members who are convinced that even things like Google Earth are nothing less than witchcraft!
2. We have to be careful when ‘friending the unchurched‘ (as they put it) because most of my non Christian friends post a constant diatribe of swearing and sexually explicit language. Usually, if it is too bad, I will hide their post, but, on numerous occasions, I have had to ‘unfriend’ people who have gone a bit too far! That is a whole other issue! It is a uniquely 21st Century phenomena that people are now offended when you unfriend them from your virtual life! Basically, managing your social accounts in a ‘Christian‘ manner can mean stress all around! These friends of mine are also constantly sending me invites to ‘grow your own weed farm’ or ‘let’s make a porno movie farm’ or some equally offensive virtual ‘game’. Because my Christian friends, and congregants, can often see my homepage this can lead to all sorts of raised eyebrows and conversations about my spiritual welfare!
3. Forming an online Facebook community is a great thing and I am part of several. However, in my experience it just means clumping 20 or so people together in a group because you all bought the same toilet seat at Ikea. You feel important for a minute for belonging to an exclusive club but nobody ever visits there and all the messages you leave are only usually responded to by the most anal member of the group (unless that happens to be you – you can tell this if you are only ever writing on this page with little or no response!).
4. Please don’t use Facebook & Twitter as an opportunity to moan about your children and/or, conversely, tell the world how brilliant they are at everything from their ‘Olympic medal standard teeth brushing’ to the ‘phone call we got from the local press who had heard about Felicity’s ability to master the ukelele aged three months’. It’s annoying and not the slightest bit evangelistic or missional. While we’re here, it’s really not a good idea to tell everybody about your vomiting habits or lack of bowel movement. This does not help the kingdom one iota. So, please. STOP IT. Thanks.
5. Get off this stuff from time to time and meet some real people. Using this stuff for kingdom purposes is never a good, long term strategy. It cannot replace good old fashioned face to face contact (skype does not really count). The best evangelistic and missional tool in our arsenal is to get out and meet up with real, live people. Get into their lives. Be interested in them and their stories. Share Christ personally. You can’t beat it.