Notes from FIEC Leadership in Lockdown webinar on Not so social media? with John Stevens and Adrian Reynolds. Adrian asked me to share about some of the opportunities and challenges of social media which are included in the takeaways below.
1. God’s people are journeying from exile into His presence. Psalm 122 gives God’s people motivation to make that journey by anticipating the joy of being in the city of God. We need to long for the new Jerusalem where God’s people will be together, God’s name will be praised and God’s rule will be established. We also need to pray for the earthly anticipation of the new Jerusalem, the church. We are to pray for the peace and unity of the church and the prosperity of the church in spiritual terms, for the sake of God’s people and the glory of the LORD.
2. No real changes in terms of lockdown updates. There have been mixed signals on the duration of lockdown restrictions. We should anticipate and prepare for lockdown lasting longer than imagined.
3. We are made to be communicators by the God who communicates. God’s communication is perfect, especially in the incarnation of His Son.
4. Social media definition: “forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content” (Miriam Webster). This includes WhatsApp, YouTube, etc alongside more obvious applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
5. We are almost certainly all USERS of social media, and most likely we are also all CONTENT PRODUCERS.
6. Four broad areas that church leaders can helpful use social media. To i) Inform; ii) edify; iii) evangelise; and iv) connect.
7. Social media is a simple way to share information. To remind congregations and members about events coming up, to pass on prayer requests and other announcements, let people know you’ve prayed for them and so on. Church leaders can also use it to recommend books, articles, resources they discovered to other leaders. Using social media to inform during lockdown has been a quick way to keep in touch with lots of people in the church. It has also been a great way to find out latest gov. guidance for church (via John Stevens), plus ideas from other churches and leaders that could be beneficial for your own ministry.
8. Social media can be used to build up those in your local church. It is a tool that can be used to encourage and teach outside the gatherings of the church. It is also a way in which you can set an example to your flock about how to use social media in a God-glorifying and Christlike way. During lockdown church have been able to replicate some of the ministries they had been doing prior through online services via YouTube or ZOOM; running children’s and youth groups, other small groups, 121s, and ZOOM prayer meetings. Some churches have used WhatsApp groups more extensively, started blogs, recorded daily devotional videos. At Banstead Community Church we’ve used the broadcast list function in WhatsApp to send out daily encouragements in the form of a couple of tweet length quote or a Bible verse every morning.
9. During lockdown, using social media for evangelism has taken off. It has been used by churches to reach out to those in their community, to make initial contact, and actually share the gospel. The extended reach of the Sunday service is a great way for people to try church without having to step foot in a building. Some churches running evangelistic courses have found them to be fruitful. Others have managed to create a bit of buzz with targeted promotion of events or with short videos of testimonies or answering apologetic questions. At Banstead Community Church we’ve been involved in some joint evangelistic meetings over ZOOM with other local churches, and have produced videos for our parent and toddler groups and for school assemblies.
10. Social media can be helpful for connecting with people you know and those you don’t. It facilitates seeking advice from or developing a friendship with others in ministry that can move from the online world into the real world. Maybe you can think of people you first made contact with online, but now see face to face, or did see face to face at different times during the year.
11. There are challenges that go with social media. Here are 9 things to make us stop and think about our use of it.
i) It is overwhelming – so many different platforms, have to learn how to use them effectively.
ii) It consumes our time – time is precious and we want to use it wisely. We can waste lots of time on social media which stops us doing other things.
iii) It is immediate – updates second by second, it draws you in, and feeds impatience.
iv) It alters the way we communicate – relating to people online rather than face to face; non-verbal cues missing.
v) It panders to our sinful tendencies – e.g. pride, need for approval, envy, comparison, laziness, quarrelsome, anger etc.
vi) It disrupts our activity – constant buzz of smartphones, buzz of the phone can take our attention away from the task we are doing or the conversation we are having.
vii) It increases our anxiety – aware of more things brings the stress of extra knowledge; FOMO (fear of missing out); writing something that is criticised.
viii) It shapes us – moulds us for good or ill; what we behold we become.
ix) It takes place in front of a watching world – public nature of it and who is listening in.
12. I am reminded of this quote from John Piper: “One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.”
13. Proverbs gives some helpful instruction about how we use words which we need to heed when communicating.
– We are to use words to help others progress.
– It is important to get our timing right when using words – learn lessons about restraint and how and when to speak up.
– We need to be honest when communicating with others.
– We should not lies in order to advance our own position (Christians on social media do this a lot – self-promotion, wanting glory, virtue signalling).
– Speaking words that are kind and gentle is a positive thing – a strong case for using words wisely and well.
– There are strong warnings about gossip and mockery, and it is easy for our words if thoughtless and insensitive to start something that goes out of control.
[And I just saw this on Twitter from Patrick Schreiner: “Think of the person that makes you the most upset on Twitter. Now pray for them. It is hard to be angry at someone you pray for”].