Yesterday morning at Coventry Jesus Centre, Andy, one of our regular preacher-men, announced that the title of his talk that morning was: “The Opportunities and Potential Pitfalls Presented by Facebook and other Social Media Websites”.
Snappy. He’s a master communicator is Andy.
Actually, Andy is indeed a very good communicator. Nevertheless, he, like many Christians in my church and beyond, has been unsure what to make of “the social media revolution” as some are calling it.
On the one hand – as a video Andy showed us yesterday showed – social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and all the rest are here to stay. Recently, Facebook crossed the 30-million-users mark in the UK. That’s half the population. This is, quite simply, the way people communicate these days. Any church with something too say (and really every church should have something to say!) can’t afford to ignore the possibilities offered by social media.
On the other hand, there are as many potential pitfalls in social media as John Bunyan’s hero, Christian, faced at Vanity Fair. From flirty pictures, to gossip, to just plain worldly time-wasting, Facebook et cetera can be a veritable Slough of Despond for the unwary pilgrim.
Andy spoke carefully, and what he said can be summed up fairly well by a verse in Paul’s letter to the Colossians:
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”
“Be wise” – avoid the pitfalls. In particular, don’t do on Facebook what your conscience wouldn’t let you get away with in the rest of life. Gossip is gossip, whatever the medium. Unkindness is unkindness. Lust is lust. Time is too precious for Farmville.
But – “make the most of every opportunity”. If half the population of our country is on Facebook, we need to be there. If we’re called to bring the message of Jesus to the people, we have to go where they are and speak the way they speak.
The right place for an ark is in the water. (Yet remember that the wrong place for water is in the ark!)
As something of a social media enthusiast, I may have been more enthusiastic in my endorsement of it all. But I realise there are real issues that need to be thought through, and I think Andy did a good job of treading the fine balance.
I’d like him to do a part two, in which he unpacks in more detail some of the creative ways we can “gossip the gospel” through social media, some ideas for how we can best chain this Leviathan and use it to add strength and effectiveness to our communication of Christ.
How about it, Andy? Up for it?