Social Media offers incredible potential, if used properly
Pastor blames Facebook for congregation's divorce and infidelity problem
Can social media be blamed for personal sin? Can websites like Facebook cause more harm for the Church than good? There is little uniform agreement within Christianity on social media and its role in ministry. If we dismiss it altogether, then we miss opportunities to reap its advantages.
"What happens is someone from yesterday surfaces, it leads to conversations and there have been physical meet-ups. The temptation is just too great," says Rev. Miller. He promised to delete his Facebook account and is requiring all 50 church officials at Living Word Christian Fellowship Church to do the same.
While many disagree with Rev. Miller's all-or-nothing approach, his decision is a reminder that there is little uniform agreement within Christianity on social media and its role in ministry. I worry that if we dismiss it altogether, then we are missing opportunities to reap its advantages.
A Nielsen Co. study found that Americans spend 23% of their time online within a social media platform. Many of these people are on Facebook and Twitter. I expect people will spend more time on social media in the coming years-which is not necessarily a good thing. Social media is used as a means to an end, but that end doesn't happen on the internet. At some point we need "real world" experiences.
The Dallas Morning News recently reported on Rev. Mark Craig of Texas, who uses video and social media to increase church attendance and bring back those who have fallen away from their faith.
When church attendance dropped 30%, he humbled himself, took his message and delivered it to people's computer screens. It worked! The message inspired his dwindling congregation and filled the pews once again.
Rev. Craig did not use his video messages to merely reach people in their homes. His goal was to get people back in the pews and to worship with his congregation. Ministries and churches should use social media to inspire people to live out their faith in both old and new ways, much of which happens offline.
The Catholic Church is growing its social media presence as well. Many popular Catholic apologists and evangelists use social media to broaden their audience and reach people in new ways. Pope Benedict XVI joined this New Evangelization by launching his own YouTube Channel, which has over 26,000 subscribers, and Facebook and iPhone applications as well.
The Pope spoke about the importance of social media during the 44th World Communication Day earlier this year:
"The spread of multimedia communications and its rich 'menu of options' might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web, or to see it only as a space to be filled. Yet priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different 'voices' provided by the digital marketplace."
More recently, Bishop Ron Herzog wrote about the consequences of ignoring social media: "Social media is proving itself to be a force with which to be reckoned. If not, the church may be facing as great a challenge as that of the Protestant Reformation."
He goes on to explain that the number of people using social media on a daily basis, it's viral potential, and the speed with which social media allows communication to happen make it a necessary tool for evangelization and communicating the Gospel in the digital age. "The Church does not have to change its teachings to reach young people, but we must deliver it to them in a new way," said Bishop Herzog.
Bishop Herzog is absolutely correct. Christians could, if they wanted to, bury their heads in the sand and act as if social media isn't changing the way we communicate. We could go about as if Facebook causes immorality and blame it for adultery and other forms of immorality. But many of us know the real problem: sin.
Sin is to blame here. Facebook, for instance, does not cause us to do anything. We choose what we talk about and who we talk to. We permit every conversation and interaction we have. If you care about your marriage, don't speak with people that might cause lustful thinking. Most social media platforms allow you to ...
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