When Jesus said “go and make disciples of all nations” his followers listened. And, we’ve been in the business of making disciples ever since.
But in recent years social media has changed the playing field. The word “go” and the phrase “all nations” are no longer restricted to physical travel and national borders.
With social media we can now go into all nations and connect with people. Sharing the gospel and building relationships from the comfort of our living room while sipping coffee and sporting a robe and fluffy slippers.
And yes, I’m a huge fan of that. Not necessarily the idea of sitting around in a robe (though I’m not opposed to that!). But using social media to reach the nations for God’s Kingdom is a great idea!
Yet, because social media is such an expansive communication technology, we run the risk of abusing the opportunity (or at the very least misusing it).
I’ve seen it time and time again and I’m going to call out the top social media mistakes:
Mistake #1 – The Bullhorn Approach
In the church, we often use social media like a bullhorn. The digital equivalent of a soap box. We plug-in to various social media platforms and we indiscriminately “tweet-out-loud” to anyone and everyone who will hear. And this has proven to be completely ineffective.
Despite the pervasive myth (in some quarters) that social media is anti-social, it most definitely is not. One youth pastor recently told me that he encourages his youth to stay away from social media. Because it is filled with, “faceless people hiding behind pseudonyms.”
That may have been the case ten or even five years ago. But not any more. Faceless people still hiding behind a pseudonym have been relegated to the corners of the internet and given the title “troll.” Though they can be loud and visible and divisive at times, they are far outnumbered by normal people.
Your aunt and cousin and brother and nephew. These are the people who make up most of the internet. And these people are real, genuine and in it for the relationship. For the conversation.
The irony is, when Christians use social media like a bullhorn we become the troll. We become the anti-social Twitter and Facebook user that agitates everyone else on social media.
Throwing our message “out there” into the digital space without hanging around for the conversation (and maybe even joining conversations that are not our own), makes people want to block us. It’s that simple.
Mistake #2 – No Social Media Strategy
Does it sound crazy to think that because we have so many people in ear-shot of our message we still need a strategy? Why not just throw the message out there to whoever will grab it?
We could ask Jesus the same question. Why did he relegate himself to one geographic area on the map? Why not shout from high-heaven to anyone who would listen? Why did he spend the bulk of his time with just a small crowd of men and women?
Because Jesus had a strategy. And his strategy was simple: create a social network that spreads and eventually covers the earth. (Yes, Jesus created a social network of his own!)
First it was Jesus, then it was Jesus’ disciples and then their disciples and so on. They multiplied and spread and were able to reach and change far more lives together than Jesus could have by trying to connect with everyone himself.
When we use social media we should take Jesus’ example. We should fill our social network with people who are most likely to receive our message. We need to be selective and targeted.
We need a strategy.
Mistake #3 – It’s All About Me
In today’s world people are suspicious of religious bullhorns. People want to be loved, they want to be cared for, they want to be appreciated.
When we use social media like a bullhorn we’re saying that each person doesn’t really matter. We’re treating people more like a number than an individual.
We need to see people online as the individuals they are. Shouting an evangelical message with the “get saved” tagline and hoping someone will hear and get saved is insulting.
We’re not reaching out to random numbers. We’re reaching out to real people.
- Susan, a mother of three, a nurse, a woman with a painful past but a bright future.
- Tom, an insecure teen struggling to find his place in the world and still reeling from his parents recent divorce.
- Jenny, a retired widow who still blames God for the death of her son twenty years earlier.
When Jesus went about sowing seeds and making disciples he did it by calling people by name. To be effective on social media we need to see people as individuals and build relationships with them. Numbers on Twitter or Fans on Facebook mean nothing if people aren’t the most important piece.
So let’s follow Jesus’ example and build a social network that has real impact!