In the social media craze that has taken over the world, from twitter, to Instagram, to LinkedIn, or to Facebook, and many others, where does the use of social media land in the church? There is a large spectrum of pastor’s who allow and encourage the use of social media during services and on the other side, pastors who do not use social media at all for themselves or their churches. In a previous Blog post, the supremacy of preaching’s role in the church was laid.
What are the benefits of a church and its pastor(s) using social media?
1) The rise of social media has ushered the entire world into an unrestrained conversation, and access to information about anyone. Social media presents an opportunity for the church and the pastor to engage with one another in conversation without having to be in each other’s presence. instead of phone calls, or emails, or group text messages, social media has enabled people to conversate with each other and depending on the platform, anyone might be able to join in. Social media allows people to know what is going on in the lives of their friends and followers and comment or show support. Groups can meet and talk through social media, which can produce productivity.
2) Social media provides churches and pastor’s with the ability and opportunity to send out and receive information from their members very quickly, whether a prayer request, an announcement for the week about a gathering, or a praise request, or even a simple question for the pastor or about an event.
3) As so many ministries and pastors are using social media sites, there are so many ministry leaders and ministries where deep, beneficial insight and wisdom can be gleaned. Social media provides access to a deep well of blessings and guidance from wiser, older men, on any topic. Never before has so much information been accessible at the tap of a finger or a click of a mouse. Priceless guidance, worth more than all the gold and valuables in the world are available at the users convenience, and desire.
What are the drawbacks of churches and pastor(s) using social media?
1) The use of Social media by churches, pastor(s),and lay people can and often does cheapen the weight of the theological truths they tweet about. 140 characters is rarely enough to produce anything of lasting substance, but instead can reduce the impact of the statement because it had to be shortened. Theological quotes all the time from different users often lumps everyone together, which is unfortunate as some theologians are on their own level. For example, Charles Spurgeon, has several twitter accounts, but with his plethora of quotes being tweeted all the time, he can be lumped into the same pile as the heretical likes of Joel Osteen or Joyce Meyer. With such a buffet of quotes and theological, whether good or bad theology, the use of Social media to post those quotes can reduce the intended potency and power behind the original quote and source. Furthermore, As access to priceless information and guidance has moved to the palm of the users hand, accessibility only a click or tap away, the value of the information and wisdom has decreased. The instant nature of social media has heavily decreased the perspective on the theological information available on blogs, websites etc.
2) As people are able to communicate and interact in the digital sphere, physical interaction between people decreases. One of the most important and instrumental aspects of the church, as the body of Christ, the people of God, is the element of fellowship and interaction. God created a new community, a new family, when He saved people by the death of His Son, Jesus, on the cross, 2,000 years ago. additionally, God commands His people to fellowship and encourage one another by meeting together continually, Hebrews 10:24-25. Social media enables people to interact digitally with each other, while escaping the effort it takes to interact physically with a person. Social media cheapens and keeps friendships and fellowship amongst the church at a shallow, surface level, preventing the deepening of friendships and relationships.
3) As the attention spans of the audience(s) get shorter and shorter, there is a struggle for the pastor and audience to connect during the sermon. This issue is often dealt with by giving into the audience and providing them with what they want, shorter sermons, lighter sermons filled with fluff and unhelpful opinions, cheap worship music and concert performances. An article titled, “Ten Ways the Pastor can use Twitter” provided some unfortunate advice for pastors in regard to short attention spans. “Some people will tune you out within thirty seconds of your sermon. No joke. But some people will give you a few seconds to read your Tweet. It may seem silly, but Twitter is the world where some people live.” while at first glance this advice seems wise and beneficial, this prevailing attitude of giving into the audience instead of holding them to a high standard, is a growing problem in the American church. The audience has the control. Wrong. if the audience will not fight to pay attention, they have a deeper issue at hand then just a short attention span. The pastor, instead of giving into the desires of the audience, should confront it from the pulpit, in a biblical manner, bringing the truth of the Bible to bear upon the minds of the audience, instead of allowing the audience to dictate the service and path of the church.
In conclusion, while the use of social media within the church has several blessings for the church body, there are also several drawbacks and consequences of using social media unwisely. Social media, like any other form of technology provides a convenient form of communication and information access, yet also can stifle and prevent effective community building and deep relationships and friendship amongst the church. Social media also enable the church members the ability to engage with the pastor and other members about prayer requests, praise reports, and announcements, but using social media in this way presents the members with an opportunity to disengage from person to person contact, as well as not paying attention to needs stated in the church during regular service times.