Almost everyone has a Facebook page these days. Online social networking has become a way of life. I don’t want to explore the general pros and cons of social networking (there are already enough of those articles around), but I do want to discuss the role of EVANGELISM in social networking.
I often wrestle with the question of how and how often to directly witness on facebook and twitter.
I have numerous facebook accounts and pages for different purposes. Some are for my evangelism websites, while others are for my business and my personal use. There is a lot of over-lap but most of my networking profiles have different circles of friends and acquaintances. Only about one third of my Facebook friends are Christians and while I am mindful to not hide my light under a bowl, I do think that some discretion is needed. I guess it is my desire to always remain seeker sensitive. When I say sensitive, I don’t mean that we need to be scared of offending them with the truth (we know that the Gospel IS offensive to those that are unsaved – see John 1), but I just mean we need to be aware that they are potentially reading everything that we write and will look at our Facebook comments through the eyes of an unbeliever.
I do post some links to articles and videos that present the Gospel in the hope that some of my unsaved friends might be challenged or encouraged, but at the same time I don’t want to make every status update about theology or the “blood of Jesus”. When we speak to strangers or friends in person (real life), it is always good to season our spiritual witnessing efforts with some discussions on the natural as well. If I can connect on the natural with a person, it is more likely that they will be less hostile when I try connecting with them on the spiritual.
We should NEVER discourage anyone from using their online social networking opportunities to share the Gospel!
I know that God’s Word does not return void and even posting a simple Bible verse could be used by God to point someone to the light. I do sometimes doubt though, that we should be discussing “in house” theology or having public, online arguments about Church, Doctrines, Church Leadership Character Judgements etc…
The following are a few controversial topics that I believe will not do our cause any good to discuss on public, mainstream boards like Facebook.
- Calvinism V’s Arminianism
- Controversy over Holy Spirit Manifestations, tongues
- Negative complaints about other Churches
- Baptism: Full immersion or sprinkling
Websites and social networking sites that are specifically geared for Christians
Websites like ChristianForumSite.com, Evangelism Forum and the website you are on right now are great forums for such debates. My point is that general networking websites like Facebook are not the place to air our dirty laundry. No wonder people are confused when they see that Christians disagree on so many issues. I am not suggesting that we promote a facade of fake unity but we should conduct our public, online, mainstream networking in a way that “they will know that we are Christian by our love for one another”, not by our disagreements.
A Fishing Analogy (come-on, they do work well with the topic of evangelism!)
I think it is great to FISH on facebook but not so good to talk about FISHING on Facebook. In other words, it is great to make your status update John 3 verse 16 or post a link to a Gospel presentation, but maybe it is less effective to debate effective means for reaching the lost when more than half of your network ARE the fish. Don’t talk about the tackle and techniques, instead USE the techniques. A fish that knows he is being strategically hunted will be more cautious, more on guard and harder to catch! To read a profoundly clever evangelism fishing analogy, click here.
Then there are the Facebook pages that are specifically geared for the in-house debates, ie: Christian Tattoos Facebook page These are good because they provide a forum where Christians can debate theology on a practical level. It is just a pity that the comments are also promoted on your own wall and your non-Christian friends receive an update of your activity on their facebook feed. Perhaps there is a setting to turn this off?
Online Social Networking definitely poses a myriad of new opportunities and issues that Christians need to be aware of.
On reflection, my opinion here is different for those who are renowned public figures; those who are known for their role in leadership, teaching and theology. It would be strange for a Christian Pastor to only ever talk about the weather and football and it is unlikely that non-Christians will subscribe to the page of a public Christian Pastor unless they are expecting and hoping for some discussions on theology. I do like the old saying “It is no good being so spiritually minded that you are no earthly good”. Another one that I like is “Preach SALVATION first and then SANCTIFICATION”. It makes sense to tell people ABOUT Jesus first and then tell them why they should live like Jesus. It is unrealistic for us to expect them to live like Jesus if they don’t know Him [Did you live like Jesus before you knew him?]. I am hoping to open this up for discussion, rather than tell you that my opinion is the only valid one. I am still processing how as a Christian, to manage these social networking issues myself and I might very well come to see things differently after more research.
What do you think? How should Christians use online social media? Please feel free to post your thoughts and feedback via the below comments form.