The E Word: Sharing Faith On Social Media
Confession time: I don’t know what it’s like to lead a church without using social media. In 2010 I planted a church from Holy Trinity Brompton, and we have always used social media as a way of engaging with the community and making connections. In more recent times though, I have seen that social media is not just useful, but essential for the church and Christians to engage with and bring a voice of faith, hope and love. I want to give you some tips for using social media to evangelise and help grow your church…
God and social media
Theologians use a phrase that can be helpfully used to frame a discussion on social media and evangelism, and that phrase is ‘Missio Dei’, which means the ‘mission of God’, or the ‘sending of God’. Love compelled God to draw near and become like us in order to redeem us and save us. We can see this summarised in John 3.16-17: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son... He sent his son into the world not to judge the world but to save the world through Him’.
God could have stayed aloof and far off, but he didn’t, he rolled up his sleeves and got stuck in so that he could remove the power and effect of sin in our lives.
In the same way, the church is called to be where the people are because that’s where God is, and He invites us to join in with His missionary work. Saint Paul was in Athens debating the latest ideas in Acts 17. He was present and able to point people to Christ. The church is called to be in the marketplace bringing a prophetic witness of Jesus to the world. Social media and online platforms are the 21st Century marketplace. The church needs to be present with
bold witness. But the question is how?
5 tips for sharing your faith
Everyone has a mission when it comes to using social media. For some it’s having a platform for a particular cause or business, for others it’s to become an influencer, or a route towards celebrity and being recognised. Or it may simply be a way of keeping in touch with friends and family. We all have a mission even if we’ve never articulated it.
Choose your mission - I’ve noticed is that social media provides a very easy way of pointing to me and what I’m doing. What if we all decided that we were going to use social media to join in with God’s mission in the world; to point to Jesus in me and what God is doing in me and around me? Not to be concerned about the ‘likes’ and ‘views’ which can so often lead to the much report mental health issues, but to be more concerned about introducing Jesus to others in creative and engaging ways. It could make all the difference. Never before have we had such an opportunity to communicate with so many.
Point to God at work - I was talking with Geraint Harries recently on Instagram Live. He works with churches in the Bradford Diocese and encourages them to use social media. As a result, he ended up on the BBC national news. I asked him how we as Christians can share our faith on social media and he had said he tries to share articles or news items that relate to our sector of work, but that point to God in some way. He found that this can lead to conversations about God.
Ask questions – I like the way Jesus often asked questions of people. He would ask questions that would open up conversation rather than shut it down. With different polls and stickers available now we can easily do that to generate conversation.
Be authentic – Social media is so often a place where we can hide who we are. We can easily paint a picture of our life that is actually inauthentic. At the same time there is such a desire for authenticity and truth. Why not determine to bring the offline self in line with the online digital self? Share your faith, your stories, your learnings, your questions, and your fears. This isn’t to say that we overshare and be inappropriate, but people want to know that faith makes a difference to their everyday. We have an opportunity to show people what faith lived out day to day looks like.
Build bridges – the majority of people come to faith through a key relationship; a friend, a family member, or someone they know who they have seen living out their faith. That’s what happened for me - it was my brother who helped me come to know Jesus. The key thing is that it’s a process. A journey involving prayer, patience and persistence. Adopt a ’long game’ approach. Don’t just drop evangelistic bombs and run. Start conversations. Respond to comments. Let your conversation be ‘seasoned with salt’ (Colossians 4.6).
I sense the urgency of the gospel in these days. The church needs to continue being bold, to speak out, to be present, to put themselves out there. I think of Church Army working all over the UK and Ireland in communities, sharing the gospel in places where there’s often limited church presence. I think of other mission agencies like London City Mission who go and build connections for Christ’s sake. I think about how the church has gone out of their way over the centuries, driven by God’s love and the opportunity for the gospel that they ‘might save some’ (1 Corinthians 9.22).
The church is called to the marketplace. Through simple online interactions, the gentle, relational and incarnational introduction of people to Jesus is taking place. Are you getting involved?
3 January 2020
Matt has been involved in church ministry for almost 20 years, was ordained 11 years ago and planted church with a team from HTB in 2010. He is a facilitator for church growth learning communities, is a champion for evangelism, and has recently set up a resourcing network with the London Diocese that will help churches and Christians engage with social media. He is married to Kate has two children, and he stands alone in his family with his interest in bugs! Insta: @rvmatthogg; twitter: @mathogg.
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