Social Media has convinced us that the church isn’t dying from a lack of a God movement; it has a communication problem. If you put all the comments on social media posts in one article, the angry American bubbles to the top like thick grease in a soup. Foreigners and unbelievers create a picture from this of what Christians look like–white and Republican. Neither has anything to do with Christianity. The lack of participation online from older Americans, whose echoing words, “I hate change,” leave a growing gap between young and old, begs the question, “Who will cross this barrier first?”
Facebook has 1.57 billion users worldwide. The internet users make up almost half of the 7 billion global population. Everywhere you look people are on their smart phone or tablet devices. Our experience thus far on the church’s reaction to technology and social media: “The internet is the spawn of the devil,” or the church focuses on only marketing when most of their congregation is online and they aren’t training them to disciple online. Or the church focuses on overseas missions without realizing the very countries they are pouring support into are also online, accessible to their congregations. George Barna sent this article via email:
Many of the religious trends in America over the past decade or so are disheartening to Christians. Church attendance is down. Professions of faith are at low levels compared to the past, resulting in a declining percentage of born again Christians. The number of people who label themselves as Christian is falling. Participation in small groups has dropped by half in less than a decade. The same pattern has characterized adult Sunday school involvement. Bible reading is less common. Even the number of adults who pray to God has decreased significantly in recent years. (READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE).
Here’s a portion of it that we will discuss today. Read to the end as we will share FREE or affordable resources available to the Christian to cover the second to the last bolded point in the above quote: “Bible reading is less common.”
- “No Sense of Responsibility” – Barna breaks down the percentages of Christians who believe they should share their faith with others. Only 2 out of ten adults believe they have a personal responsibility in this. The Bible doesn’t specify that only a few people are called to share their faith. One of our writers worked at an adult day center, teaching writing, and it saddened her to see those faith stories diminish without younger people more versed in technology to capture the older adults faith stories before they fade. The online community gives us no excuses why we shouldn’t take cross-cultural courses like Perspectives or Kairos and learn about one culture we can serve online in. One protestant church believes that the Bible isn’t relevant. The pastor himself went on a public rant, inferring that God changes His mind, posting images on the church Facebook about this. It’s not uncommon to hear news reports of large churches compromising Christianity to keep the house full. In Utah, it is more common to see Christian churches with no more than 100 people in each congregation than it is to see a mega-church as in Phoenix, Arizona. In Utah, this is a big church. In Arizona, the church would be considered dying. While church programs are important, how we get people from online to a face-to-face fellowship of faith requires the participation of congregation members using their social media to connect with their communities.
- “Not Sharing the Gospel” – If you convey biblical concepts from the pulpit, consider challenging your congregation to serve online and share their faith through engagement. Posting, “I Love Jesus,” memes online is not sharing your faith. Do you love the Islam Jesus, the Buddhist Jesus, the New Age Jesus, or the Mormon Jesus? Which Jesus do you love? The church should have yearly training courses that include story telling techniques, technology how-to, false cults and theology, and how to witness through relational evangelism online. Read Matthew 25:14. Your church is already online. They only need your guidance to be unleashed.
- “What Message Gets Shared” – Barna digs deep into what message is getting shared. If the message is that people are basically good, why did we need Christ to die on the cross for us? Online people “like” or share images that don’t convict, like cherry-picking the Bible to feel good about themselves. This gives us two extremes online–the going to hell crowd and the everything-is-good-and-stay-positive crowd. You should read this section. It’s disturbing and goes back to the consequences of the previous quote, “Bible reading is less common.” Read this article here and go to “What Message Gets Shared.”
- What Happens Now? Out of 300,000 churches in the United States (from a Google search), Barna believes only 70,000 have, “biblically solid, evangelistic pastors. A concentrated effort by those pastors at boldly, clearly, and consistently proclaiming the gospel could certainly be the basis of a spiritual rebound in America.” Sharing your faith is starting with building trust. If you do not have the trust of the person, your words will be like, “…a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13). If there is only one missionary per one million unbelievers and one pastor per a typical 300-person congregation, we’re going to need every one of God’s people from age 16 to 104 to share their faith online.
Social Media makes it easy to have a conversation. We can do it via video, text, and chat. It shows us in pictures what a person’s faith or lack of faith looks like, what they love and what they hate, and gives us common ground like in face-to-face conversations to jump start a conversation. The take away from this article is encouraging: Christians are too busy and a simple tweak of our schedules makes turning this around possible. We’re stretched too thin to volunteer at the church, to consistently attend Bible Studies (without skipping several weeks in a row or stop attending altogether), have family study together, pray together, and learn to live a life of faith that walks the thin areas of life, fully expecting God to show up and keep His promises. The truth is the truth. We can’t bend it because it makes us uncomfortable. Rather, the thought of hell should make us passionate that not a single soul is lost to the devil.
Free or Affordable Online Educational Resources:
- Perspectives and Kairos: Are cross-cultural courses you can take by keeping in mind the many different people groups in your home town. How can you apply its concepts and lessons to your community on and offline? If you can’t afford it, talk to your church about getting help with the cost. Cost: $200-$300.
- Gordon Conwell Dimensions of the Faith: An audio-only teaching. Cost: FREE.
- Western Seminary Leadership Development Courses: Video teachings, quizzes, and notes. Cost: Under $100.
Do you know of others? List them in the comments.