social networking

How to Build Online Relationships Like Jesus (Part 4)

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So, far in this series we’ve

  1. Addressed the concern social media relationships are shallow (Part 1)
  2. Looked at how Jesus related to both crowds of thousands and a handful of close friends (Part 2)
  3. Looked at how to relate to both crowds and close friends in Twitter and Facebook (Part 3)

If you’ve got your Twitter and Facebook lists set-up, and set-up your social media profiles and columns in a 3rd party app like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, you’re in a position to engage both large crowds and close friends. But the next challenge is…

How do we actually engage people through social media like Jesus on a day to day basis?

Someone could write a whole book on that question. Actually, Tami Heim and Toni Birdsong already did. It’s called @StickyJesus. But in the interest of brevity, here are 12 tips on how to do each day in a way that engages people through social media like Jesus did.

Prepare yourself

Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. –Luke 5:16

1) Begin your day by reading the Bible and praying.

2) Go online with one ear open to the Holy Spirit.

3) Go online with the other ear listening to people.

4) Go online with a spirit of humility. It’s not about showing how smart, well-connected, funny, well-read, cool or godly you are. It’s about how well you serve God and others.

5) Be prepared to be attacked, insulted, misunderstood or ignored. Be determined to respond in love regardless.

Set Boundaries

Jesus regularly withdrew from the crowds with his disciples (Mark 3:7). And when he saw someone with a need, he often took that person aside and focused solely on that person for that moment (Mark 8:22, John 4)

6) Designate specific time periods during the day when you’re going to engaged people through social media. Without specific boundaries, it’s easy to spend more time on Facebook and Twitter than you really want to or ought to.

7) Be fully present in real life. When you’re having dinner with your family, having lunch with a friend, doing something with your kids, keep your eyes off your phone or computer and fully engage with those people face to face.

Speak as You Are Spoken To

The Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say. –Luke 12:12

8 ) What is God leading you to say to the crowd? A status update/tweet? A pic or video? Retweeting/sharing a link? Writing a blog post?

Listen and Respond

Jesus took great care and time to listen to those who were calling out to him and respond to them. It didn’t matter whether they were children, blind, religious leaders, wealthy or powerful. He used discernment and didn’t respond to everyone (like his accusers at his “trials”). But he was intentional about withdrawing from the crowds to the questions and concerns his disciples had (Matthew 13:10)

9) Respond to direct/private messages, @replies and comments

10) Using lists, check all the tweets/status updates your closest friends have posted since you last checked. Who needs prayer? Who needs encouragement? Who needs correction? Who posted content you want to read.

11) Is there a friend who you haven’t seen an update from in a while? Send them a quick message and ask them how they’re doing?

12) As time allows, using lists, check tweets/status updates of lower priority lists. Who needs prayer? Who needs encouragement? Who posted content you want to read.

To go more in depth on this, read @StickyJesus and check out the @StickyJesus blog series in which we discussed each chapter.

Once you’ve got your systems in place (lists & apps) and you’re using “best practices” like those above, you’ll be well on your way to building relationships like Jesus. But we can’t just put the cruise control on at this point or it could lead to complacency, distractions, or veering off course when the road of life takes a turn. In the final post in this series, we’ll address the question…

What adjustments do we need to make to keep our online relationships on track?


  1. Which of 12 items above resonates most with you?
  2. Which do you need to incorporate into the way you engage with people online?
  3. What other advice would you give people who want to engage with people like Jesus online?

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    About the author

    Paul Steinbrueck

    Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.