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This post is part 4 in the series 20 Ways to Share Your Faith Online leading up to Internet Evangelism Day on April 25. We encourage you to tweet, share, blog & discuss these ideas in your church & circle of influence.
There are two key developments which I believe are going to transform digital evangelism: Facebook and mobile phones. Let’s look at Facebook today, and phones in a subsequent posting.
After continued rapid growth, Facebook now has 400 million members. This represents 1 in 3 of all web users (if you exclude China where Facebook is banned). By comparing Facebook users with country populations, it is the third largest ‘country’ in the world.
USA and UK have long been the #1 and #2 in terms of number of users. Until recently, highly-wired Turkey was #3, but Indonesia has shot up the rankings in the last few months and is now third, pushing Turkey to fourth position. The Facebook interface is available in about 75 languages.
Other English-language social networking sites have receded into smaller specialist niches. Just as there is only room for one definitive search engine (Google), or one auction/market site (eBay), people need one definitive social networking site where they know they can contact almost anyone.
Why is it so strategic for evangelism?
- anyone can set up an account; no tech knowledge is needed (though there are aspects of Facebook that are rather quirky and hard to use).
- it is based on relationships – the key to effective sharing of the good news.
- your comments and postings are displayed on all your friends’ pages.
- you can create or join ‘fan pages’ and ‘groups’ built around secular topics, and therefore relate to others within a common interest (1 Cor. 9:19-23).
Opportunities on Facebook
There are two overlapping approaches: incarnational presence and intentional active outreach:
- live our lives openly and transparently in front of our friends as we do in the physical world, demonstrating love and the fragrance spoken of in 2 Cor. 2:15.
- be open to making appropriate comments, sometimes posting links to appropriate pages, etc. Keep a portfolio list of web-pages ready to use: one to consider is Power to Change. You can also mention your church site (or Facebook fan page) from time to time. Always do this in a sensitive and gentle way (1 Peter 3:15).
- create (or join) fan pages or groups on topics that not-yet-believers would be interested in.
- intentional active opportunities include making contact with friends of friends, and inviting people to join fan pages or groups.
- there are as yet very few add-on ‘Facebook Applications’ that might enable us to add gently evangelistic areas to a Facebook page – here is an opportunity for developers.
- learning Facebook’s ‘Markup Language’ code enables additional features to be added to our pages.
Notes: if you are in the sort of ministry where most of your Facebook friends are Christian leaders, it may be wise to consider having a separate Facebook profile that is less off-putting for not-yet-Christians. And steer away from politics and social issues: any view you express on these is likely to alienate at least half your page visitors. Consider not entering anything in the ‘political views’ section of your profile either. Under ‘religious views’ on their Facebook profile, many people enter something like ‘Jesus follower’ or ‘seeker after truth’ rather than the increasingly pejorative ‘Christian’.
More online resources
Tony Whittaker is the coordinator for Internet Evangelism Day, and is based in Derby, UK.