The Value of Social MediaBy Christiane Marshall
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Should Christians spend time on social media?
It was late, and I noticed I had a new message from Kim: “can you help me out? i need someone to call my sister and wake her up cuz she can't hear me yellin. kinda weird, i know, but you're the only person i can find online...”
Kim had ALS and was unable to walk and had minimal use of her hands. I had never met Kim in person. She lived in Texas and I lived in Ohio.
I was glad to help.
I joined mySpace years ago because my adult children were scattered in five different states. They were on mySpace so I signed on too! I soon began communicating with other people and realized that I was gathering a little community around me. Kim was one of my new friends. I followed my children and some of my new friends to facebook eventually.
I found myself encouraging others and bouncing ideas around. Others noticed my comments and asked to be my friend. It was almost like being in grade school again. “Will you be my friend?”
I’ve been living in a rural area for 13 years and have had fewer opportunities to have an impact on the physical world around me. People used to stop by and visit in the suburban area I grew up in. The internet has opened up a whole new world for me. And social media is the frosting on the cake!
So how do we share our faith in social media?
The world is becoming more and more connected. And something we share could go “viral” in less than ten minutes.* The different social media platforms are interconnected too. Someone sees a great blog post and they will share it with their friends on facebook, tweet about it, mention it on Google+ and pin it on Pinterest.
Whenever I pin something with a great picture, at least six people will re-pin it within the hour, sometimes minutes. Pinterest has emerged as a very surprising and powerful tool for both businesses and Christians.
Now viral is good if what you wrote is helpful!
The internet, and especially social media, has opened up a world of opportunities for Christians. Our personal ministries can be as unique as we are, and very far-reaching.
Are online friends real?
Yes! Absolutely! When we traveled recently, three people invited us to stop by. We weren’t able to do that, but they were eager to invite us which says a lot! When I attended a marketing seminar out of town last month, a fellow mom entrepreneur who I had never met in person, invited me for dinner with her family before I headed home. She and her husband are orthodox Jews. Our discussion about the Sabbath was very interesting. They also invited me to join them in the bedtime routine with their five year old autistic twins during which they read stories and sang Hebrew songs. We had a great visit!
My interactions online have recently morphed into a combination of personal and business activities. This has given me new insights into how we can use some of the principles I’m learning to create an actual strategic witnessing “plan,” just as we strategically plan our business activity on the internet.
The old “hard sell” is dead – you know, the high pressure sales person who won’t let you off the phone, or who won’t leave your house until you either buy or kick him out? What’s new is the soft sell. Develop a relationship first, not just a superficial “hi, how are you” sort of relationship, but a sincere “I care about you” relationship.
Since I had already been doing that, it came naturally for me when I decided to bring my business online.
I am often disheartened when I see Christians getting into heated discussions with people on blogs or social media. Sometimes they get angry because someone used an offensive word. Sometimes they get into arguments about scriptural doctrines. This type of online behavior just pushes people away from Christ – and you. This is the “hard sell” method of witnessing.
I’ve thought about this a lot. When you interact online, you have no idea what they are going through. Reach out and touch their soul with the love of Christ. Never mind if you don’t agree with their opinion about something. Ask the Lord to make you approachable so that someone hurting will feel safe to confide in you. And when they do confide in you, pray before responding. Don’t try to fix everything. Just simply care. Listen to their heart.
I’m not saying you should never talk about doctrine. But that should come way later – after they trust you -- and through private messaging or private groups. It’s often good to use “teasers” as occasional posts that will cause people to ask questions. When they ask, then you have an opportunity to plant seeds.
Principles for gentle online evangelism:
There are two principles from Ellen White’s Writings I like to keep in mind as I interact with people online and offline:
Here they are:
with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered
to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, "Follow Me." (Ministry of
Healing, p. 143)
(2) “…do not urge your peculiar views too strongly. Talk with them at first of subjects upon
which you can agree. . . Both you and they will be brought into a closer connection with
heaven, prejudice will be weakened, and it will be easier to reach the heart.” Evangelism,
p. 446, and “Do not present subjects that will arouse controversy.” (RH A, pril 4, 1899,
And here are two Biblical principles to keep in mind:
(2) “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” Proverbs 18:21
Consider creating a label with these and sticking them on your laptop!
What you say in writing is permanent.
Be careful. Even if it is a private message, it could potentially be shared. It might be printed out and distributed. Someone might put it on a picture and share it on facebook. It could even be used as a slide in a youtube presentation, with your name on it. So write everything with Heaven in mind – and consider your reputation!
So pause and pray first. If you don’t feel totally sure, sleep on it before posting.
For practical ideas and suggestions check out the following article:
Using Social Media in Ministry