“It is one of the paradoxes of success,
that the things and ways which got you there
are seldom those things that will keep you there.”
The Starting Point
For some this tends to be a word filled with many emotions and understandings. Some understand evangelism as going door to door telling people about Jesus. Others hear evangelism and imagine someone standing on a street corner with a bullhorn telling people they will spend eternity in hell if they do not repent immediately and follow Jesus. There are those who are reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 28 when he tells his disciples to, “…go and make disciples of all nations….” With the varying images and understanding of what evangelism is, let’s look at the word for a moment.
Evangelism comes from the Greek verb, euangelizomai, meaning “’to bring or announce good news,’ and the Greek from which we get our word gospel, euangelion, means simply ‘good news.’” Therefore in the basic sense of the word, evangelism is the announcement and proclamation of the good news of Jesus. There is no format or template for how this good news is to be shared. Jesus merely instructed us to go, teach and make disciples.
The Cultural Shift
In every age and culture the church has found a way to successfully communicate and proclaim the message of the Gospel. The success of the church’s communication method(s) is evident in the number of lives that have been influenced and transformed over the years because of proclamation of this message. However, there eventually comes a time in every age and culture when it is necessary to reconsider the methods of communication.
In the early 1400’s Johannes Gutenberg realized the cultural shift and in turn invented the printing press. Capitalizing on Gutenberg’s invention, Martin Luther leveraged this new method of communication to broadcast his message. The result of Luther’s effort was the Protestant Reformation, which ended up changing the course of Christianity in Europe. The shift in methods directly influences how culture communicates and the ways in which culture hears and experiences the message.
Whether we realize it or not, we are in the midst of one of the greatest shifts in communication this world has seen since the printing press. With the advent of the World Wide Web created by Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee in 1990, communication has shifted from primarily Gutenberg (print culture) to Google (digital culture). Simply by looking at how people receive the news is an example of this shift. It used to be that people received their news from the printed newspaper throw at their doorstep each morning. Now, more than half of all Americans access their daily news from online sources.
The Social Media Revolution
In 2004 Digital Communication took the ultimate leap when a Harvard student named Mark Zuckerberg created a small online community called Facebook. What was supposed for Harvard students only, exploded within months. In less than a year, Zuckerberg’s online community had grown from a few hundred to 1 million people registered on Facebook.
Facebook, however, was thought to be a mere fad, and most marketing strategists asserted Facebook would eventually take the same course as myspace.com and enter into the “what once was” category. Conversely, Facebook ended up being the catalyst that set in motion the social media revolution. The move from printed material to digital began the communication shift, and then advent of social media solidified that a new form of interaction had come into existence and created a fundamental shift in the overall communication culture.
Eleven years after Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, the social media network has more than 1.4 Billion active monthly users. Based on population alone, Facebook has surpassed China and India, and if considered a country Facebook would be the largest (most populous) country on the planet. Social media is far more than Facebook. In fact according to the Social Media Revolution 2015 statistics, seven social media networks are considered in the top ten of most populous countries.
These statistics are a mere glimpse of the reach social media has had in the past decade, and according to marketers these statistics will continue to rise. What these statistics tell us is that people are speaking a digital language, and living in a highly social media driven world waiting for someone to communicate with them. In fact, one of the greatest qualities of social media is the opportunity to reach a vast and diverse audience quickly. Moreover, when information is communicated on social media the reach of that information almost doubles immediately.
Social Media and the Church
Some may ask, why social media? Why should a church invest time and effort into social media? All are good questions.
The church has an incredible opportunity to reach many through the use of technology and social media.
So why social media? Why should a church invest time and effort into social media? Because there are still people who do not know Jesus and the church has been commanded to, “Go into all the world.”
Going into all the world requires entering and communicating in both the physical world and digital world. Social media has changed the communication method, but it has not changed the salvific message of the Gospel. The church still has a message that can transform lives – but the church must continue communicating that message in the language that culture is speaking. Now is the time. Now is the time for the church to begin leveraging digital communication, primarily social media, as a means of evangelism and outreach.
Where do we begin?
There are a few ways that the church can begin leveraging social media as a means of evangelism. Here are a few thoughts on where to begin:
Create a Facebook Page
- Begin communicating with people. Studies show that the average user on Facebook logs in for 21 minutes each day. That means there are 7665 minutes to connect with people via a smartphone every single year. Take advantage of those minutes and leverage the message of the church.
- Encourage connection to keep up with events, general information, see behind-the-scenes images, and get access to various articles and blogs.
- Encourage people within your church community to “like” your page and then share what happens at the church on their own pages. This is one of the easiest and non-threatening ways to evangelize to the broader community.
- Create excitement and hype through and Facebook Ad campaign. Check out my previous blog: Why does my Facebook Ad Keep Getting Rejected? on the use of images before you begin creating the campaign – trust me.
Jump on Twitter
- Twitter is one of the best ways to get involved on social media.
- Twitter is great for networking with organizations, companies, schools, non-profits, etc. Twitter is also good for connecting with a younger audience not typically found on Facebook. Twitter allows for users to tweet, retweet, favorite, and mention someone else.
- Choose a specific hashtag for your church, sermon series, special event, etc. Hashtags provide a means of categorizing tweets and topics.
- Twitter users are limited to 140 character tweets. Be selective. A good question to think about is how can your church tweet messages of the Gospel in 140 characters or less?
- The benefit of Instagram is users are given the opportunity to take and import pictures and video, edit on the go and then post to the wider audience.
- Instagram is hashtag driven as a means of expression and categorization.
- Show what happens within the life of the church throughout the week, during events, and even behind-the-scenes shots.
- Encourage taking pictures during worship that may have been particularly meaningful or related to the message given.
Get a YouTube Channel
- YouTube is a great way to share who you are, what you do, and how to get involved.
- Upload videos from event and sermon promos, weekly sermons, bible studies, video announcements, and other online classes.
- The ideas are limitless with YouTube, use it to your advantage to help visually communicate the why and story of your church.
Start Broadcasting with Periscope
- Periscope is a great app to live stream anything you are doing in ministry – highlight events, promo sermons, do a lunch periscope chat with a Q & A, go behind-the-scenes of a ministry or service, etc.
- Check out the infographic – 7 Ways to Use Periscope this Week in Ministry
Live. Life. Connected.
- Again, one of the best ways to begin leveraging social media is to encourage those who interact with your church, to connect with the church online, and be active on social media.
- Invite those present in worship to interact with the service digitally.
- Encourage others to keep their electronic devices on and to use these devise to tweet and post thoughts, images, and questions throughout the service.
- An example of a church leveraging social media in worship is from Fairborn UMC. The driving force behind the encouragement to tweet and post is the realization that there are still people who do not know Jesus. Because of this is Fairborn UMC knows there exist the potential in just one tweet, post or image on any given Sunday to start the conversation that could change someone’s life. Check out their website at fairbornumc.org/digitalministry.
- Encourage using social media to do some good, share Jesus and extend one’s digital footprint for the Kingdom.
These are just a few examples of how the church can begin leveraging social media as a means of evangelism and outreach. So go ahead, get online, go social and begin leveraging the power of social media for the sake of the Kingdom and those that do not yet know Jesus.
I would love to hear your thoughts.
 William J. Abraham, The Logic of Evangelism, 41.
 Diane Hughes, “Social Media – A Great Video with some Surprising Stats!” Dianehughesdotcom Blog, accessed December 6, 2014, http://dianehughesdotcom.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/social-media-a-great-video-with-some-surprising-stats/.