Nov 30, 2010

Facebook: friend or foe?

‘Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a fire’ so said CS Lewis.

From the printing press to the invention of the internal combustion engine,TV, Personal Computer, Mobile Phone, every culture has had to adapt and adjust to new technology. Maybe you enjoyed watching the Butler struggling to come to terms with the introduction of the telephone in the final episode of ITV’s Downtown Abbey.

Technology often receives one of two reactions either uncritical reception or retreat. I’d like to advocate a third. Perhaps the more biblical position is to recognise that each new technology offers an opportunity: Redemption. Paul put it like this;

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. – 2 Cor. 10:5

There is no doubt that the internet is changing how we relate and even how we think. Two thought-provoking books on that here and here.

But given that over 500 million people use Facebook (which means if it were a country it would be the 3rd largest in the world!) and given that it is now the default mode of communication for the majority (200 million people check their facebook page once a day).


Today I make the case for

Facebook as a Friend – opportunity

How can we use Facebook as a force for good and as a way of building relationships.

  1. Use Facebook to keep in touch with one another: students on holiday, moving on with work,  on graduation.
  2. Use Facebook to get back in touch with those who you’ve lost contact with. I’ve reconnected with old school friends and university friends many of whom did not know me as a Christian.  One school friend asked for advice on hymns for his wedding as a result of reconnecting.
  3. Use Facebook as an extension of face-to-face relationships. As a church for example we tend to meet on one day a week and then only for a few hours. Facebook is a tool through which you can renew and build on relationships.  It is for me as a church pastor a way to carry on conversations in a church and to get to know people a whole lot more quickly than I otherwise could. Don’t use it to create meaningless relationships but build relationships.
  4. Use Facebook to take the focus off yourself.  It can be increadibly narcissistic and self-centred and we need to model a good use of the communication tool.  Use Facebook to listen to the needs of others, to promote acts of kindness and love, to encourage others towards faith in Christ. Link to good articles, put up a Bible verse, share how you have been learning in the Christian life.
  5. Use Facebook to model a disciplined and creative life. Let those who know you know what you are reading – review what you are reading.
  6. Use Facebook to model a critical and reflective life.  How many status updates are opportunities for people to complain about life or criticize others. We can use Facebook status updates to inspire, encourage and cause people to rethink their perspectives.
  7. Use Facebook to do evangelism.  Use it as a way to keep in touch with those who have met you somewhere
  8. Use Facebook to promote church.  We have a City Church: past and present page to help those who loved their time with us as a church keep in touch. We also use it to encourage existing members to sign up to Church activities or events and then invite their friends.

9.  Use Facebook to build community.  Facebook enables those new to a community to join in at a much earlier stage of relationship. Invitations to the pub after church or to a trip to the cinema are easily circulated. For many new to a city or a church it can be a lonely and isolating experience but new technology can overcome barriers and make it a smoother and simpler process. It can be used for requests for practical help, advice, fun, etc..

10. Use Facebook to research trends & sharpen teaching.  If you’re involved in youth or student ministries use it to find out what others are reading or watching. I now often ask questions on facebook  a few days before preaching to help prepare and engage the congregation for the following Sunday.  This last week I asked ‘what is your favourite opening line of a book?’ and did so because I was starting a new series from  the beginning of Matthew’s gospel.

  1. Use Facebook to support church mission partners. Often these are the people who most benefit from new media so share news, pictures, wish them a happy Christmas, etc.

Next time we’ll take a look at some of the dangers in New Media as we look at Facebook: Foe?

This post is a summary of a talk I gave at Avenue Community Church

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