“We should all become witnesses for Jesus. Social power, sanctified by the grace of Christ, must be improved in winning souls to the Saviour. Let the world see that we are not selfishly absorbed in our own interests, but that we desire others to share our blessings and privileges. Let them see that our religion does not make us unsympathetic or exacting. Let all who profess to have found Christ, minister as He did for the benefit of men.”1
As believers, we are called to actively spread God’s words—clearly, fearlessly, graciously, and respectfully whenever an opportunity presents itself, with a commitment to reverence God as the core of our lives. We thus can make a positive difference in the world—whether it be toward our loved ones or toward strangers from another country. Before His ascension, Jesus gave the Great Commission to the disciples then present—but it applies to us as well. He urges us to make disciples of all people, to go out into the world and teach and live the truth of the plan of redemption. While we are simply channels, we never act alone. Christ is always with us, expressing Himself as us. Our success is therefore assured.
A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to proselytize or perform ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care, and economic development.2
In, Jesus connects His authority to the Great Commission and that authority enables His disciples to execute the task. He asks us to be active, not inert. The thrust is to cross any boundary to spread the gospel, geographical or otherwise.
There’s a reason for being involved in global mission; a congregation that is not deeply and earnestly involved in the worldwide proclamation of the gospel does not understand the nature of salvation. The disciples’ mission was to extend to earth’s remotest bounds.
In her writings, Ellen White noted that missionaries are not doing 1/20th of the work they should for the salvation of souls.3 Instead of calling people and waiting for them to come to us to inquire for the truth, the appeal was made regarding our need to put forth more thorough and earnest efforts to bring the truth before the world.
The time has now come to be an active missionary, including using social media to share Bible truths instead of worldly opinions and portraits. This is very useful in today’s world since global media outreach demonstrates that the Internet is a powerful, low-cost tool that can penetrate every country in the world and transform every Christian into an international missionary.
One challenge we face is that there are too few missionaries, Second, there are too few missionaries who go to the frontlines. In fact, there’s a very small percentage (10%) of missionaries who are reported to be working among unreached group of people, while nearly 90% work among those already reached.
The gospel has to reach all people. We are bidden: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (). Jesus gave the disciples the straightforward command to go out in different ways. First, the word of God had been shared among the lost sheep of Israel, but then the commission was broadened. Jesus is not only commanding this, but in His deity, He is giving the authority to go into the world and preach the gospel to all people.
Like the disciples in our scripture passage, we, too, have been taught the truth and thus are being sent out to:
Preach the gospel
Perform miracles, and
Confirm the word of God. We are given the clear command to go out and preach the gospel.
The apostle Paul exclaims, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (.)
Men and women of God do not become pastors, preachers, Sabbath school teachers, etc., for the purpose of obtaining a title or for personal recognition. The blessings of sharing knowledge and leading others and watching them grow is sufficient of itself. Glory and rewards await in the kingdom of heaven.
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (). Timothy’s task was to preach the word of God not only to his church members as they eagerly awaited a word from the Lord (“in season”), but also to those who may not be ready or willing to receive God’s word (“out of season”).
A good example of preaching “in season” is when people heartily welcome you to share the truth. “Out of season” is more like the street preacher or the evangelist who dares to take on a jail ministry, or preach on playgrounds in the inner cities or through social media. That is out of season, where more than likely those around are not very interested in the word of God.
How do we proceed? We can learn much from our seniors—those outstanding teachers who impact subsequent generations—as well as learning from the perfect Example, Jesus Christ Himself.
Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (), who loves us and died for us. He bids us to uplift His name to everyone who will listen by the words we speak and the life we live, bearing fruit by faith ( ), for “faith without works is dead” ( ).
Most of the teachers in Christ’s day focused mainly on the intellectual aspects of a subject, but Jesus addressed the whole being of His audience, inviting them to make a decision in favor of God. (See.) He taught the truth, because He is the Truth.
Today, since information is so readily available in books and over the Internet, this generation assumes that it can learn everything there is to know about life from schools and online research. However, some of the best and the most valuable lessons in life do not come from inanimate objects—but rather from people who have lived longer than us.
“Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the Lord” (). One of the best verses about learning from those older than ourselves is found in , “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.” It sounds painful doesn’t it? But all need to be corrected at times and we are certainly no exception. Age brings the elderly not only wisdom, but also stories, experiences, and biblical knowledge to us.
It’s very important to consider the power of the printed pages. In fact, the art of recording God’s principles for reference started very early; we see God Himself writing the Ten Commandments on tables of stone at Mount Sinai. We also know that the first book, printed in a large number of editions, was the Bible.
After printing, technology evolved and the written word started spreading at a much faster rate. With the advancement of flat-bed printing in the 15th century and electronic media including the telegraph and telephone in the 18th century, the church started to see a new type of audience which might best be called the “on-demand” audience.
In the book Colporteur Ministry, we learn that even the fragments of truth-filled publications are precious and every line of printed matter containing present truth is a sacred treasure. Who can estimate the influence that a torn page containing the truths of the third angel’s message may have upon the heart of some seeker after truth? “Let us remember that somebody would be glad to read all the books and papers we can spare. Every page is a ray of light from heaven, to shine into the highways and the hedges, shedding light upon the pathway of truth.”4
Besides written or printed papers, there have also been other forms of audiences which include the following:
The Face-to-Face Live Audience: Most ministries actually occur face-to-face. Jesus ministered in front of a live audience. In the early church, sermons, prayer sessions, evangelical meetings, counseling sessions and other kinds of ministry typically took place in front of a live audience.
The Broadcast Audience, which came into being with theadvent of radio and TV technology.
The Online Audience, when internet technology enabled online media and gave birth to the online audience who use the internet to obtain information.
The Connected Audience that has emerged out of the combination of social media and mobile technology.
This latter audience, the connected audience, is the hero of our story and the central subject for the rest of this reading.
Jesus has bid us to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations—and to do so in our digitalized world, you don’t even have to leave your home. We can now begin to reach and teach the world through a device we hold in our hand, or a small computer that sits on our lap. The world has changed, and there are great opportunities for the church.
Throughout history, the method by which the church performed the Great Commission has been propelled by technology. For the apostle Paul, it was the Roman road system.5 For the Reformation, it was the printing press. For us today, it is the power of the Internet in the palm of the hand of nearly all the members of your church, and certainly almost every man, woman, and child in the neighborhood of your church.
In some parts of the planet, particularly in North America, church attendance is generally on the decline. Even for churches that have a large attendance, the local church only hosts a believer or seeker for 1–3 hours per week. Yet your congregation and everyone they know are spending increasingly significant amounts of their waking hours connected on the Internet.
When we say “digital world,” we are emphasizing that almost the entire world is connected to digital technology. Adweek reports that the consumer’s attention is shifting from television to mobile devices and social media. People are connecting online for more hours a day than almost any other activity. This is where our culture is spending its life—and this is the new frontier providing opportunities for the life-changing presence of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Researcher Jason Mander at Global Web Index recently published that the total hours spent online via PCs, laptops, mobiles, and tablets grew from 5.5 hours per day in 2012 to 6.5 hours per day in 2016. One of the main drivers of this online engagement is social networks. According to Mander’s research, the average person spends two hours every day on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; and that number is increasing year after year.
Let’s take a look at some of the statistics that illustrate just how crucial social media is to church growth, how poorly churches currently take advantage of it, and key takeaways to help you build (or fix) your social media strategy.
Research done by Barna Group shows that in 2017, more than half of Bible readers used the Internet (55%) or a smartphone (53%) to access Bible texts—a significant increase from 2011 (37%, 18% respectively).6 People are using the Internet and social media as part of their worship routine in ever-increasing numbers. There is then a need to have an active social media presence to take advantage of that fact, since that’s where a big part of our audience is.
Another research found that almost 70% of churches offer Wi-Fi for staff and guests. 7 If a church doesn’t offer Wi-Fi, it actually could be driving guests away.
The Nonprofit Marketing Guide indicates that more than 70% of nonprofit communicators consider social media one of their most important communication channels.8 According to Nonprofit Marketing Guide’s 2016 report, 71% of nonprofit communication professionals consider social media one of their most important channels, second only to their website (80%). Therefore, if a pastor wants to market his church successfully and increase membership, social media is no longer a “nice to have,” but an essential line of communication.
Almost 85% of churches use Facebook.9 The point here is that Facebook is the king of church social media tools. If the church doesn’t have a Facebook profile set up, that should be made a key priority. A Facebook page doesn’t just give your members a place to interact with each other—it also gives you access to a network of active, online communities where you can get ideas and ask questions.
Only about 15% of churches are using Twitter and Instagram. According to Statista, Instagram has more than 800 million users, and Twitter had about 330 million as of the end of 2017. That’s an enormous audience to tap into.
Approximately 51% of churches claim that at least one staff member regularly blogs or posts on social media.10 Consistent posting is crucial to social media success, but the good news is that social media posting is easy; virtually anyone can do it with some initial guidance.
62% of churches use social networking to connect with individuals outside of their congregation, while an even larger number, 73% use social media to interact with their congregation.11
Social media is a lifeline to the outside community, and one we need to use if we want our churches to thrive and grow.
“Evangelization is a process of bringing the gospel to people, especially young people (Generation Z),12 where they are, not where you would like them to be. . . . When the gospel reaches a people where they are, their response to the gospel is the church in a new place.”13
It’s astounding how fast things can change in a single year, and 2019 has a range of surprising statistics on which to reflect. Let’s look at the statistics for 2019:
Social ChannelMonthly Active Users1Facebook2.27 billion usersTwitter326 million usersInstagram1 billion usersLinkedIn260 million usersPinterest250+ million usersSnapchat255 million usersYouTube1.9 billion usersReddit330+ million usersWhatsApp1.5 billion usersFlickr90+ million usersWechat1.08 billion usersWeibo446 million usersTelegram200 million usersViber260 million usersMessenger1.3 billion users14
Given the above statistics, we really can’t deny the incredible benefit to using social media tools to spread the gospel among your own church members, and to attract new members by promoting events.
Social media and the church: The good and the bad
Strengths: Sharing information quickly to a wide audience.
On the downside: Can consume too much time and be a pointless distraction—or worse yet, a tool to promote negativity, curse words, gossip, slanders, negative news, and evil tidings.
Still, the positive benefits of social media outweigh the negatives, and present an awesome opportunity to further the gospel, which Christ established as being transmitted socially. The key is to not be ignorant of the challenges and go in blindly—but rather be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
It is therefore up to the church to make use of this remarkable invention and take the spotlight away from Satan, who would like to dominate this fabulous technology with peddlers of rubbish. To do so, there is an urgent need to plan, research, and pray. “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps” ().
If we choose to venture into this digital networking world, we can then learn how our church can best use social media for only good. There are numerous blogs, websites, and even companies that can help churches with social media best practices or with the technical side of getting a profile up and running.
Would our churches be able to afford the costs of an internet ministry? Yes, if it’s a priority.
God’s work is now to advance rapidly, and if His people will respond to His call, He will make the possessors of property willing to donate of their means, and thus make it possible for His work to be accomplished. “Faith in the word of God will place His people in the possession of property which will enable them to work the large cities that are waiting for the message of truth.”15 (See .)
“We are not to spend our money on things that are not essential. God requires that every available dollar shall be given to the work of opening new fields for the entrance of the gospel message and in lessening the mountains of difficulty that seek to close up our missionary work.”16
Our money is the Lord’s entrusted capital. It should be held in readiness to answer the calls in places where the Lord has need of it.
Social media is increasingly prevalent in our society and continues to impact the ways people communicate. It’s not a mere trend that will fade away—it’s here to stay. With the overwhelming majority of the world’s population now online, it is the mandate of the 21st century church to use this “worldwide pulpit” for the great life-changing message of Jesus Christ—the sooner the better.
Let us go out with creativity, boldness, and these amazing new tools in our hands to share the best news in the world with more people than ever before. As Jesus did, let us become incarnational—finding ourselves with people wherever they are. The Word becomes digital and makes its dwelling accordingly. “With God all things are possible”; “With God nothing shall be impossible” (; ).