Three for Thought (sort of)

Each week we try and provide three articles that are helpful in thinking through the biblical and practical aspects of church planting.  This week we take the Three for Thought and put a different spin on it.  We stumbled across this helpful article in Christianity Today that provides timely insight on the issue of social networking as it relates to the church.  Timely you ask?  Yes, timely because next week Mercy Hill will be launching it’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.  We hope that you’ll tune in next week to find out more but for now enjoy these three perspectives on how social networking should or shouldn’t be used by the church.

Note: Certain portions of each perspective have been selected – to read the full article go here.

1. It distorts reality (Matthew Lee Anderson)

“The benefits of social networking are many but require judicious and responsible use to be enjoyed. When done well, social networking can enhance the fellowship of the church by providing congregants a window into each other’s lives. It can mobilize congregants to serve their neighbors and enhance the church’s mission by embedding the community of church relationships in the broader community.”

“But social media can merely offer a short-term, technological solution to deeper, more fundamental problems. Social networking can give the appearance of intimacy and community without enabling the substance of embodied friendship…Social networking reminds us of our intrinsic sociality, but constantly moves us closer to the point where sociality no longer requires our bodies to be fully human.”

“As Christians, we serve a God who became flesh and dwelt among us. We have a principled reason by which we can say “stop” when technological expansion sabotages our humanity.

“That does not mean Christians shouldn’t use social networks. I continue to use them, both personally and professionally. But in doing so, we need to recognize that social networks hold within them the false promise of purporting to help the church’s gathering while at the same time undermining it in future generations.”

2. It deepens fellowship (Brandon Vogt)

“There are five primary reasons congregations should embrace these tools to aid church fellowship.”

“First, fellowship is not an end in itself, but a means to many other goals: community, mission, evangelization, and spiritual growth. Social media amplify each of these elements exponentially and therefore are a potent aid to fellowship.”

“Second, social networking transcends geography. These tools extend fellowship beyond the church walls and stretch it around the world. They help us fulfill Jesus’ command to Peter, which still echoes for us: “Put out into deep water” (Luke 5:4).”

“Third, social media transcend time. Fellowship in the past was typically constrained to the times when people gathered at churches or in homes. But now conversations about Sunday sermons can linger throughout the week.”

“Fourth, online relationships spark offline community. Social media do not replace personal relationships. They supplement them and cultivate new ones. Ideally, online social networking leads to offline social networking, meeting face to face so that our joy may be complete (2 John 1:12).”

“Fifth, and most importantly, social media open the doors of Christian fellowship and invite millions of outsiders to join the community. Young secularists who would never darken the doors of a church find themselves dialoguing with Christian bloggers.”

3. It gives and takes away (Doug Groothuis)

“What place do social media have in the fellowship and evangelism of the local church? Is Facebook a good home for your church? Should your pastor tweet or not?  To answer these questions, we need to attend to two issues: First, what are social media? Second, what is a biblical model of fellowship (or koinonia)?”

“Social media are computer-mediated methods for communication. They enhance human accessibility and the speed of communication between people and groups. I can check Facebook or Twitter to learn how a friend in India (or across the street) is doing.  They extend the reach of text and images far beyond what the un-electrified, unmediated individual may do. However, social media can also restrict the human presence by subtracting the reality of ‘being there’ and ‘being with.’”

The Bible prizes the personal and face-to-face dimension of human fellowship that is absent but simulated through social media. John writes at the end of his short epistle, ‘I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete’ (2 John 1:12). Although God had sent prophets and inspired Scripture for centuries, all was not complete until ‘[t]he Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14).”

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