Thursday, December 27, 2012

God and Social Media by Sheila Thomas


  “In 2010, 84 million Americans accessed the Internet through mobile devices, and this number is expected to double by 2014.”  In addition,   “In a few years, smartphones, netbooks and tablet computers will be the primary means of accessing the internet…”  


These statements come straight out of the book, “Management Information Systems – Managing the Digital Firm,” by Kenneth C. Laudon and Jane P. Laudon.   

While I have used my Android phone extensively, since I bought it during the spring of 2011, I believe that I am one of those that could have easily been left behind.   I say this because I was one of the last people I know (besides my mom) to acquire a cellphone of any kind.   However the reason I upgraded from a tiny cellphone that only functioned as a phone, to my relatively new LG Optimus Android, was that I suddenly had a desire to stay connected with the rest of the world at all times, via social media.  What better way to do so than to purchase a smartphone?

            Believe me, I have come a long way!  As a current MBA student at Lawrence Technological University, taking management information systems, I am constantly being reminded of how far we have come, especially those of my generation, who were babies during the 60’s 70’s and 80’s, who have been forced to keep up with the changing times.

            As a Christian, I have often sat in awe, thinking of the times we are living in, and of how easy God has made it , for us to spread the gospel throughout all the earth.  Think about it – we don’t have to travel hundreds and thousands of miles to spread the gospel to all the earth.  We don’t even have to spend lots of postage, mailing tracts to people in other lands.   If we do things properly, we can spread the gospel throughout all the earth from the comfort of our home or office through the Internet and social media.  I truly believe that if the Body of Christ does not get it, then we could be left behind.   What a shame it would be for the Body of Christ to miss the opportunity to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the extent that God wants us to.
Pastor Andre Butler
            So I wanted to get the thoughts of a few leaders and business owners in the Body of Christ, to see what is really going on in the area of God and social media.   Pastor Andre Butler, senior pastor of Word of Faith International Christian Center in Southfield, Michigan, said it best when he stated, “The attributes of a good leader are to learn to listen to those around you, to surround yourself with those who are smarter than you.  When we humble ourselves as a leader, we can enable others to teach us.”   Butler stated that by doing so, a leader can learn what to do to stay ahead of the game.  He has even considered offering social media classes to his members.  “We want our members to reach out to the world around them,” he stated.  “If they are not connected, that can limit their reach.”   Butler went on to state that there are mainly two types of churches using social media – those who do outreach, and those who are either a part of the younger generation, or are listening to what the younger generation has to say.

            While listening to the younger generation is key to knowing how to reach them, adjusting to their methods of communication is also important.  Dr. Ken Gadd, owner of Gadd Business Consultants in Dearborn, Michigan, Pastor of St. James United Church of Christ in Casco, Michigan and professor of marketing at Lawrence Technological University, stated “We as people of faith need to adjust to the times and the communication methods to reach the target markets that use these methods.  If you’re going to stay in the loop, you have to adjust.  If your target market is using social media, it’s not their job to adjust.  It’s our job to adjust to how we reach them.  If I want to go to France, I need to learn French.   If that’s the audience that you want to reach, you need to adapt and adjust.  Butler agreed.  “If you want to reach our youth, you have to use social media,” he said.  “Paul said to become a Jew to the Jews and a Greek to the Greeks.”

            LaTanya Orr is owner of Selah Branding and Design LLC, a graphic and web design company in Detroit, Michigan.  She encourages her clients to use social media.  In regards to reaching our youth, she stated, “You definitely have to reach them through this technology.  That is how they are being inspired.   That is what they are using.   That is what they know,” she said.  “There are kids that can run circles around me on the computer.  The youth have adapted to technology and social media.   We would be crazy not to use this medium to reach them.”  Orr went on to describe how an 18-month old can easily move and rearrange images on and Ipad.  “When she is 18 years old, technology will be even more advanced,”  she  said.  “What are you going to do?  You have to move forward.  You can’t be left behind.”

Pastor George Davis Jr.
            Pastor George Adams Jr. of After Christ Christian Center in Detroit, Michigan, agrees.   “We are definitely in a different time,”  he said.  “At one time, our youth were captivated by rap music and now it is social media,”  he continued.  “What the church has to do is to be creative and look at not just where we are, but where we are going.  We cannot be behind.   We must look ahead,” he said.   “We need to use these tools to reach the youth.  The enemy has the intent to pervert these tools, but the real intent is to use them to spread the gospel.”

            Pam Perry, owner of Ministry Marketing Solutions, in Farmington Hills, Michigan, agrees that social media and technological tools can be used in the wrong manner.   “There are a lot of bad things on the web,” she said, “but the whole point of all media –from a bullhorn to television to the radio, is to reach the people with the Message.”   Perry, who has helped business and churches across the nation with their social media strategies, stated  that “In Matthew, the Bible says to ‘Go ye into all the world.’  It is part of the Great Commission,” she continued.  “What faster way to spread the gospel?” 

            “However,” Perry said, “People can get distracted if they don’t know the purpose and if they don’t have a strategy.” 
Pam Perry, Social Media Strategist

            We all know of the distractions that Facebook and other social media can provide if we do not take control while we are using it.   

 “Some people have been on Facebook so much, they had to close their page, “Orr said.

 “It can be too distracting if you are not disciplined,”  Adams said.  “I don’t use social media as a diary, or as a sole medium to express myself,”  he said. 

Butler stated that social media has provided a new kind of distraction to those attempting to keep a balance between time spent with God and time spent on other daily activities.

Kim Schott, owner of Schott Cultural Consulting in Shelby Township, Michigan, admits that social media can be distracting.  Her advice to those who are addicted to social media is to “Get their faith out of Facebook and their face in the Book.”    Schott, a Constant Contact business partner, continued, “What it comes down to is that they need to loosen anything in their life that is causing wrong feelings, attitudes and behaviors.

Social media has to be one of those things they loosen.  They need to bind themselves to the attitudes and patterns of Jesus Christ.   Ironically, Schott, who teaches her clients how to use social media tools, says that she has fasted from social media.  “I dedicated a digital fast and a food fast for God,” she said.   “For professional and personal reasons, I needed to, so I could hear from God, and the only way the answer was going to come was by meditating on His word for 24 hours.”

            According to Schott, there is a way Christians should be utilizing social media.  “People who are non-believers will recognize believers by our fruit,”  she said.   “They should see some fruit on our social media pages.”

            One needs only to look at their Facebook friends to see that different members of the Body of Christ use social media in different ways.   “As believers, we have to be careful not to abuse social media and use it for the wrong purposes,”  Adams said.   “One way to expand our sphere of influence is through social media.  We have to be careful that we are not using it in a selfish mode.  We need to be asking God how to use the social media to better able us to spread the gospel.”  

            Perry would agree.  “It’s an extension of your light,” she stated.  “Make sure you are shining your light, and people will find you.  Concentrate on the message, and people will find you.”  The idea of being a light to the world is the best way to describe how the Body of Christ should be utilizing social media.  “God created social media ultimately for his purpose,” Butler said. 
Pam Perry at Social Media Swag Event 

 “We are a light to the world around us and we ought to be lights, both individually and collectively.  We need to look at social media through God’s eyes.  When we do, we will not only enjoy it, but ultimately, we will be helping Him spread the Word.”

Sheila Thomas is Editor and Publisher of Prayer and Praise Magazine

Go here to read entire magazine:
God and Social Media by Sheila Thomas

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