Does Facebook Have Anything to Teach the Church?

October 21, 2012

Facebook has eclipsed more than 2.7 billion users! This is an astonishing achievement, and they are to be commended for their stunning growth.  Unless you have an IT background, you have absolutely no idea how difficult it is to support and serve this growth.

When they blew past 1 million users, Facebook produced a video for the first time in their short but meteoric history. I would really encourage you to watch it carefully, reflecting on its message. Listen for these key phrases;

  • Open up and connect with people
  • A place to get together and share
  • Where they belong
  • Makes us wonder if we are alone

Either accidently or purposefully, Facebook has tapped into something that deeply resonates with people. There is a universal need for acceptance, communication and community. It’s built into our DNA, part of who we are and the way God made us.

From its inception at Pentecost, followers of Jesus Christ exhibited an almost insatiable need and desire to assemble. But their getting together was not for pointless meetings—they were devoted to the apostles’ teaching, breaking of bread and prayer. Everyone within and without the early church was filled with awe, believers sold property and possessions to give to anyone. There were no needy persons among them. They had one heart and mind, even solving problems within their community. They met and ate in each other’s homes with glad and sincere hearts.

Wow, does this sound like a living definition of community! There were at least two practical and immediate effects resulting from this community:

  • They enjoyed the favor of all the people
  • God added to their number daily and rapidly

I use the term “Facebook Community Church” jokingly, and while they certainly do not bear the marks of a true church, their acceptance and sense of community universally resonates. What Facebook has done is fill a hole we, the Christian community, have created through absence and neglect.

I know the church is not a coffee shop or social club, just to enable people to connect with one another. We are to introduce and connect people to the living God through Jesus Christ, followed by ongoing growth and discipleship with God and his people. However, if God used community as a way to reach people through the first-century church, why have we abandoned it from our daily walk with Jesus?

It seems like some have compartmentalized connecting with non-Christians to greeters or evangelist; someone else who is uniquely gifted. We need to break down the false wall between living for Jesus, meeting people, building community and evangelism. As a believer in Jesus, I am to build community within and outside the walls of the church as part of a broader view that we are broken, lonely and lost. Having found Jesus as the only person that heals and restores our eternal brokenness through God’s grace; how can help not sharing it?

Please humor me and take a moment to think about this very important question; name the non-Christians with whom you have an open, transparent and growing relationship. These are people in whom you regularly invest your most precious resources: your time and attention.

Here are five very simple and practical ways to integrate this into our daily lives.

First, make it a daily habit to connect with as many people as possible. This can be as simple as making eye contact, smiling and saying “hi” in a friendly way to the people you pass throughout your day (greeters, cashiers, fellow walkers).

Second, break the habit of only hanging out with the same people. While this could be at work or any other setting, it is especially relevant at church. Each and every time you walk into your church, grit your teeth and introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. Remember, you once were a stranger too. You could greatly bless them, and they might bless the socks off you too.

Third, invite someone to join you. This could be for just about anything (lunch, golf, a movie, a cup of coffee). The point is to look beyond ourselves and our comfort zone, building community and relationships.

Fourth, volunteer to serve within some existing organization. This could be Little League, school, YMCA, community associations, etc. Again, the point is to reach out and be with people.

Fifth, give people your full attention. Whenever you are interacting with people, please put away all your distractions, especially technology that diverts your attention (phone, smartphone, iPad, browser, laptop). If your phone should ring, ignore it. I promise you, the world will not stop spinning. When most people hear your phone ringing, they will instinctively ask, “Don’t you have to get that?” to which you smile and say, “But what could be more important than talking with you?”

I can hear the screaming in your head: “But my life is already too complex and busy as it is. How can I add more people and time into my life?” The answer is short, simple and yet difficult all at the same time: We may have to trim our lives and lifestyles. Most of us really don’t like to say the word “no,” but that’s exactly what might be required. We need to say no to the good so we can say yes to the greater good.

In all of these ideas, I’m not suggesting you must have a “shotgun wedding for Jesus” mentality. Not that we are afraid of talking about Jesus, but we also don’t need to cram it into every conversation.

The early church has a rich history of reaching a truly broken world. Have we retreated within the safe confines of a Christian compound, walled off from those in need of community and Christ? We must live out the reality of his acceptance and community with us as we accept and build community with those around us. After all, Jesus died for them as much as he died for us. Jesus’ command is crystal clear, the ball is in our court to go, initiating relationships and telling.  

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