There’s been lots of stuff posted lately about this very topic, and some from some very high-profile people.
The argument reminds me of a similar one from the 1990s – “should churches have websites?” After all, there’s some pretty bad stuff on that Internet thing and we’re not sure that’s where the church should be… Now, a couple of decades later, if your church doesn’t have a good website they might as well close up shop.
Granted, being on Facebook comes with its own set of problems that we’ve never really had to deal with. An example I used last night (and have had lots of real life experience with at Journey) is this:
Ten years ago, you decide to have a party. You invite your selected friends with a phone call or email – possibly even a written invite. You throw a fantastic party and everyone has a good time. The night comes to an end and everyone goes home. Some pictures are developed later and shared the next time you see your friends.
Now, in 2011 you decide to throw a party and use this new-fangled Facebook thing to invite your friends. The only problem is that you have roughly 130 Facebook friends and not all of them can be invited. You invite your closest friends, as you did 10 years ago, but others who think they’re in the group see that the party is happening and they get their feelings all banged up. Then, come the day of the party, they see status updates from the friends that did get an invite, like “Heading to an awesome party!” Can’t wait to have a blast at so-and-so’s party!” Add to it pictures uploaded for the world to see and suddenly you have a bunch of people who are hurt that they weren’t invited to your little soiree. Ten years ago, they would have never known and their feelings wouldn’t have been hurt but because of our share-happy society, everyone knows everyone’s business and that’s not always a good thing.
Now, a lot of this kind of thing can be cleared up with simply having some common sense. If you’re using Facebook to invite a select group of people, do the world a favor and make it a private event, thus sparing everyone else from getting their precious little feelings hurt. There are lots of articles out there about having the proper security/privacy settings – Google “Facebook Privacy Settings” and start making sure you’ve got the right ones.
Facebook vs. The Bible – Facebook vs. the Bible is like saying Community vs. the Bible. They don’t have to be at odds – in fact, they should be partners.
I Found God Through Facebook – Theological issues with that statement aside (I “found” God or did God “find” me…) Facebook isn’t all bad. It can be a great tool and a great place to share our faith.
How To Build Online Relationships Like Jesus (Part 1 and Part 2) – This was the bulk of our discussion – how would Jesus use social networking? Answer: to build relationships with others and connect with people. These articles are part of a larger series that, as of now, is still coming out. I spoke with the author yesterday to see about getting an early peek at part 3, but it wasn’t ready in time for our study. It’s out now and part 4 should be out soon.
Lastly, 35 Creative and Fun Ways to Share Your Faith Online – This list is merely a starting point. However, it comes from a really great resource, StickyJesus.com. I haven’t had a chance to get the book yet to start reading it, but if the articles on the site are any comparison, it looks like a great tool for living your faith online.
BOTTOM LINE: Facebook and Faith don’t have to be enemies. With the average Facebook user having 130 friends online, it’s a great place to be open and honest about your faith, transparent with your struggles and caring for those we come in digital contact with. Is is a replacement for offline relationships? Not entirely. But it can be a great starting point for learning about people and finding ways to take the relationship deeper.