Christians and the quest to influence culture through social media

“How can Christians use social media to influence culture?”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard variants of that question at Christian gatherings and conferences over the last decade. As blogging, social networking, Twitter, mobile texting, and other services cropped up in turn, Christians—always eager to share the Gospel with the world around them—have wondered how to “use” these “tools” to change culture for the better.

I’m certainly sympathetic to this general goal, but these phrases are clearly the vocabulary of the broadcast media era, when television and radio transmitted the Christian message to millions around the world, to great effect. But unlike traditional broadcast media, social media feels less like a tool that can be aimed in a particular direction, and more like a general background against which we go about our everyday lives and conversations. Now everyone is a broadcaster, and no central authority manages the message.

In the back of my mind, I’ve always wanted to ask, “Instead of trying to figure out a magic formula that will transform social media into the perfect evangelistic tool, why don’t you just be a Christian who participates in social media?”

These thoughts came to mind while reading a roundtable discussion about Christians, blogging, and the internet. Blogger Jared Wilson, asked “Can social media truly have a positive influence on Christianity?”, responded with this sharp insight:

Obviously I am interested in some level of influence, or else I wouldnt post my thoughts in public forums for others to read. But the context of thinking of social media as a tool to influence others and here I think of self-appointed marketing gurus, some of the pastorpreneurial tribe, and anybody who obsessively monitors their stats and rankings seems so strange to me…

Can social media have a positive influence on Christianity? Yes, locally and worldwide. But probably not… in that sense of heavy influence. But social media edifies me when Im reading the right people…. all of us here probably receive messages throughout the year from folks who say a particular post or tweet encouraged them, addressed some concern of the day, etc. So use of social media that glorifies God whether its reveling in the gospel, reflecting on a Scripture, or just in the spirit of Christian camaraderie being silly among friends can be a positive influence in someones need of the moment. Our days go by fast; our needs change. I would think a short-shelf-life medium like Twitter might be keenly appropriate for encouragement in that context.

When you approach blogging, Twitter, or other networking with this attitude, your social networks become an extension of your normal communication—which, if you’re a Christian, will be influenced by your faith and desire to share the Gospel. I think that’s a very practical way to “be a Christian online,” and is more likely to positively influence your “audience” than trying to implement a noble-sounding, but vague, media strategy. Among other things, it simply feels more authentic—who wouldn’t be a little suspicious upon learning that their Christian friends were trying to “use Facebook to reach” them?

Where have you seen Christians having a positive influence through blogging or social networking? Were those Christian influencers guided by a strategy, or simply “being Christians?”

No Responses to “Christians and the quest to influence culture through social media”

  • The social media is a place for building relationships. If you want to reach people for Christ, you need to build a bridge between you and the other person. I wrote an article on my website. You can take a look at it. It is called: Social Media Table Manners. I discuss simple manners for social media.
    * Join in the conversation – If you are entering a Facebook page for those interested in network marketing, keep your conversation about what others are interested in. Read the group information about the group. Remember, you don’t know anything about these people and they don’t know you. Take an interest in what they have to say. Listen, listen, and then listen. If you are interested in Christianity, chat about the things of God. You like marketing, talk about marketing. Keep to the subject.
    * Be a good listener and ask questions – Take an interest in the other person. Ask them about their interests. If they want to talk about their business, then let them talk. Ask them questions about their company. How long have you been doing the business? How long has the company been in business? Remember, unless you use video and audio, they cannot see or hear you.
    * Don’t make a sales pitch when you initially meet someone – Don’t say, “Hi, I am Eldon and I am a network marketer. Do you want to sign up under me?” People will flee from you like the plague. You are there to build a relationship with people. I am a member of our local chamber and I have to build relationships first.
    * Give some helpful information – People want helpful information. Some of my friends text me health information. I like that type of information. If you are a network marketer, give some success tips. Social media is a long-term relationship. It takes take time, patience, and work. It is give and take.
    * Don’t send out a lot of junk tweets a day – I had this one person send me a dozen or more tweets a day. It was annoying.
    * Use clean language – No profanity or nudity.
    * Be who you are – Be yourself. If you are branding yourself, use your picture rather than an avatar. I am more likely to continue a relationship with you if I see your picture.
    * Be nice – Remember your posts are public. Caring an attitude will damage your name and business.
    * Respect others – You might not agree with them, but listen to what they have to say. Don’t get into an argument. If you have a problem with someone, just unfollow and block them. Don’t belittle the person.

    Be a good listener, ask questions, and don’t argue with people online.