RECENTLY Andrew Haines, president of the Center for Morality in Public Life in the US, moaned in one of his columns about how overzealous friends were spoiling the fun he got out of being on Facebook.
He wrote: “About 90% of my Catholic ‘friends’ on Facebook drive me up a wall. Up. A. Wall. The newsfeed wall of my Facebook account, to be more specific.
“I’ve got 700-and-some connections on the site — a pretty conservative number, all things considered. But lately I’ve found that I can’t log onto Facebook without being bombarded by pious images of (pastel colored) saints, public requests (and offers) to remember certain intentions during the rosary, and comment after comment linking the word ‘hugs’ with “prayer warrior.”
“All three together is enough to force my cursor back to the URL bar for an emergency trip to another site. Anywhere.”
Although he said it quite humorously, I understand his pain.
I am a social media enthusiast myself. I have been a founding member of one of India’s biggest online portals. I have also served in a team that saw the relaunch of Yahoo! in India. But for the life of me, I cannot understand why some people won’t understand that spams and unwanted tags on your Facebook wall are just as irritating as poll graffiti on your freshly painted compound wall.
Though my personal account on Facebook, perhaps because of the few friends (594 on last count) that I have, is relatively free of spammers and ‘graffiti artistes’, the Christian Messenger’s wall on Facebook is defaced by at least a dozen blokes every day.
Admittedly, it is irksome to remove yourself from tags of a promise verse card, or the announcement of an online FM channel, or the ‘revelations’ of a Bible scholar, but I thank God for small mercies. Not all the 4,377 ‘friends’ of the Christian Messenger on Facebook are troublesome.
There’s a good reason for the ‘activism’ of believers on Facebook. The social media site claims to have 200 million subscribers from around the world. Internet Evangelism Day estimates the global web users to be over two billion. Over 4 billion people use mobile phones that are also web-equipped. We are talking about big numbers here.
Thanks to the swelling numbers, the zealous Internet evangelists consider the social media sites to be the fields that are ready for harvest that Jesus talked about in John 4:35. Although it is humanly impossible to reach all the great masses found on Facebook, Twitter, Orkut and other social media sites, Net-savvy believers want to impact the world for Jesus. Only, some of them don’t realize that they are affecting the world instead of impacting it and causing a few to reject the message of Jesus. | Follow Christian Messenger on Twitter |
I am not saying all these people who annoy us on these SM sites are nincompoops. While by and large some of them are plain ignorant, many of them are simply aggressive Internet marketers. They are the equivalent of bulk SMS senders. They know the exponential growth the Internet population has achieved in the last decade and are simply trying to get their pie out of it. Only, they do it so terribly wrong that they end up making a mess of online evangelism.
Online evangelism efforts cannot be vastly different from conventional methods of reaching out with the message of love, hope and salvation to a hurting world. Let me share a few ways to do it right.
People will listen to you in person or on the Internet only if you interest them. You must mean something to them. So, the next time you feel like posting a Bible verse on your friend’s friends’ walls, curb that urge and ask yourself: ‘Do I know this person well?’ If not, get to know him first. If you are not relevant to your audience, your message will not be either. Even if you know him as a friend, ask yourself ‘Do I know what he is going through now?’ When was the last time you spoke to him? If you and your friend are living in the same area but interact only through the social media, chances are that he sees you only as an acquaintance. Be a friend first! Remember Jesus’ approach to Zacchaeus (Luke 19:5). He went out of the way and stayed at his house. In other words, He offered himself to be a friend first before He revealed Himself as the Savior. Paul tried to be ‘all things to all people’ just ‘so that by all possible means I might save some’ (I Corinthians 9:22).
Even to those who you personally know, let your message be borne out of the fact that you are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:2-10). The Gospel of Jesus Christ is quite simple and it flows out of His infinite love. Let’s not complicate it or present it with arrogance. Chances of your message being accepted are greater if you share the Gospel under the knowledge of God’s abundant grace. Don’t be like the man I met several years ago, whose first words to me when he came to know that I came from a non-Pentecostal background, was ‘You are on your way to hell!’ He may have been a bright torch in the Lord’s hands if he had not burned on both sides. The Gospel is a love story (John 3:16). You need to relay it with love.
Be available (to God!):
Many a minister of God has lost his love for the work of the Master because of the busyness of his life. Social media is a great tool to get the message across to those who do not know Jesus. However, remember it is a whirlpool too. The more time you spend in it, the deeper you will get sucked into it. Remember, Facebook is a great place to hang out with your friends but don’t make it your abode. To be a better witness of the Lord, you need to spend time with God. You must enjoy being with Him, conversing to His Spirit, reading His Word and be ready to listen to what He is telling you. Learn to rejoice in the Lord and think about ‘whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable’ (Philippians 4:4-9).
Robin Sam is the founding editor of The Christian Messenger newspaper. A journalist with 16 years of experience, he has worked with The Indian Express, Sify.com and Yahoo! besides several other publications. He quit his job in 2008 to get into full-time media ministry. You can contact him at editor [at] christianmessenger [dot] in