By Bill Belew
The Christian’s mission in life is to make disciples of the nations. Social networks are an asset the Christian should use. On LinkedIn, I have more than 4,000 1st-degree connections. My reach on LinkedIn exceeds 30 million people (that is, somebody knows somebody I want to know).
On Twitter, I have more than 50,000 followers. Each of them, on average, has 500 followers. That means I can potentially reach 25 million people (50,000 x 500).
I run a private forum that includes more than 1,200 people from more than 50 countries. I can accurately predict1 that 1 percent of my forum members have a network like mine (55 million x 12 = you get the idea). It’s a huge reach. And, add to that, I have a network of sites where I blog or have blogged.
Analytics show that people from literally every country in the world come to my site and read something I wrote. I must emphasize that last part—they came to me.
There is a tremendous opportunity for Christians to reach people online and in social networks and to influence the world in a real and tangible way.
I want to be like Jesus and learn how he did things. “Great crowds came to him” (Matthew 15:30, author emphasis). Jesus was so good at what he did, people starting coming to him. That same phenomenon happens online for all Christians and churches that want to reach people, make the effort, and be blessed by God.
It’s rare that somebody reaches another person online and seriously impacts them by accident. I don’t aim to be like Paul, but I do strategize like him. I write pointed content that is targeted to specific online audiences. And when I do my job well, visitors come to it and my content gets passed around like his letters did.
How the Christian Might View Social Networks
How do you view social networks? As child’s play?
I know of a “kid” who can reach more people from his computer keyboard than the president of the largest country in the world can reach with his national closed-circuit television network. Facebook has more than 1.5 billion users. The “kid,” of course, is 31-year-old Mark Zuckerburg.
How does your church view engagement in the online world? Not your thing?
The number of people on social platforms like Instagram (300 million-plus) and Google+ (340 million) would rank as the fourth- and fifth-largest countries in the world. WeChat, China’s largest social platform, has more users than Pinterest and Twitter combined; a staggering 600 million people are enrolled and actively use the network2. And it’s growing.
I wonder what the apostle John was thinking when he said, “Every tribe” (Revelation 5:9). When a person or site of influence has a following online, that following is called his tribe.
The church can be the church, a light that shines, and a source of encouragement. The church can take on the self-help industry and defeat it, it can reach into the social networks and be a friend, a connection, a follower, a leader. This is the challenge of our age.
1One percent of those who are online in the United States will create something original; 9 percent will engage in what that 1 percent creates. Ninety percent of online users in the U.S. are passive consumers.
2Thirty percent of online computer users in China will create something original; 50 percent will engage in what the 30 percent creates. Just 20 percent of Chinese computer users sit by passively and read.
Bill Belew is a content marketer and missionary to Silicon Valley, California. Contact him at http://forum.billbelew.com.