Social Media is Just a Tool

Social Media is Just a Tool

January 5, 2011 by

A few months ago a fellow staffer at our church told me there was a committee that was concerned about the fact that we were promoting both Facebook and Twitter. Instantly, my thoughts veered off the road of student and on to the dirt path of critic:

“Here we go again. Some committee sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong. Great! More work for me to convince them that social media is the way to go.”

If you are anything like me, you wish you could just wave your hand from left to right, and bam! People would see it your way. To me, there are things that are intuitively clear and hard to explain otherwise. But I took a step back and actually started talking and thinking about the dangers and the merits of social media.

The first thing I realized is that social media is a tool, and the tools are not evil themselves. We can’t assume because they might be and/or can be used for evil that they themselves are evil. Facebook itself doesn’t cause adultery. These platforms are made up of a bunch of databases and code, which have made communicating to each other all over the world a lot easier.

Just as we can’t say the printing press, radio or television were evil, I don’t believe social media is in itself evil. Are they used in ways we as Christ-followers would not align ourselves with? Sure, but they are just a means to an end, that end being communication. They are tools that help us connect with each other.

So social media is a tool, and it’s not evil, so I say let’s use it for all it’s worth. But that’s not to say that there are no dangers. A big concern for some at our church was this: “Well, using Facebook, users might see an ad that doesn’t align with our values.” Sure, that could happen, and there are many people who have gone down a wrong path due to dangers like this.

I think we would do well to realize that there are dangers and realize that anyone and everyone has a tendency toward sin. We were born with it. Because of this, I agree that it is wise to take any steps possible to both use the different social media and to warn our users of what might be out there.

Though I’ve have not had the chance to do so yet, we will be creating a small, simple warning page linked from our home page. This is not to scare people, but to inform users of what they might encounter and let them know we are on their side.

So is social media a useful tool or a dangerous road? I believe that we need to use any tools possible to spread the word of Christ, and at the same time we need to be responsible—to ourselves and our users—about the dangers that might come with these tools.

Post By:

Josh Cowen

Creative jenius extraordinaire (Yep, he can’t spell). Along with being a husband, father, owner of a small design house and a volunteer at Ambrose, an after school art program, he is the Marcom Director for Central Wesleyan Church in Holland, MI.
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12 Responses to “Social Media is Just a Tool”

  • hdiehl
    January 5, 2011

    The problem is, and one everyone is party to, is that technology is not neutral. Concisely, Jacques Ellul as written concerning technology, that instead of it being subservient to humanity, “human beings have to adapt to it, and accept total change.” So it is anything but neutral.

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    • Steve Hoskins
      January 5, 2011

      One of the problems within society is if people do not understand something they have a problem with it. Social networking is a new tool that is just now becoming widely accepted and used by adults the kids have used this for several years now and are quite comfortable with it. My oldest son for example he will be 21 soon but do not try and call him on his cell phone because he cannot communicate on it but if you text him he will ramble on faster than a computer programmer and then I can’t keep up. The point is they do not understand verbal as well as texted communication.
      We are now entering the 2nd year of the Social Networking Scene at our Church I thought we were ahead of the game with a website and a Facebook page but guess again if we as adults want to really make these things work we need to get the kids involved let them tell us what they want, what will draw them to our site ,what we need to offer them to get them involved! We need to listen and accept change!

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      • @39blogger
        May 26, 2011

        This is a great point. I have just recently given out job descriptions to our new social media experts which are all under the age of 18. Social media has been given a bad rap recently for causing marriage problems. The truth is that those marriages weren’t destroyed by Facebook, they were storied by the individuals hearts and attitudes.

        The love of money is the root of all evil but the inky paper we call money has never done one thing evil. It’s how it is used.

        Facebook and twitter could have been misused by millions but they are still an indispensable tool for church marketing to people especially under the age of 35. They are just as important to the church as the invention of the pa system.

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  • Vermace
    January 5, 2011

    I really like this article!

    Sometimes I see a danger that many churches and non profits are using Social Media as the only “tool” for getting the word out (kind of a “flavor of the week” mentality – maybe), and forgetting that there are so many other ways to get the word out there. Any thoughts?

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  • Jason
    January 5, 2011

    As Steve pointed out, this generation is wired differently than past generations. Door to door evangelism will not have the same effect on the younger generation. Social media is this generations door to door evangelism.

    Social media is a dangerous road, but the same can be said about standing in line at your local super market. The magazines strategically placed at each counter can just as easily steer someone down a dangerous road. Josh, I totally agree that we should be using any means necessary to reach people for Christ. Great stuff!

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  • Lauren Hunter
    January 5, 2011

    Great thoughtful article on social media. I think with any technology (be it phones, email, software, Facebook, etc.) each situation has to be evaluated in order to 1) reach the intended audience and 2) represent the Church effectively.

    All along the way, it’s important for a church to ask themselves “why” throughout setting up a communications plan so that they can do the best possible job at reach their members and outlying community in the name of Christ. Social media, like Facebook, can be a part of a great plan; but without other facets of communication, just using Facebook alone isn’t enough. People communicate in a myriad of different ways, social media is just the “hot topic” right now.

    Being intentional, being aware, being thorough, and being consistent in all aspects of church communication is the goal in my book.

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  • Ryan Lenerz
    January 6, 2011

    I think you are right in stating that the key realization is that social networks are simply a neutral tool for communication. Our Bible uses the printing press, just like Hugh Heffner’s magazines, and your church website is on the internet which is the primary media for pornography nowadays. Yes, social media can be used for evil purposes, but that tends start with a heart issue. People who are close with God and love their spouses don’t just fall into an affair because of Facebook.

    Additionally, I think that a church promoting their Facebook page does not need a warning page before linking to Facebook because almost every person who will follow the link is already a Facebook user. If you were trying to sign up all your non-FB church goers with new accounts, thats one thing, but it seems to me that most churches promoting FB are simply trying to connect with people who are already surfing the dangerous waves of FB.

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  • Wil
    January 9, 2011

    “The medium is the message”

    I think we need to be careful here, I believe that God is present is social media and that saying it is a “tool” limits what we think Gid’s potential is to work through this medium. Let’s not put God in a box. There is real kindom building happening online. The mediums ARE where faith presides, just as sure asnin our more material world.

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  • nikki
    January 9, 2011

    HAHA – I just read this after I wrote about the same thing…

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  • Simon
    January 11, 2011

    I agree with Ryan that there is little or no need for a warning page. People landing on the Facebook page will realise it is a page about a Church or Church activity and the links from the Facebook page will back this up.

    I think this article touches on a few valuable points.

    I totally agree with the need for our churches to adopt a modern approach to evangelism. Social media is incredibly powerful here because so many people are already making use of sites like Twitter or Squidoo etc.

    Personally I find spending too much time on some of these sites can be dangerous in the extreme. My fallen state means my mind will experience more temptation to think wrong things or to engage in conversations with a wrong spirit BUT by the same stroke, and by the grace of God, I can actually bring God into a conversation.

    One thing I notice from this article is the opposition we receive from some quarters in our churches. The knee jerk reaction is that this opposition is always negative and therefore a pain. Yes it is – but if we slightly alter our attitude and see it is an opportunity to analyse whether or not what we are doing is right or good. It can be a slight reality check for us.

    You might even find that in explaining your position that you think it through better and by being able to justify ityou realise that, yes, what you are proposing is the best thing to do.

    Having said that I know only too well what opposition can do to morale.

    This is a very thought provoking article.

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  • Kars
    January 24, 2011

    Quote: – everyone has a tendency toward sin. We were born with it..

    When we accept Christ we are born-again. What it means is that Christ renews our heart and we are given a new nature that doesn’t want to sin – rom 6:14. Our old man is co-crucified with Christ so that we no longer are slaves to sin – rom 6:6.

    Yeah, we were born on earth with the old nature, but Christ has takes it away. We only need to change our minds to this truth.

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  • David Bunce
    January 26, 2011

    I think the idea of sanctification is precisely that: God takes the worldly and makes it holy by breathing through it in such a way that it becomes a tool for his mission in the world. So things aren’t by default good or bad: they are defined by how God uses them in his mission. Therefore, social media aren’t bad by default.

    However, there also needs to be a sustained theological reflection on what it means to be Christians in a social media world. What does it say about a group of people who are meant to be anticipating the Kingdom by living out our lives as a redeemed people if we passively accept the premise of Facebook, that is, that relationships start to be defined by distance.

    In Incarnating himself, it seems that Jesus redeemed human relationships; yet, Facebook’s idea of “friendship” seems to be a far cry from a model of what friendship would be like in the real world. My German friends are much more perceptive about this than I am: in Germany, there is a real difference between “Bekannte” (acquaintance) and “Freund” (Friend). It seems it could be argued that social media has cheapened true friendship by making it too easy.

    Whether or not Jesus would be our Facebook friend is an issue that needs much serious reflection: my gut feeling is that he wouldn’t.

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