Social Media, New Wineskins and Church Unity

March 01, 2011

Tuesday Re-mix –

Social media is here to stay. You may have sworn against Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter, and SMS (much the way you may have sworn against e-mail back in the day), but you may as well get used to them and do your best to embrace them…because social media is the communications vehicle of choice for at least the three youngest generations in the church today and is making pretty significant in-roads into the older generations as well. It is one of those “new wineskins” Jesus talked about which are necessary to communicate the gospel in our ever-changing world. As churches, we have moved way beyond asking whether or not we should engage this language. Clearly, we must. The only remaining question is: what impact will it have on our relationships, i.e., church unity?

I first started discussing this question here and here in previous posts. Now that I am a little further along in my own experiment with social media, I want to further explore the question about its impact on church unity. So, here are a few more observations:

1. A flood of testimonies of what God is doing. One of the things that builds unity the quickest in a body of believers is sharing testimony of what God is doing in our lives. Social media gives churches the opportunity for anyone to share that testimony through the written word, through video, through audio and then put that testimony out there for anyone to see/read/hear. It has never been easier to find out in a couple of minutes what is going on in someone’s life–someone with whom you may not have a close relationship, but from whose testimony you can still benefit.

2. Prayer concerns (and other needs) made easy and accessible. Yes, if you are able to come to the gathered prayer time of your church, you can probably see a list of all the prayer concerns (at least all of the ones who took the time to call the church office and share them). In my church, that means about 5% of the active congregation sees the concerns of about 10%. Social media will mean a much larger effective publishing of those concerns to potential prayer warriors. That doesn’t take the place of gathered prayer, it just casts the net wider for finding people to pray which, in turn, builds unity.

3. A “communication-rich” environment. Communication grows relationships. Social media changes my effective network of relationships from 100-ish to thousands. Granted, they are not all deep, profound relationships–we will still need face to face friendships for those few intimate relationships we all need–but we can be “connected” to so, so many more people through social media. In a day when a huge percentage of Christians are now worshiping in congregations of 1,000+, being able to connect on a larger scale is critical to church unity. As a result of social media, the church has never been more connected to each other than it is in this era. It is a simple formula: more communication means better relationships. And as for deeper relationships, I can honestly say that, with my involvement in social media, I have just as many intimate friendships now as ever before…maybe more.

4. Easy vetting. Now, when I have occasion to encounter a distant Christian acquaintance through this ministry or that one, I no longer have to operate completely blindly; rather, 1 minute of a quick look back over his “tweets” or her facebook updates, and I have a better understanding of him/her. Never again will a church call me to come and teach or speak without being able to go online and learn a great deal about my theology, my thought processes and my communication style. Through social media, we all live transparent lives, more accountable than ever before. Secret lives are harder and harder to maintain. We are coming closer and closer to the kind of transparency Christians in the early church had. With social media, it is not just the celebrities who live public lives…we all do.

Oh, there are many, many other implications to talk about. I suppose that means more blog posts in the future! Suffice it to say: if we as the church play this correctly, social media may just be the best “new wineskin” to come our way since the Gutenberg press. That’s saying something.

© Blake Coffee

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3 thoughts on “Social Media, New Wineskins and Church Unity

  1. Paul Paschall

    Blake – I can’t remember in my 51 years of being in the ministry a more practical study than the one you brought to our church – North Pointe Baptist Church, Hurst, Texas.

    Most people looking toward marriage – if they’re wise – will seek out pre-marital counseling. They will study and seek to learn how to relate to one another as husband and wife.

    Then we will seek out further help as we continue in our marriage. There are new things to learn because we are becoming different people.

    We become parents and – if we’re wise – we’ll seek out counseling to help us become godly parents. I remember 40 hours of teaching that we came under years ago with Bill Gotthard – teaching on how to relate to each other as a family.

    But I’ve never heard anyone hold a conference about how to love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. People join the church. They are introduced as now being a part of the body of Christ. We all come with baggage – past experiences, hurts, tragedies. But all we hear is that they are now a part of the body of Christ called North Pointe. Our church has just changed because they have joined. But how in the world can we go to a deep level with one another and seriously call ourselves one body?

    You came and not only began to teach us 5 basic principles to bring us together as one. But you left us with a hunger to actually love one another in extremely practical ways and how that will now look as we relate to one another.

    Thank you, thank you for the time you spent 21 years ago listening to the Spirit of God who gave you the understanding in depth of how this teaching was drastically and desperately needed in the church. I trust the relationship we have begun with you will grow deeper and deeper as we continue being a part of your ministry and become truly accountable to you as a minister to our local body. Paul Paschall, Worship Pastor

    Reply
  2. Blake

    Thanks, Paul! What encouraging words! I am grateful for all my new friendships at North Pointe and look forward to developing them further!

    Reply

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