Chances are that if you were in the “blogging is a waste of time” camp you wouldn’t be reading this one right now. While I may be preaching to the choir, what I plan to do is share my reasoning on how the Internet is a tool that can be used by churches to support their ministry, build community and share the Gospel.
I have personal friends in real life that have deleted their Facebook accounts because they are a waste of time. “There’s nothing but junk on there” was the reasoning. I know Christians that lament having wifi and DSL in their home because it distracts them from studying scripture. Unplugging your internet is much worse than evangelicals who tossed out their t.v. sets in the 80’s. Television only works one way; the Internet is a two way street.
The Internet, like television, books and magazines, is a tool. Like all tools and resources, it’s worth depends on how it is used. While some folks waste all their time watching Jersey Shore and Desperate House Wives (is GCB’s still on the air?) that same television will also tune in the Billy Graham crusade or Charles Stanley. While Playboy, Hustler and Penthouse are all dirty magazines, if we do away with all magazines you won’t be able to read Our Daily Bread. If “all news is bad news” then we will also miss The Baptist Press and Christian Post. Harlequin romance novels and the Bible are both books. Books are not inherently evil, it all depends on which ones you read. And so with the Internet.
There is a major difference between the Internet and all the other forms of distributing information listed above. The Internet works both ways. If you happen to hear me preach sometime and would like some more, every sermon I have preached since 2008 – and some I have not – are on this blog, The Master’s Table. I have blog friends in Israel, Australia and Canada even though I’ve never visited any of those places. There is a map at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar that shows where my blog is read. Ignore the numbers and look at the locations; places like Germany, Russia, China and India. There are places in the world one cannot go into and proclaim the Gospel, but some of those places have been unable to stop such information in this Information Age. Countries that won’t let you bring in a crate of Bibles, for example, don’t check to see what’s on your iPod. Digital Bibles, with solar powered charges, are going to places around the world that don’t even have electricity, but I digress.
Beyond going to the ends of the earth, websites and social networks can reach communities much closer to home. We have some neighbors that commute 45 – 60 minutes on Sunday morning to church. That’s quite a trip that they are not always able to make. If they miss a Sunday morning sermon they can watch or listen to it the next day – on the church’s website. That’s very important if you attend parts 1,2 and 4 of a sermon series but miss #3 at home with a sick child. A nurse working “graveyard” shift might have trouble making Sunday a.m. services on a regular basis, but downloading the pastor’s podcast might really help a lot. Each Sunday School class or youth group might have their own page of a church’s website, connecting the group throughout the week when they are not physically together. I certainly wouldn’t mind an email reminder or text alert if it kept me from missing a potluck or fish fry. These are just examples.
Yes, there’s a ton of distractions on Facebook and endless game/app requests can get annoying. But there’s also a Master’s Table fan page on Facebook, and many churches and other ministries (Silver Ring Thing, BCM) use Facebook instead of creating a website. The social network features make it more efficient at staying in touch and connecting with new friends that traditional web pages or email newsletters. Those same features (like, friend, repost) have changed the way blogging works as well. A church member that particularly enjoys a service, sermon or praise & worship session might share that experience with others by simply sharing the church fan page on his or her wall so that others are exposed to it.
Television and radio have long been used by churches, preachers, and other ministries to reach a regional or national audience. Those programs are expensive, and can be a huge burden to the budget of a small/medium church. Email, blogs and social media are either free or very inexpensive. These are the new tools to reach an audience outside the church doors.
The Internet, from Facebook and Twitter to church websites and pastor blogs, is a tool. Just like how we spend our money or where we drive our cars, it can be used to honor or dishonor God. Just like our speech (2 Timothy 2, Ephesians 4:29) it can be used to build up or tear down, to share the Gospel or spread corruption. A church would be wise to use all the resources available to reach the world, share the Gospel, and build the Kingdom of God. Consider Luke 12:48 – To whom much is given, much will be required.