It’s Sunday afternoon and I am just waking up from my nap after preaching two services from a new sermon series entitled “Hope for Tomorrow, Strength for Today!” As I sit on the side of the bed I grab my phone, open my Facebook app, and begin to scroll down the news feed. Then it happens! I see my name tagged by several church members. There are comments regarding the sermon’s impact on their lives. I am humbled and in awe because as a preacher you never really know if the message God gave you has been received well.
As I scroll down the news feed to read other posts, I notice a video clip that a member recorded with his phone while I was preaching. As a result of this post, I begin to understand that friends of my members on Facebook are viewing the video and making comments about the impact of the sermon as well. After reflecting on this awesome and humbling experience, I begin to ponder the implications social media can have upon the pastoral ministry in exhorting and encouraging the body of Christ. The power of social media!
With an ever changing culture, the pastoral community has discovered that we are ministering in an era in which it is vital that we seek out creative ways to network and communicate with our members and others within our communities and beyond. One of the methods of communication that many pastors have adhered to is the use of social media. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are popular sites being used today to reach a multitude of people. Facebook and Twitter are designed to network or connect people with their friends and followers through a composite of posts and/or tweets. However, Instagram and Snapchat are designed to share pictures and video messages within a network of followers and/or friends. These new methods of communication have caused some within the clergy community, and those outside of the clergy community to question whether or not pastors should use social media sites to communicate with their members and others around the world.
Long gone are the days when pastoral ministry is defined by us just sitting in our offices studying and waiting on Sunday mornings or midweek services to communicate with our congregations. Long gone are the days when we retreat as pastors to the isolation of the leadership tower looking over our congregation as if they are our subjects; which often results in many congregational members feeling like we are unapproachable and untouchable. Whether you have fifty members or ten thousand members at your church, the notable truth within our society is that communication within pastoral ministry has changed! While the message and content of the gospel should never change, the way we communicate to our congregations and culture should continue to evolve.
In today’s society, the likelihood of a pastor serving a congregation that does not have a single person on any social media site is exceptionally rare. Therefore, we as pastors must see the value in the technological advancement of communicating with our members and others through the vehicle of social media. Social media provides a method of connection by instantly involving us in others’ lives during joyous occasions, such as birthdays, graduations, promotions, and more. Additionally, it provides pastors an opportunity to comfort during times of pain, such as the anniversaries of the loss of a loved one or loss of a job. These are just some of the opportunities I have experienced in ministering to members of my congregation by connecting to social media.
The apostle Paul writes, “…To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews…. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) In these verses, Paul provides us with his personal example of connecting to the community by identifying with the values and beliefs of some people so that he could have an opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe this concept of community connection provides a biblical illustration that can be applied to pastors today in our practical use of social media to have an opportunity to share the gospel with those not saved.
Exhortation and Encouragement
Paul also writes, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2) With so many people on social media, there are many opportunities for pastors to minister through exhortation and encouragement of the Word of God. With so many negative images going viral, we as pastors can promote uplifting messages that encourage and exhort both Christians and the unbelievers.
I believe we have to be intentional and responsible in our use of social media to communicate God’s truth. We need to address specific issues such as theology, spiritual growth and/or apologetics with this platform. Additionally, we should also use this platform to share our personal lives, to humanize the pastoral ministry for our members and the world. We must learn to use these communication tools to reach multiple generations within our congregations and the world.
Should pastors use social media? In my opinion, yes! We should view social media as our digital megaphone that allows us to reach the world for Christ.
Holy Bible, New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Dr. Chad E. Rankin, is from Dickinson, Texas. He has served on staff as the assistant pastor of Bible Way Fellowship Baptist Church in Houston, Texas for last 11 years. He earned his Master’s degree in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary and Doctor of Ministry’s degree in Preaching and Congregational Leadership from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary.