Why consider the pastor and missionary within a discussion on social media? Much of our energies here at SEBTS are focused on training and equipping pastors and missionaries. That being the case, we consider the social media realm as another opportunity for equipping…
I receive email updates regularly from missionaries around the globe. Email updates and newsletters are a staple of missionary connection. These updates are filled with interesting facts, amazing God-sized stories, and prayer requests. Scratch that… “pr*yer or pr@yer requests.” Most of the updates I receive have abbreviated and cleverly spelled words in an attempt to be secure. Typically, the more you need to use your decoder ring for the email, the newer the missionary (m) is on the field!
There is a level of wisdom a missionary in a restricted access country needs to assume, but there is also a level of arrogance, fear, and naiveté that this type of language exposes. First, abbreviations and using clever symbols in your words are not difficult to figure out. Second, security can be a well-crafted covering for fear. Additionally, I wonder if this “James Bond for Jesus” mentality is a twisted self-importance. Does the missionary think too highly of himself and too little of God? We need to be careful and not be so “secure” that nobody back home or among your people know that you are a Christian.
From a communication standpoint it is better to be clear than ambiguous. From a social media standpoint this means 3 things (some of these Sam and I have dealt with in other posts):
1) Consider your audience. As a missionary ask the cultural questions you are already asking, but about social media. What media is popular in the country you serve? Are you on it? If you’re not then sign up. Contextualization is much broader than dressing and talking a certain way.
2) Consider your message. Being on the medium of the people of your country sends a message in and of itself (back to the contextualization piece). If the people you live among see that you are not using those same communication medium, it can raise questions of purpose and legitimacy. Remember, we are in a digimodern age, so you need to communicate winsomely in all areas.
3) Consider your motive. Social media can be a powerful tool for awareness, prayer, and mobilization. Some will choose to avoid social media due to legitimate concerns for their people and their work. Others may use social media, but are still not tapping into the strategic power of this medium. Undoubtedly, all need to consider the following cautions: For the pastor, the pride of gathering a following is reason enough to reconsider social media use and possibly repent. For the missionary, the pride of fearing man over trusting God can be need for reconsideration and possibly repentance.
These are just a few points one needs to consider in developing a social media philosophy and platform while serving overseas or in the church. What are some other points you can think of that are not on this list?
Catch up on the conversation… Read recent posts about how to use Social Media as a Christian: