Recently I (along with other pastors in our community) received an email from a reporter for the local paper asking if we use Facebook in our ministry. [His article has since appeared in the February 19, 2011 issue of the Newberg Graphic.] Here is my (slightly edited) response:
You ask, “Is anyone using Facebook as a ministry tool?” I can’t give a simple “yes” or “no” answer to that, but your question pushed me to some reflection.
To respond to your inquiry, I make just a little use of Facebook as a tool for my work as a pastor. The congregation I serve, Trinity Presbyterian Church, does not have a Facebook page. I have not pushed in that direction for reasons that you will see below. However, our church webpage does have a blog section. With some regularity, though not every week, I post a brief blog with reflections on the text on which I am preaching the next Sunday. I sometimes link to that from my Facebook page. Those links have occasionally drawn comments, so I will probably continue to do that. Although the website is public (obviously), my Facebook entries are visible only to friends, so readership there is quite limited.
It is not that I am a Luddite, opposed to technology. I use email, do a little blogging, and have a personal Facebook account, although I do not check it every day. I signed up for Facebook to keep in touch with teenage grandchildren who live at a distance and have added other friends over time. Soon I discovered that teens seem to live on Facebook, and, perhaps more than they realize, I gather clues as to how pray for them.
While Facebook has some real benefits, and I am thankful for contacts that I am able to maintain through using it, the very use of social media has built in risks, of which we need to be aware. One is simply the use of time. It can be very easy to allow the Internet to consume vast amounts of time that could well be spent in ways more glorifying to God. Another is that the use of electronic communication has an impact on the ways that we think and communicate. Dependence on electronic communication can make it difficult to interact with others in a meaningful, personal way. Without going into further detail here, you might want to read Why Twitter Can’t Save Education (blogged by one of our elders), and a thoughtful review on our denominational website, http://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=228&issue_id=60 . Yes, there is a certain irony in pointing you to websites as I speak of dealing with the dangers of the web. And I can hear some of my friends asking, “John, didn’t you have similar concerns when the printing press was invented?”
The church of Jesus Christ ought to make good use of the technology the Lord has provided, I believe. However, we need to guard against the temptation of allowing technology to replace the ordinary means of grace, the preaching of the Word of God, the sacraments and prayer.
Should Trinity Presbyterian Church get its own Facebook page? At this point I’m not sure that the benefits outweigh the negatives. Will I continue to use Facebook in a limited way? Yes. Last week I received an email from one of my sisters, who had followed my Facebook link to the blog. She wrote: “I received a note from [name deleted], our church member in prison down here, saying how much he appreciated the message I sent him on ‘The Potter and the Clay.’ He shared it with others in his prayer group.” The Lord can use even the Internet to his glory.
This is too long (much longer than the line you asked for), but I hope it helps.