By Nikole Hahn
Paul spent his time in prison writing letters. Even when Paul himself couldn’t minister in person, God used his words to traverse obstacles, distance, and time. Paul’s words continue to make an impact, in large part because they were fixed in time to a timeless medium. Luke’s “Acts of the Apostles” is similar. According to the introduction in Bible Study Tools of the Book of Acts, it was written “To depict the triumph of Christianity in the face of bitter persecution.” Fixed in time, but timeless! Written in one place, but unconfined by time and space.
Many feel the oppressive air of division and a prison-like feeling in the wake of COVID19, civil unrest, and the different, disturbing events happening all over the world. Even now, some of my colleagues are still, like Paul, under “house arrest” due to COVID19 regulations and restrictions. Yet, we still have access to each other online. Did you also realize we have access to the unreached? WorldVenture is overcoming barriers thanks to God for providing other ways to communicate, and those ways are available to you as an individual and as a church.
Here are some ways to share your faith online:
- Rethink how you can use the social media tools you are already using. Paul followed God’s calling to Antioch, Syria, Turkey, and Greece. And he wrote letters from prison. If Paul had the same access to the internet we have, what would he have done with it? The internet reaches more than half of the world’s population. Conversely, diaspora movements over the centuries mean that even in America, we have pockets of culture in our communities. If you feel pulled to a particular people group that lives in your state or country, find them in local Facebook groups. Learn about their culture by joining the group. Participate in their conversations to help you understand their culture. Google translate can help in some instances with basic conversations. Open a second browser for “Google Translate” along with Facebook and use it to copy and paste a response in their language from Google Translate to the Facebook group conversation. You can copy and paste their response to Google Translate and get some idea of what they’ve said, if Facebook has not already translated the conversation for you.
- Consider your motivation in online ministry. Developing friendships take time. Most missionaries spend time building trust with unreached peoples. Voices from the Field: Conversations with Our Global Family (Field Notes Book 2) by TJ MacLeslie shared a story of a missionary couple who was simply present in an unbeliever’s life, maintaining a friendship and listening to the Holy Spirit as they responded to this unbeliever’s questions and objections. In that story, the unbeliever said, “This older couple never told us what to believe; rather they prayed, asking God’s Word to speak into our lives in a way that we could understand.” Social Media gives you a chance to express who you are visually and in words to build something in common with the person you are trying to reach. Treat each piece of your online ministry on your personal profiles as a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece like your status, your videos, and your pictures are one piece each of the giant puzzle, but when put together, it creates a whole picture of you and allows others to get to know you. Build something you have in common with the person.
- Watch Parties and “Rooms”. Facebook has recently released a new way to use rooms on messenger to have private watch parties of your Sunday morning services, small group studies, or Bible Studies. This is excellent news for people God has brought into your life to disciple. Many other opportunities exist for one-on-one studies. You can buy a Bible Study book on Amazon and arrange to read a chapter before meeting on Facebook, Zoom, Google Meet, or even Skype. One-on-one is powerful. It gives both of you the opportunity in a safe environment to ask questions and discuss normally triggering topics in a face-to-face situation where one can see better facial expressions and emotions than in a chat forum.
- Watch for Gift Opportunities. Sometimes, if you study your friends or followers, the unexpected happens. You may learn of something they like or need, and you can order and ship a gift in response to their status update to surprise them with a package in the mail. Amazon, Walmart, Target, and other retailers offer easy options for ordering a gift but shipping to an entirely different address. Keep in mind, a thoughtful, relevant gift at an unexpected time is often better than a general gift bought out of obligation at Christmas. In fact, a favorite example I use is this: One day I posted on my Facebook how I accidentally wore one black sock and one blue sock to work. When you get dressed in the dark, the colors look the same. I posted about it on Facebook. An anonymous friend sent me a box of mismatched, funny cartoon socks. To this day, I enjoy wearing wacky, mismatched socks in informal environments or in speaking about social media because it makes me laugh and gives me a story to share.
- Choose Your Photos More Intentionally (Stop “photo-dumping”). People probably only see a few of the pictures you upload of any given event (baptism, trip, sunset, etc.). Use your social media to tell stories instead! Post one, maybe two, of your best photos and tell a story of what is happening. Let the pictures tell the bulk of the story and your words bring the details. Both should reflect the emotions experienced in the picture. Or, take a bunch of photos and pick out only your best, and then spread them out over the week in a serialized form. Look for story opportunities and ask yourself what stories may positively impact the needs of your followers or friends.
When using the online world and other technological tools to reach your community, it is important to exercise patience and be consistent. It is also important to understand that what you do online is not about you; it’s about serving others. In John 13:1-17, Jesus taught us how to lead. He washed His disciples’ feet—the great King stooped down to the mere humans and washed their dirty feet. Jesus said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” Buy a gift for someone, meet a need online, share stories, build something in common with someone else, and bridge divisions by overcoming hopelessness. Make the Gospel a priority in your own life.
Bible Verses to Read and Meditate On:
When you read these articles, think about how this can translate to the online world in your social media and via other technological communication tools. What ideas come to you? What will you post tomorrow?