Story by Tompaul Wheeler
“Social media has now blurred the lines of boundaries of what is intimate,” says Felecia Datus of the Center for Online Evangelism, an independent ministry supporting the Seventh-day Adventist Church. They provide members with resources to act as “digital evangelists” who effectively share their faith online.
Datus says that sharing online can be a witness.
“It gives an opportunity for people to see that Jesus Christ is able to help us with whatever the struggle is. It doesn’t paint Christianity in a false light, as if once you become [a Christian] everything is perfect and dandy, and every day is sunny. Rather, as a Christian, you still have struggles, but you know a Savior who can walk with you through those struggles. It makes you more relatable, and you can say, ‘Hey, they’re going through this, and I can still relate to them. And because they’re going through this struggle, I won’t feel judged.’”
Datus also sees the negative effects. “Not everyone on social media will be kind regarding your struggles,” she says. “People will take advantage of it, so we need grace and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to know the kind of things to share.”
She adds that engaging in so much social media sometimes takes away from our ability to communicate in person. “At the same time, we are aware of things happening in the world [in] real time and we can engage in that, and we have a lot of power ... to say things and stand up for things. We need to learn how to turn that online power into something tangible.”
Darus says what people post, “no matter how small it may seem,” is very significant. “You may have [followers or friends online] who are Christians or not Christians, and they’re watching you, and it’s all a reflection of Christianity and Jesus—as far as they’re concerned.”
Datus and our other subjects shared the following tips on being a witness online:
Don’t engage in heated debates: The majority of people don’t change their minds after online debates, and many friendships are broken because of things said on a thread. So much nuance is lost when you can’t see someone’s face or hear their voice. If it’s a critical issue, you might connect with someone through a personal, direct message, or even face to face, so you can see where their heart and mind lies.
Be careful of assumption: If you choose to respond to someone sharing their struggles, don’t assume they’re attention-seeking or haven’t already tried a seemingly obvious solution. Withhold judgment as well, and just be supportive and offer encouragement. You might want to say, “I’m sure you’ve thought of this ...” Qualify any advice with the assumption that they may already know or have tried it.
Beware of the echo chamber: When participating with or just “lurking” on an online support group/discussion forum, it can be easy to get caught up in groupthink. Consider, pray for and seek out different ways of looking at a contentious issue or situation.
Resources for Digital Evangelism
- Dos and Don'ts of Church Social Media
- How to Overcome the Biggest Obstacles When Starting Your Online Ministry
- How to Use WhatsApp for Evangelism
- Online Evangelism Toolkit 1.0
- Should Churches Consider Facebook Ads?
- 5 Ways to Win Onlie Arguments
- 6 Creative Ways to Use Facebook Live for Evangelism
Read articles from the July/August 2019 Visitor: