While traditional methods of communication must continue to be utilized, we also need to embrace new media and methods for reaching out to share the good news of salvation. No one method or platform will reach everyone. And as the media landscape becomes more complex and cluttered, we must plan our communication carefully.
We live in a world of emails, texting, websites and social media which have become major instruments in connecting with people in our community and all over the world. For the church to remain relevant—and stay connected to our members, friends and neighbors—we must learn to utilize these communication tools. Used correctly, they can be major instruments of evangelism and provide more cost-effective ways to do ministry in both rural and urban areas.
In Matt. 28:19-20 God provides us a communication mandate: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The Bible instructs us to go and teach. We have a number of technologies available today that allow us to go all over the world, but also just down the block. Some technologies and platforms come and go, but one that seems to have stood the test of time is Facebook.
Facebook: Friend or Foe of Mission?
Since its inception in 2006, Facebook has steadily grown. According to a 2019 Pew Research Center study, the share of U.S. adults who say they use popular online platforms or apps is statistically unchanged from where it stood in 2016, even amidst the long stretch of controversies over privacy, fake news and censorship on social media. Here are more stats:
- At the end of 2018, Facebook had over 2.32 billion monthly active users
- Facebook is the most used platform in the U.S.
- Seven-in-ten U.S. adults use Facebook
- 74% of Facebook users visit the site daily
Look around you. Someone you know is on Facebook. The Bible compels us to be a light in this digital mission field where millions of people spend hours of their day online. Matt. 5:16 states, “Let your light so shine before people, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Streaming, Online Video and Websites
A benefit of being online is that it allows you to introduce your church, pastor or ministry to the community. Individuals might not visit you in person but they might visit you online through your website or through a streaming video of your church service. Facebook and YouTube have easy-to-use features to stream your service online for free. Studies have predicted that the average time individuals spend watching online video will expand more than 20 percent over the next two years to an average of 100 minutes daily. Why not offer something worth watching to be part of those 100 minutes? (www.mediapost.com/publications/article/340714/time-spent-watching-online-video-expanding-to-100.html)
Websites also offer a great way to share what your church is doing, as well as introduce your community to your church. While the algorithms of social media sites determine what people see in their timeline, your website is always available to share with people exactly what you want them to see. Adventist Church Connect provides all Adventist churches in North America with a free website that includes a number of tools and resources to help your church be active online. This is a great way to get your youth and young adults or retired members involved in ministry.
Image Use and Copyrights
One thing to be mindful of when using online tools is copyright laws related to images that you use on any of your online platforms, whether on social media or your website. The legal department of the General Conference has shared with us that the main copyright violation churches need to be reminded of is that images on Google and other search engines are not free to use. They caution churches to either pay for images they want to use through stock photography image sites, or find free images that are licensed under a Creative Commons license and follow the terms and conditions of use. The GC has been involved in lawsuits involving thousands of dollars for individuals and churches using images from the Internet without a license.
OUTLOOK magazine recommends free photo sites like freeimages.com, unsplash.com, or pexels.com. Even with these sites, be sure to check each license before use. Sometimes free images will require attribution. If, after searching these websites you still don’t see what you need, contact us and we will download an image for you from our paid istockphoto.com account (if you are a member of an Adventist church in our territory working on a project for your church or school).
If you have questions or concerns navigating this digital landscape, you are not alone. Feel free to call or email your conference communicator (see p. 10) or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to help you become a better digital missionary for Christ. But first, always remember to “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established” (Prov. 16:3).
Is Your Church Violating a Copyright with Jennifer Gray Woods
We’re Going Live: What to Know Before Your Church Live Streams https://adventistrisk.org/en-us/safety-resources/solutions-newsletter/2017/july/we-re-going-live-what-to-know-before-your-church