Internet Evangelism Idea #4: Facebook as an Opportunity to Share Faith

This post is part 4 in the series 20 Ways to Share Your Faith Online leading up to Internet Evangelism Day on April 25. We encourage you to tweet, share, blog & discuss these ideas in your church & circle of influence.

There are two key developments which I believe are going to transform digital evangelism: Facebook and mobile phones. Let’s look at Facebook today, and phones in a subsequent posting.

Facebook
After continued rapid growth, Facebook now has 400 million members. This represents 1 in 3 of all web users (if you exclude China where Facebook is banned). By comparing Facebook users with country populations, it is the third largest ‘country’ in the world.

USA and UK have long been the #1 and #2 in terms of number of users. Until recently, highly-wired Turkey was #3, but Indonesia has shot up the rankings in the last few months and is now third, pushing Turkey to fourth position. The Facebook interface is available in about 75 languages.

Other English-language social networking sites have receded into smaller specialist niches. Just as there is only room for one definitive search engine (Google), or one auction/market site (eBay), people need one definitive social networking site where they know they can contact almost anyone.

Why is it so strategic for evangelism?


Because:

  • anyone can set up an account; no tech knowledge is needed (though there are aspects of Facebook that are rather quirky and hard to use).
  • it is based on relationships – the key to effective sharing of the good news.
  • your comments and postings are displayed on all your friends’ pages.
  • you can create or join ‘fan pages’ and ‘groups’ built around secular topics, and therefore relate to others within a common interest (1 Cor. 9:19-23).

Opportunities on Facebook

There are two overlapping approaches: incarnational presence and intentional active outreach:

  • live our lives openly and transparently in front of our friends as we do in the physical world, demonstrating love and the fragrance spoken of in 2 Cor. 2:15.
  • be open to making appropriate comments, sometimes posting links to appropriate pages, etc. Keep a portfolio list of web-pages ready to use: one to consider is Power to Change. You can also mention your church site (or Facebook fan page) from time to time. Always do this in a sensitive and gentle way (1 Peter 3:15).
  • create (or join) fan pages or groups on topics that not-yet-believers would be interested in.
  • intentional active opportunities include making contact with friends of friends, and inviting people to join fan pages or groups.
  • there are as yet very few add-on ‘Facebook Applications’ that might enable us to add gently evangelistic areas to a Facebook page – here is an opportunity for developers.
  • learning Facebook’s ‘Markup Language’ code enables additional features to be added to our pages.

Notes: if you are in the sort of ministry where most of your Facebook friends are Christian leaders, it may be wise to consider having a separate Facebook profile that is less off-putting for not-yet-Christians. And steer away from politics and social issues: any view you express on these is likely to alienate at least half your page visitors. Consider not entering anything in the ‘political views’ section of your profile either. Under ‘religious views’ on their Facebook profile, many people enter something like ‘Jesus follower’ or ‘seeker after truth’ rather than the increasingly pejorative ‘Christian’.

More online resources

Make the most of Facebook pages | Use Facebook to promote your church | Facebook outreach and training


Tony Whittaker is the coordinator for Internet Evangelism Day, and is based in Derby, UK.

14 Responses to “Internet Evangelism Idea #4: Facebook as an Opportunity to Share Faith”

  1. Thank you Tony for your insight. I am in the process of presenting the need to be more active in our community on Facebook at my church. This article boosted my confidence in my endeavor. Thanks again.

  2. Tony, thanks for your post. I agree that just by it's sheer size Facebook provides some great opportunities to connect with people and talk about spiritual matters.

    Living my life transparently with my Facebook friends is something I truly enjoy and have found effective. A really important part of this is that we don't just talk about our faith, but we demonstrate our faith in action. Posting an update about going to serve the needy or taking a meal to a family with a new baby goes is much more meaningful than posting a bible verse or a pithy Christian quote.

  3. Thanks for the thoughts, Tony. Would be curious to hear your take on Twitter, as well. That's a toughie, for me. Seems to be much more one-way and boastful/self-promoting, in my opinion. Not that it's not another tool in the communication/evangelism arsenal, it's just that Facebook feels much more back-and-forth conversational, unlike the Big T.

    • Hey Brett, generally speaking I'm not one to try to stifle conversation, but I know there's going to be at least one post in this series and possibly more specifically about Twitter. So, if it's cool with you, I think it would be best to stick to Facebook here and we'll have a chance to discuss Twitter very soon.

  4. As the statistics reveal, Facebook has established itself as the leader of social network sites.

    My entire family, spread across several states, meets there for regular interaction. More and more friends and professional associates are connecting with each other in the space.

    The phenomenon has reached the church too. Just yesterday, LifeChurch.tv announced a new Facebook strategy that I think captures your co-equal approach of "incarnational presence and intentional active outreach."

    Two of their strategies:

    1. Instead of forcing people to come to the church's site, Facebook allows the church to go where they’re already active online. Instead of trying to be a separate destination, the church gets to integrate with their lives.

    2. Post a baptism photo and tag the person in the photo who is getting baptized. The photo shows up on that person’s Facebook wall, as well as in their friends’ feeds, giving them a simple way to share their new life in Christ with their Facebook friends.

    Operationally, they suggested that by leaning on Facebook's tools, it frees up church time and development resources in the long run.

    Bobby Gruenwald, the church's Pastor and Innovation Leader concluded, "The outreach potential is huge."

    Your predictions about Facebook being used to transform digital evangelism appear to be right on the mark Tony.

    • Good stuff Gordon.

      >> Instead of forcing people to come to the church's site, Facebook allows the church to go where they’re already active online.

      >>by leaning on Facebook's tools, it frees up church time and development resources in the long run

      I agree those are two big advantages of using facebook.

  5. Great article, and insightful usage. We've got to admit, FB is a powerful tool. Check out this article for pastoral uses of FB on the counseling side of things: http://www.sharefaithblog.com/2010/04/pastoral-co

    • Daniel, thanks for posting the link. It's an excellent article. I recommend everyone read it.

      One question or issue that comes to mind and is not addressed in this "Pastoral Counseling on Facebook" article is that when you start talking about "counseling" there are all sorts of legal/privacy issues. When a pastor chats with someone on Facebook is it just a conversation or is it legally considered counseling?

  6. Thanks a lot for making such great job!

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