We live in an ever-changing world. It’s a world that is moving more into a consciousness of online networking, known as social networking, and adapting that more into our daily lifestyles. We have Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, YouTube, Linked, and many more, all with the focus to network, keep in touch with people, and post hourly snipits on what we are doing at that very moment.
For the record, I am sitting at a Panera Bread in Nicholasville, Ky., after eating a salad and preparing to work on my candidacy questions. Wait, is that more than 140 characters?
Social networking is a fact of life for the generation of people under the age of 40. But how do we, as the next generation leaders of the church, develop an understanding of social networking that keeps in line with the true purpose of the church? To be honest, this blog came after reading a blog posting on a similar topic by friend and pastor Greg Arthur, who writes about an iPhone application by Mars Hill church that allows you to read sermons, blogs, download music, and pay your tithe.
As the next generation leaders of the church, we have to be foremost that we are about real and authentic community. I question whether or not real and authentic community can occur, within a church, through social networking. Real community requires personal interaction and not simply an email or text message updates. While those have their purpose, they should never take away from sitting with a member of the congregation and simply having a conversation.
My concern is that the future leaders of the church will be so enamored with the creature comforts of social networking that those whom do not have a Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, or YouTube channel will be lost in the shuffle. Can we separate ourselves from our computers to lead the church? Can we lead without a Facebook, Twitter, or blog available to us?
Those of us who will lead the church into the next generations must ask ourselves if we are prepared to leave our computers and meet people where they are at and not simply send an email message to say hello.
The church must remain authentic in its message, not just in the teaching of the Word, but also in the community it fosters in true relationship among one another. When we ignore this important aspect of the Christian faith, then our message of God’s holy love gets lost in the shuffle of a world that has a different message of love to offer.
All of this is not to say that social networking is important for the church. Obviously, it has its purpose. I blog. I plan to continue to blog when I have a church and plan to use social networking tools as I lead. But those tools and resources will not come at a cost to personal relationships with those in my congregation. If they do, then it is on me to make changes and I would hope that my congregation would require those changes of me.
The key is balance and seeking true authentic community. Can social networking help in that? Perhaps, but with clear parameters and set boundaries that the pastor must be willing to enforce. If the pastor is not, then we run the risk of promoting communities that are unwilling to grow and transform into the image of Christ and are unwilling to participate in the life of the church.