Using the New World of Connectivity

How people are using social media to help Israel and the church
Pastor David Lemming logs onto social media almost every day. He stays in touch with his people by encouraging them with a Bible verse, linking last week’s sermon so they can watch it online, and sometimes giving them a glimpse into the sermon he’s preparing for the following Sunday.

“Social media is just another discipleship tool,” he said. “It’s another platform to keep truth before my people.”

Between 700 and 1,000 people attend Pastor Lemming’s church in West Virginia. It’s impossible for him to interact with all of them on Sunday. So several years ago, he embraced social-media platforms like Facebook when he saw the potential they had to strengthen his relationship with his congregants and their relationship with God. “I saw it as an opportunity to redeem the forum,” he told me.

For many pastors, redeeming the forum means using social media to connect with their people to make every day more like Sunday and enhance the church dynamic. They use social networks to help shepherd their flocks, keeping the truth of God’s Word flowing through their congregants’ social-media feeds to combat the noise of this world that clutters their lives during the week.

A whopping 40 percent of the world’s population spends about 50 minutes each day on social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.1 That figure shouldn’t surprise us, considering God has created us to be relational beings.

Even before the creation of the world, the three Persons of the Godhead coexisted in a perfect, harmonious relationship, as they do today. God Himself is relational, and we have been created in His image (Gen. 1:26–27).

We need community. We need to feel accepted, wanted, appreciated, and needed by others. A recent Forbes magazine article that discussed the emotional and physical effects of loneliness (“Loneliness Might Be A Bigger Risk Than Smoking Or Obesity”) states that loneliness can actually affect a person’s health and mortality.2

God has fashioned us to desire fellowship with one another. Perhaps that is why people of all ages use social media, much like previous generations used the telephone. Digital interaction, of course, can never replace human interaction. But it has made it possible to stay in touch with people who live both far away and next door, and it has opened up a whole new world of connectivity.

Now We Can Do Something
Facebook connects unbelievers with the gospel every day. Messages they read online have convinced some to attend church when they normally would have stayed home.

Social media can spread news and raise awareness faster than journalists can write, radio can broadcast, or television can air. In fact, television even reports news that viewers have read on social media earlier in the day.

The Pew Research Center reports that, as of August 2017, 67 percent of Americans get at least some of their news via social networks, while two in 10 actually rely heavily on them for it.3 As news is posted, readers convert to active participants in raising awareness by commenting, posting, and sharing what they deem important. These shared-values communities end up motivating people to give of their energy, time, and resources.

For example, in the summer of 2014, Muslim extremists from the Islamic State (ISIS) ordered the 3,000 Christians in Mosul, Iraq, to leave or convert to Islam. If they stayed and refused to convert, they would be forced to pay a fine or be killed. ISIS further pressured them by marking their homes and businesses with a red Arabic letter “N” that stands for Nasara or Nazarenes, a derogatory designation for Christians in Arabic.

Word of the persecution in Mosul spread like wildfire when the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama refused to intervene on the Christians’ behalf. Christians around the world took to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They changed their profile pictures to the Arabic letter “N,” coupled with the hashtag #WeAreN as a way to stand in solidarity with the persecuted Iraqi believers.

Social media can spread news and raise awareness faster than journalists can write, radio can broadcast, or television can air.

Almost overnight, Christians reclaimed the Arabic letter, turning it into a symbol of global Christian solidarity and prayer for those suffering. The Voice of the Martyrs, a Christian organization aiding believers persecuted for their faith in Christ, noticed the online support of Mosul’s Christian community and initiated a social-media campaign that raised more than $5 million to help resettle those who fled.

Social media can motivate people to do good, helping Christians fulfill Hebrews 13:3: “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.”

Getting the Word Out About Israel
The news media has a dark history when it comes to Israel, especially the Arab-Israeli conflict. Professional journalists once controlled the story from beginning to end, usually skewing the facts to make Israel look like an evil aggressor. Today social networks have disrupted that landscape. Voices in support of Israel that were once neglected or silenced are now being heard loud and clear through pro-Israel, social-media activism.

Hananya Naftali, a young Israeli believer in Jesus, is a case in point. Frustrated with the many lies being told about his country, he started producing short videos communicating
the truth. Hananya once defended his country as an Israeli soldier. Today he defends it using a small camera and social media. Hananya’s audience is so large and influential he was permitted to interview Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When he asked Netanyahu how he and others who advocate on social media can help the State of Israel, Netanyahu replied, “Just tell the truth.”4 Several of Hananya’s videos have been viewed a million times.

Conservative talk-radio host Dennis Prager founded PragerU, a social-media educational resource teaching conservative and common-sense ideas through five-minute videos. One of its most popular videos is The Middle East Problem, which teaches viewers that Israel has embraced peace with the Palestinians from the beginning, while the Palestinians don’t want Israel to exist.

This one video has been viewed 6.2 million times. According to statistics found on PragerU’s website, 60 percent of its audience is under 35, and 70 percent have changed their minds about an important issue after watching a video.5 That means viewers who once viewed Israel unfavorably are open-minded enough to change their opinions.

The mainstream media do not control the story anymore. More and more pro-Israel, social-media activists are combating the lies about Israel with truth you can watch on your smartphones and computers.

Social-media technology is the newest tool in humanity’s long history of connectivity. The apostle John used the technology available to him to connect with churches: He wrote letters that were read aloud. But he knew technology wouldn’t be enough: “Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full” (2 Jn. 12). It’s still better to connect face to face. But doing so is not always possible.

God has provided a tool that lets us reach places we would never reach otherwise. Through social media we can raise awareness of those suffering and in need, stand for causes that have eternal value, combat evil with good, share the Good News of the gospel, support those who need encouragement, and give to organizations that teach God’s Word.

Pastor Lemming receives notes and questions from people who have read his social-media posts, and he is able to disciple them from afar. Hananya’s videos from Israel help those of us halfway around the world defend the Jewish state. As with many things, social networks themselves are not inherently good or bad. It’s how we use them that makes the difference.

ENDNOTES
        1. Brett Williams, “There are now over 3 billion social media users in the world—about 40 percent of the human population,” mashable.com, August 7, 2017 (goo.gl/bKt8jU) and James B.
          Stewart, “Facebook Has 50 Minutes of Your Time Each Day. It Wants More,” nytimes.com, May 5, 2016 (goo.gl/4pXuSP).
        2. “Loneliness Might Be A Bigger Health Risk Than Smoking Or Obesity,” Forbes, January 18, 2017 (goo.gl/nwvvd4).
        3. Elisa Shearer and Jeffrey Gottfried, “News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2017,” Pew Research Center, September 7, 2017 (goo.gl/xqzfG8).
        4. Hananya Naftali, “I Interviewed Prime Minister Netanyahu,” YouTube, June 18, 2017 (goo.gl/XT1Gmg).
        5. PragerU.com, homepage.

3 thoughts on “Using the New World of Connectivity

  1. Very good young man; is there a site that folks can read this article that are not as yet subscribers to Israel My Glory?

  2. Muy buenas noches. Para mí es un gusto poder comunicarme con ustedes
    Poder opinar sobre este tema es de gran importancia en la actualidad
    Conocer u poco más de Israel.
    Muy buen tema es interesante.

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