In recent weeks I have had readers visit from about a dozen foreign countries and about 40 states. Amazingly, little ole’ me can type a post here, hit the publish icon with my mouse, and in less than 5 minutes have an email telling me someone from across the world has read my post and made a comment.
Who can imagine what the next decade, or the next 25 years will be like? I have a profile on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and some others. Some of my friends have even more. For about $39 I can do an impressive background check on almost anyone if I know their name, or telephone number, or address, and I can do it in about one minute.
I have enjoyed contacting old classmates and catching up with old friends from places I’ve lived over the last 50 years. I think last time I looked I had something over 700 friends on Facebook. I don’t know most of them but someone I know knows them so they wanted to be my friend. I have no idea why.
So I’m thinking today….just how effective is the social networking platforms for ministry, and more specifically for evangelism. One way to measure this is to compare 2010 to about 80 or 90 A.D.
A group of rag-tag fishermen, a tax collector, a doctor, and other roustabouts started to follow Jesus of Nazareth. He performed miracles, healed the infirm, opened blinded eyes, fed multitudes with a few loaves of bread and a few fish, raised the dead, and preached. His message was against the established religion of the day and he was considered by most of the church crowd to be quite a rebel.
You know the story, Jesus was executed after being convicted in a kangaroo court, and then after being buried for 3 days he was raised from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus was common knowledge in all the near countries in a short time.
These first century evangelists were common men and women who for the most part were uneducated, had very limited training in the Scriptures, didn’t like each other, many of them were dirt poor, yet they turned the world upside down for the cause of Christ. At once after the events of that first Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection the gospel swept across the land like the wind.
No printing presses for flyers or tracts, or Bibles. No telephones, no telegraphs, none of almost everything we take for granted today, and the record shows that those first century Christians were indeed very effective. And, the record is also clear that we are not very effective. Especially in this country we are loosing ground, not holding our own. Some of the sects are recruiting members at much higher rates. Why?
One would think that with all the technology, all the education, all the wealth, we should be blazing with evangelistic zeal. We aren’t.
Maybe we are too comfortable
Cars with nav systems, huge flat screen HDTV’s, cosmetic surgeons, lake houses and club memberships are standard fare for some of us. Even the poorest of us (in the U.S.A.) are rich compared to much of the rest of the world. We are full and happy, and making plans to build bigger barns.
We have no persecution
Severe persecution marked the history of the church for the first several centuries after Christ was raised from the dead. That persecution was the very thing God used to spread the people and thus the message of the good news far and wide. Christ promised it would come, and it did to them, and it turned out to be good for the gospel cause. Maybe we haven’t done anything threatening enough to be persecuted for.
Maybe we are off message
Those earliest gospel heralds preached Jesus, his death, burial, and resurrection. It was the resurrection that stirred up the opposition the most. We preach on it a lot on Easter Sunday but not a lot otherwise. We quote scripture to each other on Facebook and try to one-up each other with pithy quotes on Twitter, but there is precious little gospel out reach on the social platforms I know about.
Maybe we are going and doing in our own power
Jesus said “I have all the power in heaven and on earth and I’ll give it to you”. You go wait until you receive that power and then go be my witnesses and I’ll be with you, you have nothing to fear.” So, this bunch of guys who ran like rabbits before Jesus was crucified, less than two months later were mighty men of God who feared nothing but God. Maybe we should wait before God in prayer until we have that same power for gospel witness.
Maybe we need a new profile
Instead of thinking I’m Bob, a teacher, father, and avid football fan who is a Christian, we should be thinking I’m a Christian who happens to be a teacher, father, and football fan. Maybe a new identity would change our sense of worth and affect our work for Jesus and the gospel. A different profile might result in new priorities.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)