Did you know that for every hour we spend online, on average, about a third of it is devoted to engaging in social media? From Facebook and Twitter to YouTube and Instagram, we can’t seem to get enough of sharing our lives digitally.
Think about this: increasingly, people are just as likely to connect with people online as they are in person. In fact, researchers from the University of Michigan recently found that, in a typical month, adults engaged in about 75 face-to-face contacts or conversations, compared to about 74 electronic contacts through personal emails or social media. It’s virtually the same.
As we approach the culmination of My Hope with Billy Graham the first week of November, social media sites are fertile ground for building relationships and sharing our faith. But, there’s a caveat. You have to do it the right way, or else you risk damaging a relationship and closing that door of opportunity for a positive witness. Here are some tips to think about as you engage in these social networks:
1. Remember, you are being watched.
How we live out our faith speaks volumes to those unlikely to pick up a Bible or step foot in a church. Our actions online – the links we share, the posts we “like” and more – affect how we are perceived by our nonbelieving friends. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, ESV). As followers of Christ, our friends should notice something different about us, just by how we interact online.
2. Focus on truly conversing, not just getting your point across.
We often strive so hard to make our point that we risk being avoided altogether. For those in our social networks, they need to know that we care about them. Be open to having meaningful conversations about faith, not argumentative condemnations.
3. Talk less and listen more.
James reminds us to “be quick to hear, slow to speak.” (James 1:19, ESV). So often, we do it the other way around, and in the process we become confrontational and unnecessarily offensive. Listen first. If you seek to understand them, you may just find them doing the same.
4. Show compassion, not contempt.
We need to see our fellow human beings as God sees them; He loves them just as much as us. We must guard against a haughty attitude. Jesus Himself said that religious people can be a stumbling block to others being open to hearing the Gospel. We need to develop eyes like Jesus, as He saw people who were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36 ESV). When you interact with people online, ask God to give you the same mindset John the Baptist had when he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30, ESV)
5. If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online.
This is a good rule for all interactions online. Before posting, ask yourself these questions: How will this post look in the eyes of a stranger or critic? Does this post help me share the Gospel with people who need to hear it?
6. Follow the Holy Spirit’s leading.
Every time you logon, pray for God to use you. As you follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, you will see opportunities, such as posts He wants to you comment on and statuses to post. He will give you the words to say. We pray over our daily interactions with others—we should also be praying for guidance on how we interact online!
7. Make it personal, but don’t take it personally
Your own story of coming to faith in Christ is a powerful tool for reaching your friends. Look for those opportunities to share how God has worked – and is working – in your life. But, don’t be discouraged when you aren’t bombarded with direct messages from your non-Christian friends asking how they can be “saved.” Remember, it’s not all on you. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44, ESV). Pray that God will draw them … and use you as He sees fit.