Horizon Community church is putting some strong effort this month into revising its website and Facebook page. Gone are the days when churches could effectively reach people by printing flyers, hanging posters in local grocery stores, and buying add space in the phonebook. In years gone by, churches that have been successful in marketing themselves to a broad community have committed to a hefty advertising budget to buy radio airtime and print color brochures. Social media has changed everything.
A super-snazzy website can do more than a phonebook add. A catchy Facebook page can spread the word more effectively than a color brochure. But for all that the Internet and mobile communication gives us today, it cannot sustain relationships. For everything that social media does for us, it does not fill the basic need we all have for face-to-face interaction with other humans.
There are plenty of people I am connected with on Facebook for whom I am nothing more than text on a screen—and that’s all I know of them. We never see each other. We never call and chat on the phone. They never get a sense of what I am passionate about or struggling with by picking up on vocal inflexions or body language. They never can tell how I am really feeling by simply reading the expression on my face. They have never sat side-by-side in silence with me through a tough time just to let me know how much they care. And, I admit, I’ve never done that for them either. We have an electronic contact, but Facebook by itself certainly falls far short of filling our human need for relationship. LOL or hahahahaha doesn’t really tell me if you’re happy. AARRGGHH doesn’t really tell me if you’re mad. These things can never convey human affect like a facial expression, or a tone of voice, or a consoling embrace, or a burst of laughter, or a giant smile. There’s no electronic substitute for that.
The point is this; God made us to live in relationship with him and with others. A church is place for relationships to happen. Streaming a sermon podcast over the Internet cannot replace standing side-by-side with other believers on a Sunday morning and joining voices together in praise to God. Social media and mobile communication can be a good thing, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.
Till next time…