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22 June 2017

Our friends are listening

James Musson James Musson Ministry Leader for Communications
Young women with smartphones © Garry Knight. CC-BY-2.0

This is the third of a three-part series on how the internet changes the way we communicate with one another. In this third post, we’ll think about how we can use new communication channels in ways which honour Jesus.

‘Fake news’ – the phrase that dominated much of 2016 and early 2017. Social media has been blamed for the propagation of much false news. But what can we learn about better ways to communicate? At the most basic level, it’s this: our friends are listening.

In our previous post, we saw that social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify have changed what it means to communicate. There are new ways to express creativity, emotion and meaning. And the old enemy of effective communication — distance — has been overcome to the extent that it is just as zippy to speak to a friend in Los Angeles as in Locks Heath. The opportunities for communicating with our friends, and whoever else is listening, have never been greater.

But with several billion voices speaking at once, the new enemy is noise. And the new obsession, in marketing speak, is ‘engagement’. We’re chasing likes, retweets and a good ol' thumbs up. Be honest, how often do you re-open Facebook after posting something, just to see whether it’s getting positive attention? In a strange way, our messages to our friends stop being information for them, becoming instead an assessment of us.

Girl with mobile phones © Mario Antonio Pena Zapateriia CC-BY-SA-2.0

Jesus speaks to our anxieties, saying,

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:25-26)

Our identity most comfortably rests in knowing that God is looking after us with fatherly care. Knowing this means we are free to communicate with our friends about how Jesus makes a difference to our lives, leaning on him rather than likes from our friends.

Words are powerful, capturing meaning and communicating personality. Images, especially moving ones, stir our imaginations and fuel our thoughts. Studies show that the posts which get the most engagement are those which engage our emotions, rather than providing us with facts. This isn’t a great surprise: God made us for relationships. He made us to experience knowing him and getting to know other people, connecting with them through communication. So what if we could use the opportunity of new media to broadcast relevant, engaging, and — critically — truthful messages to those with whom we already have a connection?

Smartphones © Adam Fagen CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0

We can. The desire to make the most of that opportunity is at the heart of our communications strategy at Above Bar Church. And we’re seeking to seize the opportunity ever more in the way we use social media in the church’s communications team.

Last year’s concerns about fake news produced a new openness to engaging with ideas which are off the well-worn track of our culture. Sure, the effect is limited, and many of us have experienced echo chambers within our own social media feeds with reinforce and amplify our existing views. But there’s nothing more winsome than the authentic and hopeful story of a life being changed by Jesus.

Through social media, our friends could have an open window into our everyday lives, seeing God at work. They can see us loving our families, experiencing sorrow, working through doubts. How we find times to meet up with other Christians. And how our lives are built on the truth of who God is and what he has done for us through Jesus. How he’s worth praising, worshipping, and devoting our lives to!

Our friends are listening. More of our friends. More of the time. So what are we saying?

  • How could you use social media in a more authentic way?
  • What stories could you share which would witness to God’s work in your life?
  • How is God calling you to use the opportunities of social media to glorify Jesus?

We’re always open to your comments on the Above Bar Church Facebook page, or mention @abovebar on Twitter with your thoughts.

You can email the communications team by sending a message to communications@abovebarchurch.org.uk — we are here to serve the church by doing communication with purpose: clearly, widely, passionately for Jesus.


Photo credits (from top):
© Garry Knight. Used under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-2.0) licence.
© Mario Antonio Pena Zapatería. Used under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA-2.0) licence.
© Adam Fagen. Used under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA-2.0) licence.

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