My question for Meredith today is: You’re an evangelist for using social media to build community. How could a disembodied medium strengthen the Body of Christ?
Her reply – as ever – is crisp, cogent and concrete.
Yes, I admit that I’m fairly fervent about using social media to build community in general and church in particular. I wasn’t always like this. I started out by dismissing social media and Twitter especially as something for kids with way too much time on their thumbs. And then, I began contemplating possibilities for building virtual community for people of faith. Now, after logging lots of time on Twitter, I’m persuaded that this and other real-time interactive applications offer powerful ways to proclaim the gospel, reveal Christ to one another, and be church.
For example, I’m an active participant in the Virtual Abbey, a trans-denominational community of modern monastics in the Benedictine tradition. As a result of praying the Daily Office via Twitter for over a year, a true community has emerged. As a matter of fact, after recently praying Compline with a community “in real life” (aka, IRL), I came home to join my virtual community in night prayer. Why? Because they’ve become my community of prayer and support for spiritual disciplines.
Not for nothing are these media called “social” media. What people don’t quite understand is that engaging in social media such as Twitter requires actively engaging with others. So what if engagements occur in 140 character interactions? Success requires making an ongoing commitment to communicating.
In a span of time that’s relatively short when compared to what goes on IRL, conversations emerge between individuals. When those individuals are active in their Christian faith, the conversation invariably turns to and reflects that faith. And where two or three are gathered in Christ’s name, Christ will be there among them, even if “there” is online.
Anyone who has ever argued that “church is not a building” will find ample evidence for that by finding and following those who include references to faith or religion in their profile. When I got started on Twitter, I decided to make faith, rather than denomination, the common factor for the Christians whose tweets I’d read and comment upon. I also decided to follow Christians across the political spectrum. This strategy has allowed me access to diverse views as well as divergent standards for piety and religiosity, some of which I can barely tolerate but do – thanks to the expansive comfort of cyberspace. My hope is that what I practice online will help me become more tolerant IRL. At some point. Let us pray…