I never knew I had so many friends until I enrolled in Facebook.

In case you’ve been living under a rock (like the guy in that AFLAC commercial), you’ve heard about the phenomenon that is Facebook, now with more than 500 million registered participants. They even made a movie about it—The Social Network—which apparently consisted of one smart Harvard kid taking an idea from some other smart Harvard kids and turning it into a bazillionjillion dollars.

It’s really remarkable to see how it works. You sign up by creating your own profile, then you search for actual friends of yours whom you can “friend”—that is, they are linked to your Facebook page and you to theirs. Whenever you add a status update, your picture and message show up on a list with all the status updates of your other friends.

So what is a status update? While some folks use that little “What’s on your mind?” box to type in and share deep thoughts, others use it to record the details of every nook and cranny of their meager existence. In fact, I had no idea my friends lived such boring lives until I started reading their Facebook entries.

Of course, if Facebook only consisted of getting connected with real-life, actual friends, it wouldn’t be the bazillionjillion dollar business that it has become. (Plus, most of us could put all our real-life, actual friends in the car with us and still have room for a couple of strangers, too.)

What Facebook does that is so amazing is to put us in touch with acquaintances, long-ago boyfriends and girlfriends, and people we don’t actually know but who know a friend of a former boss of a second cousin. With those kinds of intimate connections, no wonder the friends list keeps growing!

As I write these words, my friends list totals 532 people—of whom I actually know and have met perhaps a third. Then again, I’m just a novice compared to some of my actual friends on Facebook, such as Hershael York, a seminary professor and pastor with more than 3,000 friends. I think they must require all the seminary students to friend him in order to access their grades. Even worse, church planting guru Ed Stetzer has more than 8,000 people who like him. Apparently if enough people become your friend, you get your own page and people start liking you instead of friending you. I don’t know—that sounds like a downgrade to me, but apparently Ed is happy with it.

Chuck Swindoll, on the other hand, hit his 5,000 allowed friends and stopped. No liking for Chuck; he wants actual friends. There is D.C. pastor Mark Batterson who is up to 4,977 friends. Apparently only 23 more people can friend him before he has to decide whether to cap his friends or switch to people liking him. Sounds like a tough choice to me.

Then there’s the top of the heap—Billy Graham. He has a page and more than 180,000 people like him. Me, too.

So keep those friend requests coming. If enough of you become my friends, some day you may even like me. 

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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