When I first began my ministry as a pastor in a local church, I had one shot at 11 a.m. on Sunday. Sure, I could preach and teach other times during the week, but everyone knew the only thing that really counted was the Sunday morning sermon. Once that sermon was given, I would begin to prepare for the next week’s sermon. There’d be funerals to do and hospitals to visit, but regardless of what else was going on, I had to be ready for the Sunday morning sermon.
Things have changed. Social media now has given preachers unlimited opportunities to preach, teach and discuss and answer questions about their messages. Sermons can be rebroadcasted on YouTube. Notes from sermons can be downloaded. Blogs can take the sermons deeper and directly apply the teaching. The possibilities are endless.
This is good and bad. It’s good because it gives preachers more opportunities to get the maximum impact from our sermons. All of us have experienced the frustration of working hard all week for a 30-minute sermon, then wondering what we could have done with all the left-over material. The Internet provides a great place to use this material for deeper teaching.
It’s bad because it takes time—a lot of time. Honestly, sometimes it’s hard to find another few minutes in your day to post a blog or put up another tweet, even if it is just 140 characters. Most pastors have chosen not to be part of the cyber conversation. Fewer still are disciplined enough to become proficient at it.
We may need to rethink that. Our church members are on the Web. They’re hearing from teachers, prophets, professors and activists from around the world. Our people need to hear from us about issues of the day. Believe it or not, they want to hear from their pastors on the questions they face in life.
Several years ago, we hired a research assistant for the preaching team of our church campuses. One of the first things she did was order Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine. Why? I didn’t want to be seen walking around carrying O magazine.
Her answer was, “Oprah is the spiritual leader of the women of our culture, and you need to know what she’s telling them.”
That’s my point. There’s a constant conversation going on in the cyber world. God, Jesus, the church, marriage, sexuality and all the other topics we preach about on Sunday morning are being talked about on Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Instagram and whatever new program has been invented since I’ve written this article. As preachers, we have to understand social media is another preaching point now open to us. Just as we learned to preach orally, we now have to discipline ourselves to learn to preach in the cyber world.
How do you get started? As with anything else, one step at a time: First, do your research. Log onto the sites of pastors you admire and see what they’re doing. Talk to your church about what the members want and need to hear from you. There are several books that explain how to get started in the cyber world. (Michael Hyatt’s book Platform would be a good first read).
Then, get started. Your first blog could be as simple as a weekly article posted on your church website. Then, get started on Twitter. Three to five tweets a day should be fine. You can tweet too much, and that bothers people. So, start slow.
Also, remember once you hit send, whatever you said is out there—forever. More than one career has been derailed because of an ill-conceived cyber posting. Sarcasm doesn’t translate well. Keep your messages positive and to the point.
Social media is a tool well-suited for teaching and proclamation of the gospel, but it is still just a tool. It has to be harnessed and mastered for its best use. With a little work and discipline, social media can be an effective use of the preacher’s study and skill in telling the story of Jesus…even if we’re only doing it 140 characters at a time.