I think Jesus would have done pretty well in the 21st century socially networked world. I’m not quite sure how he would have managed all his followers on Twitter, but do know he would have more than a few friends – all sinners – on Facebook. I guess he would have known what it feels like to be “unfriended and “unfollowed” too. He would have been LinkedIn with the Sepphoris carpenters’ guild, rovingexorcists.com and #thesabbathisforpeople group but chosen not to accept endorsements from Sadducees, Herodians and other Judean heavyweights.
I wonder if he’d have stuck with those “big three” of social networking, or maybe he’d have taken social networking up a notch. It would be interesting to browse his circles on Google+ — family, the three, the twelve, the seventy(two), 500+ resurrection witnesses, the four thousand, the five thousand, the women, blocked contacts… Reading the conversation thread on his WordPress hosted blog would have been entertaining, to say the very least. The “Parables” board on Pinterest would have become a favourite of his, and a DiggIt from Jesus would have been well cool. His Tumblr would be filled with daily doses of creativity, with a double ration of Flickr photos and Youtube or Vimeo videos on the Sabbath, and he’d have answered most questions on Quora with another question. He’d even have a legacy MySpace account for life’s eternal nostalgics, not to mention Orkut and Tuenti as part of an early effort in cross-cultural communication. You may have run across him in his local Meetup group, though the one place I don’t think we’d have seen him, is Meetic…
All that should have kept him busy, Though there again, the “tell no one about me” warning after another amazing miracle could have got quite complex: “No WhatsApps of this one please, nor Instagrams, and don’t even think about SnapChat-ing it. Oh, and keep it off RSS too while you’re at it…”
Social networking has always been part of life; the digital age is no different, it is simply the means of forming those links that has changed. Physical contact in the same time and place is now no longer the deciding factor in who we relate to and how.
At its simplest, church is about relationship: relationship with God, revealed to us in Jesus Christ; relationship with others in that larger family which is church (and remember, family is in itself simply another social network); and relationship with the world of people created in God’s image who are yet to find relationship with their creator God in a meaningful way.
Social networks are not an optional extra for those of us involved in church, for church is built out of the fabric of human relationships. The question is not if, but how. And if today “social networking” is becoming part and parcel of the way human beings the world over relate to one another, it’s where we need to be. Whilst the effects of decisive engagement with the social networks of the world may not be directly measurable, the long-term results of failing to do so certainly will be: the dilution of relationships within churches on the one hand and growing irrelevance to those outside on the other. To distance ourselves from people in general by failing to understand how individuals relate to one another in today’s world simply is not an option for anyone wishing to follow in Jesus’ relational footsteps. To refuse to take seriously technology’s impact on the way we relate and apply this in church is missional suicide. And yes, you can tweet that if you like!