As more new forms of communication emerge, such technology is giving local churches an opportunity to reconnect to the early days of Christianity.
“The Bible says that the early church met daily,” Tony McCollum, senior pastor of Fusion Church in Buford, said. “They got together daily. We haven’t done that in forever.”
Most people who go to church primarily visit just Wednesday evenings and Sundays. But McCollum said the Internet is changing how often people connect for spiritual discussions.
With more than 1 billion people worldwide using Facebook, churches large and small find social media sites can provide a unique way of keeping people in touch with their church community more often.
Many churches, like Fusion, also are using online campuses to give people a chance to virtually connect with the message if they can’t be present in person on Sundays. Fusion hopes to launch its effort by Easter.
McCollum said the online campus is just one of the many ways the church hopes to reach a larger audience. He said its important for a church to consider where it might find an audience that will listen, and the Internet provides several opportunities.
Many churches have also found that social media sites allow them to create interest in specific sermons or upcoming events.
Michele Bellue, communications manager of Gainesville First United Methodist Church on Thompson Bridge Road, said Facebook has primarily served the church as a way to reminding people to come to events, which has served to bring more people together.
With so many churches and pastors embracing online services like blogging and social media, pastors say the trend isn’t likely to end because it is helpful in creating community.
“I think we’re getting back to our roots where we can have a sense of community and connection through the week,” McCollum said. “Where that gets really powerful is if there is a prayer need or something like that. I guess people used to light up the phones, but now we can very quickly get a word out if we need to be praying for somebody. ... I can very quickly see what’s going on in the lives of all the people at the church where maybe I wouldn’t know that. In some ways, I think we’re maybe moving back to this kind of daily community where maybe it was lost just in the speed of things.”
He said the entire message can be somewhat difficult to convey in just a few sentences. But those few sentences could be just enough to get a much more meaningful conversation started.
“If you’re on Twitter, it is very hard to communicate eternal truths in 140 characters, but you can try,” McCollum said. “The goal is we’re going to try to communicate this message that we’ve got, this good news, any way we can.”
Ann Fleming, co-pastor of Appalachian Hope Center and founder of the Caring Hands Ministry in Clermont, said the Internet has allowed the ministry to reach people who otherwise wouldn’t have been reached.
“It puts you in a position to be in touch with people that you wouldn’t normally have daily or weekly contact with,” Fleming said.
She said she has seen the power that social media communications can have on a person who is searching for spiritual guidance.
One woman who was recently saved made a connection with Fleming by posting a question on a Facebook prayer site asking who Jesus was. Fleming responded and they began talking about the gospel.
“The next question was ‘Does he care about me?’ It kind of went on from there,” Fleming said. “I know of several instances where people have reached out to people through Facebook and those people have found the Lord. It has really made a difference.”
McCollum said that though there isn’t a specific reference to social media in the Bible, the church always has embraced new ways of spreading the good news.
“Paul was writing letters when that was cutting edge,” McCollum said. “They were sending letters down Roman roads, talk about the information superhighway. Translations of the Bible were sent via telegraph from one publishing house to another. Radio, early on, was largely pioneered by preachers. So I think the church has always endeavored to use it.”