Looking for a mission field? Check out the numbers of active users on these social media platforms: Facebook 2.19 billion, Instagram 1 billion, Twitter 336 million.
The numbers are staggering and fraught with possibilities for evangelism.
Barna Research Findings About Online Evangelism
Barna just released a study in conjunction with Lutheran Hour Ministries that asked American adults about how they discuss spirituality online. There is no question that a large number of believers feel comfortable talking about their faith and evangelizing online via posts, comments and profiles.
Barna found three in 10 share their faith via social media. Thirty percent of self-identified Christians said they are just as likely to share their religious beliefs online as in person. Twelve percent said they are more likely to share their faith digitally.
Meanwhile, 58 percent of non-Christians said someone has shared their faith with them through Facebook; 14 percent through other social media.
Barna’s researchers found positive and negative takeaways from the online evangelism numbers.
On the plus side, younger Christians (64 percent of Gen Xers and 58 percent of Millennials) said technology and digital interactions make sharing their faith easier. The only age group where a majority do not feel that way are Baby Boomers (39 percent). Perhaps this is because the technology came after they were comfortable with other forms of communication.
The researchers also identified some hindrances to online evangelism.
A large majority in all age groups said it is harder to have a private, one-on-one conversation with people because they’re so busy with their phones and technology. And 64 percent of Millennials and 60 percent of Gen Xers said people are likely to avoid talking specifically about spirituality for the same reason.
While social media gives Christians a platform to talk about their faith before millions, it can also drive just as many away.
Do’s and Don’ts for Online Evangelism
The Center for Online Evangelism lists “7 Evangelism No-No’s for Facebook (and Other Social Media Platforms).”
- Viewing an individual as a ‘project’ rather than a person. When we become zealous about sharing our faith to bring someone to Christ, it’s easy to view an individual as a thing rather than a human being with interests, thoughts, feelings, etc. Treat them as you would a friend—love them, care for their needs, share your testimony and don’t put a time frame on your relationship.
- Speaking “Christianese.” Using “Christianese” creates a barrier in communicating the Gospel. This refers to jargon, theological expressions, slang, puns and catchphrases understood solely within the context of a Christian or denominational setting. These sayings cause confusion if someone doesn’t have a Christian background.
- Doctrine-dousing instead of dialoguing. No one likes being aggressively told what they should or should not believe. You can promote the Gospel if you are willing to engage rather than douse a person with doctrines.
- Giving an un-Christlike response under a post. There are countless examples of people who got in hot water because of a post online. One of the surest ways to lose your credibility as a Christian is to let a tense or heated moment get the best of you and respond in an un-Christlike manner under a post.
- Condemning people, rather than their actions, online. If we attack and condemn a person instead of sin—even if we have good intentions—it displays an act of judgment and appears to place the other person on a lower level. Your posts should give hope to someone who is struggling with sin.
- Living a double life online. Whether positively or negatively, the way we live our lives online (and offline) is a witness to the Gospel. You can’t turn on and off your role as an online missionary.
- Sending chain letters. Let’s face it, NO ONE likes them.