Making Effective Use Of The Internet & Social Media
By Osamagbe Lesley Egharevba | Lagos, Nigeria
The Internet is one of the most important and wonderful technological advancements in the world today. It has made the world become a global village wherein communication is made easy regardless of distance. By definition, the Internet is a vast network that connects computers all over the world. Through this medium, people can share information and communicate from anywhere with an Internet connection. Social media on the other hand is a collective term for websites and applications that focus on communication, community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration. Some examples of social media include Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp Messenger, Instagram, WeChat, TikTok, etc. People can engage with social media via a computer, tablet, or smartphone via web-based software or applications. Since people use social media to share information and stay in touch and interact with friends, family and various communities, we can say that the major thing about the Internet and social media is about communication – whether orally or in written form.
Technically, the Internet (and social media in particular) cannot be said to be good or bad in itself – it actually depends on how it is used and what our attitude is toward it. But as with almost every other invention of man, the Internet and social media have advantages and even disadvantages. Many have used the Internet for fraudulent and unwholesome activities such as hacking into people’s accounts, watching pornographic contents and some will immerse themselves in social media to the point of excess and the detriment of their personal relationships, work responsibilities, and overall health, etc. Because of this and perhaps other reasons, many will avoid social media altogether, possibly even discouraging or condemning others for using it.
However, the Internet and social media can also be used positively for our good and the good of others. For example, that the Internet aids research and learning is a fact that is too plain to be denied. Many students and even teachers (including Bible teachers) have prepared lessons using resources from the Internet. Churches that have their information on the Internet can easily be located if anyone needs it. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when there was lockdown in which movements and gatherings were limited, many brethren and churches used the Zoom application to study the Bible and some still use it till date. These are good ways that the Internet can be used. As Christians, we must ensure to make good use of things to the glory of God. We must let our light shine before men that they will see our good works and glorify God in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
From the foregoing, it is clear that social media can be an invaluable form of communication. But we must use it properly and avoid using it in a way that would harm our influence. Hence since the church is saddled with the responsibility of communicating the gospel message to the world (evangelism – Matthew 28:19), teaching those converted (edification – Matthew 28:20) and helping her needy saints (benevolence – I Timothy 5:3, 9-10), how can the church effectively use the Internet in these areas in order to fulfill God’s commandments?
One of the ways is by having a functional website where gospel contents can be shared and disseminated to the world. There are various websites that are available with enough resources that can be very useful. Interestingly, some of these websites have great features – one of which is that it allows viewers to automatically translate the messages into various languages including Nigerian local languages. This means that we can get to preach the word to people even in the languages they understand. There are a lot of people in the virtual community and when churches create rich contents (such as Bible studies, pictures of Bible stories, interesting captions and topics for discussions, etc.) they can get to communicate the Word to others.
Another good way is for the church to create social media accounts and post good contents on the social media pages. This way, they can invite and direct people to their congregations for Bible studies. In the same vein, when brethren are in need, a church could quickly reach out to other brethren in distance places who may not even know them to tell them about their needs and solutions or helps may be offered just as in the case of Acts 11:27-30. Congregations should also encourage members to share these things on their personal pages as well. Many individual Christians are active on Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, etc. But what do they post on these pages? Is it just our pictures, achievements, life activities and things of that kind? How often do we talk about the gospel messages – even if it is only posting Bible passages?
Someone posted on twitter on the 23rd of July, 2022 and said something that caught my attention about one of the Presidential aspirants that seem to be very popular in Nigeria now. He said “Peter Obi is a proof that evangelism is not hard. We just don’t send Jesus.” I do not know if the individual is a Christian in the sense of how the Bible describes a Christian, but I think he made some sense. Since election is coming closer in Nigeria, I have seen several Christians post on their social media pages campaigning for one politician or the other. I am not saying that this is bad, but how much time and space do we give to posting things about Jesus and His message? The gospel is God’s power to save man (Romans 16:16) and we can help spread the Word using our various social media platforms just as we spread other less important things. How about creating groups on these various social media platforms and then invite friends to teach them the Word? Many people who are into various businesses advertise and organize seminars on social media groups to draw people to patronize their businesses. Why can we not do same for the sake of Christ and draw people to His kingdom. I believe that many people can be reached with the gospel through this medium as well.
YouTube is a free video sharing website that makes it easy to watch online videos. A lot of individuals, business owners, churches etc. have channels on YouTube where they upload videos. Churches should encourage their preachers to go on YouTube to preach the Word of God. Door-to-door evangelism may not be as effective as it used to be in the time past due to certain factors especially in the urban area; and since going on radio may be too expensive for some congregations, they can upload videos on YouTube and share them. Even most broadcast media organizations are becoming increasingly popular because of their presence on the social media including YouTube. But if that is not possible, granting that not everyone may have such ability, churches can subscribe to certain channels that speaks the truth and use those resources as their evangelism tool by sharing with others and posting them on their social media pages. By so doing, we are sharing the gospel messages. I have known brethren who got converted to Christ as a result of video messages they consistently watch on YouTube.
Zoom is also another good medium to study the Bible. I know certain congregations and brethren that conduct Bible studies on zoom with their members and others who are far away. Members can invite their friends to join the virtual Bible study if they cannot physically attend the one conducted at the church building. This way, the gospel message is spread. However, these mediums are not to replace the physical gatherings of the church, rather it is to further aid in spreading the Word. The Bible commands coming together to worship God (I Corinthians 11:20) and we must not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25). Based on this, those who are satisfied with virtual worship are not getting it right. All of these mediums can be used to spread the gospel to the world, teach the Word of God among the saints as well as help one another in time of need and it is strongly encouraged that churches make use of these things in order to effectively do the work that God has given her in this 21st century. While it is admitted that not everyone has the gift of using the Internet and social media (and as a matter of fact some do not even use them). It is important that those who know how to use these things should use them to spread the gospel.