Many lovers of art and history around the world mourned the recent fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral. “We lost a teacher,” is their cry. I heard someone fittingly point out that today we construct church buildings to house our teachers, but the Notre Dame was the teacher. This is true in the sense that during the Dark Ages when the Cathedral was built, the majority of the public was illiterate. People had to learn with pictures or with the spoken word. Art was often used to teach those who could not read.
Today we are dealing with a different kind of illiteracy, ignorance of Who is God. Yes, people do and can read books, but what are they reading the most? Their social media.
So, how do we reach them? Do we continue the same methods we have used for the past 50 years, and then scratch our heads and wonder why it’s not as effective as it used to be? Well, if the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect different results, are we insane?
From Genesis to Revelation we observe that God is always coming down from Heaven to the people. From coming down to walk with Adam and Eve in the garden (Gen. 2), to Jesus coming to earth to die for our sins, and even in the future when the new heaven and the new earth descend (Rev. 21). Therefore, as His instruments with the mission of making disciples, what are we to do? Do we continue to expect them to come to us looking for Jesus, inviting the unsaved to a worship service that they won’t even understand because they don’t have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them? Or, should we go to them?
Yes, first and foremost, we go to the unsaved by building one-on-one redemptive relationships with our unsaved neighbors, coworkers, and classmates.
When Jesus came to earth He was able to personally interact with some. We thank the Lord for the friendships we have formed with our neighbors and others in the community. A few even agreed to study the Bible together with us!
However, Jesus also preached to the masses. How can we preach to the masses in today’s context? Maybe inviting people to church or special meetings worked in the past, but is that the most effective method today?
At our church, we do continue to canvas once a month with the goal of reaching every house in our municipality of Pilar with an invitation flyer once every five years. We still hand out tracts, but it has its limits.
One method to reach beyond our personal circles of influence that is actually working is social media. We know social media can reach the masses, and so we are using it to preach to the masses. Taking advantage of the algorithms of Facebook and Instagram, we publish “micro” sermons throughout the week. Our goal is to point people’s thoughts to God through His Word, presented in a modern way. The message has not changed, but the method has.
Social media is often the first contact someone will have with our church, whether they are searching for something or one of their contacts shared one of our posts. We present God’s Word in a variety of ways – Bible verses, quotes, clips from sermons, and links to articles. (We try to stick with the 80/20 rule – 80% teaching/encouragement and only 20% church announcements.) Through our interaction, they feel like they “know” us before they ever decide to visit our church. We see anywhere from one to five visitors each service because they follow us on social media.
They walked through the front door. Now, what happens? This is the vital point that cannot be missed:
If our visitors do not experience a welcoming, friendly atmosphere of a disciple-making culture that cares about people’s souls, they will not come back.
In other words, I can sit in my office all week long and create amazing content for social media, but if we are not discipling our people during the 167 hours per week that they are outside of the worship service, they will not minister to the visitors during the one hour they show up on Sunday morning. And it must come from the church people, not just the pastor and his wife. Believe me, we know.
Following Jesus’ example, here’s how we try to invest our time in making disciples: