Will you be my friend, please?
Will you be my friend, please?
Walking past the new stationery shop in Church Walks, a particular greeting card caught my eye. “Congratulations on having 1000 friends.”
So I immediately checked my Facebook account to discover that the number of my friends doesn’t even reach treble figures. Just 99, in fact, the size of the flock in Jesus’ parable without the lost sheep. I felt strangely inadequate.
To be fair, it could have been about 20 more. In the early days of Facebook, I regularly received requests from young people in church asking if I could be their friend. Of course! So click, accept.
Except that when I checked I was shocked to discover that nearly all of my friends were teenage girls. I rapidly consulted the help page on how to defriend!
Actually, I am a great fan of Facebook – if used properly. You need to manage your settings carefully. Of course, you get those ‘friends’ who wish to share every insignificant detail of their lives, but you can always turn them off. I do. But there again I enjoy knowing who is where and what they are doing. I look at their photos, watch their videos. Social media is great for keeping in touch, something blokes of my age are notoriously bad at.
Recommendations too, Steve McGanity, vicar of St Andrew’s Clubmoor and friend, pointed me to this excellent article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10176190/Archbishop-Justin-Welby-I-was-embarrassed.-It-was-like-getting-measles.html
And you do need, of course, to be wary of what you post – it will always be there, in the public domain. But there again, Jesus did warn us.
“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” (Luke 12:2f). You can't say you were never warned.
Yesterday I had lunch in Cafe Vista with Ben Dyer, the young man tasked by the Deanery in reaching out in Christ’s name to young adults, a daunting ministry. He was telling me that Facebook is the name of the game if you want to reach out to young people. Whether you like it or not (and you probably don’t), it is how this new generation functions.
And the implications are awesome, as the Arab world as well as Student Union bars (now almost redundant) are discovering. A new technology is once again transforming our society, possibly even as much as did the invention of printing revolutionized the church.
The printing press burst upon a unsuspecting world about 1450 and by the time the Reformation was underway in 1517 there were printing centres in over 200 of the major European cities. Looking back a great blessing – but maybe not that obvious at the time if it meant individual Christians having access to scripture in their own language. Don’t forget, Tyndale was burnt at the stake. Mark Zuckerberg, who gave us Facebook, should be very wary.
In many ways social media is in its infancy - Facebook is not yet 10 years old! - but the implications are already awesome. And as a church we need to anticipate and respond for the sake of the Gospel. Why should the devil have all the best websites?
This week we are giving all proceeds of Cafe Vista to help support the family of baby Henry. The treatment of his brain tumour may well mean going to the US. His mother, Katie, runs a Facebook page called Henry the Handsome’s journey in which she chronicles their daily passage (1072 likes as of this morning). I find it very moving, inspirational. We share their up’s and down’s; we travel with them. And it prompts me to pray.
For such communication is at the heart of the Christian faith for it is in the very heart of God. And Jesus – the Word made flesh - commissions us to go and tell. The apostle Paul was the first of innumerable disciples who travelled huge distances in order to communicate the Gospels – those new Roman roads certainly helped. His goal was “by whatever means” to share the Gospel. It must be ours too.
Even if you only sign up to the Christ Church Facebook page, you are entering this brave new world. But never forget, that whenever we enter a brave new world in Christ’s name, we invariably find that he is already there ahead of us. Jesus is called the pioneer of faith for good reason.