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Engaging the Church in the 21st Century

Planting Seeds for Christian Discipleship

In today's culture, the church must redefine congregational participation through a variety of opportunities and experiences.

Books to Facebook

A quick look on one’s Facebook feed or Twitter account easily reveal the ugly side of social media. Often our posts on social media are limited to other people who already think and act like we do. But our congregation should not be so quick to dismiss the influence of using social media like Facebook and Twitter as a tool of outreach for the church’s ministry.

“Can you imagine doing ministry the last five hundred years and getting away with ‘Sorry, I don’t do books’? Can you imagine doing ministry in the next five years and getting away with ‘Sorry, I don’t do Facebook’?”

Church Engagement

In his book, Viral: How Social Networking is Poised to Ignite Revival, Leonard Sweet explores how the church can use social media to incarnate the gospel of Jesus Christ within our current culture and contexts of ministry for the 21st century. Sweet states, “Can you imagine doing ministry the last five hundred years and getting away with ‘Sorry, I don’t do books’? Can you imagine doing ministry in the next five years and getting away with ‘Sorry, I don’t do Facebook’?”1 Of course, Sweet is not saying social media is the only way a church can or should reach out into their community. Simply put, he is saying a church cannot overlook social media as a resource for outreach ministry. This truth has become apparent this past week.

During this past week (February 16-23), our church’s Facebook page reached 638 people and had 219 engagements. A reach is the number of people who saw a specific post in their news feed, and an engagement is the number of people who interacted (views, clicks, comments, likes, or shares) with that specific post. During this week, our church Facebook page had three posts. I shared an image of our new road sign with “American Baptist Churches USA” put on the base to clarify our Baptist identity into the community. Second, our music minister, Leslie, shared a sweet post about me and the exciting work God is guiding us to for the coming months and years. Third, I shared a welcome video from our church’s website on our Facebook page. Through these three posts, we reached 638 people and engaged 219 people.

Church Participation

We often define church participation by those who come to the church building and attend a particular event like Sunday morning worship or Wednesday night adult study. We also recognize that the life and ministry of a local congregation is not defined within the walls of the church building. Most people probably agree with the previous sentence, but we must also allow the truth of the previous sentence shape how we talk about participation in the life and ministry of Culbertson Baptist Church. This past Sunday (February 23), we had 43 people participate in Sunday School and 74 people participate in Sunday morning worship. Still, I do not want to equate someone choosing to physically gather in communal worship on Sunday morning and someone choosing to share a virtual post or view an online video.

As we, as a church, live out the Great Commission to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” we must do so through a variety of ways. We are called to plant seeds of Christian discipleship and then nurture those seeds, water those plants, to welcome all people along this journey of following Christ. This past week, we have engaged people on Wednesday night through various programs, gathered in groups on Sunday morning for discussions around a Bible passage or theme, and gathering collectively in worship as a community faith. We have also connected to people through social media to show people throughout New Albany what God is doing at Culbertson Baptist and what God will be doing through us in the days to come.

And may you experience Christ’s love, so you can in return share God’s love to those you see each day.

Your Pastor,

Danny Russell

1Leonard Sweet, Viral: How Social Networking is Poised to Ignite Revival (Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2012), 322.

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Thank you for reminding me that we must keep looking for ways to plant seeds.

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