“Give it away give it away give it away now” ~ Red Hot Chili Peppers
As a pastor my primary mission is to share the good news of God’s love in with as many people, in as many ways and in as many platforms as possible: church, coffee shops, pubs, the barber shop, and social media platforms from Facebook, YouTube, to Instagram. To borrow from John Wesley, I try to share the Gospel, “by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
However, I also recognize that the Gospel is free and is not the exclusive provenance of pastors or the church. God’s love, grace, and mercy are breaking in all around us. They don’t require my permission or my presence. Rather, they require my attentiveness.
And so, a key question for me is not just how can we as ministry leaders or churches can communicate the Gospel, but how we can recognize, name, celebrate, and participate in the in-breaking of God’s grace that is happening all the time all around us.
For me, this means a fundamental shift in what we typically refer to as “evangelism.” Evangelism, from the Greek meaning “good news,” meaning the good news of God’s grace, has often been reduced to a matter of publicity or the conversion of church visitors into members. Both reflect a transactional approach to the Gospel—the Gospel as a kind of quid pro quo, rather than a free gift to be freely shared.
This transactional approach to evangelism often corrupts the very good news we are trying to share. We say that the Gospel is God’s free gift to us, and yet we often attach so many strings. And so, the Gospel becomes a means to an end rather than an end in itself, and we lose sight that the only transaction required already happened—on the cross.
God gives us everything and asks us to share just as generously with others. We are called to do the same. Our participation in digital social media platforms invites us to practice sharing the Gospel more freely. When we post a Facebook status, a blog post and we don’t really know who will see it or where it will go. We offer it up and hope it might be of some use or inspiration, and we trust God to do the rest. By sharing the Gospel with people who will likely never visit let alone join our church, it helps us to share it with local neighbors and friends without the pressure of somehow converting them.
Digital spaces also enable us to listen for and recognize the holy in people’s lives as they share and make meaning of them in real time with their social networks. In the posts of friends and followers we can see the Gospel freely moving in the world. The Gospel doesn’t belong to us. Yet we belong to God.
For, ultimately, as Elizabeth Drescher and I wrote in Click2Save: The Digital Ministry Bible
, “The ROI (return on investment) of digital ministry is hearts set free in the Gospel.” Keith Anderson serves as pastor at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church in Ambler, Pennsylvania. He is the author of
The Digital Cathedral: Networked Ministry in a Wireless World, and co-author of
Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible. Connect with Keith at pastorkeithanderson.net and on Twitter @prkanderson. The New Media Project is a research project helping religious leaders become theologically savvy about technology. To request permission to repost this content, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.