The Christian Ghetto and Social Media

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“Every good idea must have a similar, but yet inferior Christian version.”  Unfortunately, I think that’s a sad reality these days. I have lost count of the times I was asked if my company, The A Group, could help a church or ministry to create a Christian version of Facebook. Seriously.  Should every church have its own alternative to Facebook?

For some un-Biblical reason, we Christians find the need to abandon our culture and gather together in what I call the  “Christian Ghetto.” The Christian Ghetto is a place where you go to hang out with your Christian friends, fill up a website with Christian pictures and Christian videos of lots of happy people, bad preaching and youth camp promos. There’s not much witnessing and shedding of light in the ghetto since everyone is already convinced and the place is way too bright as is.

I understand the need for closed networks within several difference facets of ministry. For example, in managing small groups who need to connect in privacy or resourcing ministries that deal with evangelistic strategies where an open discussion in Facebook, would undermine their effectiveness.

So should the Church abandon social media altogether? Absolutely not. The church should redeem it . Christians are already there in millions strong among their unchurched friends. Instead of trying to pull your people out of Facebook, Twitter, Myspace (Ok, there’s no one left there) or whatever the social media du jour is, your church should develop strategies to engage, inspire and create dialog within these networks. We should resource our people with tools for integration and not segregation. We should take our Christian content into every part of the web we’re allowed to go. Go where the darkness is and shed light. My friends Tami Heim and Tony Birdsong wrote a great book about how to do just that, @Sticky Jesus.

I say let’s break up the Christian Ghetto mindset we Christians tend to have and lets become more intentional in our social media outreach.

What’s your take?

  • Steve Lauthern

    I think it's sad that Christians always feel the need to retreat and not engage culture. Sometimes we have what I've heard described as "Christian safari" where we go out into the wilderness to evangelize and catch the unsuspecting unsaved and then run back to our ghetto. Thanks for the post

  • Charlene

    There's a lot that I don't understand about social media, but if Christians don't spend time there, how can we impact our world?

  • Anonymous

    So how do you create a safe place for families to connect?

  • I agree. We need to join the already established networks and engage with all christians and non-christians alike there. This forces us to be transparent and not have multiple personalities – a church personality, a work personality, a friend personality.

  • I *completely* agree with the post (though curious to know how that second-to-the-last paragraph was supposed to end). Tools such as Facebook and Twitter allow so many other people to be introduced to our practice of the Christian faith.

  • One of my favorite sayings "take what you have learned in the dark and share it in the light", your post is right on target. What a better place to be a fisher of men.

  • I totally agree. Brilliant point!

  • Like many others who commented, I agree. I get a lot of email invites to join other people (most I don't even know; funny how that works) on "Christian" social networks. I never really saw the point to that. Most of my friends and acquaintances from my church are on FaceBook. Both of our ministers have FaceBook accounts.As for safe places for families to meet, I believe FaceBook allows the creation of groups in which membership can be restricted. I'm not discounting the need for "ghettos" of some kind at one point or another, because as believers we do need a place apart from the world to worship, bear one another's burders, etc, but it shouldn't keep us away from the world.

  • I generally agree with what you are saying, but I would also point out that there are some functions of church community that are not served well in a more general setting. What are your thoughts about http://www.onthecity.org – recently purchased by Zondervan as a social networking community site for churches?

  • I think the whole point of social networking is that it brings you into contact with multiple circles of contact. To me, it would defeat the point of a network to have it limited to only people who know each other from a single context and not extended friend networks, i.e., friends of friends.

  • I would tend to agree with what Lawrence said above. And perhaps it depends on your definition of "networking." To me, networking by its very nature creates diversity by putting you into contact with people you may not otherwise encounter. I welcome correction on this, but if new connections are the goal then it seems wise to get out of our "bubble" whenever and however we can (rather than simply to create a new one 🙂

  • Great post. This is the reason I blog the way I do… follow people on Twitter like I do… and break out of the only 'my' church mentality. We have to be very intentional with what we do.

  • Nice post Maurillio. I prefer that Christians make whole world safer for everyone by being present than making portions of it safer for our immediate families by being absent.

  • I personally believe Twitter is the greatest social network artists can get promotion. Many well-known superstars/performers nowadays began through Twitter. Exactly like Marie Digby and Arnel Pineda, the modern singer of the actual music group Journey. A few of them are having something like Tweet Attacks to find the real followers in a "dirty way".

  • Mark Jeffress

    I couldn’t agree more. As Christians we should have an impact on all areas of life, including social media. Abandoning it would be a big mistake. 

  • Zach Norman

    When Christians create an exclusive community they send a silent message to everyone else that they[we] think we’re better than the outsiders. Whether that message is intended or not, it comes through loud and clear to outsiders. Think about a new guest at your church, they see several groups of people happy, engaged in conversation, making lunch plans while the guest is ignored feeling excluded…

    • It’s easy for the Christian culture to be exclusive. Unfortunately that happens in the very place where it should be a safe and welcoming place for those outside the faith, the church.

    • David

      We’ve moved a lot n the past 15+ years and have often found ourselves visiting church after church only to find we’re unwelcome. Perhaps that’s a bit harsh; but when you go to a place where people are supposed to be filled with the Love of God, yet can’t seem to find it in their heart to say hello and welcome a guest, you rarely don’t go back. This is just the place Christians gather once or twice a week. In the Ghetto those who aren’t part of the clique don’t have a chance to come in and dine. 

      We Believers need to be disciples of the Master and eat with the sinners and tax collectors, the prostitutes and drug addicts and homosexuals, other religious people and show the redeeming love of God through our actions & lives. Christians can talk all they want, and create all kinds of “safe” alternatives to the world around us, but loving is shown through our living in the midst of them.

  • Michelle Sarabia

    @stickyJesus was one of the best books I read on this issue.  If we can get more Christians to understand the resource and the hearts and hands we can touch with Facebook as we shine God’s light in each status update imagine the world we can live in.

    • Yes! We need more open-minded people. Unfortunately, some of the most close-minded people are Christians. 

    • @StickyJesus is being re-released by Abingdon Press next month. I hope more people get to read it.

      The A Group

      Maurilio Amorim
      President

      blog: maurilioamorim.com
      web: agroup.com
      Twitter: twitter.com/maurilio

      615.373.6990 ext 300
      615.373.6991 fax

  • I couldn’t agree more! Facebook has been a huge ministry for me, as I used to be one of those “non-believers” that wasn’t invited to the Christian getto. Because of God’s Radical changes in me, many of my “unbelieving” friends have seen more of God’s Word and His principles than they do in their own town. God can use anything, including Social Media if we let Him. 

    • What a powerful testimony of the impact that social media can have when it’s intentional. Thank you for sharing, Sundi.

  • Christian Ghetto is the perfect term. I refuse to join godtube or thevine or anything else people have. I work at a church…so I’m already barely in contact with “the world”. How am I supposed to reach anyone if I finish my descent into the Christian bubble.

    Plus…copying is never the key. We need to come up with original ideas for our unique needs. Copying creates the ghetto, originality creates a revolutionary idea.

    • Well said, Jonathan. Amen to originality and effectiveness.

  • Anonymous

    Like everyone else, I agree. But there is a practical matter of how one gets found when there is no ghetto. In bookstores, for example, Christian publishers would like to get rid of the Inspirational section and just have their books placed into the lineup of “youth,” or “business” without the additional label of “Inspirational.” But there is no denying that having those sections helps consumers find what they are looking for. Consider Apple’s App store. Let’s say as a parent you want to provide some Bible stories for your kids along with the Dr. Seuss and Miss Spider content. Because there is no Christian or Religious category in the app store, you are left to browse thousands of entertainment apps hoping to stumble across a quality piece. You could also randomly search for words in the title, but then you’ll probably only think of Noah’s Ark. Marketing is immensely difficult for apps, so lacking a ghetto–which I am glad for–how do we overcome the marketing challenge of making the world aware of great Christian content?

    • if it is truly great there will not be any problem advertising it – people will come in huge numbers

      • Wish I could believe that. But I’ve been working with writers and artists for too long to think that truly great work never gets missed.

    • Bruce, that’s a challenge. I would differentiate between category and class. In a bookstore you have a religious section with subsections for Christianity and even more for biography or fiction or inspiration. Apple’s lack of those categories is hurting the app makers as well as Apple’s bottom line. And the reason they haven’t created them is because they are making enough money elsewhere not to do it, unfortunately.

  • Rumor has it, that television was first introduced to the Church as a form of broadcasting the Gospel. Leaders rejected it. If that’s true, then we’ve been following that invention  and many like it with our own bad versions two years later. You nailed this one A.  

    • Interesting point on television. Back in the 90’s Mike Myers had a character on SNL called “Lothar of the hill people.” It was a spoof on the early civilizations. One day Lothar invented the wheel and showed it to the elders of his tribe all the benefits this new invention could have in their lives. The elders deliberated for a minute and came back with “it’s a good idea; however, it is new, therefore we fear it and must reject it.” When I saw that I thought they have attended one of my church board meetings.

  • I completely agree with you, Maurilio. I cannot stand when Christian make their own versions of social media, or even TV and radio stations, bookstores and schools. I understand that not every bookstore will carry Christian books, but I always cringe when people say they only watch Christian TV or listen to Christian radio stations. It’s a disconnect from culture that costs us in our ability to truly connect with people where they are at. Great post!

  • Awesome post! Totally agree! Thank you for speaking on an issue that needs to be addressed. 

  • Not Seth Godin

    Sort of like a Christian Seth Godin blog?

    • That’s funny! However, Seth Godin did not invent marketing. Jesus used when he told his disciples to “go into the highways and hedges and compel people to come in.” I’m ok with imitating Jesus.

  • John Wetzler

     14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.-Matthew Ch. 5 14-16. Tru Dat!

  • Lori

    Yep. The-devil-is-under-every-rock-so-we-better-stay-inside mentality. Most perturbing. Great post.

  • Loved the post! I have been saying something very similar to this.

    Whenever it’s brought up, the excuse I hear most often is “But we have to protect Christians, they could see something bad on one of those sites.”

    To be bold Christians once again….

    • There’s plenty of bad stuff in Christian sites as well. Bad theology abounds in the ghetto.

  • Dave

    Yeah, God forbid we would stay in the culture and be salt and light. Let’s retreat, hide in the church, and create lousy Christian culture just so everyone will be completely convinced we are lame anachronisms.
    Sorry, venting…your fault. Good article.

  • Michael

    My take… is that you’re asking the wrong question.  I don’t know any forward thinking Christian that’s still in the ghetto.  Your post might as well indicate that advertising no longer works, branding is more than just a logo, or that people don’t remember information…they remember stories.  None of that’s new.  Shouldn’t we be having a different conversation?  

    • Michael, while I would like to think we are past this, I still get the “let’s huddle together” request often.

  • Douglas Pek

    Absolutely! Not only in social media, but in all aspects of our lives! I see Christians isolating themselves in their own ‘safe’ (Christian) environment and forgetting that salt needs to be infused in the food to give it taste! Great post!

  • Johnbautista

    wow!!! I think this is a solid post!!! thank you!!

    i just came from reading about other social media. learning what it all encompasses. 

    this guy named john talked about a scoring on social media??? 
     http://tinyurl.com/7o5yuaj

    do you know of it??

    what are your thoughts on it! let me know,

    sincerely,
    john

  • Bret Pemelton

    Wow!  How’d I miss this post.  Thank you for touching on something that has driven me nuts for years.  When I was a young aspiring musician I discovered that Christian music was emulating what was already out there, just on a cheaper level.  Some artist would even boast, “We don’t care about the music, it’s just a tool for the Gospel”.  That use to outrage me.  A lot has changed and improved over the years, but there still is that whole “Here’s a safe Christian version for you”.

  • Thanks for the post…can’t help but think that every one that agrees with you is already engaged in the web 2.0; and anyone that disagrees has no way of know this post exists! It’s ironic how even online we can ‘preach to the choir’.

  • Pingback: A great idea?…let’s copy it with an inferior Christian version. | garyhoogvliet.com()

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