We all know that Episcopalians are leery of the word “evangelism.” When most of us hear it, we picture someone asking complete strangers if they know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior and handing out tracts. But we’re learning that there are other ways to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ,” as we promise to do in our baptismal covenant. One of these ways is through the use of social media. This is a method that particularly appeals to the more introverted among us, who spend a lot of time talking to friends and acquaintances online but not necessarily in person.
Digital evangelism is something I’ve tried to do for years, before I knew there was a word for it. As Facebook manager for my church, I’ve been mindful of creating share-worthy posts that will intrigue page visitors into wanting to find out more. On my personal page I frequently share these posts along with checking-in at church, posting pictures of my kids there, and sharing additional content from pages like Episcopal Church Memes and the official page of the Episcopal Church. I like to share what makes the Episcopal Church different, because that’s what I love about it.
Several months ago I began noticing posts by a friend hinting toward a transfer to the Episcopal Church. I have never met my friend in person – we knew each other from online message boards – but I knew her to be a lifelong Mormon. Her transition to a new faith as an Episcopalian was intriguing to me, but I didn’t want to pry, so I was glad when she posted a link to a podcast on which she had appeared to discuss her spiritual journey. She revealed that after losing her faith in the Mormon church, she began questioning whether there was even a God. In time, she missed having a belief system, so she decided to try out some different churches and see if any of them resonated with her. She wanted to start with the Episcopal Church – and I’m quoting her words here – “because of things that a friend of mine, who’s Episcopalian, would share on her Facebook page. I knew that they were open to LGBT persons, and they ordain women to the priesthood, and things like that, so for me, they had a lot of things going for them.”
In the first service she attended, the words “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith,” struck her, because she had never heard faith described as a mystery. Today, my friend is on the vestry at her parish. She still has questions about God, as we all do, but she loves being part of a church that encourages seekers and doesn’t claim to have all the answers.
Over the years that I had been posting about how much I love my church, I had no idea that my friend was going through a spiritual crisis. I also don’t know for sure if I was the person who brought my friend to the Episcopal Church – but someone was. Someone’s positive posts about the Episcopal Church and its way of love made a difference in her life.
The Episcopal Church offers five easy tips for using social media as a tool for evangelism:
Start where you’re comfortable. If you’re only on Facebook, use it. No need to branch out to new platforms if you don’t want to.
Follow your parish and diocesan accounts. These are great places to find shareable content.
Share events. Let people know about events that are open to all, and invite them.
Check in when you’re at a church service or parish event. It’s a great way to let people know about your involvement with the church. Adding a positive comment or invitation helps intrigue people, too.
Let your friends see your perspective. Why do you attend your church? What do you love about it? Share and let people know.
Evangelism doesn’t have to mean accosting strangers and passing out tracts on the street, and you don’t have to have the charisma of Presiding Bishop Curry. You never know what your friends and acquaintances are going through that they are not posting about – so start thinking about how you can present your church online in a way that will help others hear the Good News of Jesus. You may be doing more to further the Kingdom of God than you will ever know.