ANAHEIM, Calif. — Facebook’s faith-based director illustrated how churches can leverage social media to grow the Kingdom of God and exhorted Christians to use their platforms to build followers of Jesus instead of simply growing their personal audience.
“God wants to do something new with social technology that we’ve never comprehended before,” Nona Jones, Facebook’s director of global faith-based partnerships, said during the Digital Media Summit at Proclaim 19, the National Religious Broadcasters' International Christian Media Convention on March 29.
Jones, who with her husband also pastors Open Door Ministries in Gainesville, Florida, detailed how churches can use social media to develop disciples both within and outside their church walls. Far too many Christians, she said, have erroneously come to equate “church” with “building.”
“The paradigm for the Church today is often ‘Come, follow Jesus at church on Sunday at 11,” she said. But when Jesus walked on Earth, church was not something that occurred at a particular time on a particular day.
“Church was a community of people who cared about the Gospel and cared about the Good News and took the Good News with them wherever they went,” she said.
Jones, who will release her memoir titled, Success From the Inside Out, in January 2020, urged the audience to return to “a biblical model of church that never involved an address, but only involved willing hearts,” she said, reminding listeners that “Jesus taught people, equipped people, healed people, prayed for people, and set people free as He found them along His journey.”
According to recent statistics, two-thirds of churches in America are declining or plateauing in attendance, and more than 80 percent of people are not attending church in person or at all, Jones said. Meanwhile, 30,000 people search Google every month for “church online.”
Churches, she emphasized, need to learn how to reach that 80 percent.
“There’s a vast sea of people who are searching but who won’t drive to a building to find what they’re looking for because they don’t even know what they’re looking for,” she said.
Discipleship, she emphasized, does not occur when people enter a building and “watch a program.” Rather, it occurs when “we are in relationship with other people, challenging each other. And these are the kinds of relationships we can have when we leverage social media for ministry.”
She highlighted the power of Facebook groups, explaining that those intimate, tight-knit groups allow for 24/7 discipleship. Then, believers have the opportunity to take those relationships from online to offline, in person.
The goal of social media, she stressed, should be discipleship, not simply building one’s personal audience.
“It doesn’t matter how many followers you have if those followers aren’t following Jesus through you,” Jones said. “We’re conduits. It’s not about the size of our following. The question is: ‘How are we helping people mature in their faith who are connected to our ministries?’ That’s what social media is about.”
The Digital Media Summit was one of four industry summits hosted by the NRB during the week of Proclaim 19. Other summits included the Great Commission Summit (March 25), TV & Film Summit (March 27), and Radio Summit (March 28).