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How social media can help the church

An Interview with Krish Kandiah conducted by Veronika Kaplotz for Regent College Magazine

To people who are cynical about social media, Krish Kandiah has this to say: start participating in the conversation. “Any culture we create will be a mixture of glory and brokenness. If Christians become literate in this language, we can bring light to that space. If we run away from it, who can blame it for being dark?”

 

Krish is an active blogger, Tweeter, and a firm believer that social media technology is an opportunity, not a threat. As a visiting faculty member during Summer Programs at Regent College, Krish taught the course Kinetic Christianity: Evangelism and Apologetics for the Third Millennium, and delivered an evening lecture entitled “Digital Discipleship: The Opportunities and Challenges of Social Media for the Church,” which was live-streamed on the Regent website. Inviting into the conversation a colleague from Sydney, Australia via Skype and questions via Twitter, Krish lived up to his enthusiasm for using social media to connect with others.

 

Regent World caught up with Krish in the Atrium, and in keeping with social media etiquette (not yet widely practiced), all technological devices went dormant during the interview.

 

RW: What are some of the opportunities of social media for spreading the faith? Does the church risk anything by not being part of the social media world?

 

KK: One of the positive impacts of social media on society is the sense of connectivity it has created among Christians in different parts of the globe. In the UK, social media is building a network across denominations. People are sharing resources, getting past the tribal.

 

As Neil Postman stated, changes in information technology are not additive but ecological, changing the entire environment in which we live. Why did dinosaurs become extinct? Because they couldn’t adapt to the changes in their environment. And so churches can embrace and adapt to these changes, or they can ignore them and face further irrelevancy and possible extinction.

 

The goal of our missionary church is to find new ways to express the gospel in an ever-changing world. And we have a good history of doing this. Without the Gutenberg press to easily distribute Bibles and pamphlets, would the Reformation have happened as it did? The early Christians took advantage of Roman roads to travel and spread the gospel. Why can’t we make good use of social media technologies to do the same?

 

RW: What about the disadvantages of social media, such as the time that is spent on devices instead of face-to-face interactions?

 

KK: With technology, there is a continual tension: do we use our tools, or let the tools use us? Marshall McLuhan raised those questions in the 1960s. There is always a fear with new technologies: Socrates warned that the introduction of writing would lead to the decline of memory. We have a fight or flight instinct when cultural change happens. But we have to avoid a reactionary approach: the question is how do you engage critically and faithfully with technology? It’s about working out a rhythm of life that uses social media well, and helps you be present and fully attentive in a situation.

 

Clay Shirky, a social media commentator, says that people in their mid-twenties don’t use the word “cyberspace” anymore. It’s not seen as a separate space, but a complement to face-to-face interactions: it allows for reminders of face-to-face meetings and parties, and a way to organize new events.

 

Social media also involves a “launch and see attitude.” It helps me in my preaching. I sometimes put a skeleton of what I plan to talk about on my blog and ask people to comment. I Tweet about it, I start a Facebook conversation. I do a lot of prep on the computer, Tweeting with one eye and reading Scripture with the other. After the sermon, I post slides and people can comment, and the conversation continues.

 

In terms of privacy issues, we’ve been warned of the Big Brother mentality, but now we’re choosing to broadcast ourselves. I actually want people to know what I’m thinking about, what I’m grappling with. I see it as a way to let my light shine before others, to promote an openness, to share my faith, as well as my doubts.

 

There is of course the invasion of social media into the home. And so we need to devise a social media etiquette. You can make a conscious decision, when you meet with a friend, whether to turn your phone off, or to continue attending to calls and messages. With a group of like-minded individuals, we devised the Ten Commandments of social media, sort of tongue-in-cheek.

 

The ten commandments of blogging.

1. You shall not put your blog before your integrity.

2. You shall not make an idol of your blog.

3. You shall not misuse your screen name by using your anonymity to sin.

4. Remember the Sabbath day by taking one day off a week from your blog.

5. Honour your fellow-bloggers above yourselves and do not give undue significance to their mistakes.

6. You shall not murder someone else’s honour, reputation or feelings.

7. You shall not use the web to commit or permit adultery in your mind.

8. You shall not steal another person’s content.

9. You shall not give false testimony against your fellow-blogger.

10. You shall not covet your neighbour’s blog ranking. Be content with your own content.

 

 

This interview is also available on the regent college website.

Listen to Krish’s lecture on “Digital Discipleship” on Regent Audio

 

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