New data suggests that pastors of evangelical congregations seeking to impact culture may need to disciple their flock’s use of social media. A study conducted at the Billy Graham Institute in partnership with Lifeway Research reveals the way that technology and social media impacts the lives and witness of evangelical Christians. Ed Stetzer, writing for Christianity Today, reports that technology and online habits of evangelicals largely mirror those of the general public, if not slightly exceeding them.
“By far, the most common social media platform is Facebook, with over three-quarters of evangelicals by belief (77%) saying they regularly use the website (compared to 71% of non-evangelicals). Although not as widespread, YouTube (46%), Instagram (28%), and Twitter (22%) all record significant usage among evangelicals.”
The report indicates that 24% of evangelicals engage using social media every day on political and social issues compared to 15% of non-evangelicals. Additionally 44% articulate that they rarely or never use social media to engage others on social or political compared to 51% of non-evangelicals.
The continual activity of evangelicals online is likely due to the increase in cell phone use in the general public. Stetzer notes that cellphone usage has grown from 62% in 2002 to 95% in 2018, whereas smartphone usage has grown from 35% at their introduction in 2001 to 77% in 2018. So while cellphone usage has gone from common to essential in 16 years, smartphone usage has gone from nearly non-existent to indispensable.
All of this data suggests that there is value in churches intentionally teaching classes that disciple Christians how to properly use social media. If Christians seek to engage society in ways that reflect the teachings of Christ, then Christians need to understand how the technology can positively or negatively impact their spiritual formation. Developing an increasing awareness to these nuances will allow Christians to reflect upon how our every technological action impacts others and the world around us.
Reality Changing Observations:
Q1. What do you think should guide the ethics of Christians online and how do you think Christians should hold one another accountable for their online behaviors?
Q2. What online behaviors do you think make the most positive impact on people and why?
Q3. What is one regular online behavior that you could enact to better your life and people’s lives around you?