JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Is it possible to escape social media? is there no respite from our cell phones, and Ipods and Facebook and Twitter?
What about in your church?
Is the person sitting next to you texting someone or reading about the tribulations of the Apostle Paul?
Or are they catching up on the latest church info from the person on the pulpit?
Would Jesus Text?
When I was a kid the thought of having a bible on something like a cell phone was as far out there as the Jetsons, just pure science fiction.
But now social media interacts with everything we do. And now it's moving into churches.
Aaron Filippone is the Student Mission Pastor at Central Baptist, "We are missionaries to this area and if social media is the way to use them then we want to use it."
If you go looking for churches through the phone book you will see that along with an address and phone number, the listing generally includes a web page or e-mail address.
Filippone, "We found out that about 80 % of this generation will look at your website before they ever look into the foyer of your church."
Social media, i.e.. Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, blogging etc. .has exploded, looking at the numbers. Facebook alone claims 400 million members, Twitter is expected to go over 26 million adults this year.
You can tell you that churches almost have to tap into this resource, especially with young people.
Sitting in a booth in the Youth Wing, I visited with 16 yr. old Jamie Socha. She says her phone is in constant use.
"I use it to communicate with everyone, I look up things. it's just my way of life."
I tapped into the network of Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro. I spoke with young people, youth and college pastors , Jeff Stotts the Worship Pastor. If I wanted to know what Senior Pastor Archie Mason was doing, I looked at his Twitter, His Blog and e-mail.
Stotts and I sat down at his computer in his musical instrument filled office. Pulling up Facebook on his computer we looked at the fan section.
"A little strange for a church to have a fan page. Right now we have 1803 fans"
Filippone, "Social media, Twitter,Facebook, all these things on your portable device they're a tool."
Electronic tools that are starting to replace the printed word.
At the service I attended at Central Baptist there were a lot of people looking at the scriptures in their bibles. But there were a lot of people looking at them, on their cell phones.
The bible on a cell phone or Ipod or Droid app is increasing in popularity and commonality. LifeChurch.tv which is the creator of one of the most popular online bible, "You Version.com" offers 41 different translations in 22 languages. All you can access from the palm of your hand.
I asked Jeff if he had ever seen anyone text during a service?
"I have seen people on their phones but there are a lot of people who use their bible apps now."
A group of teen age girls finally confessed that they had texted someone at least once during a service but for the most part they use their phones as a bible.
Jamie Socha has bible apps on her phone but it's not quite the same she says.
"It's the same but not really. you still get the same thing out of it but not the same because not all the page flipping through."
So if we have services on the net and television, scripture on our handheld's, Pastor Blogs, Tweets from the youth leaders and mass e-mails.......Why do we need churches at all?
Allison Smith a high school junior was quick to point out. "There are things that you do not get from sitting at home and watching TV or on the computer."
Allison's friend Taylor Tanner agreed.
"That's the whole part of the Gospels is about the fellowship that you get to experience with other believers and encourage one another throughout the week. "
Dan Reeves the University Pastor said you can be a spectator in pew just as easy as you can at home if you want. Reeves said you have to define church for yourself.
"We don't want people just to dedicated to their phone. You're not going to be able to serve by watching something on line. You're not going to be able to pray with someone by watching it on line."
So it kinda makes you wonder. If all this social media been around the time of Jesus. Would he have been my friend. Would Jesus text?
Filippone, "Would Jesus use social media? That's a good question."
Spencer Rice, also a Junior said he doesn't have a fancy phone like Allison and Tanner but he assured me that Jesus would more than likely text.
"I can't think of a reason he wouldn't text. Texting is not a bad thing."
Allison, "I mean he's Jesus, he would know exactly what to say. He'd know when to encourage people and keep them updated."
Taylor, "If texting would reach one person , I think yeah he'd send that message or he'd Facebook them or Twitter or whatever he needs to do to get their attention and reach out to them."
Filippone, "This is part of the culture that we're living in. It's certainly not unbiblical, it's an avenue to someone's heart."
Social Media is here to stay, as the pre-computer generation passes, the technology savvy generations fill the pews, still searching.
Filippone, "And if it's in my 140 characters on Twitter. Or it's on my Facebook page or it's opening a bible in front of someone. Then so be it. I want to use every opportunity possible to give the gospel to them."