I will be presenting a 3 hour Professional Development Seminar at National Youth Ministry Convention 2013 on REDEEMING SOCIAL MEDIA. In the lead up to NYMC I have a series of interviews with Christians using online mediums in a deliberate way for the Gospel. I have asked the same 4 questions to each guest and there are some fantastic posts coming!
The fifth and final guest is Nathan W. Bingham. Nathan is an Aussie now based in the United States working for Ligonier Ministries. I really appreciate the resources that they make available. I’ve also been encouraged by Nathan’s personal blog and the godly wisdom he brings to navigating the digital world. He writes with precision and his response below helps to clarify and extend my own thinking ahead of the seminar I will be running. Make sure you click all the links below, lots of gold to be mined.
1) What church and/or ministries are you part of?
I’m a member of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Florida and serve as Internet Outreach Manager at Ligonier Ministries, a teaching ministry founded by R.C. Sproul in 1971. I’m originally from Melbourne, Australia, growing up with Vegemite and Weet-Bix, but after completing a theology degree moved to Orlando, Florida in 2012 with my wife and three young daughters to assist in managing and expanding Ligonier’s digital outreach and e-communications. I still get Vegemite imported, but now occasionally eat donuts and bagels for breakfast.
2) What ways do you use online mediums in your ministry and witness?
With faith as my anchor, I write on navigating the turbulent technological landscape known as the 21st century at NWBingham.com. I also connect with Christians and non-Christians alike on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Ligonier has an active presence on Twitter, Facebook, and more recently Instagram. Ligonier is primarily a teaching ministry and our goal is, and has always been, to help people grow in their knowledge of God and His holiness. Social media has not changed our mission—we still desire Christians to better know what they believe, why they believe it, how to live it, and how to share it. Through social media we seek to either reinforce our teaching through daily encouragement and reminders for those already familiar with us, or to introduce our teaching resources to those whose first question is usually, “What’s a Ligonier?”
For us, social media is a doorway—we may chat on the porch, but we always want to invite you in. Ligonier.org is the destination everything points back to and offers tens of thousands of resources from more than 40 years of ministry.
There are a variety of ways in which we are expanding our digital outreach. For example, we have been experimenting with Google Hangouts as a way to cultivate conversations with Christian leaders within our online community. I recently did a Hangout with Sinclair Ferguson. We released all of R.C. Sproul’s “Crucial Questions” booklets as free eBook downloads and within the first two months distributed over half a million. We also developed and launched RefNet, 24-hour Christian internet radio, that features the teaching of R.C. Sproul, Ligonier’s Teaching Fellows, and other trustworthy Christian ministries. RefNet is available online, for iPhones and iPads, select Android devices, and the Kindle Fire.
The opportunities that the Lord continues to provide are exciting and I’m grateful to be able to serve alongside a team of Christians who love Jesus and are committed to the historic Christian faith.
3) Why do you think it’s important for Christians to be deliberate in how they use online mediums?
It’s important for Christians to be deliberate in everything they do. Simply, sin has messed with our heads and we are called to renew our minds (Romans 12.2). Being deliberate to consider the Word of God and our call to be salt and light is essential in day to day life. Our faith has implications for all of life, and that includes the use of online mediums. Albert Mohler in his post, The Christian Leader in the Digital Age, puts today’s digital age in perspective:
“If the leader is not leading in the digital world, his leadership is, by definition, limited to those who also ignore or neglect that world, and that population is shrinking every minute. The clock is ticking.
He continues in his article to remind Christians that deliberately using these new online mediums is an act of stewardship—humbling realizing that no generation before us had such rich opportunities.
There is a lost and dying world out in the Twittersphere that need to hear about Jesus and the good news of the gospel. We can be light in a dark, albeit digital, world.
4) What advice would you give someone keen to be effective online for the gospel?
- Ask yourself, “Why?” When you nail down the answer to why you want to be on social media, much of the noise and distractions can be cleared away so you can make good use of the resources you have available. I expand on the implications of this question in this blog post.
- Remember that truth is truth and words mean something whether in print, speech, or a tweet. Christians embrace truth and the One who called Himself The Truth. We should be very mindful of every word we use in social media updates. A lot of truth, and error, can be contained in 140 characters.
- Silence can speak volumes. Many ministries have limited resources, but they should attempt to acknowledge and respond to those who reach out to them through social media. A simply acknowledgment goes a long way. At the same time, you don’t need to feed the trolls. I discourage social media as a platform for extended debate.
- Serve others on social media. There is a lot we can say, but Christians should always be asking themselves, “How can this update offer more value to the recipient?” At Ligonier, an example may be us including a quote from an article we’re linking to instead of highlighting a straight call-to-action. If you don’t click the link, hopefully you’ve still been able to read something edifying. We also listen to the online conversation. For example, if tragedy strikes in the world we may share content about suffering and offer comfort.
An article on my blog, 6 Tips for the Social Media Loudmouth, offers some other practical tips as well.
Dave, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you and your readers today, and thank you for your passion in sharing Jesus with those around you.