How important is Google+ to communicating your faith?
If you search the tool for “Christian,” here are some of the top results:
1. Christian Oliver, Digital Media Strategist
2. Christian Dior
3. Christianna Pierce, mobile photography artist
4. The Christian Science Monitor
5. Christian Sugiono, world domination planner
‘Christian’ Identity on Google+
The first person to include “Christian” in his identity is #19: Dex Forgenie, “Christian, Web Designer, Website hosting.” Probably misidentified among the Christians is an “Evangelist at Mozilla.” I personally find myself wondering about anyone who self-identifies as “The Original Christian” (#43).
Somewhere around page 13, you start to encounter businesses like “Christian Clippers,” a haircutting salon (which makes me wonder what a Christian haircut looks like …).
Does Google+ Christianity Matter?
But I’m not sure any of that matters.
Google+ is a marketing tool. And despite what we’ve attempted to do through church growth strategies over the last 30 years, Christianity started with face-to-face conversations and continues to grow that way.
That is to say, the clever signboard out front, the invitations you drop in the bulk mail, and the fliers you hang on neighborhood doors don’t do squat compared to a congregation that actually says to its friends and neighbors:
Face-to-Face Christianity Asks for Commitment
“I’ve found something great. I really think you should come along.”
We’d do it if the “something great” was a sale on shoes or an up-and-coming soccer team. Why not when “something great” is prison ministry?
My husband remembers how the late lay leader of a local church’s prison ministry bugged a mutual friend to come with him. “You should really come,” he kept saying. “It’ll be great.”
I don’t know whether the prison minister had been taught that it usually takes about seven tries for a new idea to “catch,” but he certainly kept trying. Finally our friend came.
I’m not entirely sure he thought it was “great!” the first time he heard the thick security door clang shut behind him. But as the lay prison minister drove him home, he reminded him about the hungry eyes of the few men who weren’t just escaping cell time. The enthusiasm of those who had recently accepted Christ. He reinforced the new prison minister’s commitment so that the next week he’d be ready to go.
Eventually, he convinced my husband that it was “great!” and my husband should join them. No brochures. No social media outreach. Just face-to-face, persistent communication. It gained two weekly prison ministers who served for years.
By contrast, we’ve learned from church marketing specialists that “people don’t want” a church that asks as much as their name. They want to sit in the dark and be left alone, as if they were watching a religious concert or broadcast.
This is how to market religion. But Christianity is a living body of people who believe together. We can only be part when we are invited to do what God has made us to do.
So use Google+ for what it does: business marketing. And get up the courage to talk to your friends — rinse out the rejection — then repeat for seven or ten times until the invitation sinks in. You’ve got a great offer. Make sure they understand and don’t miss the chance.