July 24, 2018
I am attending the 2018 National Deacon Congress in New Orleans for a few days. Approximately 1500 deacons and their wives are here to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reinstatement of the permanent diaconate via Vatican II.
One of yesterday’s sessions focused on meeting people where they are, particularly with the use of social media. For better or worse, data shows that people spend an average of 24 hours per week online. Social media is “where people are.” There are fewer people in the pews, but they are definitely online.
Pope Francis certainly understands the power of social media. He has over 40 million followers on Twitter (a few more than me) and each of his tweets is re-tweetd an average of 9,000 times. Given that data, how many times is the word “God” being sent out over the internet?
Jesus offered us an even better example of meeting people where they are. Evidence:
*First, Jesus was a prolific preacher, but how many times do we read about Him actually preaching in a synagogue? Not many. The majority of His teaching was done “on the road.” He went to small villages, hillsides, mountaintops, private homes, etc. He went to where the people were.
*Second, we reflect on the occupation of Jesus – the job that paid the bills. Jesus was a carpenter. Jesus told dozens of parables in His teaching, but how many of those parables were about carpentry? None that I know of. Carpentry would have been a specialized occupation, so instead He told stories about sowing seed, tending sheep, and fishing. His stories were relatable; the stories spoke to people about THEIR lives and THEIR struggles. He brought His message into THEIR world. He met them where they were.
Our role as evangelists (not only the ordained, but ALL the baptized) is to bring the gospel message to “the ends of the earth.”
There is no more powerful and effective way to do this than with personal, face-to-face contact. We should take every opportunity we have to do just that.
However, to take the message to as many people as possible, we need to go to where the people are as well. And for now – until the next new thing comes along – that is on social media.
Note: If you’d like to follow me on Twitter, my handle is @DeaconRWagner
I need well over 39 million more followers to catch Pope Francis.