Auteur: Dr Calvin Chong
Category: Médias et technologie
An article that I read recently gave six reasons why pastors should blog. There is value in pastors keeping weblogs because blogging provides them opportunities i) to write, ii) to teach, iii) to recommend, iv) to interact, v) to develop an eye for what is meaningful and, vi) to be known. As I reflected on the reasons presented, it struck me how much digital spaces provide pastors platforms for ministry opportunities as well as opportunities for personal growth and enrichment.
Digital spaces are part of the ecology of spaces that 21st century life straddles across. Not only do we conduct business, work, communicate, learn, and have fun in geographic spaces, increasingly this is a generation that has migrated those activities into digital spaces. Curious about what was in vogue in digital spaces, I set myself the task of “being there” to gain first hand experiences of life on the electronic agora.
But it wasn’t the blogsphere I wanted to be at this time. I was already familiar with blogs. I started my first blog in 2003 and learned HTML to embellish my blogs. Blogs however seemed too one-way as a communication platform. This time I was more interested in experiencing the connectivity and interactivity which Web 2.0 social networks offered.
I thus became active on Facebook beginning December 2008. I’m not a digital native, and as a digital immigrant, still carry a somewhat thick immigrant accent. Being in Facebook however didn’t make me feel like a visitor or an immigrant. In fact, it wasn’t difficult to become a contributing Netizen within a short time. Before long, I was connected to a vibrant Facebook community. I would advertise upcoming SBC events, connect with students, alumni and old classmates, post a video of myself playing the guitar, upload photos demonstrating a useful collaborative learning strategy for teaching bible texts, and share my list of favourite quotations relating to using visuals for communicating in the 21st century. To quote a Straits Times columnist, “it is essentially a one-stop shop, with functions like e-mail, chat, photolog and blog all rolled into one fuss-free interface, and a great way to keep in touch with people.”
The important discovery for me however was not finding out what I could do in Facebook or becoming more comfortable in that space. For me, what was significant was stumbling upon a very active and vibrant community posting their photos and videos, sharing their links, and updating what was on their hearts and minds. Being both participant in as well as observer of an interactive and interconnected community of friends and friends-of-friends opened my eyes to an emerging reality which cannot be ignored anymore. Web spaces have truly become more social and interactive. Young and old, they are all there!
A Facebook friend recently sent me a link to a free e-book entitled Facebook for Pastors. Like the earlier article, the author gave six reasons why pastors should be on Facebook. Being a member of Facebook i) allows you to be accessible to others, ii) is in line with a Kingdom-focus, iii) shows that we’re all human, iv) gives others a look at your heart and passions, v) encourages learning, sharing and discussion, and vi) provides another door into your local church. A quotation from that book is worth reflecting on:
Jesus was usually found where people were in the New Testament. He gave quality time to rich young rulers, religious leaders, and more. But he also made time for people on the fringe of society, people who were heretics, publicans, tax collectors, etc. Matthew recalls, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36, NIV) I wonder if Jesus would have a Facebook profile. We can’t say if Jesus would or not, but Facebook is where people are. I have spent the last few months thinking about social media and how it can be used in ministry. I have come to the conclusion that many pastors could benefit their ministry if they would begin to use social media, and a good place to start your “Church 2.0” ministry is Facebook.
The call in this quote is for pastoral presence and influence wherever the people are. In the noisy marketplaces in Palestine as well as in the multimedia networks in Cyberia, both are places where Christian influence should be found. The need for pastoral presence and influence in the Internet hit home recently after I read about Nielsen’s “90-9-1 Rule of Unequal Participation” and thought about its implication for the church. Nielsen’s “90-9-1 Rule” states that in most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute just a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action. The flip side to this rule is that 90% of the content created and consumed on the Internet arise from 1% of the users, while 0% of the content is attributed to 99% of the users. The question posed therefore is, “Are pastors amongst the influencers and opinion leaders that form this 1%?” or “Are they amongst the silent voices that form the 99% majority?”
Identities, worldviews, values, intuitions, and habits of fellow citizens and congregation members are shaped through interactions and participation in media saturated digital spaces. Is it time for God’s shepherds to extend pastoral presence and influence by hanging out in the electronic agora? You won’t need to be there 24-7-365, but just that little bit of time there might make all the difference!
Dr Calvin Chong is Academic Dean of the School of Theology (English), Singapore Bible College.
 To sign up for an account, visit http://www.facebook.com
 Hong Xinyi in The Sunday Times, March 29, 2009, p 30
 See Time Magazine’s article “Why Facebook is for Old Fogies” available at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1879169,00.html