I have taken on the role of Social Media Evangelist at my church recently. I started the official Twitter feed for the church, became an administrator for our Facebook page, I’m the Mayor of the church on FourSquare, and I’ve been getting up the past few Sundays to ask the congregation to participate in spreading the word about Broadway over their social media networks.
Social media is powerful, and I enjoy seeing people strengthen community connections with these tools. I love my church, and I want to spread the word in my wider community about the good works that are happening there. ”Evangelism” is a good metaphor for talking about social media, especially in the context of the church. But it is a word that I struggle with because it is loaded with very complicated meaning.
There are connotations to Evangelism with Christian conversion that I find troubling. According to one dictionary, the definition of “evangelism” is “the practice of spreading the Christian gospel”. Sharing the message is certainly a good thing, but in some churches, “evangelism” smacks of moral superiority and a need to “save souls” that is disrespectful of those not on that path. On the other hand, “evangelism” expresses a passion about faith, and there is a joy and affirmation of life that inspires sharing the message. I want to let my Light shine, but my path is my own. I want to share my experience of faith, but not force it upon anyone.
So, just as I have worked to reclaim my faith as a progressive Christian, I am reclaiming the word “Evangelism.”
In the tradition that I was raised, and in the tradition of the churches where I feel at home in my theology, “evangelism” means welcome. It is an open door, an invitation to be in communion with us wherever you are on your faith journey. It is unconditional love with no required set of beliefs. My church honors all religious traditions and respects those who are not believers, while celebrating our faith and community. All are welcome.