What do Twitter, Facebook, Google+, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Foursquare, Flickr, Tumblr, Pinterest, WordPress, YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, LinkedIn, MySpace and Meetup have in common? An imposing list of new and evolving technology, they’re the current face of social media networking. The Google+ button is pressed over five billion times a day, students its largest demographic. YouTube viewers browse through the site fifteen minutes a day (which is huge, as they skim blog pages in seconds). Over half of all bloggers are 25 to 40 years old; the bulk of the remainder far younger. These platforms allow the user to curate a personal experience. Many times this creates a wonderful, non-traditional platform for evangelism. Below are ways several Jewish ministries are implementing social media.
When MSNBC News covered a story on Life in Messiah Ministries (LIMM) housing a post-Hurricane Sandy displaced couple, LIMM broadcasted the story on their Twitter feed and website. However, Marilyn Miller, who works on social media outreach for LIMM, admits they could be doing more. She says currently their online presence is more to show LIMM is “alive.”
Chosen People Ministries (CPM) does what they consider indirect Jewish evangelism. CPM responds to Christians’ Jewish evangelism questions and receives prayer requests through Facebook and Twitter. However, their Isaiah 53 Campaign in New York was Facebook-integrated. Staff member Lindsay Vasquez echoes LIMM, explaining their social media is primarily for donor and public awareness of Chosen People.
Likewise, CJFM (originally known as Christian Jew Foundation) primarily uses Facebook. CJFM equips Christian fans for Jewish evangelism and seeks to “pique the curiosity of Jewish non-believers who might be open to talking about Yeshua” says Brian Nowotny, their director of communications. Content posted on Facebook includes tough questions, blog posts, “Messianic Perspectives,” a daily broadcast, other resources and tours to Israel. They are expanding their Twitter presence, too.
Jews for Jesus (JFJ) uses social media to engage unbelieving Jewish people who are questioning Jesus’ claims. Usually, we create content to share widely first, for example our YouTube “Journeys of Faith” story series. A comment on our blog or a video response to our YouTube channel might spark a conversation. The golden rule of social media is: Respond unto others as others would have you respond unto them. For example, answer a LinkedIn message on LinkedIn, or comment on, hashtag, or tag a shared Instagram photo. This can be unnatural for many accustomed to email and snail mail inquiries. Yet, while the goal is organic communication, the end goal still is an in-person meeting. This can mean transitioning a seeker into a place where they feel comfortable enough to have a phone, Skype, or even face-to-face meeting, location permitting. Some of our staff experiment with Google+ Hangout, a live video feed where up to ten users can join, and anyone can watch on YouTube during or after. However, JFJ’s branch locations in Jewish-heavy metropolises still play an important role in event-driven evangelism, live events being another primary focus of social media tools.
Two summers ago, Jews for Jesus’ Summer Witnessing Campaign (SWC) integrated a Network Evangelism Team (NET) made up of missionaries and volunteers to address a need for greater online evangelism. NET, comprised of 25 to 85 members since its inception, regularly addresses Jewish seekers’ queries across all JFJ social media platforms. Sean Trank, who began NET, says, “We have seen Jewish people come to faith and during SWC we addressed 100+ questions a day—and moderated a chat room which we continue to do year round.”
NET will soon transition from Facebook to Google as their internal home base to dialogue and spur each other on in their work. The group doubles as a good training ground for newer evangelists who can witness to unsaved Jews, mostly between 18 and 37 years old.
It really is possible to effectively engage seekers through social media channels. Challenges arise as the millennial generation makes it plain that they don’t want to be directly “sold to.” The gospel, while not a product, behaves similarly. It is the responsibility today of Jewish missions to maintain a gospel presence online where many Jewish people can easily find content on Jesus as Messiah.
Are you doing social media evangelism, too? Got ideas for where to take it next? Join the conversation on Twitter: @havurahmag, #socialmediajfj