Nathan W. Bingham
Connecting in a Hyper-Connected World

3 Ways Facebook Places Could Assist You Being “Salt & Light”

I’ve just finished watching the Facebook Live Event where they announced a new service, Facebook Places. Facebook Places takes advantage of the GPS technology available in most smart phones and allows users to “check-in” to places and attribute their news, photos, etc., to that particular place. This service will be available to some US users within hours via an update to their iPhone App and via their Touch Facebook Site. You can read more about it on the official Facebook Blog.

An important remark was made during the presentation by the VP of Facebook:

“Technology does not need to estrange us from one another…”

Basically, Facebook’s intention with Places is to allow users to connect with each other in the real world when they’re away from their home or workplace. Interestingly, this was one of the issues many Christians have with social media; that it deforms and replaces real-world relationships. Facebook Places may help, and after watching the LIVE stream, here are 3 ways I think Facebook Places could assist Christians as they seek to be “salt and light” in the world around them.

1. Reconnect with old friends for real.

Facebook has allowed people to connect with old friends from high school, an old job, or those you’ve lost contact with after moving house. The problem with Facebook in its present form, is this “reconnection” is normally limited to the online world via messages, chats, and wall posts.

Now with Facebook Places, if you walk past a coffee shop, restaurant, or any public place where one of your “old friends” has “checked-in”, you’ll be notified. You can then walk up to them, face-to-face, have a coffee, and connect for real.

Aside from a re-kindled friendship, you now have a genuine opportunity to be salt and light, speaking of Christ and what He has done.

2. Share your church experience with your un-churched friends.

Un-churched? I’m referring to those who have not grown up in the church, or not had exposure to the church. That was me when I grew up, and is the case for many of my generation (at least in Australia).

Sadly, Christians can find it hard to say they were at church on Sunday when asked by a friend or co-worker, “How was your weekend?” This shouldn’t be the case, especially as the fear associated with talking about your life in Christ is often unfounded. In our weakness, Facebook Places could offer a way to help (but by no means be a replacement).

As you and other Christians “check-in” to church on a Sunday, or a Wednesday night study, all your friends will get a glimpse into your church experience. They’ll see where you spend your time, and that every Sunday, morning and night, you’re at church. It may open the door for further discussion, especially if you’ve just walked into the coffee shop they’re in (see point one). You’ll be surprised how many of the un-churched are happy to speak about Christianity and “church stuff”, even if they have to bring it up.

3. Encourage those walking by to visit your church.

You may have experienced a friend rejecting your invitation to church. Maybe they said yes, visited once, and then never returned. For many, the idea of going to church on a Sunday morning and forsaking a sleep-in is next to crazy. That said, there are those out and about on a Sunday morning, and especially the afternoon / evening, going for a jog, walking the dog, playing in the park. If your church meets in a more urban location, it is even more likely some of your friends are out and about near you at those times.

Imagine if when one of your friends happened to be in the area when you “checked-in” at church, they were notified. They might then decide to take you up on the offer you made previously, or return for a second visit.

This raises the question; would your church be happy for someone who was out for a jog, sweating and in jogging gear, to come in and hear the goods news of the gospel proclaimed?

To be continued…

There is much more that needs to be considered. There will no doubt be many ways this technology will be abused and concerns regarding user privacy. If you’re interested, here are some essential tips to adjust your privacy settings. I’ll likely visit this subject again once I’ve used it and it has been tested more fully.

Social media and online relationships should never replace or be a substitute for real-world relationships. Being “salt and light” cannot be restricted to pixels. However, Facebook Places may be a way to assist you being “salt and light” in a lost and dying world that desperately needs to hear about Jesus Christ.

Don’t forget to join the discussion on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or add your thoughts in the comments below.

Update:

Here is the video demo Facebook streamed during their live announcement.

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