Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has said some fascinating things in recent months. At a Facebook communities summit earlier in the summer, Zuckerberg urged the good and the great of Facebook to learn how to do community from an ancient institution - the Church.
Zuckerberg highlighted the decline in social community and suggested that Facebook could stand in the gap. “It’s so striking,” Mark stated, “that for decades, membership in all kinds of groups has declined as much as one-quarter. That’s a lot of people who need to find a sense of purpose and support somewhere else.”
Indeed, whilst many are leaving more conventional forms of personal interaction, a record-high number of individuals are logging into Facebook on a daily basis. "Zuckerberg is right that Facebook has provided meaningful connections that the local church sometimes struggles to build among its disparate and busy members," writes Halee Gray Scott at Christianity Today. "Among reasons young people leave the church, up to 20 percent cite a “lack of connection” with other believers, which suggests that learning how to build community—real relationships—is one of the most important tasks a church can undertake."
But can Facebook ever replace the Church? Short answer: no. The Church is imperfect. It is not a one-size-fits-all gathering of people and won't cater for every social need. But it's not meant to. It is a place where the name of Jesus Christ is lifted high, the gospel is preached, and the lost are found. So, it can be awkward? That's just something we have to get used to! Indeed, we must learn to love the community with grace and care. "The church is not the building; it is the people who populate it," highlights Scott.
We are so much more than an online social network. We have a God-given, innate desire to connect and be connected, and perhaps the Lord is calling us back into this face-to-face commitment that is called the Church.
"The essence of the church is too far beyond us for any algorithm or business to recreate; it lies in the Holy Spirit, which resides in all those who believe in Jesus Christ."