Christianity is the world's largest religion with more than two billion followers. It is no wonder its most central figure has a strong and loyal following on Facebook. Jesus is on Facebook. You can like him, comment on him, share him…or even unlike him.
Out of the top 20 results Facebook displays after you search “Jesus”, the one with the least likes is “JesusMySavior
”, a community page with 76,312 likes. It is followed by “Jesus
”, a website page with 95,307 likes, then another “Jesus
”, described as the teacher with 95,313 likes. Those are the only pages in the top 20 with less than 100 000 likes. One Facebook page with 913,111 likes is called “I Bet Jesus Can Break The Record For Most Fans On Face-book!
The most successful of them all, “Jesus Daily
”, has more than 12 and a half million followers. As of 22 April 2012, “Jesus Daily” was the most talked about page with 1,807,165 people talking, daily growth of +7,808 and weekly growth of +73,941. More people were talking about the page than pop superstars Adele
’s pages combined.
The page owner of “Jesus Daily”, a medicine graduate from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Aaron Tabor
, congratulates Facebook as a tool for connecting other believers under the page’s mission:
“Our goal is to let the whole world know about salvation through Jesus. Jesus Daily® would like to thank the Facebook® team for creating the best social connection tool in history. Great work Facebook®!”
His book is a practical guide for all (including pastors and church leaders) to social media. It is a handbook, a how-to-manual for ministries on how to use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media platforms to grow and increase their influence. Before social media and the internet in general, pastors had to go around the world and hold crusades in stadiums, fields or churches to preach the gospel. Other electronic ways included radio, DVDs or CDs which were not easily available to some and could not enable global community engagement at an instant.
Social media means that spiritual leaders or just any Christian like Dr. Tabor can convert an unbeliever into a Christian by just updating a post in his pyjamas lying on a couch. The popularity of the Jesus figure on Facebook and other Christian messages seems to fulfil the last instruction Jesus gave his disciples according to the book of Matthew 28: 19-20
19: “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” 20: “Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen” (Webster's Bible Translation).
While the teaching instruction is possible to fulfil with an online post, video or podcast, time will tell whether we will be seeing online baptisms
through the internet. Since teaching is not constrained to speaking face-to-face, maybe baptisms will not be constrained to real water and we will have simultaneous online baptisms to millions using ‘digital water’. Technology might see people getting baptised on the run or lying on their couches through their tablets or iPads.
The success of the page is an example of how social media landscapes such as Facebook can be used to spread religion, connect its members in global online communities as well as displaying how popular a religion is with exact statistics that can be gathered from likes, comments and shared pages.
Must Facebook replace church attendance?
“…the increase in the number of people finding faith communities via social media platforms provokes the question of what constitutes religious experience and whether “friending” a church online is at all similar to worshiping at one,” says Jennifer Preston
, a social media reporter for The New York Times
Some such as Pope Benedict
say that although social media is “a great opportunity” for interaction;
“Virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives.”
“The internet is good but it should not replace going to church and it should not make us lazy to go to God on our own and get our personal messages.”