March 21, 2011 at 1:44 PM ET
Reverend Bruce Reyes-Chow, pastor of the Mission Bay Community Church in San Francisco, is an avid presence on social media and a prolific blogger on the Bruce Reyes-Chow website, whose tagline reads, "random musings of a dad, husband, pastor, urbanite, geek and follower of Christ." So while other preachers may support abstinence from updating Facebook statuses or tweeting during Lent, he encourages his parishioners to not to give up on these tools he considers helpful in engaging a person's faith.
In a recent NPR interview, he said:
Yeah, you know, pastoring a church that's in its 20s and 30s and myself not being of that ilk, I turned 40 about 18 months ago, it's a different world for me. You know, I didn't grow up with social media. I didn't grow up with that kind of technology. I was right at the beginning ... of that. Whereas I think there's a generation of people now where that's the air they breathe, it's the water they drink, it's the world in which they live.
And when taken seriously, it's a way that people have connected in community, both Facebook, Twitter and a variety of social media platforms, that it's actually how folks are engaging in church.
Reyes-Chow says that in the 40 days that prepare Christians for Easter on April 24, (or 47 if you count Sundays), believers are supposed to "remember the temptations of Christ," and "think about the things that hold us back and separate us from God."
He doesn't think social media is necessarily one of those things. But, if, like other addictions, it is impeding your life and all that tweeting and Facebooking proves an obstacle to connecting with higher powers, then by all means, ramp it down. He told NPR:
And so I would say that, sure, if social media is addictive and it's holding you back from connecting to God and your understanding of spirituality, then, yes, by all means, pull back. But I think that oftentimes social media is allowing people to be church in a way that is unprecedented in our culture today. In fact, we should figure out, how do folks use social media even more effectively to be church during this time is another way to look at it.
And he's written this, too: "I reject the notion that social networking is inherently (narcissistic), addictive and impersonal as so many charge," advocating instead that social networking communities can be "positive" and "meaningful."
By the looks of his blog, Reyes-Chow has embraced modern technology as a means of connecting with his flock, and as a way of spreading the good word.
He's accessible via Gmail and AOL IM, and via snail mail and voicemail; he's tweeted more than 24,600 times and over 1,500 people like him on Facebook. He also blogs on The Huffington Post, Posterous and for Mission Bay Community Church. (When does this guy sleep?) On SFGate, he posed the question, "Should You Give up Social Networking or Church for Lent?" and runs counter to what he says has become a popular practice over recent years to take a sabbatical from Facebook and Twitter.
He tweeted: "If the community one finds on social networking is something to give up for Lent, would it be okay for folks to give up on going to church?"
Reyes-Chow is savvy enough to anticipate the backlash that may follow such a statement: "But first . . . before the all you self-proclaimed techno-peasant-Luddites take this opportunity to gather the masses and beat me with your messenger pigeons, please hear me out."
Perhaps, some people can give up snap judgments for Lent and do just that. Or, go with the usual fasting of debauchery and consider yourself good to go. And tweet about it. Or update your Facebook status.
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