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Book Review: The Great Digital Commission by Caleb J. Lines


Whether we are telling the “Greatest Story Ever Told,” building a narrative budget for the annual meeting of our congregation, or simply connecting with each other at dinner-story is central to the experience of community. We are always telling the story of who were are. The Great Digital Commission by Caleb J. Lines, invites churches and leaders to consider how their approach and online presence can be an asset to the story telling of their communities. Too often established communities of faith rely on the ways of the past at best and at worst are openly antagonistic towards newer forms of communication and connection. Lines argues that there are a variety of ways for congregations to get into the digital world in authentic ways that enhance community and build honest connections with new people.

Caleb J. Lines focuses on how the Church can more intentionally engage in telling our stories through social media platforms in the increasing online world. I found the book interesting and helpful. I would recommend church leaders and boards use this book to shape the conversation, planning and implementation of social media strategies that will help to share the narrative of the Church in the world.

The book addresses many of the conversations that have risen to the top of church priorities, especially due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.  With so many churches now live streaming worship services, using video-conferencing for meetings, and finding their way through the digital maze of “online” church this book offers a good place to start on the conversation about what we can do next. Now that we have made it through those initial frantic months of figuring out how to get online, we need to find a way to create sustainable and flexible practices of faith in the digital space.

Lines presents a nuanced exploration of the upsides and downsides of social media in our society and world. I was introduced to a new term from scholar Lori Kendall, “networked individualism,” that instantly resonated with my experience of platforms I encounter regularly. The discussion of church folk about the distinctions between online community and in person community often prove to be a barrier to moving forward. By defining terms it was like Lines, cleared the cache in my mind of the overwhelming exhaustion from the constant pivoting of the last couples of years of navigating digital media. It was energizing and freed up space in my imagination to see what might come of trying out some of the ideas in the book. I believe it might help congregations to get to a new place in the conversation about digital media in church and to use this tool more fully. Social media, like any other tool for communication, needs to be used with intention in order to have the impact we expect and hope for. Knowing how to use a tool well makes all the difference!

Photo by Adem AY on Unsplash

I appreciated the way that Lines responded to the concerns of social media with a proactive stance for the church to take in disrupting the detrimental realities of social media with the Christian values that we hold. It was an invitation to consider how we show up online, with the same intention we use to plan worship or faith formation practices. It is a hopeful piece that presents practical suggestions for congregations at various levels of proficiency and experience with digital media and communication. It was exciting to consider the ways we can lead the conversation, even when our leadership is listening to others, through the ways we tell the story of Christ through our social media.

It is easy to find books that lament the way the world has changed, but it was refreshing to hear from someone who is meeting the challenges of the changing world with concrete ideas and a vision of sharing the Good News of Jesus with new people! All congregations will have to find their particular way of using social media and this book is an easy read that has some great suggestions for concrete steps and pragmatic advice that will help discern the best way forward.

I highly recommend this book for leaders and congregations when focusing on the use of social media in your churches.

Buy at Cokesbury or you favorite book seller

About the author

The Rev. Rebecca Craver is Director of Congregational Development for the Southern Province.

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