Social Media

The Internet
The Internet has become a great evangelism tool for pastors. (Lightstock)

Once I read the story, I never forgot it.

Some preacher in Texas was waxing eloquent and told of the author of the 1960-ish book "I'm OK, You're OK," who became sour on life and committed suicide. It underscored some point he was making and he drove it home.

He got the story, he told a court of law, from an evangelist whom he had heard at some camp meeting or something. The evangelist, who was sued by the author, sheepishly admitted that he had gotten his facts wrong.

Preachers used to be notorious for telling tall tales, passing along unsubstantiated rumors that they picked up from one another and related as gospel truth in sermons without checking their accuracy.

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It was hard to check in those days. No Internet, no Google, no Wikipedia and no Snopes.

Many a time I called the reference section at the public library and told them the story I was trying to run down. A few hours later, someone would return the call with whatever information they had managed to dig up.

Those days are behind us.

Today, you "save" whatever notes you are typing and go to your search engine and type in the subject you are researching. Bingo. There it is. You read it and return to your page, or even "copy" it and "paste" the information on your page.

All of that took about 30 seconds. Or less.

Never again need a preacher or teacher pass along scurrilous stories, unsubstantiated rumors, tall tales and innuendo. (Case in point: I typed in "scurilous." It didn't look right, so I Googled it and without clicking on anything, the correct spelling (scurrilous) appeared. It was that easy.)

Pastors who do not use the Internet are limiting themselves to 1950s' methods needlessly.

Jim Lancaster did not ask if I wanted a computer in my office. This associate pastor on our staff, sometime in the late 1990s, simply installed one. When I walked in, the process was about complete. I said, "What are you doing?" He said simply, "You're going to be needing this."

Was he ever right.

If there is a pastor near and dear to you who is not making use of this great help, perhaps you should do something similar. (I was so green, he had to show me the power button that turned the computer on. There is no on/off switch. Jim had to tell me that in the address ".com" the period is called a dot. As in "dot com." I told you I was green.)

But do not relegate the pastor to the computer. He is going to run into a hundred questions and will need to know that you (or some 12-year-old) is always on call to tell him, "what to do when that thing pops up on the screen" or "how to get those ads off the page."

Teach him once how to "save" his notes and how to store them in a folder, and he will be forever in your debt. Show him how to "cut and paste," and you have cut an hour from his sermon preparation time.

It's not about modern technology, nor is it about being "cool." It's about doing better work more efficiently and availing himself of all the wonderful resources now at his fingertips, and what minister doesn't want to do that?

So, no preacher with a laptop need ever pass along an unsubstantiated rumor, right? We could wish.

Actually, the Internet allows for just that, for anyone to send a lie into cyberspace and deliver it onto the doorsteps of a hundred million people by nightfall. It happens all the time.

Well-meaning but lazy people find something on Facebook or an email that tugs at their hearts (or stirs their dander) and they jump on the bandwagon. The Internet enables them to hit a few keys and presto, that thing they read is now being passed along to an infinite number of readers. Most will ignore it, some will delete it, but an uncounted number will be influenced by it in some way.

Your influence has just been multiplied by infinity.

To be truthful, that's what scares away many good people. They seem to feel the Internet is a scary beast with powers to do awful things. "All things are lawful for me," in the words of the apostle, "But I will not be brought under the powers of any." (That reference from 1 Corinthians 6:12 I knew but could not locate. So, I "saved" this article, typed in part of the verse to the search blank and instantly I Corinthians 6:12 came up. I returned to this article and resumed typing. All of it took less time than it has taken for me to describe the process).

The Internet is a-moral. It's like the radio or television, a tool for good or ill, depending on the user.

In the next year or two after getting the computer in my office (a massive bulky thing), I began writing a one-page article each week that we called "A Matter of Fax." We would "fax" it to subscribers. Then, we discovered that email was cheaper, whereas to fax that page long-distance cost high telephone rates. So, we transitioned to email and continued building our list of subscribers. Eventually, we had over 3,000.

All these articles were posted on our "blog," which is short for web log. They're still there, incidentally. Go to joemckeever.com and scroll down. Eventually, you'll come to "Archives." Scroll down to the beginning, sometime in 2004, I think. There they are, waiting forever, for the Judgment, perhaps. (I wonder if my great-grandchildren will still be able to find all of this simply by clicking on some kind of screen, and bet they will).

When Facebook came along and I got into that—I cannot tell you precisely when—we began posting a link to the blog and that increased the readership. The next step was to discontinue emailing the articles. The comments we were getting in response indicated a declining readership.

What we did then, and have continued doing, is to type the article (like this one) on the blog, and then provide the link to it with a descriptive sentence or two on Facebook. And with the wonders of the Internet, people who like it can hit a few keys and forward that article to hundreds of their friends.

It's only amazing is what it is.

How much does this cost? My website ("blog") costs just over $100 annually, and once in a while I have to shell out a few dollars to keep my domain, which means www.joemckeever.com.

Sometime early in the 2000s, my son Marty, webmaster for this site, informed me that he had reserved joemckeever.com for me. "You're going to be needing it," he said.  At the time, I hardly knew what that meant. (Later, I discovered quite a few people with my name, one of them a comic book artist, another a rock musician, and also a Catholic priest or two in Ireland. They all wish they'd bought this domain.)

Then, in the spring of 2004, I transitioned from pastoring to becoming the leader of the Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans (the official title is Director of Missions). Since the New Orleans association's website was defunct and the computer guy was trying to get it up and running in his spare time, I began using the www.joemckeever.com website. That was a godsend.

In late August 2005, when Hurricane Katrina roared through our part of the world and flooded this city, causing apocalyptic devastation, we were evacuated for a month. Over a thousand were killed and hundreds of thousands lost everything. On Sept. 1, 2005, from the family farm in north Alabama, I began journaling on this blog. Editors would read it and reprinted my entries in their publications.

Everything we wrote over the next few years relating to Katrina and the rebuilding of this city and the restructuring of our churches is still there on this website, waiting to be read. In the Archives, scroll down to September 2005, and stop at Sept. 1.

It's amazing, this computer thing. A wonder of wonders. I do not pretend to understand how it works. Every innovation my son Marty has introduced—including typing this article into the system and posting it, linking it to Facebook, etc.—he has had to show me slowly and laboriously until I got the hang of it. But once I got it, the results were astounding.

There are times when something I posted at 6:30 in the morning will be picked up by some preachers' journal and, by noon, they have forwarded it to 75,000 of their closest friends. I'll go into my computer and find emails from servants of the Lord all over the world.

I'll be 75 years old next March (2015). I am well aware that this preacher boy is one blessed fellow, to have lived long enough to see this and partake of it.  (I wonder what devices will be commonplace for the Lord's servants a half-century from now, innovations that will make this laptop and Facebook seem as out-dated as buggy-whips and rotary-dial phones).

Now, may the Lord help us all to be faithful with this wonderful tool, to be careful of what we say, and seek to use this communication device to bless people and honor the Lord who enabled it all in the first place.

Dr. Joe McKeever writes from the vantage point of more than 60 years as a disciple of Jesus, more than 50 years preaching His gospel and more than 40 years of cartooning for every imaginable Christian publication.

For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.

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