Catch the Current
The Most Engaged Page on Facebook: An Interview with Mark Brown
What opportunities are available today for getting people engaged with the Bible?
I think we have a situation where for free or very limited cost we can reach hundreds of millions of people. We are touching 8-million-plus, and our budget is $0.
Are people engaging Scripture differently today than they did 20 years ago? What has changed? How so?
In the 1950s, the percentage of children who went to Sunday school was enormous. Bible engagement was done from a very early age. It thinned out in the sixties. Bibles were present in the pews. Today, when you go to a church, it is not uncommon to find the Bible is just an overhead projected text or just read in the sermon. No Bible reading. No practice of having the Bible in your hand. The Bible is not a companion of the Christian in the way it used to be. What has changed today is that we can make the Bible available wherever you are or whatever you are doing.
The future is the mobile phone—the smart phone. Half of the Facebook users today use mobile phones—some 400 million.
Do you believe that The Bible Facebook page is genuine "Scripture engagement"?
Yes and no. Yes, as in every few hours Scripture is presented in people's contexts; and no, in that we need to take them deeper still. We are just on the path. We need to engage them more fully.
What are the members of your page asking for?
They want prayer. They want answers to life's problems. There are constant pastoral needs. Once a month, there are issues from suicidal needs all the way to issues such as someone saying there is a girl I like at school. We hear the same things a pastor hears.
When a comment comes through that is very serious, we will ask, "Have you spoken to your pastor?" Nine times out of 10, they will say "Yes, we have."
How "engaged" do you see people getting with the Scripture? What are some stories or examples that stand out?
I post a lot of videos. I believe the future will be in videos. I use them to draw people deeper into God's Word. I do my exegesis and then place it within "what does this mean to me." It is short—5 to 10 minutes. It is called "Journey Deeper into God's Word." Someone said that our videos are like a Bible translation. This is part of my story.
We often hear someone writing, "That's exactly what I need right now" or "I'm crying as I read this." The timeliness of it is often amazing. What works is when you speak to people's need.
What are some of the areas of untapped potential you see emerging for Scripture engagement?
I think that the traditional local church is on the thread. The first thing is that people started church shopping. I believe the huge potential is for an online church experience. LifeChurch.tv has become the number two church in America in just 10 years' time. I think that is just the tip of the iceberg.
At the Bible League or Scripture Union [where Mark was once CEO], they don't want to be the church, but to serve the church. But, the church just isn't doing much of it online yet. Actually, the parachurch is better placed for it, because it isn't primarily doctrinal.
What does a person need to get in on this type of ministry via technology?
You don't even need your laptop. You can use your smartphone for this. I don't yet see a model doing this. I think people are putting the pieces together.
Robert Crosby is an author and Professor of Practical Theology at Southeastern University. Read his interview with Bobby Gruenewald, the Founder of YouVersion.com (the Bible App) and related articles at Christianity Today—The New Engagers and The Social Network Gospel.
Robert Crosby is the author of the new book, The Teaming Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration (Abingdon Press). Crosby's column, "Catch the Current," is published every other Tuesday on the Evangelical portal. Subscribe via email or RSS.