How Christians Blow it Online: The Friday Five with Tami Birdsong

A few weeks ago I attended the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, TN. It was my first time, and I met quite a few terrific communicators who are faithful in sharing the gospel across old, new, and emerging media. I came away greatly encouraged at the increasing ways in which 21st-century technology is allowing Christ to be heard.

One of the most fascinating and engaging people I met was Toni Birdsong, author of a new book, @stickyJesus. If the title makes you scratch your head, well, that's the point. Toni, a creator, designer, and communications strategist, and her friend, Tami Heim, have started a movement with the same title, Sticky Jesus. What impressed me about Tami, her book, and about the content on her site, Sticky Jesus, is the depth. This is not just another shiny marketing tool. She provides great depth from the scriptures and applies them to our behavior online. Let's face it: we live in a digital world. Over 500 million people are active users of Facebook. So how do Christians a) act online and b) use these emerging technologies to advance the gospel?

Tami has stopped by to chat with me for today's Friday Five.

Sticky Jesus is a "sticky" title. How did you arrive at the concept? 

"Sticky" is a marketing term that means "to attract and make stay." To be "sticky" is the goal of any marketing message or website. A sticky marketing message adheres to a consumer's psyche and motivates a purchasing decision. A sticky web site (or post) engages a visitor so they stay around, explore, act, and come back.

In @stickyJesus: how to live out your faith online, we flip the idea of "sticky" and apply it to the attributes of Christ and His message of salvation. The gospel is the stickiest message ever to hit the heart of mankind. It continues to do its transforming, eternal work and outlive hundreds of transient theologies. We challenge Christ followers online to be "sticky" like Jesus—loving, engaging, praying, and responding in ways that run contrary to much of our culture.

We define sticky as: The message that holds fast, adheres and clings to the heart of every generation. Eternal content independent of time, change, and cyberspace.

The book is an intentional fusion of marketing, discipleship, and technology. We want to equip Christians to navigate this commerce-driven arena of marketing. We want them to transcend the streaming "me" culture of self-promotion (discipleship). We want them to learn the tools that will allow them to influence the culture around them (technology).

We've started the #LiveSticky movement online. The twibbon (icon) on your avatar publically tells others (and reminds you) that you've been set apart and have resolved to live—and interact—like Christ online.

As I write about in my book, iFaith, living online is a reality. God created us and put us here, in the 21st century. So how can we effectively channel 21st-century tools to build up the body of Christ? 

If you consider the reach of a single tweet, Facebook post, blog post, email, or video, you begin to see The Great Commission in a profound new light. One post can reach thousands of hearts within minutes and tens of thousands globally within hours.

Social networks have shifted history (think of the Obama campaign, Egypt, and the like). The power of community can't be disputed. It's absolutely imperative as Christians that we understand the times we are in and inject God's truth into a generation that is increasingly disconnected from God—and from each other.

I think the technology is the easy part; Christians get the ins and outs of their favorite platforms. The tougher part is getting Christians to understand the condition of their own hearts in relationship to that technology and then consider the power and influence of that expression. To align with Christ before getting online is crucial to eternity. To make a Kingdom difference in our culture is what God has asked His kids to do since the beginning of time—now we just do it digitally, and with mind-blowing bandwidth.

3/21/2011 4:00:00 AM
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  • Daniel Darling
    About Daniel Darling
    Daniel Darling is the Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and the author of Crash Course and iFaith. His columns appear at Follow him through Facebook, Twitter, or his personal website.