By THOMAS DRAKE
The response was surprising to say the least. “I have enough new friends.”
I was saddened to read it. The Church is one of the most challenging eras of ministry. I was into the second year of my appointment and really trying to adjust being a single parent and combat falling into a rut singularity.
Why would anyone choose to not only refuse a request to become a new friend but also seem so hardened of heart?
Yes, I was on the online social network, Facebook, and trying to get to know other pastors. A peer from my home state of Mississippi had suggested a few names, and I began trying to make their acquaintance.
Oh, I am the type can handle a “no,” but this one made me think about how connected we United Methodists truly are. I also began to think about a positive spiritual act that the internet might afford Christians; prayers and testimonies reaching around the world.
It occurred to me that Facebook, amid all of its positives and negatives, might allow me the opportunity to test how connected we are and do something I love; namely, talking to others about how Christ is changing lives and spread prayer needs and praises as far as possible.
After searching data bases for the addresses of pastors and churches from other districts and Conferences, I began to send out friend requests with the following statement:
“Hi, My name is Tom Drake, and I am an Elder serving Harlem UMC within the Augusta District of the North Georgia Conference. I found the UMC clergy website and wanted to meet fellow clergy across our great Church. I am not selling anything nor do I want anything except new friends to learn what other churches are celebrating across our nation and world.
In His Grip, Dr. Thomas Drake (Tom).”
It clicked. Within the first week friend “acceptances” grew to more than 2,500. Now, I have 3,906 “friends” on Facebook, and there are some very exciting praises being shared along with prayer needs being shared, literally, all over the world.
It is wonderful to lift up any need and read how it is being shared and joined by prayer partners not only from around the state, but also around the world. I am excited about being in dialogue with Christians in places such as Egypt, Germany, Japan, India, Philippines, and many other countries.
I was renewed after meeting Khraw, a new Christian from India, sharing prayers of concern with me and great joy over his upcoming wedding. Khraw prayed with joy over finding a love who shared his faith in Christ. He shared how the preparations for the wedding were going each week and it felt good and assuring to be a part of his prayer family.
We have gotten to a point of sharing the many successes our churches are enjoying and it builds enthusiasm to hear of so many good things taking place amongst Christians. When a prayer need is posted the responses are overwhelming at times. Imagine posting a need and reading how it is being lifted up in Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Texas, Washington, New York, and really from most all the states.
When one realizes there are thousands of Christians reporting and asking for prayers from all over the world something very moving happens. You realize you are not alone, and that other Christians are in this world with you.
Someone once wrote, “Some people walk on this world and some in it.” No, I don’t remember who wrote it, but I believe the Church needs to remember it. There are many challenges facing us today. I also believe it is time we started becoming a louder voice for God in this world. I believe God expects much from his Church, not out of a thought of service, but rather adoration.
I believe Christians should cease arguing about their differences and become stronger by being one voice and one heart for God. We will sound different at times, but that is OK, too. I, and 3,906 other Christians, would greatly welcome you to join with us on Facebook.
Simply request a new friend: Thomas Drake. You will find many.
Dr. Thomas Drake is pastor of Harlem UMC, in the Augusta District. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article recently ran in the North Georgia Advocate, the official print source of the North Georgia United Methodist Conference. For more information about the North Georgia Advocate, or to subscribe, please visit www.ngumc.org/advocate or call 678.533.1376.