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Liberty University worships on Facebook: It's not innovative, it's intuitive

November 29, 2011
By Lerone A. Martin

When a scheduling conflict left the self-proclaimed largest Christian university in the world without a physical space for their weekly campus worship service, they did the obvious: they held church on the school’s Facebook page!

The move was inevitable.  Liberty University, Jerry Falwell’s school, is known for its evangelistic fervor.  Falwell and his Christian liberal arts institution have made it a point to use media to publicize their gospel and school.  From their Old Time Gospel Hour broadcast in the 1960’s, to their online community of approximately 50,000 students, to their 2010 Hip Hop theme song and music video, Liberty University is no stranger to media.

Vice President and Campus Pastor Johnnie Moore said it best.  When two of the commonly used spaces of worship were unavailable for campus church, Moore stated that Facebook, as opposed to cancelation, was the logical move.  After all, Moore’s religion tells him that Christians should make it “their goal to go where the people are.  In the 21st century, they’re on Facebook,” he wrote on a CNN blog.

Indeed, in many ways Facebook is ideal for church.  A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that 67 percent of social media users say that maintaining community and contact with others is their primary reason for using social media like MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, and/or Twitter. Likewise, for many churchgoers, church is a way of maintaining community.  This connection is readily seen by the popularity of religion on Facebook.  In October, the popular Facebook page, “Jesus Daily,” became the first ever religious-oriented Facebook page to gain over 10 million fans.  It’s clear that many users look to Facebook to maintain and cultivate relationships rather that be with friends, relatives, or a Deity.

Subsequently, Moore seems correct when he concludes on the CNN blog, “Doing church on Facebook isn’t innovative.  It’s intuitive.”

Lerone A. Martin, a research fellow for the New Media Project, is Assistant Professor of American Religious History and Culture at Eden Theological Seminary in Saint Louis, MO.

The New Media Project at Union Theological Seminary is a research project helping religious leaders become theologically savvy about technology. To request permission to repost this content, please contact newmedia@uts.columbia.edu.


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