As I reflect on the online community of Berea, I can’t help to consider how far it has developed with little effort. During the period of time when Berea was being developed, the idea of a podcast and a regular blog was not even close to a consideration. In fact Berea was actually an attempt to revive a failed small group page that was started previously. In the months leading up to Berea’s conception I had been running a small group out of my home. I made countless attempts of integrating social media into the group dynamic in order for us to stay in contact throughout our busy lives.
As the group concluded I still wrestled with this idea of having an online community together primarily with other believers. At the risk of sounding cliché-ish, I wanted to duplicate the heart of the first century church who met daily together. I knew with all the prior commitments that people had it would be difficult for a large group to me regularly so I thought that it may be helpful if we had a place where we could all meet together from the comfort of wherever we may be at the time. What better place than to have a forum on Facebook where you could spend a few moments today discussing anything you may want in a safe zone for Christians to speak their mind. And with this in mind I started an open Facebook group and added a mere 50 of my Facebook friends into the group. There were those who immediately left the group but there were also many who began contributing a lot right away. The group slowly began to grow, we had many great and encouraging conversations, we had plenty of debate and discussion, and we, unfortunately, had a few people leave because of views differing from their own. However, the group continues to grow.
I wanted this first blog to be a reflection of where I think we have succeeded as a group, where we have failed or had shortcomings as a group, and where I would like to see us grow in the future. Let’s begin with considering our achievements:
I feel that we have done a good job at being a platform for believers, nonbelievers and those of other religious groups to present questions regarding Christianity and have dialogue within fair regulations. Sometimes this has discouraged others, especially in the presence of disagreements. However, I would not count this fact of losing members as a negative, but an area of improvement that speaks to the broad evangelical church in America. It is as if Christians fear that disagreements within and amongst believers is something to be avoided at all costs. This is simply not true, and in fact, healthy discussions about differences between two parties is often how growth and stronger relationships occur.
Another positive is the vehicles of interactions that we have made availed. As we began simply as a Facebook group, we quickly developed into a weekly podcast, twitter and YouTube accounts, and now, a regular blog site. This gives variety to how we can stay in community with each other.
The one negative that I would like to touch on is the overwhelming majority of admin activity. At the time of this blog, we currently have 760 members in our online community. Our goal for 2017 has been to increase to over 1,000 members. But more importantly than the number of members we have is that we are looking to foster more dialogue. The lack of post causes admins to frequent more post in an attempt to encourage conversation. The more original post made by other, the more balanced and diverse the group will become.
Finally, as we continue to grow, I would love to see connections be made outside of the social media realm. That is, to have members meet with one another, building friendship and doing missional work. This would be an amazing result of a basic concept. However, I know that this can happen, though it might take some effort!
Thank you for joining us in this new adventure, and please, stay involved!
All things to the Glory of God