After devouring The Church of Facebook, I feel a little like the monkey who kissed the skunk: I didn’t get all I wanted, but I got more than I could stand.  The title led me to believe that I would be reading a manifesto on social networking’s influence (both good and bad) on the local church.  And yes, I received a little of that.  But I was also the recipient of so much more.

Jesse Rice is a former worship pastor at a California church [insert your own joke here].  As a holder of a master’s degree in counseling psychology, he’s able to take raw data and turn it into compelling evidence for the role of virtual media and its impact on real community.  Rice writes in a Malcolm Gladwell-esque fashion, taking (seemingly unrelated) fascinating stories and using them to drive home his point: what happens online is connection, but it’s not necessarily community.

Rice builds a case for the redemption of social media.  He argues that through authenticity and intentionality, we can take our online relationships and turn them into an opportunity for the gospel.  In a world where we are surrounded with people who are always on (and sometimes we are those people), we have the opportunity to help move them from “what’s new” to “what’s now.”  In other words, to get their noses out of Facebook and into real faces…faces of friends and family in the flesh.

The author’s work is highly readable, engaging, often humorous (whatever you do, do not skip the footnotes), and is a must-read for small group leaders, ministry heads, and yes…even Connections Pastors.  Rice has launched a redemptive revolution into the oft-reviled world of cyber-friendships.  Even for me, a non-Facebooker, I learned a tremendous amount about the role of Twitter, blogs, and multiple other online forums in my own life.

On page 97, the author downplays his contribution to the social media discussion.  I couldn’t disagree more.  While The Church of Facebook doesn’t have quite as much to do with the church as I first suspected, it nevertheless gave me a new mindset for how to reach a new generation of wired-in people.

Oh, and Jesse: if you ever happen across this post, please allow me be the first to call you a social media guru.  Maybe your mom won’t mind.

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