Escaping the silo

The Internet has given us access to more knowledge than any previous generation has ever had, and it has supercharged our capacity to be connected to others more than ever before. However, it may also be contributing to us being more cut off than ever before and having more shallow relationships than ever before. This has serious ramifications for the church when it comes to evangelism.

Don’t Move The Dial
My children don’t do radio. They are digital natives, and as such they curate their daily content from music to television to communication. Listening to the radio is simply not an option because they have no control over the curation of the content. They need to know what is coming next and it needs to music they know and like.

The Internet is contributing to people being siloed off from knowledge and other people. We can now get our news from sites that we like (sources that reinforce our political and cultural leanings). We curate the content of the music we like, and we curate the content of the television we like through platforms such as Netflix and the technology of recording television content that we want to watch at our own convenient time (and the capacity to scroll through adverts). Platforms like Netflix allow us to watch entire series in a few sittings rather than waiting on a television network to put the latest episode out.

Preaching To The Converted
Social media networking tends to operate in a silo as well, we interact primarily with people who share our interests, values and faith assumptions. We therefore preach to the converted in terms of our content.

The map below shows the capacity for Christians to be on social media (Twitter in this case) but to be disconnected from the whole and clustered in their own world talking to each other.

The map is from a long-term project to understand the connections and activities of Australian Twitter users being run by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation at the Queensland University of Technology (2012)

Choose My News
The recent controversies surrounding the election of Donald Trump gave rise to the term ‘Alternative Facts’. It would appear that many people (on multiple places on the political and cultural spectrum) choose which ‘facts’ they believe in depending what the source is. If the source corresponds to a cause, political party or set of values they correspond to it will be trusted. If the source is from an alternative point of view a choice can be made to discount the ‘facts’, in favour of the ‘alternative facts’.

The Church As A Silo
The danger for the church is that as citizens of the digital world we can be swept up in the trend towards living in a silo. We can cut ourselves off from a wider field of knowledge and experience and we can also silo ourselves within a certain subset of people who share our theological and political views.

We are drawn to the comfort of associating with people who reinforce our views. It’s less complex and less messy than hanging out with people who challenge our assumptions and see things from another perspective. We prefer reinforcement over correction, and in the process cut ourselves off from a more holistic world view.

Escaping The Silo
Here’s a few tips on escaping the silo in a world where we curate and control even the finest details:

1.   Meet the Enemy – They Are Partly Right

Make sure you read and listen to content which contradicts your beliefs and values. Try and understand the opposite point of view and what make the people who hold them tick. It may be that in reading or listening to points of view from sources, people or value systems you don’t share you will meet the ‘enemy’ and find them partly right. As such you’ll find the ‘enemy’ is simply another person created in the image of God who holds a different perspective from you. Your openness to learn will no doubt be reciprocated. People respond with more openness when they ask about the Gospel rather than being told about it.

2.  Widen Your Network

Widen your network of association to include people who are not like you. Your evangelistic potential will increase because you are no longer simply reinforcing shared beliefs but helping people who have never heard to understand the claims of the Gospel. You’ll also learn from people.

3.  Choose Your Audience More Strategically

Churches (and Christians) often post content designed for consumption by those that attend their church or at the very least share their faith position. Conversations are therefore in-house. By choosing to position yourself differently on social media and engaging with people outside your bubble you can engage with people who need to hear the Gospel. Be prepared for a conversation rather than a one sided explanation.

4.  Audit Your Content

Check out your last 20 posts on either your own or your churches social media and look at it from the point of view of somebody from outside your own values and faith assumptions. Ask yourself what they would understand from the content, and whether or not it can be viewed as a stepping stone towards faith or a reinforcement of the impenetrable world of Christians.

5.  Audit Your Network

List all the people you regularly connect with and do the maths on the percentages between those who share your Christian faith and those who don’t. What do the results show?

6.  Follow The Spirit

Following the lead of the Holy Spirit leads us out of our comfort zones and into unfamiliar territory. In that territory you’ll no doubt be much more effective in your passion to help people know the Gospel. Jesus was criticised for the company he kept, we seldom are.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:8

Stan Fetting, February 2017