PUBLICATION DATE: FEBRUARY 1, 2012
he Internet is here to stay. Not only that, but it is entering adulthood and shows no signs of slowing down. What many people are missing about this fact is that the web has become a sort of evangelistic mission field, ripe for the spread of the gospel. However, this fact has not been lost on Toni Birdsong and Tami Heim, whose recent title @stickyJesus: How To Live Out Your Faith Online considers this new missionary context. Case in point, the authors met each other via Twitter.
Essentially, the crux of this title is that the Internet operates and should be viewed as the missional frontier for the modern Christian. If relationships are beginning and growing via the online medium if that is where the people are located, then it makes sense that Jesus should be there, too. After all, Jesus was always where the people were. But, the online world comes with the added bonus of a constant barrage of marketing branding that “sticks” to us and bends us to its will. For Birdsong and Heim, though, it is all about competing stories—and Jesus’ story is the stickiest story of them all. So, they ask the big question: “How do you follow Jesus in a Web-based world and lead others to do the same?”
Rather than taking a fatalistic approach to the web, decrying all the dangers and calling people to “Hide yo kids, hide yo wife,” Birdsong and Heim are hopeful in their outlook, emphatically stating, “Your job is to illuminate and celebrate truth in a whole new way.” Peppered throughout the title are stories of people who have used the Internet to influence lives or had their own lives influenced by it, whether via social networking sites, blogging, etc. The authors do a good job of staying away from abject hopelessness but they also don’t approach the world we live in with Pollyanna-ish, rose-colored glasses. There are real pitfalls to avoid in the virtual world and @stickyJesus does not avoid this.
The latter part of the book is more of a “How-To” section, “demystifying” various social media outlets and news aggregators for those who find new technology daunting. I think this section is especially helpful for people who don’t really know their way around Web 2.0. However, as a younger person, the section on learning Facebook and Twitter weren’t all that helpful to me. The section on the news aggregator did teach me some things, though.
Overall, @stickyJesus is a decent resource for people of faith who are on the Web. If statistics can be trusted, that’s the majority of us. Actually, if you’re reading this review, then the book is for you because you’re either reading it on a computer, your smartphone, or a tablet device (or some electronic device we don’t know about yet—but hopefully its an Apple product). The Internet is the new frontier of missionary work and Birdsong and Heim offer up thoughtful practices of how we might share Christ in a digital world. Additionally, for those who wish to take their experience with the book deeper, you can log on to the site www.stickyjesus.com and find complementary resources, the small group field guides notwithstanding.