I love telling the stories of how God is using other people. This is one of those stories. I know him as Dave Adamson. He is a friend who is a great father and constant source of encouragement for me. Dave and I met shortly after his presentation at the That Church Conference this past year. As the Social Media Director for North Point Ministries, he gave an amazing presentation. My notes from his session can be read HERE.
While I know him simply as Dave, most of the world knows him as @AussieDave, the Instagram and Twitter superstar. If you do not follow him on Instagram, click HERE and sign up TODAY. Trust me. You will not be disappointed. HE IS THE BEST!!!
Dave was kind enough to share his personal journey of his growing social media influence and how God is using him to impact thousands of people for Jesus Christ. If you want to grow your social media presence, read Aussie Dave’s comments below. You will want to bookmark this post and revisit it often.
Three simple things have changed the way I use Instagram forever and increased my followers and reach by more than 1300%.
Now, I know that modern blog writing etiquette says I’m supposed to hold off sharing these three things until I’ve drawn you in with a witty anecdote – or at least until you’ve scrolled past the fold – but since I consider myself to be a bit of maverick who doesn’t play by the rules you choose to live by, here they are right at the top of the post (sorry BuzzFeed et al):
1. My youngest daughter has dyslexia, so she learns and recalls information best when she hears it in a story and sees it as an image.
2. I want my three daughters to have a permanent record of everything I know about Jesus.
3. I read a quote by theologian Leonard Sweet that “photos are the language of the 21st Century.”
In 2014, I was blissfully posting photos of my food, or my feet on vacation, or shots out the plane window (#ImOnVacationAndYoureNot, #ImSoWordly) like everyone else and getting about 20 likes and 2 comments from my 500 followers. But then I decided to let these three things guide what I posted on Instagram (like I said, I’m a maverick) and everything has changed.
You see, most people use Instagram as a window into their life … but I wanted to use it as a doorway into my faith. I specifically wanted to invite my daughters into the Bible and my own spiritual journey by using Instagram photos in the same way Jesus used parables. I decided I would only post my original landscape and portrait photos that linked to a Biblical concept or story that I had learned about, was wrestling with or was applying to my own faith.
It started at the beginning of 2015 when my youngest daughter was struggling with dyslexia and I was working to help her comprehend and recall written information. I realized that whenever I attached information to an image, a lightbulb came on for her. When looking at a photo, she could see and interact with information, and it gave her a trigger to recall said information during a school test. So one morning, she asked me a question about God and I applied this same technique, using one of my landscape photos on our wall to help answer the question. In that moment I saw her connect with God and experience Him in a new way. So I continued doing it every morning over breakfast – showing her a photo and teaching her something about God.
I decided to start posting the images and lessons I was using with her to my Instagram account, and there was an almost immediate response. Within days, the number of likes I was getting had doubled, and within weeks the number of followers I had did the same. People seemed to be learning new ideas about an ancient book.
The increased traffic was a nice surprise, but I continued posting daily devotions not because of demand, but because of my daughters. I have three girls, and as a pastor I believe they are my first congregation. I want to teach them what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I want to show them how many practical truths can be found in the scriptures. So I decided to use Instagram to leave a legacy for them. Long after I’m gone, I want them to be able to go to my Instagram feed and continue learning everything I know about Jesus. I hope my account will be a source of learning, encouragement and blessing for them for the rest of their lives. I hope my future grandkids, and great grandkids can use it too.
As a pastor, I want to teach the Bible and provide hope from the scriptures, but I also realize that each generation needs to use modern methods to teach the ancient story of Jesus. The Apostle Paul used the technology of his day – letter writing – to pastor people, and modern-day pastors have the opportunity to do the same. Social media is the technology of our day, and finding ways to leverage Facebook, Instagram and and Twitter will make us more effective as pastors.
There is a generation growing up who has not known life without Instagram. They are used to getting their news from Twitter. They take in information on-demand in caption-sized portions and if there’s an image attached to it, then statistically more of them will engage with that information. This is what they’re used to and why Leonard Sweet is right in saying that “photos are the language of the 21st Century.” Photos posted on social media are how people interact with the world.
In order to teach people about Jesus and show them what it means to follow him, then we need to go where they are – and where they are is on social media. Whether they’re on their lunch break, in the carpool line are school, walking between meetings or classes, at the grocery store checkout or sitting in traffic, people are on social media – and Christians need to be there too.
So for these reasons, I use photos and caption-sized daily devotions to teach my kids – and thousands of other people – the Bible every day. I’m not saying days of the 30-minute Sunday sermon is over, but when I start a conversation on Instagram, and then engage with people as the dissect the message, I’m reaching more people through one post than most churches attract on a Sunday. I’m a pastor, and I’m simply using a 21st Century method to tell a 1st Century story.