A couple months ago I received an email from someone at my church — someone, shall we say, not young — who just happened to check out our Facebook page. He was disappointed that he, for some reason, never receives status updates from our church on his Facebook news feed, despite that we post several times a week. I told him I know very little about how Facebook feeds work, except that I notice I see updates from the “friends” of mine I interact with most. Facebook learns who those people are I want to hear from. At least, I think that’s how it works. This man at my church challenged us to have a stronger Facebook presence. How can we reach people — not just the members of our church, but their friends as well — where they’re at?

Though I’m not the communications director at my church, I’ve taken it upon myself to lead in this area, whether it be graphic design, organization of promotions, or maintaining the website. In accepting this man’s challenge, I’m seeking for our church not simply to attract but to incarnate in the social media realm. I was excited to find the little book Real Church in a Social Network World on the site where I get free books to review, but I was mostly disappointed. Real Church is a strange little book. After I finished reading it — and it didn’t take long — I found myself asking the publisher, What was the point of this book?

Real Church is a collection “drawn from three of Sweet’s most important books,” according to the introduction. Because it is a collection, there is very little flow. At times, I’d reach the end of a page, flip to the next, and think I’d accidentally flipped more than one. The little book was pieced together and it is far too short for any of Sweet’s points to be fully constructed. Perhaps I ought to read those three books, instead of feeling like I’d skimmed them in this collection.

One of the problems with Real Church is, as far as I can tell, Sweet’s complete reliance on anecdotal evidence. Scanning through the end notes, I saw virtually no research indicated. He makes bold assertions like:

People are fast losing the art of being with one another. So it’s not surprising that the number one problem in the world is people living disconnected lives. They are detached from God, from others, and from creation. People are losing the art of living with one another.

Yet he cites no studies or polls. Perhaps his other books mention these studies, and though I’m not one for statistics — unless we’re talking about baseball — I like to see some hard evidence when strong claims are being made, even when, as with the above quote, many of us wouldn’t argue with their accuracy.

The thing about Real Church is its title. Sweet writes very little about church. I felt like I learned nothing. I know for certain I am no more equipped to lead the charge at my church when it comes to our Facebook status updates and Twitter posts, which seem irrelevant, considering we have only a half dozen followers. The only redeemable quality of this little book — available, I believe, only as an e-book — is the inclusion of the introduction and first chapter of Sweet’s latest book Viral, which seems like it might be helpful to my accepting that church member’s challenge. So, if you’re interested in the subject, check out Viral, since Real Church isn’t worth the six bucks someone not reviewing it for free would have to pay.

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