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Social Media and the Pentecostal Church

The third persona is Lakewood Church. This persona only possesses 874 thousand[31] followers. This discrepancy in viewers may illustrate that it is easier for people to imagine personally interacting with one of the Osteen’s than the institutional church itself. The number of associated Twitter followers is also significantly lower at 160 thousand.[32]

These three personas together provide multiple avenues for Osteen adherents to interact with the ministry and its message. Adherents can follow the Osteen message through nearly every major social media platform and develop the feeling of personally interacting with the Osteen’s. Both Joel and Victoria’s accounts are littered with requests for prayer. All of which are given a slightly different iteration of the answer, “God has a plan and a purpose for your life. We are standing with you in prayer and faith during this time. Post your prayer here http://b.osteen.co/prayersfb or call 1-888-567-5635 -VOM Team.”[33]

While one gets the sense that the Osteen’s ministry social media presence is largely monitored by a trained marketing team, not all Pentecostal ministries have chosen to pursue their social media outreach in such a polished manner. Bethel church is located in Redding California, a town of 90 thousand people.[34] The congregational size is significant given the size of the town, but by no means comparable to the Osteen ministry. Despite this, Bethel has garnished a significant amount of influence boasting a ministry school of two-thousand students from sixty-four nations.[35] Bethel is also the founding institution of Jesus Culture, a ministry that has attracted significant attention for their international conferences and music production.

Bethel’s approach to social media is somewhat piecemeal. While the church does maintain an official Facebook page and website, it has a very limited presence with just under three-hundred thousand followers. Adding to the confusion, Bethel has allowed its different ministry branches to set up their own individual Twitter feeds and Facebook pages. For example, on Facebook you can follow Bethel church (298 thousand followers[36]), Bethel.tv (197 thousand[37]), Bethel Music (1.3 million[38]), or Jesus Culture (2.3 million[39]). On Twitter, only Bethel.tv and Bethel Music are represented and, on YouTube, only Bethel Music and Jesus Culture maintain accounts. On YouTube, the two accounts between them have seven-hundred thousand followers, but one is left assuming that a significant number of those are users following both accounts as most Bethel artists are featured on both media streams.

These official accounts, however, only represent a fraction of Bethel’s overall social media presence. Nearly all of the numerous artists and authors associated with Bethel maintain Facebook pages and a significant number also maintain Twitter accounts or Instagram accounts. The majority of these accounts have between one to five hundred thousand followers, leading to the general impression that the sum of the followers amongst the unofficial accounts is significantly larger than the official social media outlets. For example, Jenn Johnson, who has never released her own album and yet has been a featured artist on multiple albums has 134 thousand[40] followers on Facebook. Steffany Frizzell-Gretzinger, another relatively obscure Bethel artists, possesses just under 100 thousand[41] followers on Facebook and 34 thousand[42] on Twitter. Both Jenn Johnson’s and Gretzinger’s social media presence is extremely personal, featuring pictures of their children, houses, and daily activities.

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Category: Fall 2017, In Depth, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Kyle Smith has M.A. in Christian History & Theology from George Fox University and is a currently working on a PhD in the Religious department of Rice University. His master’s thesis focused on the relationship between Pentecostal epistemology and institutional stability. He has presented on social media, ecclesiology, epistemology, and religious economics.

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