by Ash Greyson
Beliefnet Managing Editor
Move over Lady Gaga! Sorry, Justin Bieber! Nice try, Harry Potter! According to Allfacebook.com, a website that tracks Facebook traffic and interactions, seven of the top 20 most engaging Facebook pages are related to faith.
The new Harry Potter film just set the all-time record for weekend ticket sales, but in the week of its release, the film was still outpaced on Facebook by the pages “Jesus Daily” and “The Bible.”
How could that be? Dr. Aaron Tabor, who posts Facebook’s Jesus Daily says, “People turn to God when they have problems in life, not Harry Potter’s fictional wand.”
Pastor Mark Brown from Australia – who started posting daily Scripture readings on Facebook, calling his site simply “The Bible,” says, “Faith is personal, so it is a good fit with Facebook, plus with the state of the economy people I believe are reaching out to God for help.”
A surprise presence on Facebook is the prominent Evangelical leader Joyce Meyer – whose page just recently made it into the top 20. She says the explanation is simple:
“So many people are looking for answers and encouragement, and really just want to hear from God. Faith-based social media, like Facebook, give them a way to connect with people who are looking for the same thing.
“In this non-threatening, interactive environment, they are encouraged and grow in their relationship with God. It’s amazing how powerful a Scripture or brief, positive word can be in the middle of a busy day or during a hard time.”
Another faith page with surprising popularity on Facebook is the Spanish-language “Dios Es Beuno!” which means simply “God Is Good!” Owner Hermes Carvajal explains its appeal simply:
“Human beings like to build tabernacles of comfort around them.” He says he started the Facebook page as an outreach — with no idea of how popular it would become.
But it’s not just Christian-oriented pages that are doing well. Islam claims two of the top six spots. “I’m a Muslim & I’m Proud” has seen explosive growth of late and is on pace to overtake “IloveAllaah,” the other Islamic page on the list.
A spokesperson for “Im a Muslim & Im Proud,” explains, “Religion plays an important role in everyone’s life. Facebook pages are good to spread religious views.”
Although Facebook has been known to arbitrarily take down pages that receive complaints, the owner of “Im a Muslim & Im Proud” says “so far the content/material we posted was never censored by Facebook.”
“The hardest part,” he said, “is to manage the comment sections. Sometime non-Muslims give a lot of anti-Islamic comments and abuse Muslims religious views.”
Censorship has been an issue for Australian Pastor Brown of “The Bible.” He also hosts the page “Jesus Christ.”
He is the most seasoned of the bunch, but even he has been shocked by the response.
“I recall when the page was a couple of thousand members posting something like, ‘I have a bold vision to see this page with 1 million fans. What a statement that would make to the world! I invite you to share this page with your friends.’” recalls Brown.
“I was hopeful, but I remember thinking it was a wild vision! I worked the page very hard for a long time. For me, it was like caring for a baby. It needed constant attention. So although its size, how active it is and the speed at which it is growing blows me away, it was no accident.
“I worked hard at it — and most importantly, God is good!
Asked why he thinks six of the top 20 Facebook pages are faith-based, Brown observes:
“Facebook is a social network and the key word is ‘social’. It works best when people are personally involved, have a personal stake in the page or the theme/brand of the page. Faith is personal, so it is a good fit with Facebook, which we see it the success of the faith-based pages.
“Plus with the state of the economy, people — I believe — are reaching out to God for help. And God will provide!”
What about the censorship issues he’s had with Facebook? Have there been many?
“Oh, lots over the years,” he responds. “I have started many pages and with some I have had my publishing rights removed. There is never a specific reason offered outside of a general ‘breach of terms and conditions’ statement. And contacting Facebook to rectify this is very difficult. I also got banned once, that was fun!”
What’s the hardest part of managing a page that has grown such a large fans base?
“With each of the 11 pages I have started,” he says, “the key is to raise up a team who can manage the page effectively. At the moment, I have 34 volunteers helping out, and am about to appoint someone to manage the volunteers day-to-day.
“So, I view running Facebook pages like leading an organization. It requires an expressed vision, care of staff and creating operational policy and procedures.
What does the future hold?
“I continue to look at new emerging technology,” says Brown, who says he’s “ready to engage with the next Facebook — for the glory of God!
Has Carvajal, who founded “Dios Es Bueno” had censorship issues?
No, he says.
Did he foresee how big his page would become? Or did it just happen?
“We started our page with a very clear goal, a purpose, a mission,” he responds. “People feel it.”
He notes that it “still takes lots praying, planning, training, learning, keeping up with technology, learning about Facebook, how it works, going deeper, watching videos of experts in social media, communications, etc.
“I have years of experience as an amateur writer, but Facebook was new to me when we started the page. The page is larger than we expected, I guess mostly because our content is 100 percent original.
“My encouragement quotes that I post were written during very hard times, so people feel sincerity. I think people have been blessed by that.
“We also spent money — our own money — on applications, graphic design, testing different landing pages, suggestions from social media experts.
“I love watching Mark Zuckerberg videos, interviews, speeches,” says Carvajal. “Believe it or not, there is a universe of “prophetic” knowledge in that man. We thought we were going to reach 1 million in our first year. We reached 4 million. Our prayers, efforts, sleepless nights paid off. Yes, we take it very seriously.”
Why are 6 of the top 20 pages faith-based? What does this say about the world and about Facebook?
“People need God,” responds Carvajal. “They are looking for God. People want to know more about God and it happens that Facebook has become the most advanced medium to communicate and learn from other people.
“People pray, advice, teach, counsel and joke on the phone. They now also do it on Facebook.
Has he had censorship issues?
“No not at all. Never. The Facebook team has been helpful, patient, They have definitely help us with copyright issues when other people copy our content, clone our page, etc, which has happened a few times.
“Facebook acted immediately and that was a relief. I am thankful to them.”
What’s the hardest part of managing a page with such a large readership?
“In the beginning when it started to grow, around the second month — we just started a year ago — it was hard to keep up with our fans and our personal life.
“But then again, we had to go to the experts, learn, take a little course here and there, and now we have in place systems to streamline everything.
“Communications on Facebook are light-speed fast. Our response to challenges has to be lightning-fast as well — or else we will lose our edge.
“Our fans are actually very, very connected to us. Today managing the page is not hard at all. Besides, we have many volunteers around the world who also work very, very hard, with no pay.”
What does the future hold?
“That’s the question I ask myself every morning,” responds Carvajal. “What’s new? Any new upgrade to the Facebook platform brings endless opportunities to connect. It’s incredible.
“I take my page very seriously. We wait on God, but at the same time prepare ourselves by learning more, reading every day.”
He says his crew is constantly “watching for new technology that can dramatically affect how we connect with people. Human beings like to build tabernacles of comfort around them — remember Peter in the Transfiguration?
“They see something new or awesome and they believe it will be there forever. They build their lives around it. But, the reality is we are in continuous, daily change, and we must keep up with the change.
“Facebook is awesome, but is not eternal. It may not be here tomorrow, so we must be ready for that.”
What about Dr. Aaron Tabor of “Jesus Daily”? His page engages more than any of the others.
“Jesus Daily,” he marvels, “has connected the Body of Believers in a way never before seen. Women in the Philippines are asking for breast-cancer prayers and believers in Nigeria are responding to it.
“Facebook has been very good to work with Jesus Daily. We’ve had several images removed of Christ on the cross (or carrying a cross) because of implied violence. I understand their position on this. Their biggest challenge going forward will be to keep the pornographers in check. If they allow the integrity of the Facebook experience to deteriorate, they will be the second MySpace.com.”
What’s the hardest part of managing “Jesus Daily”?
“Controlling the integrity of the site with so many anti-God people posting pornography and anti-Christian or racial slurs,” answers Dr. Tabor. “I pray that Jesus Daily will become the world’s leading evangelistic website — using all the latest technology to bring seekers into the Jesus Daily family, including mobile apps, iPad and smart tablet apps, social gaming, music, videos, church services, and more.”
Why does he think six of the top 20 Facebook pages faith-based?
“I doubt that Facebook ever envisioned their platform being used so effectively by believers,” says Tabor. “Although the non-religious pages have more ‘Fans,’ the religious pages are the most active. Most pages suffer from the ‘Click and Forget’ syndrome.
“I knew that people would be interested in the powerful words of Christ, but it was impossible to imagine the page would morph into the most active page on Facebook. The comments, prayer requests, and other dialogue from believers around the world continue to amaze me.”