After the last year of physical distancing, TikTok has become a ubiquitous presence in our lives. Even if we are not aware of it, we have probably seen its funny videos and awesome dances through the app itself, through other messaging apps, or Facebook. TikTok is much more than funny videos or dancing though, it has become an open market for ideas, advocacy, and expression for people, especially young people. In just about 3 years, the app has gained over 2 billion users and growing. We are comfortable with ministry on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube but, should we go to TikTok? If you feel called to it, absolutely YES! But, why?
TikTok is the new Aeropagus
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and also in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. (…) Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. (Cf. Acts 17:16–34)
Social media in general – and lately TikTok – is the new Aeropagus, the new place where ideas are shared democratically and put to public test. If we have an idea that we want to share, then like Paul, we need to go to the marketplace of ideas and passionately share ours. Shouldn’t we do it with the happiest and most life-filled idea that has been brought to humanity? Jesus, the Word, and Logos of God belongs in this marketplace. Following Paul, we also need to share the good news using the language of the people in the marketplace, and today, that language is social media. This is even more necessary, if we want to share this Good News of Jesus Christ with younger generations that are living and expressing themselves more and more in digital ways.
Other voices are already there…
Jesus told to his disciples that they needed to be innocent like doves, and wise as serpents, because we would be sent into the world as sheep among wolves (Cf Mt 10:16).
Other voices are already on TikTok, voices that speak of consumerism, materialism, extremism, ultra-conservatism, etc. If we choose not to participate, we are in fact giving up our voice and space to those other voices. Furthermore, we are letting the loving, liberating, and life-giving voice of Christ go unheard in those places.
God is also there…
Be assured, we do not need to take God there: God is waiting for us there! Everywhere honest and provocative ideas are being shared, the Divine finds a way in. People are already asking deep questions about their humanity, about suffering, about life and death on TikTok. Our task is not to take God there, but to draw people to the mystery of God that we have experienced in our lives and share it using the language that speaks to them.
So, where do I start?
Start by opening an account and consuming content. The algorithm is very advanced so, it will take you to the videos similar to the ones you like, spend the most time on, or watch more than once. Soon you’ll notice that most of the content is based upon segments of music and actions with messages superposed on them. That’s the basics. Then, there are filters and stickers, like in many other apps. The best way to learn is to watch and imitate. One of the core elements of the app after all are “trends” that people follow. Look at them as re-mixes: Use a song fragment and probably a filter that everyone is using, but add your own message and take (in this case, a chance to share the Gospel, yay!).
These are possible steps for a TikTok Video:
- Select content to share.
- Select a format (song, conversation, reply, duet, stitch – you’ll get to know these options fast, do not worry).
- Select the background song.
- Record the video.
- Hashtags & settings.
You may also reach out to other Episcopal creators and create community with them. There is a growing community of Episcopalians on TikTok. Here are some of them:
- David W. Peters
- Rev Charles
- Nelson Serrano
- Josh Barret
- Queer Lady Church
- Viola Da Goomba
- Rev. Lizzie
- Nerdy Priest
- Joseph Yoo
- Brother Luis (my own account)
You can also follow this account and others that are dedicated to teaching how to use the app and do the trends that people are now following.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. TikTok is about sharing content in a relaxed and amateur way. Don’t wait for the best video, just start somewhere and you will get the hang of it on the road. Remember to have fun!