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San Angelo Lifestyles

Following for Jesus

Mar 21, 2019 12:43PM ● By John Shallenberger
written by sabrina forse tatsch  |  photos provided by keenan clark

Keenan Clark is using social media to follow Jesus’ command.  The 23-year-old San Angelo native is the Young Adults Pastor at Celebration Church and is fully utilizing the impact of his social media following to travel the globe to spread the gospel message. “All of these doors have opened up because I have a fairly significant following on Instagram. Content gets shared and people invite me to speak. One of the catalysts for my traveling was a sermon clip that was seen by 120,000 people,” said Clark.

@keenanclark_  has more than 42,000 followers. “We’re called to take ground for the kingdom. The number of followers doesn’t give me value or make me better than anyone else. Every follower represents a person that Jesus died to save, so if they happen to care about something I post or do, it’s a privilege. I try to not take myself too seriously, but I do take the opportunity seriously. Not everyone is going to listen to you but when they do, it’s best to leave them better than you found them.”









It’s that following that allowed this young pastor to take a trip he had only dreamed of. In June of 2018, Clark and twenty-seven other social media influencers boarded a plane for an eight-day journey to the Holy Land. “I had hoped to go to Israel someday. For anyone whose faith is a big deal, Israel is the trip you want to take. It’s a part of your heritage. It’s just as much my homeland as anyone else’s,” said Clark. “It’s the only place that I’ve ever gone that the moment we hit the ground, I literally felt ownership. I almost felt a homecoming in a sense. It wasn’t something
I conjured up. It was very strange but very real.” 

 









It’s a journey that started years earlier when Clark was a college student at Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas taking photos with his phone. “As a way to explore, I would run around town taking pictures of artsy looking landscape, people and even coffee. I would post that to Instagram and then go to InstaMeets. That’s where a bunch of people get together, meet in a coffee shop, exchange information, hit the town, take pictures together and tag each other. It’s basically relationship and content creation at the same time.”

 

As his Instagram following grew, Clark drew the attention of Socality, an organization that connects social media influencers who are developing content to inspire positive change. “I ended up being a part of the launch team about five years ago. It’s a Christian-minded movement.” In February of 2018, Socality’s founder, Scott Bakken, extended Clark an invitation for a trip to Israel. “The sole purpose was to have an awesome experience in the Holy Land and share it with others so anyone who follows you can see that Israel is a fun place to visit, especially if you are a believer.” 



Clark says the Israel Collective,Christians United for Israel, funded the trip for twenty-eight social media influencers whose collective following exceeds millions. “Someone in my field doesn’t typically get to go on a trip like this. It was an eclectic group. There were models, photographers, videographers, business people, and celebrities.” Jase, Missy, Reed, Cole and Mia Robertson from the Duck Dynasty reality-tv show were also aboard the tour bus. “As faithful to the scripture and faith as the Robertsons were on television, they are even more so in person. Jase was constantly reading his Bible on the bus and answering questions about scripture. At one point, Missy got on the microphone on the bus and wanted to make sure everyone knew Jesus. They really don’t want anyone to miss out on knowing and having a relationship with Jesus,” said Clark. “At one time, Duck Dynasty was the biggest show on TV, but they don’t carry themselves like that at all. They are the most down to earth people that you forget you are hanging out with celebrities. Getting to know them and develop a relationship with them was a privilege.”

 


The Duck Dynasty crew, Clark and the other social media influencers met in New York City where they boarded a plane for the ten-hour flight to Tel Aviv. “My first thought was it looks like West Texas but then as we traveled more, 

I thought this looks like the Nevada dessert. Then other parts look like Malibu or San Diego. It’s such a small country but the terrain changes quite a bit.”






During the eight days, Clark was able to travel throughout the entire country and experience sites of scriptural significance. “We had a tour guide that explained everything. We saw ancient aqueducts and Mount Carmel where Elijah faced the prophets of Baal. We went to Capernaum where there is still a synagogue standing that dates to the time of Jesus. 
To be somewhere where Jesus stood and spoke was amazing. 

I had a real moment in the Garden of Gethsemane. That’s where Jesus said,‘Not my will be done, but yours.’ I get emotional just thinking about it.”

 For Clark, the experience has given him new insight and understanding. “Before I would read my Bible but not really understand where things were. In my head traveling from the Sea of Galilee to Jerusalem didn’t seem like a far journey. I learned it’s a three-hour drive, so in Biblical times that would’ve been on foot or the backs of donkeys, which are no small feats.” 

It’s a first-hand experience that Clark says he wouldn’t have been able to articulate by simply reading. “I know what the air feels like. I was able to stand at the Sea of Galilee and imagine a storm coming. Jesus stood at that very body of water and called his first disciples. The only reason I am a disciple is because he made them there first.” At the end of each day, the group was able to share their experiences. “We all grew really tight and melded together. We became instant family. We have a group chat,” said Clark. “I think it would be cool to go to Israel with other pastors, but I also liked that we didn’t go as professional Christians. We went as believers. We went as people who love the Lord and try to honor Him the best we can, in whatever field we are in. The people who had the best things to say weren’t necessarily clergy. I loved getting to hear other insights.” 

 Sharing that diverse perspective and developing positive content with others was the goal of the trip. It’s an experience that Clark is sharing not only at his home church in San Angelo but through his speaking engagements across the globe and most recently on a trip to Dubai and Uganda. “People hit me up on Instagram and say I want to go to San Angelo because of Celebration Church or they say they’ve never heard of San Angelo but want to go.”

On a typical Sunday, Celebration Church has an attendance of about 800. “We are definitely comfortable with the fact that we are not your typical church. We have loud music and comfortable dress. It’s a church for the unchurched, if you will. We have a contemporary service, but the message is still the gospel. We don’t bend on that.” 
From Sunday morning service to a 24-hour reach on Instagram, Clark believes in focusing on the positive. “When you attempt to take ground on social media, it’s not always going to be positive. There are people who don’t like me or people who think I’m in for my own gain, which isn’t true. When those people speak up, it lets me know that the message is getting out there and being seen by people who don’t even want to be exposed to God. To me, that’s a positive thing.” 

 

Whether you have millions of followers or just a few, Clark believes everyone has the power to reach others as indicated in Matthew 18:20. ‘For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.’ “You may not have a thousand followers on social media and that’s okay. If you can be faithful over a little, God will give you much. We are called to be faithful, not famous. Use whatever influence you have to the best of your ability and you will be amazed at how God’s message can grow.” †
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