Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has revealed that his vision for developing a new online community is modeled after Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback church.
In a recent interview with Wired Magazine, Zuckerberg said that his model for an online community would be similar to Saddleback, the Southern California megachurch led by Warren.
“Humanity has always pushed to come together in greater numbers to accomplish better things and improve our lives individually in ways we couldn’t in smaller groups,” said Zuckerberg.
He cited Warren’s church as an example of a community in which tens of thousands of people gather under the guidance of a leader, but also divide themselves into smaller groups based on interests, affinity and aspirations.
The Facebook founder envisioned the platform as a community where leaders like Warren will have tools to guide and shape the communities they are trying to create. Smaller groups within the communities will allow people to connect in more intimate ways, while also feeding the larger community.
“Just like becoming friends with people on Facebook can strengthen real-world relationships, there is no reason to believe that building communities on Facebook and the internet can’t also strengthen real-world communities,” Zuckerberg said.
The billionaire had previously met with other church leaders in order to learn about the role of churches in building communities.
In January, he met with clergy members in Texas as part of his “Year of Travel,” in which he visits states he has not been to before.
John Crowder, a pastor at First Baptist Church in West, thought that Zuckerberg would promote a charity of a new technology, but he only spoke for a minute and started asking questions.
Crowder said that the Facebook founder was interested in learning about the role churches played following the 2013 fertilizer explosion that devastated the city. He was also wanted to know how congregations of different denominations worked together to recover from the disaster.
“We got to tell him that right after the explosion, people in town just automatically turned to the church for help. They knew that was the place they could go and that is the role the church plays — at least in a small town,” said Crowder.
The pastor also revealed that Zuckerberg was interested in learning how much of the church’s resources are spent on “religion” and how much is spent on “community service.”
Aaron Zimmerman, an Episcopal priest who attended one of the meetings, said that the gathering left him with the impression that Zuckerberg seemed to be trying to do the right things from a place of humility.