How should we use/not use social media?
I remember it vividly. This past summer, I was sitting in a 5th-floor apartment in the city of Zigong, China. I’d never been here before, and I’d only met the host family the day before at a restaurant that I’d never been to before. Everything was new. New people. New places. Oh, I’ve worked with underground churches in China for years but never in this region. It was all brand new to me and to the crew I had with me. We worshiped together for almost three hours. We sang, we preached, we answered questions, we shared our stories, we took the Lords supper, and we learned to love one another.…and then it happened.
They invited us outside to take pictures. Thousands of pictures. I’m not kidding, and this isn’t a “preacher count” situation. Thousands of pictures. They wanted pictures with every one of us. They wanted group photos, individual photos, selfies and “otherpeopleies.” They wanted to connect…we were family, and they wanted to remember and connect. Then I got the question. “Are you on Facebook, Instagram, or QQ (Chinese version of Twitter)?
Here we were – a group of American Christians visiting in a remote region of China for the first time and the local Chinese family wanted to connect with us through social media. You know the greatest irony of all? Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are currently banned in China. So, how do they even use them? They use proxy servers and get around them. How crazy is that!? They hack their way around government oversight so that they can connect with other Christians.
Every day I get new friend requests on Facebook from preachers across the globe. They come in from the jungles of India, the growing cities of Vietnam, the plains of Ghana, the streets of Nigeria, the mega-cities of China, and the neighborhoods of South Africa. Hundreds of them are looking to connect, engage, learn, and grow. They seek family. They seek knowledge. They seek faith. They seek the church.
They seek the church while we are still debating if we should even be on it. How sad is that? We have so personalized who we are and where Christians should or should not be that we are missing out on the global call for evangelism that God has put before us all.
Now, having said that it drives me crazy that there are Christians out there that use social media in the wrong way. That’s what makes me truly angry. And before you start “amen-ing” from your seat, let me go ahead and list the ways Christians should not use social media.
- For personal self-glorification. (1 Corinthians 10:31) If you are out to make a name for yourself, please stop. I beg you! Please, remember the calling of all Christians – to make Him known. Not ourselves. It is not about us. It is about Him!
- Name calling. (James 4:11-12) If you use social media to air dirty laundry on people and the church, please stop. Please? I’m begging. You do nothing but hurt the church when you say negative things about preachers, teachers, and other churches.
- Side note – I am NOT saying that we can’t address church culture, current trends, and cultural discussions through positive blogs, posts, and books. I am simply saying that name calling, offering negativity without offering a Biblical solution, and personal attacks are simply not in the character of Jesus Christ.
- Don’t feed the trolls. (Romans 12:18 – Hebrews 12:14) If you are tech-savvy enough to know what this means, good. Live by it. If you aren’t, here’s the skinny on this little point – some people simply live to start arguments, post the opposite of what you say, and to drive everyone else crazy. Don’t speak to them or give them the time of day. Love them as Christ would but do not get dragged into a debate with people who aren’t intellectually honest. What they do is called “trolling.”
- Side note – Don’t be a troll. Enough said.
- Don’t get “off” social media because you can’t stand all the negativity. (John 3:16) Aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t have the same attitude? Let me show you why – there are 900 MILLION Facebook users worldwide. If Facebook were a country, it would be the third-largest in the world behind China and India. Add in Instagram and Twitter and you are now talking about 40% of the worlds population! That’s over 3 BILLION people who are a captive audience. Now, let me get to my point – as a Christian, we are called to make Him known into all the world. We are called to “go.” We are never going to find a corner of the world where everything is positive, and everything is perfect. That’s called Heaven, and we aren’t there yet! We, as followers of Christ, must stop running away from the negativity and be the positive force this world needs. We are called to be lights in a dark world. Period. Every Christian this side of Heaven owes it to every soul this side of Hell to be “there” in their lives each and every day. We must stop separating ourselves from the world because we can’t stand their “sin.” We aren’t God. We don’t get to draw away from sinners who sin. Otherwise, we’d have to draw away from ourselves. We are NOT perfect and sinless, and we don’t get to decide rather arrogantly who is worthy of our time….God said “go” and so we go. To ALL the world. Where they are. We go to them. We don’t sit in our buildings and wait for them to come to us. So, I beg you, don’t get off social media because of all its negativity – get back out there and be a light and share Jesus with a lost and dying world.
Which leads me to my favorite part of this little lesson – How you should use social media.
- To make God known to all the world! (Matthew 28:18-20) It’s that simple. I’m not even kidding. Social media is all about sharing your life with those around you…just open that circle of friends and invite people you don’t know to be part of your family. In fact, some of them may invite themselves! Be friends with everyone, respond back to everyone, ask them if they know Jesus. Share your life. Now, there is one drawback to this scenario. What is it? Well, if your life doesn’t reflect Jesus as it is, it won’t on social media. Maybe that’s why we don’t use social media correctly. We are afraid of what people will see. So, my encouragement to you is simple – change your image into the image of Christ. Be Holy. Be righteous. Be Him to a lost and dying world.
- To connect with the lost. (Mark 16:15) This may be the hardest one for us as a church culture and as American Christians. We have closed our doors. We no longer care about getting to know our neighbors, meeting new people, and having people into our homes. We all need our “personal space” and have carried this over to the church. It’s hard for church leaders to get people to host Bible studies in their homes, have people host others traveling through, or to get anyone to invite their “neighbor.” Why? Because we don’t know them, our house isn’t “clean,” and we don’t have the time to host one. Now, think about how you use social media….do you “selectively” edit out “friends” from your list? Do you “cull” people like its a scene from the Hunger Games trilogies? Ever had a disagreement with someone on social media and then block them? Ever “deny” someone a friend request because you don’t like them? Are your toes sufficiently stepped on? Good. You get the point. There are people out there that need your Christ-like example and who is to say that someone can’t/won’t come to Christ because of your example on social media? Who is to say that there aren’t already people in Heaven because of something you said, posted, commented on, and shared? Who is to say that Christ can’t or doesn’t work in the lives of people outside of just a personal Bible study? We still believe that the power of the scriptures can change lives right? We still believe that people can come to know Christ through the examples of Christians living their lives to glorify God in all things, right? When we deny Gods power to change lives outside of a personal Bible study, we deny Gods ability to change lives at all. We make it about ourselves and not about Him. He changes lives. Not us. Seek the lost on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. They are easy to find….they are everywhere. Live your life like Christ and share it with them. Connect with the lost.
- There is no number three. That’s it. Two points. To make Him known and to connect with the lost by sharing your life with them. Told you it was simple!
Welcome to the real world. Sin exists and it is everywhere. The world has a sin problem, and the cure is Jesus Christ. Social media is a tool where we can share our lives with each other. Social media can foster closer church family relationships also be a place where we can share the gospel with the lost. It is where we can be a light in a dark world. And here’s the scary awesome part – when we learn to share our lives on social media with the lost, the spiritually dying, and the needy, we will learn to do so in real life.
Social media is meant to connect people together. It is a beautiful tool that can and should be used to the glory of God. When you live out your real life, and your life on social media, with the sole purpose of making God known to the whole world, I truly do believe that lives will be changed, and God will be glorified. In fact, God promises it.
PERSONAL NOTE for all Elders and Ministers.
Imagine a world where you could have access to your church family’s inner thoughts. Imagine that you were able to connect with each member each day on a personal note. Imagine being able to remember every church members birthday, anniversary, and special family day. Imagine being able to pray instantly for the need of a family member because you know it the second it is made public. Imagine being able to foresee marital problems before its too late. Imagine a world where you could feel like you have a finger on the pulse of all that people are frustrated with, happy about, angry at, or feeling. Just imagine such a world. Now, sign up for Facebook. Get a Twitter account. Register for Instagram.
Social Media isn’t just for the young. The church and the lost need you to jump on board with the fact that it is the year 2016 and we need you. We need you to engage with us. We need your insight. We need your love. We need your prayers. We need your positivity. We need you online.
If you don’t know how, ask someone. Engage in a mentoring relationship with someone younger and let them teach you how to share your life with a lost and dying world.
Now, let’s go into “all the world” and change it.
Remember that underground church in Zigong, China? They just sent me a message on QQ (Chinese twitter) – they said, “Hi! Do you have some study material we can use to learn more about God?”
How cool is that?