Politically, social media tools have been used to lift the veil on many evils that need to be exposed in our world. On a personal level, my own family has been blessed through such technological tools. Living an ocean away from family, we have been blessed to be able to communicate by Facebook, Skyping, texting, and blogging.
On a more important level, social media is a blessed means of the dissemination of the gospel. The knowledge of the glory of the Lord will come about in all the nations, and no doubt such technology will be used of the Lord to do so. Yes, we have many reasons to thank the Lord for this kind providence. But it is also true that sometimes such gracious gifts, if not properly stewarded, can become temptations. When this happens, we may need to log off and exercise and engage in a “face off.”
In this article I want to highlight some such dangers to which we might all give due diligence so that we might use social media wisely to the glory of God.
One of dangers of blogging, for instance, is that of people allowing others to do the hard work of thinking for us. I know of one well-known Christian blogger who claims to have made a daily blog-post for thousands of consecutive days without interruption. What this brother shares is often quite helpful and edifying. Nevertheless, is he an expert in everything?
Sadly, there are some, no doubt, who allow this gifted man to fix their convictions simply because he is well read and well thought. Believers are called to think clearly, critically and counter-culturally. And to do so requires that we develop such capabilities. Merely repeating the conclusions from someone else’s hard work of study and thinking is not the same as being firmly settled in one’s own convictions. It may, in fact, be nothing but slothful sycophantism.
Beware of lazy living, which includes lazy thinking.
Again, some use social media as a place to take shots at others while hiding behind a screen. If you are guilty of this then you need a face off. Learn to dialogue with others. Learn to resolve conflicts face-to-face rather than making public denunciations and taking cheap shots through an overheated keyboard. Get up from your chair, sit down with someone and actually do something very old-fashioned: Talk to them!
In an increasingly shrinking world, when it comes to access to information, we need to consider security issues—especially when it comes to the gospel in lands that are considered “restricted” or “closed.” Our church supports a missionary who is a case in point.
We must be careful how we say what we say with reference to missions in nations where the church is under very real security threat. Our own church website was recently blocked in a particular country. With our desire to be more involved partnering with the church there, we must be very careful of what we say in the social media.
For example, in my communication with my contacts in a restricted nation, we reroute our communication so as to avoid as best as possible any detection from unfriendlies. We also use code words for security reasons. For a while I would speak of “bread” when referring to the gospel.1
With reference to another area of caution, let me mention the danger of stealing from your employer, or of becoming distracted from your God-assigned vocation. Be careful of being paid to work while your thumbs are busy logging on. That is a violation of the eighth commandment. For some, a face off is a necessary act of repentance.
Finally, I am concerned that some use the social media to “spy” on others. I once actually heard a pastor say that he likes Facebook because it helps him to know what his congregation is up to. I suppose a hidden camera in their houses would help even more!
Now, obviously social media is a great way for us to share good news and to share our burdens (if done so appropriately), but we need to be careful. Personally, I can’t think of a greater waste of precious time, and a greater temptation to unnecessary and unfruitful distraction, than reading what my fellow church members had for lunch and how many loads of laundry they did that morning.
But more importantly, I want to avoid the possibility of developing a suspicious view towards the people whom I love and to whom I have been called to feed, lead and give heed. There is a world of difference between shepherding and spying. Further, I want to guard my heart from the sin of judging motives, and when we are faced with the challenge of interpreting written dialogue this is often a very real danger.
I have not written this to be grumpy about the information age. As I said, there is much benefit to be gleaned from these tools. I simply wish to encourage you to be careful of allowing a blessing to morph into a problem. Having shared this, it is time for me to log off.