So this question has been weighing heavily on my mind this week. First, a bit of perspective (warning this will happen almost always without fail). It’s no big shocker that social media has turned into a prevalent part of the world we live in. I’ve really developed a love/hate relationship with it (I’m completely aware of the irony in the fact that I’m making this statement while blogging). I love that I’m so connected with so many people that I wouldn’t be in touch with otherwise, but I hate that it’s becoming the majority of the way I communicate with all people in general. I literally almost feel a hesitancy to go into a new situation with a “stranger” until we’ve at least “lol’d” and emoted each other a few times on Facebook. That actually makes me sad. I find it so strange that someone’s name will come up in conversation and I impulsively say, “Oh hey I know her we’re friends!!” Then there’s that awkward moment when the other person asks how you met, and you realize the only way you know this woman is because of her profile pic and the “about” section on her profile. Is this the new definition of friendship? Is there more than one kind of friend, like a hybrid type or something? How is it that we become so intimately connected with people we have sometimes never seen? It’s an important lead into my topic question, because when it comes to matters of discussing faith and salvation it can get pretty personal. I wonder sometimes if you can really get on the level with someone that you need to be in order to express such crucial matters.
Obviously I’m on the fence about internet discipleship. This isn’t a ploy to pose a question, lure you in and then enlighten you with my own one-sided epiphany. We’ll save those for later :). So…here’s how it works. As my dear friend often says, “It’s like a junior high dance, it works better if we both participate.” I’ll lay out my pros and cons, and then you give me your thoughts. This ought to be good test of my maiden voyage in blogging to see if people actually find and read this stuff.
Pros: It’s a fundamental truth in biblical history that Jesus and the disciples did not stay planted in one area for too long. They didn’t simply set up an advice booth, send out advertisement scrolls and wait for willing seekers to line up looking for divine revolution. They were beating the untraveled paths with their sandals going everywhere! They met the people where they were. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus commands that believers “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”. I feel like people spend a great deal of time in the realm of social media environments. So, if that’s where the people are then doesn’t that make it a viable place to initiate discipleship. My mornings usually consist of a slow process of easing my way into work which includes posting whatever God has laid on my heart recently whether it may be a verse, or food for thought, a lyric to a powerful worship song, or an exert from a recent sermon. I’ve kind of figured out the times when people are most active and I try to post during that time so that more people are likely to stumble across it. Now this is nothing I uniquely came up with, lots of my friends do the same thing. That’s an important part of why this is a pro for me, because sometimes a friend will post something that is just what I needed to hear that day, and it just rocks my world, and I think thank you God for bringing that to me. There have been many occasions when I will get a private message from someone telling me that they were moved by something, or that they are going through a hard time and whatever the post said gave them a little bit of comfort and reassurance. The best times are when I get that message that says, “Hey…I’ve been on the fence with my relationship with God, and I’ve been reading these posts you’ve made, and I just really feel Him trying to get my attention.” Doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens nonetheless. Isn’t that the elementary beginnings of discipleship in progress? I believe so. That’s a big pro!
Cons: There is something profoundly organic about the nature of good old fashioned friendship formed one-to-one in person over a cup of coffee and some well timed jokes (or in my case bouts of self-deprecating sarcasm). You can’t reproduce that in a chat room or IM or news feed. Doesn’t matter how many photos you post of your every waking moment, people on the internet will never know you as deeply as friends who’ve held your hand and heard that barely audible crack in your voice when you were saying how “fine” you are today. My friends, I can post all day and night about my love for my God, but it won’t ever be the same as sitting on the second row of my small town church while I’m sharing my testimony with you. I know you can’t go that deep in a simulated environment. I just wonder if what you can accomplish is enough, or is this an all-or-none kind of deal. There’s a necessary follow-through when you start to hear God calling you out of brokeness. I think a big part of that next step is finding your way to a church community that can foster your growth in Christ, encourage and support you, and begin laying out the truth found in His word. Online interaction is really quite easy even when you don’t know people. I’ll talk to all kinds of people on Facebook, but put me in a room full of strangers and you’ll find me taking extra long trips to the secluded safety of a bathroom stall, or clinging to my husband’s arm like we were anatomically conjoined. So I wonder how likely it is that lost and broken people will take that next step. Probably less likely then when I offer to come by and ride with you and sit next to you on your first day in unfamiliar territory. There is something very intimate about the nature of the Trinity. God didn’t send the Holy Spirit to create a headquarters and send out good vibes remotely to help you along your way, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within our hearts. One-on-one, mano y mano. Christ came down to earth to dwell among the people, to sit and break bread with them and be in their homes. 1 Corinthians 1:11 tells us, “Be imitators of me, as I am Christ.” Are we short changing our purpose if the majority of our outreach is our fingers stretching across the span of our keyboard? How quickly does that become the preferred method because it’s more comfortable? Lastly, I want to point out here that I’m choosing not to address the likelihood that some people use social media divisively, and contort the intended message of scripture as a con. The reason is that I’ve seen that happen online, in line at the grocery store, and of all places from the pulpit of a misguided ministry. It’s not a problem specific to social media, and if anything it support the necessity for broader continuous gospel centered outreach.
That’s the general idea behind my quandary. As you can see I have not been given the gift of brevity so this sometimes leads to awkward cut-offs in my thought process when I realize how long my posts are getting. You’ll get used to it. So….now that you’ve absorbed all of that, what are your thoughts? Is it even a yes/no kind of answer? Maybe it’s having the right balance and not letting one modality substitute for the importance of the other. Are they both relevant? Are they both necessary? I’m interested to know what God has laid on your hearts about this subject. I hope this week finds you in the midst of those situations where you step back and realize something is undeniably God, whether it be an internet post or a friend dropping by to tell you about something incredible God is doing in their life. I pray that when you find yourself there, that you’ll stop and thank Him for being so near and present.
Peace and Blessings –