Sunday, 18 January 2015

On Social Media

Much has been written, spoken, and pondered, concerning the dangers surrounding social media. Much has been said about the merits of monitoring our children's use of facebook, snapchat, twitter, instagram, and the like. Much will continue to be said on that, even though it really is over-complicating a very simple matter.

If you cannot trust your child enough that they have their own account, don't allow them an account.

If you are worried about your child, talk to them. Chances are, they'll respect you more for telling them your concerns, than for spying on them.

If you are unable to control yourself on social media, cut it off and enter the Kingdom without it.


But what about for reaching people? What about for preaching the Gospel?
Ray Comfort once said that social media is a blessing, as it puts a dying world at our fingertips. Arguably, we have never had such a large platform, never have we had such an audience, to preach the Word. But does it work? Is it the way to go? Well, sure. On a public forum such as Facebook, one can easily get involved in many discussions, even simultaneously, about all sorts of things, from abortion, to same sex marriage, to minimum wage laws, to racism, to the origin of life. And one can seek to guide such a thread back to the Gospel. And, very rarely, you might just get there. And that can only ever be a good thing.

Social media also allows you to connect with like minded individuals - I know I have - and to form friendships with them, to have inside jokes, to turn to each other for help and advice, to give encouragement (and even admonishment), to have some form of a relationship with them which goes well beyond that of two strangers with one similar interest.

At the same time, however, social media is ruinous to human interaction. Several people have related to me, how there is nothing to talk about at social gatherings, as everyone already knows everything about everyone else. Our constant need to be connected, leaves us disconnected from the ones right next to us. A comment about kale salad, made by someone you've never met, half a world away, supersedes the loneliness felt by the guy right next to us. Our need for constant stimuli has us reaching for our phones any time the conversation lulls, or worse, bores us.

And where does that leave the Church? How will we be of any effect, if we trade practical application for online debates? How will a conversation on the politics of our day, achieve anything if not applied? How effectively is the Gospel being preached, if to do so costs it being lived? And can "liking", or even commenting on, a cry for help, ever replace the literal act of showing someone you care? Can we "Go, and preach the Gospel", without ever leaving the comfort of our couch?

Francis of Assisi is often credited with this controversial quote, "Preach the Gospel always. Use words if necessary." and Leonard Ravenhill once said, “That world outside there is not waiting for a new definition of Christianity, it’s waiting for a new demonstration of Christianity.”

So, what to conclude?
Can we use social media, to reach out? Sure.
Can we spread the Gospel through social media? I wouldn't rule it out entirely.

It becomes clear, then, that it is as it has always been: Preach the Gospel, stand for truth, and overcome injustice. But if you are not living it, your Facebook page is meaningless.

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