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Porn. Foul language. Arguments. Hacking. Cyber bullying. Affairs. Frittering away your time. Coveting others’ seemingly idyllic lives. Living and dying by how many “likes” your post got.
I get it. There are a lot of ways social media can go wrong.
But there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with Facebook or Twitter, Instagram or Google+ (Does anybody even use G+ anymore? Am I over there all by myself?), or social media platforms in general. They’re tools. Like a steak knife. You can cut up your supper with it so you can eat- good – or you can puncture somebody’s tire with it – bad. It’s all in how you use it.
There have been lots of articles which have, rightly, discussed the problems with social media and the need to take a break from it every now and then. (Ironically, I’ve seen these articles posted on Facebook and Twitter.) And if social media tempts you to sin or the problems it brings into your life outweigh the benefits, then, by all means, you should disconnect. For thousands of years, people have been living very fulfilling and godly lives without sharing pictures of every meal they eat and watching videos of their third cousin’s cat.
But if you use the tools available to you to customize your news feed, your list of followers, and other aspects of your account, there are many ways social media can be beneficial to believers.
1. Close contact with your church family during the week
How is Susannah, in your Sunday School class, doing with that problem at work? Is Mrs. Bunyan still in the hospital? The water main is busted and we won’t be able to have midweek services? Social media makes it easy to keep up with your brothers and sisters from church- to serve their needs, pray for them, rejoice with them, and encourage them outside of worship service. We’re meant to share our lives with one another, and social media is just one way we can do that. It’s also a great way for churches to send out announcements, reminders, and prayer requests as they come up to keep members informed.
2. You don’t have to miss church when you miss church
Once, when I’d had to miss church for a couple of weeks in a row due to having sick babies at home, I had my husband call me from the worship service right before the pastor started preaching and hold up the phone so I could hear the sermon. It was difficult to hear, we got disconnected a couple of times, and I had to keep things really quiet on my end. Now, lots of churches stream “Facebook Live” videos of their services. If you’re sick, out of town, or otherwise providentially hindered (video coverage is not an excuse to skip church for frivolous reasons) from being at church, you don’t have to miss worship. And, as a bonus, you can watch other churches’ services, too!
3. Supplementary preaching and teaching
Your pastor, elders, Sunday School, and Bible study teachers at your home church should always be your primary source of instruction in the Scriptures. Some churches make good use of social media by setting up a private group for church members to discuss Sunday’s sermon or what they’re learning in Bible study, and there are many excellent independent theology and Christian issues discussion groups on social media as well. Here, here, here, and here are a few I’m familiar with.
If you want to listen to additional good teaching during the week, social media is a great place to find it. Ask your doctrinally sound Facebook friends whose sermons they’d recommend. Follow good pastors, teachers, and podcasters on Twitter. You’ll soon have more good teaching queued up than you have time to listen to. And there are scads of excellent godly authors and bloggers to follow and learn from, too.
Social media is a great place for sharing the gospel! Write out a post of your own, share an evangelistic video (like this one or this one), or retweet an online tract. There may come a time when Christians or the Bible are banned from social media, but until that day comes, let’s get busy sharing the gospel online.
Online friendships are no substitute for face to face fellowship with your church family. But sometimes you’re in a church situation in which there are few sisters who understand a unique life circumstance you’re going through, who share an interest in the branch of theology you’re currently studying, and so on. On social media, you can “meet” like-minded brothers and sisters from all over the world and form sweet friendships with them- sometimes you can even experience the joy of meeting them in person!
Jayson, Lindsay, and DebbieLynn,
social media friends I’ve been blessed to meet in person.
6. Prayer and Encouragement
Need prayer or encouragement? In addition to asking your church family to pray for you or getting together with a Christian friend for lunch, your godly social media friends are always around to lift you up and intercede for you. And you can be a blessing to others by praying for them or offering a word of encouragement.
“Does anybody know whether ______ is a doctrinally sound teacher?” “I’m researching Bible Topic X- what are some good resources?” “What’s that verse that says ____? I can’t remember the reference.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked questions like this on social media and my friends have come through for me. There are a lot of godly people out there who have read a lot of books, listened to a lot of teachers, know a lot of Scripture, and been through a lot of experiences. Harness their knowledge and share your own.
8. Looking for a new church?
One of the things about social media that has brought me the most joy is helping people who are moving or who have to leave an apostate church to find a new, doctrinally sound church to join. Not only are there some great church search engines out there, but because of social media friendships and connections across the world, I’m able to get personal recommendations for good, solid churches. Not only can social media help you find a good church if you’re looking for one, you can help others by suggesting good churches you’re familiar with when they’re looking.
9. Current events in Christendom
What is the president of your denomination up to? Who’s the latest celebrity Christian to publicly support the homosexual lifestyle? Are there any good conferences coming up that would be helpful to your church members? Which sister churches in your state need some assistance?
Even more vital than being an informed citizen by following the local and international news, Christians need to be aware of what’s going on in the church- locally, nationally, and globally. Follow the pages of your denominational leadership, local churches, Christian news services, and so on, to keep abreast of current events. Outside of social media, you’ll probably never find out about the latest happenings until they happen in your own church and take you by surprise.
There’s no doubt that social media has the potential to cause a lot of problems, even the temptation to sin. But if you’re able to put it in its correct place so that it doesn’t steal time from God, your family, your church, or other vital relationships and ministries- using it, instead, as just one more tool to encourage yourself, and others, towards greater Christlikeness – social media can be a fantastic blessing.