Some might say that social media keeps us in a state of hyper-awareness and fear. Serious addictions to technology do exist, but if we focus only on the negative of social media, we will miss out on its purpose and what God is doing through it.
First, we need to change our inner narrative. We see social media as “wasting time,” or so says several articles from well-meaning leaders in our community. Several have gone as far as to claim that social media isn’t relevant to their ministry, doesn’t belong in missions, or Christians should not be on Facebook. On the last, we agree if the Christian isn’t applying Biblical principles of behavior online or creating a profile that doesn’t match the person they are in the face-to-face world. The church appears always to be late-adopters to technology.
Second, we need to set healthy boundaries on social media. That may look like putting your phones away at dinner or setting down your tablet when someone is talking to you. Whatever it looks like, balance your screen time with your face-to-face time. Strengthen those friendships on and offline by the gift of time and conversation.
Third, stop thinking social media is wasting time. The new narrative in our heads should be that social media is serving online. When we change our thinking, our behavior follows. If we are serving online, the focus is on God and on living 2 Corinthians 10:5 which says,”We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Taking every thought captive, including those we post online.
What does serving online look like?
- Be discerning. Friend or follow people that the Lord is leading you to, and be “…wise as snakes and innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16 CEB)” Not everyone is a friend or have honorable intentions. Know your privacy settings and where the block button is, but don’t block unnecessarily. Can you muck through the difficult conversations and pray for someone you disagree with?
- Is someone looking for a church and seeking Jesus? Help them find a church in their area. Do some Google searches, look at what the church believes, and find the church’s Facebook page to see pictures. Send all this information to your seeker and walk with them through the new church experience. Help them discover the refreshment of friendship in a healthy Christian community.
- Listen online. If someone is in pain, use Skype or Zoom to get on a face-to-face conversation with them. Pray for and with them. Don’t give advice. Understand their story so you know how the Lord is leading you to respond.
- Social media includes apps like Whatsapp or even text messaging. If you are praying for someone, how will they find encouragement if they do not know? Send them a text. If you see a disturbing status online from the person you are mentoring or discipling, send them a text. Conversation online doesn’t have to be public.
- Be patient. Your timing isn’t God’s timing. Be patient and authentic. No one likes to be thought of as a project.
Work with your church and missionary organization as you reach out online. Be open to their wisdom and leadership.