Technology is an amazing thing. Some completely eschew it as inherently evil (a view as wrong as the Gnostic belief that physical matter is naturally evil), while others treat technology as an idol to be pursued and desired as a precious deity.
Most who know me, know that I generally like technology, and try to at least keep a certain level of knowledge and understanding. I try to see the useful side of the latest developments and products in the tech realm – especially with an eye towards gospel use.
I was hesitant to sign up for Facebook years ago – as I initially saw no usefulness to it. Yet I eventually gave in and found it to rapidly become a tool that was mostly positive. Much like the rest of the internet, Facebook is used for evil and ugly behaviors and statements. Facebook (and social media in general) is often used for evil – just as everything else in this fallen world. But praise be to God, I have found it useful – not just for maintaining a connection to friends and family (which itself is a seriously good thing!), but for ministry. How else can one broadcast Scriptures, sermons, doctrine, encouragement, news, and even directly engage in ministry with people around the world, as you can with social media?
At the same time, I have watched social media platforms like Facebook become pulpits of hate, platforms for anti-God rhetoric, and attacks on Christianity. I have seen Satan try to use these platforms as he has used music, art, and culture in an attempt to diminish God’s glory (an impossibility – but that never stopped Satan from trying!). I have confronted genuine evil on multiple occasions via Facebook. I recently was stalked and harassed on the platform by a zealot claiming to be a Christian, while professing legalism that smacked of legalism and a very weak God. This same character then began messaging those on my friend’s list (Facebook), introducing himself as having spoken with me (using my name as a way of opening doors for his bile). His false doctrines and heresies represent just one of many we must be alert to – and his methodology was creepy at best, and stalker-like in practice. But this was no reason to give up social media (as some of my friends suggested).
How could I walk away from a platform representing millions of souls around the world- many of which have no saving knowledge of Jesus Christ – who are walking, jogging, or even sprinting towards an eternity they don’t grasp of unfathomable misery? I cannot. I have several stories of people who have been ministered to because God has worked through me and my social media accounts for good.
But this brings us some sad realities – there are many Christians and those even in formal ministry positions, who fail to heed Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian believers (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). They fail to:
1. Be Aware – Keep your eyes and ears open at attuned to the truth, that you might quickly discern error and even evil. Also be aware of opportunities that regularly offer themselves for Kingdom work. But also, we must be aware for our own sake – that we might not be tempted to sin via this channel – temptation to spread false testimony, temptation to engage in wrong, sinful conversations or even relationships, temptation to view inappropriate materials (like pornography – which a terrifying number of professed Christians and even ministers struggle with at alarming rates). We also must be aware/on guard for the very real possibility of allowing social media to consume us, becoming a type of idol.
2. Stand Firm In The Faith – I encourage believers to be open-minded, not that I want them to be subject to the winds of opinion and error, but that they are willing to hear what the Word of God says and have a willingness to adjust to it. Sadly, the temptation to chase whims and errors is a reality. Pressures by those groups who espouse ungodly behaviors and beliefs – statements that claim that Christian Faith requires the support of abortion, for example – gain traction in the hearts of those who fail to stand firm in the faith as handed down by the ONLY perfect and unchanging source – the Word of God. We must be aware that there are para-Christian and Christian cults who use similar vocabulary to us, but a different dictionary. They try to convince through clever speech and selective, and often out-of-context passages from the Bible to justify their position.
Others try to use numbers as a validation or strong-arm tactics to convince you to join their error.
3. Grow Up! – I’m convinced this is one of those areas the majority of social media users need to pay attention to – when we spew emotional tirades, retaliatory and punitive posts, or when we get emotionally consumed in the blur… we act like children. When we vent every pet peeve, every nitpicky irritation and complaint, when we air out dirty laundry for the world to read – we act like children. When we become outraged and distraught over posts that we disagree with – becoming personally offended by the smallest things – we act like children. When we allow social media to consume a disproportionate chunk of our lives – we act like children. If you use these platforms as a bully pulpit to attack others people and people groups – you are being immature.
4. Be Strong – One of the most amazing pictures of genuine, God-given, salvation-demonstrating faith is the person who has that quiet strength. They don’t have to be overbearing. They don’t have to manipulate. They don’t scheme their way around. Truly strong people (particularly in a spiritual sense) are those who know that it is more often best to be quiet and listen/wait for the Lord. They know that ranting and raving about the latest issue isn’t necessarily the most productive way to promote the truth. But it is that person with quiet strength and faith that – when they do speak, you ought to pay attention! Some of us are far too easily pushed to try to overpower with words and actions when most of the time – real strength comes from obedience and humility. I’ve often heard and said – the strongest position to fight from is “on your knees”. But REAL strength isn’t found in our own might and wisdom, but in that which comes from the Lord. Scripture is clear that we are to be “strong in the Lord, and in the Spirit of His might!” (Ephesians 6:10)
In fact, I have seen the negative of these last two points demonstrated far too vividly over the years – with the example of my theologically Reformed brethren – who often go through was is referred to as the “Cage Stage”- when they so full of themselves and their newfound theology that they become bullies – many of which use social media to mock those who are not as “enlightened” as they are to the Undeniable Sovereignty of God.They act not only extremely immaturely, but then try to run roughshod over those who don’t share their view on Soteriology (the doctrines and theology of salvation), and even those who are not as brazen in their zeal for this theology.
But when we are honest – we find that all four of these points begin to be followed in a constructive way when we have genuine, abiding Love. When we do and say all things in and through love.
Which brings me to this final bit – There are other social media concerns. Security and our own testimony. The above points will help greatly in building and maintaining our online testimony and minsitry, but one that is far less in our hands – security of said accounts.
I have known too many who have been tricked into giving permission and/or connecting with fake accounts that compromise their data. I’ve witnessed accounts sending out everythign from pornography to cultic garbage – from people’s accounts who are solid, Bible-following Christians and who would NEVER intentionally send such tripe. And while Facebook and other social media platforms have taken significant steps to help prevent this kind of problem, there are still others that keep rearing their heads.
Out of love, one of my church members came to me after this morning’s service to bring to my attention a post on Pinterest. Apparently, at least an hour after I had shut everything down and dozed off into dreamland, my account indicated and promoted that I pinned to “buy later” an image that was – nasty. This church member approached me out of love and concern. With a little guidance, I was able to simply close my account. You see – many of these social media platforms can use either other to login to each other. Pinterest is set up to enable login using Facebook (and I have connected several pages and platforms to my Facebook). I hadn’t thought a whole lot about it, but then the last couple of weeks began to make a whole lot of sense – I started getting emails to my recovery account for Facebook indicating someone had requested my account password be reset. I have reported each of these cases (sometimes several attempts in a single day). But looking back, I now see a pattern – around the same time as the security emails from Facebook started, the daily Pinterest emails began containing ever-more bizarre and even distasteful suggestions. While I hadn’t seen the specific image that came to the attention of a church member, I should have been more alert at the timing of all of this.
It just so happens that these security emails and the Pinterest odd behavior began around the same time as the stalker began harassing me and many on my friend’s list.
Be vigilant – be aware and alert.
Stand on your FAITH (so that if/when something that flies in the face of it shows up – those who know you will immediately see it as something wrong and they will let you know). I try very hard to maintain a Christian personality that reflects my faith on social media because I see it as an extension of my gospel witness. Sadly, if we are not alert – Satan can and will use social media against us.
Change your passwords to something VERY hard for a hacker or someone meaning evil to guess. Close social media accounts you don’t regularly use (I only signed up for Pinterest to see some of the posts friends would put up and were not easily viewed without an account). Be consistent in your stand and positions (based on your faith).
And by all means – if you ever see a post on any of my social media accounts (or that try to pretend to be me), that are uncharacteristic and unbecoming – please act in love and let me know ASAP. A friend of ours from a former church contacted me once when I was out-and-about – and my Facebook status update had a profanity in it. I didn’t type a profanity – but buried somewhere in the series of who had posted/reposted it was a profile with the profanity. So it showed in my status update. It was not easy to fix – but they were concerned enough for me and my witness to let me know. Just like today’s episode – care enough to inform me. Likewise, I will try to be vigilant on your behalf.
Oh – and if I ever post something you disagree with – I am always open to honest, constructive discussion and debate!