There’s something about the fact that you’re not standing in front of me that makes me able and willing to do things in communication I would never do if you were in the room. It’s wrong and it’s harming us. And that communication, that form of communication is not just harmful to the person who hears it. It’s harmful to your heart.
So I want to talk with you about being a Christian in the world of social media, whether it’s Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or all of those apps that are out there. There’s a lot of negative talk about social medial in the Christian community and that concerns me a bit; and I will tell you why, from my own personal experience. I think that social media is just like a screwdriver. A screwdriver, you can build beautiful things with, wonderful mechanical things; but you could also stab somebody in the face with it. It’s just a tool and social media is a tool that can be used for enormous good.
About 12 years ago, I realized that the way that the human culture would communicate was going to change and that would be driven by these new internet media platforms. And I immediately thought, “What a powerful tool for the gospel!” One of the first things I did was I decided I would tweet the gospel three times every morning and that began to just build and build and build. And I can honestly say that my entire ministry, the scope of my influence has been changed by those social media platforms. We only ever project gospel messages, gospel messages that attach the truths of the gospel to the things of everyday life. It’s been a tool of enormous good. And in that way, I think we ought to plunder the Egyptians, take what the world has created and use it for the kingdom of God. I think there are powerful ways we can do that.
But I want to share with you my 4 concerns for your consideration. The first is the concern of moral authority. It used to be that there were institutional ways that you would reach a point of authority, like the authority of pastor was because he was recognized by his local church and sent off to seminary, who would train him well and be ordained by some group, some denomination. And so, he had established a recognized, guarded, accountable authority. Or maybe it was someone who had risen in an educational institution and had gone through degree programs, and established some kind of authority because of that.
But that has all changed. Now, because of the power of social media, anybody can become an authoritative voice, can begin to speak to critically important issues without ever having gone through those normal institutional accountable ways of garnering authority. And I would just ask you the question, “Who are the authoritative voices in your life and how do you know those voices are trustworthy?”
I am saddened again and again by the messages I get from people that they have listened to and submitted to and made part of their life. I had an example of someone who did that with parenting, just found a voice out there and they were excited about this new kind of parenting. And I thought that voice is contradicting everything I would think about that the Bible would enjoin us to do as a parent. Who is this person? How did they get to authority. How did they become an authority in the Christian community?
Be careful. Who are you listening to? Who have become moral authorities in your life, authorities for parenting authorities for marriage, authorities for building relationships, authorities about moral cultural issues? All of a sudden, anybody can rise to a position of authority, collect an audience and begin to have followers. Be careful.
Second thing is I’m concerned about what you’re exposing your heart to. There was a time when you would have to leave your house and go somewhere to expose your heart to the darker parts of the moral world, but that’s not true anymore. They are right there in front of you. You can view horrible things on Instagram. You can real terrible things and expose yourself to terrible things on Twitter. Not everything on Facebook is worth you spending your time with. There’s a huge temptation to start one place and to end up in a place that you would be embarrassed if others knew this is where you were spending your time.
What are you exposing your heart to? What is the impact that it’s having on the way you think about yourself, on the way that you think about life? Where in social media do you go for pleasure? We’re in a completely different world when it comes to how, now, do you guard your heart. How do you keep your thoughts pure? What is it that you expose, not just your physical eyes, but the eyes of your heart, too? This tool that is enormously beneficial for good is also a powerful tool of sin and temptation, and we need to be honest about that. The church is being weakened by that, by the fact that we are now comfortable with exposing ourselves to things that we should have never exposed ourselves to.
There’s a third area and it’s the area of communication. I think particular of Twitter at this point because it’s become a form for this. There is so much unwholesome, ungodly, unhelpful, negative, disrespectful communication that takes place on that platform. You know, the Bible says I should never speak unwholesome communication. Now, by Bible definition, what follows is not a list of four-letter words that you should never speak. It says speak only what is needful for the moment that gives grace to the hearer. In other words, I should always speak in an other-centered way. I want everything I say to result in benefit. Let me say it this way: God’s definition of benefit to the person who is listening.
I wish this horrible communication that is disrespectful and negative and harmful was only outside of the Christian community, but it’s not. I’m amazed, even in the Christian community, the kind of communication that I don’t think we would do face to face. There’s something about the fact that you’re not standing in front of me that makes me able and willing to do things in communication I would never do if you were in the room. It’s wrong and it’s harming us. And that communication, that form of communication is not just harmful to the person who hears it. It’s harmful to your heart. It’s you lowering your standards. It’s you, willing to be part of something that is not honoring to God and not helpful to others.
What is your talk like on social media? How helpful is it to others? How much of it is motivated by love and grace and joy and patience and faithfulness and mercy? How much of it is outside of those standards? How much have you allowed yourself to be part of the outrage culture? You’re just looking for a reason to be angry, looking for something to rip. How about wanting your communication to build people, to encourage people, to motivate them to do what is good, to let them know that they’re loved and not alone? This powerful tool for good can be a powerful tool for evil. How are you using this tool?
And then, there’s the issue of the stewardship of time. I must admit I hate the fact that my time on social media is not logged for me. It can be pretty embarrassing. When I, at the end of the day and I see 3.2 hours and I think, “No, that’s not possible. It’s not possible that I’ve spent that much time.” This world can eat your time and take you away from the things that God has called you to.
There are three areas that God has designed to be the major investments of your time. First is your relationship with Him, that personal, devotional, worshipful time with your Lord. Second is your love of the people in your life, your investment in those relationships. And I would include in that the extended community that is the body of Christ in your church. Those relationships have high, high value in God’s economy. And good relationships are good relationships because the people invest good things in them. Good relationships don’t just happen. They take investment. We are living in a broken world. We are sinners relating to sinners and it takes lots of work, lots of investment to have truly godly, grace-infused relationships.
And third is your life of labor. Even before the entrance of sin in the world, God ordained human beings to work. And so, those three things are the places where I’ve got to invest most of my time and energy. Of course, I need rest. Of course, there are moments of leisure.
Now, here’s how it works. Because I only have 7 days of 24 hours, if something begins to eat up time, it’s got to eat into something else in my life because outside of that 24/7, I don’t have anything. I’ll never get 10 hours, 10 days a week. I’ll never get 30 hours in a day. So if something like social media with all of its attractiveness and all of the clickbait that keeps you coming back, begins to eat up time, it’s got to eat up into priority things that God has called you to invest in. And I think that’s happening. It kills me when I’m in a restaurant and I look at a family, and mom and dad are on their phones, and the two children are huddled in front of an iPad. That’s a wonderful time for a family to be together, for the schedule to stop and for them to actually relate to one another.
I was in a Starbucks recently for worship. That was a joke. And there were five kids sitting next to me. I think they thought they were being together but they were all on their phones and their talk would be by sending something to the person next to them on the phone and they would laugh. And they got done with their phones and they all walked out. And I thought, “What craziness is happening?” Or we were in Australia then. We were at the Blue Mountains, absolutely gorgeous part of God’s creation. And half the people had their backs to the view because they were taking selfies because they couldn’t wait to post themselves on Instagram. I think we’ve gone crazy!
So how are these new platforms eating away at things in your life? You know, do you get up in the morning and the first thing you grab is your phone? And does it occupy more time in your morning than your Bible does, than a good devotional does? Stewardship of time is a bigger issue for us than it’s ever been because of these powerful things that we’re carrying with us all the time.
Now, I’m going to say this again. I actually love social media because I love what it’s done for my ability and my team’s ability to get the gospel to people around the world. I love when I post something that will get a response back in a language I can’t read. It’s amazing to me. I said so the other day that I had sat in my little family room and I had tweeted he gospel three times and by about 12:30, 40,000 people had seen those tweets. What a beautiful thing that is! But that beautiful thing is also a dangerous thing. It’s dangerous in terms of authority. It’s dangerous in terms of what your heart is being exposed to. It’s dangerous in the area of communication. It’s dangerous in the stewardship of time.
May God help us to examine ourselves and to take this tool, and use it for gospel good.