Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…
These and many other social networking websites have swept the world like a global tsunami. Social media have especially affected the younger generation.
The goal of social media is to bond people with one another. However, in too many cases, social media results in artificial relationships, new kinds of addictions and narcissism. In a moment, we can transform ourselves into whatever our fantasies tell us, leaving out facts, telling outright lies, creating fictional portraits of oneself to so-called “friends,” defeating the purpose for which the creators intended it.
As someone has said, “Connection is not the same as a bond, and that instant and total connection is no salvation, no ticket to a happier, better, or a more liberated version of humanity.”
Ravi Zacharias has called social media “the new Tower of Babel.” Like the original Tower of Babel, “they all wanted to come together, and all of a sudden, the Bible says, in an incredible way, the languages were confused, and the people could not communicate with each other…”
We can use social media for good or for evil, he concludes. He challenges the next generation to use it for good.
Justin Wise, 34 years old, comes from the younger generation, and he has taken that challenge. He has become convinced that social media can become a mighty weapon to glorify God and advance the gospel around the world.
Recently, he points out, Facebook turned 10 years old, and it will not go away. The church ignores social media only at its peril. As Christians, how do we deal with it in ways that honor Christ? Answering that question and helping others to answer it in constructive ways has become his mission.
Wise earned both a Master of Divinity degree and a degree in electronic media. He believes the Lord called him, not to pastor a church but to help harness this 21st century phenomenon for the glory of God.
To that end, he wrote a book, The Social Church: A Theology of Digital Communication, for Christians who want to learn how to use internet technologies for Great Commission purposes. He has become a social media strategist. In 2004, he founded a consulting group called ‘Think Digital’ to help churches and mission groups use social media in a biblical way.
He says the social media require churches to think in new ways. No longer can the church simply publish and distribute information or expect people to attend Sunday services. Now, the church must become more directly involved in people’s lives. Churches that refuse to accept new realities and recognize new opportunities presented by social media will simply close up.
Historically, he says, Christians have helped to advance new communication technology in Christ-honoring ways. For example, in the days of the apostles, common people were coming to use pen and paper (or papyrus), once used only by a privileged few. The Roman postal service was highly advanced for its day. Paul and the gospel writers seized upon this opportunity to pen the gospel and epistles to the churches.
Later, Martin Luther used the newly-invented printing press to make his German translation of the Bible available to the German public. Until then, the Bible was available only in Latin to an exclusive group of people. Now, it found a much wider and receptive audience. Aimee Semple McPherson and Charles Fuller used the new invention of radio to broadcast an evangelistic message, as did Billy Graham in the early days of television.
Now it is our turn to use new technology for the cause of Christ. Today, through social media, we have an opportunity to extend the Kingdom of God over the internet to the entire globe. Social media is to this generation what pen and paper were to Paul, and the printing press to Martin Luther.
What would have happened to the gospel if Paul decided that pen and paper were too worldly and common to communicate the glories of God’s Kingdom? Without his letters, what kind of lives would we live today? Where would any of us find ourselves today if Martin Luther and others failed to translate the Bible into other languages besides Latin and make it available through printing? How many millions of people would not know the gospel apart from radio and television?
Let us not see only the weaknesses of social media, but also use godly wisdom as we harness its potential. Let today’s generation seize this new God-given opportunity of social media for His glory and advance of the gospel!
Father God, social media may baffle many of your children, but it has never baffled you. If you can use the cross to advance your priceless salvation, you can use this new technology for your Kingdom. Help me to understand where you are at work in this. Raise a new generation of your dedicated servants with your wisdom to use social media for the sake of the gospel. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…