I am not one who uses the tools of social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. But that doesn’t mean I am unaware of what is happening. I frequently get calls from church members seeking advice about how to handle a specific problem that has occurred as the result of some posting on Facebook and many times it involves pictures or articles shared by members of Wellington.
As a pastor who dearly loves his people, I thought it might be helpful to share a few Biblical guidelines for how we can best use social media outlets.
First, the comments below are a small sampling of the typical phone call or text message I have received:
1) "I read an article posted by a dear friend with which I totally disagreed but my response was so forceful I have now offended them, totally alienated them and have possibly lost them as a friend forever, what can I do?"
2) "I posted some pictures recently of a trip I took with other members of the church and those pictures really hurt one of my friends who was unaware of this outing and felt totally left out."
3) "I had to get off Facebook because some of the self-righteous dialogue "if you don't think the way I do about this subject you are not as Christian as I am". And the narcissistic promotion of "look how great I am or my family or kids are" has broken my heart because of how unchristian it comes across to all who view it.
These are not specific comments of any individual but a summary of what I have heard recently.
Though I am not a Facebook user, there are Biblical principles that still apply to all Christians when it comes to using this modern medium of communication that attracts more than 500 million users.
My staff is posting this blog for me because I want to encourage the body of Christ at Wellington to be the best witnesses possible to their family, their friends, the community, and the world at large.
#1 - Be Mindful: that as a Christian "whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1st Corinthians 10:31
There can be many positive benefits to social networking, like reconnecting with old friends, staying in touch with family members in other cities or states or posting scriptures and articles that glorify our Lord while bringing encouragement and spiritual guidance to all who read your posts, so carefully examine everything you say and share to make sure it does not compromise your witness in any way but is an encouragement to all who have "friended" you.
"Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds ... let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching" Hebrews 10:24-25.
#2 - Beware: Social media is a great way to quickly inform others within the church about prayer needs (that are not gossipy) or to promote a church-wide event that is rapidly approaching; however, we need to remember whatever is shared with a few is also being made public for all so it is not wise to post anything that can make others feel left out. Use common sense and discernment by placing yourself in other's shoes before sharing pictures or status statements.
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 1st Peter 3:8
#3 - Be Careful of how much time you spend on social media. Maintaining relationships is important and healthy, but a media addiction is not beneficial to any Christians' witness or growth. Self impose a limit on the time spent viewing pictures, reading articles, and writing messages. Don't allow any social media, television or other communication mediums to rob you of valuable time in God's word or to keep you from creating great memories with your children or grandchildren who are growing up quicker than you realize.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:15-17
#4 - Be Respectful: Posting scriptures or articles that build up the body can be encouraging and uplifting but articles that promote a personal agenda, a hobby-horse, or a pet peeve can lead to unhealthy arguments and can easily cause others to become so angry you now have no credibility for future dialogue.
Whether you are right about a subject is not the issue. Your means for communicating it is ineffective if it leads to dissension rather than instruction.
Some subjects (or responses to articles posted by others) should be reserved for personal one-on-one encounters as Christ instructs in Matthew 18 so the other person can hear the compassion and can experience the concern and sensitivity through the inflections of your voice as you share how passionate you are about a particular conviction.
Since social media not only has the power to enhance your reputation and trustworthiness through gracious comments rooted in scripture and laced with compassion, it also has the potential for destroying your witness due to hasty comments laced with anger. Often times it is best to handle disagreements in private with gentleness rather than engaging in public debate, so don't respond to articles with which you disagree in a public forum like Facebook.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. Galatians 6:1-5
#5 - Be Graceful: Everyone thinks their kids (or grandkids :-) are the cutest and greatest gifts on earth but no one likes someone who is constantly bragging about how smart or how cute their kids are. Does this mean you should never post a picture of your kid for grandma to see when they lose a tooth, say something cute, win an award, or experience victory in a sport? Of course not! But there is a fine line between sharing and boasting. If you are unable to discern the difference, go to a friend or pastor who will tell you the truth about when, what and how to share the greatest joys of your life with others in a way that does not come across as narcissistic.
For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. 2nd Corinthians 1:12
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1st Peter 4:10-11