Posted in discernment, social media, witness

The Pros and Cons of Social Media for the Christian

By Elizabeth Prata

I’m a lay person, a Christian woman, who happens to write. I’ve made my living from writing in the past and I’m thrilled to be able to use the talent God gave me for His glory now, writing as a Christian about biblical things.

I’m older and I distinctly remember life before internet. As a writer wanting to publish, bumping up against the monoliths of the Madison Avenue publishing companies, and the chokehold of the magazines and literary journals, (and the publishing rejection letters) having a free platform in which to share one’s thoughts and words with the world was a revelation. I took to it instantly and with glee, going online in 1996 and becoming an Amazon.com customer in 1997. Finally, an equalizing global conversation could be had.

I don’t think young people have a well-developed sense of just what a privilege it is to have global access to speaking one’s mind on any topic. I remember the frustration of rejection letter after rejection letter, of seeking the underground, mimeographed ‘zines as they were called then, of a regular person not having a voice. Or seeing the ones with voices squander them or limit them or censor them. Conglomerates purported to speak for the masses, and more often they didn’t, but their lobbyist money did speak to the corruption. Journalists were supposed to speak for the voiceless but more often they were kowtowing to Corporate. Benjamin Franklin felt the same frustration so he started his own papers and printed them on his own presses. The Second Amendment gave the promise of free speech, but never made any promises about how or where. No platforms were ever promised. That, one had to figure out for one’s self.

Of course all my words back then were unfettered into in the civic or personal/creative realms, but were wind and chaff to God because they were not for His glory.

I converted to Christianity late in life at around age 42. Until then I’d been occupied with writing for my weekly newspaper and curating its online version. When I sold the paper in 2006 and moved down south I needed to fill the void left by not writing intensively, so I started my personal blog The Quiet Life in August of that year. It’s hard to believe it’s been more than a decade since I founded it. What a joy to play with the Layout format, press ‘publish’ and one’s thoughts and words could be seen by the world. Of course, back in 2004-2006 blogging exploded and there were a million blogs starting a day, it seemed. How to make one’s own blog rise to the top amid the sea of cacophonous voices also clamoring to be heard was something left to one’s creative problem solving. Now we had the platform, but how to make people listen…

Social Media pinwheel

As the Holy Spirit solidified my faith and grew me in sanctification, I founded this blog in January 2009, and once again it’s hard to believe it’s been 11 years since then. Though I write intermittently on The Quiet Life I am committed to using the gift of writing and proclamation and exhortation for the Lord and I’ve been faithful to write daily on this blog since the beginning. Though I’ve been writing longer at The Quiet Life and there are 70 pages over there, there’s double the amount here, containing about 3,600 essays. And fortunately, I don’t have to stress over about whom to make listen. The Holy Spirit takes care of disseminating the message to whom He desires.

I joined Facebook in 2008, and joined Twitter then also. This year I added another Facebook page, The End Time. Online newspapers and journals enabled comment sections. People from the great to the small posted their email address, allowing direct conversation. Cell phones, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Flickr, Podcasts…Suddenly, there were platforms everywhere and it seemed like the cacophony grew but so did the possibilities for getting the Gospel out.

The question today is, just because social media exists, does that mean it is wise, profitable, or even safe to enter the fray?

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. (1 Corinthians 6:12)

That is a question for each Christian to answer and there are different considerations if one is a parent, a missionary, or is living under a restrictive regime or just to personally consider in the face of doing our utmost for His highest (to paraphrase O. Chambers).

Here are some thoughts in my experience, in my opinion, and remember I’m just one lay-woman with a small sphere of influence. There have been pros and cons with being so present on social media. Just as with anything, there are considerations and there are joys.

  • I am a single woman so there are safety issues with being too open.
  • Yet I feel compelled to be truthful and transparent, openly proclaiming the message to as many as possible.
  • If The Lord allowed the internet to be invented then I resolve to use it to the best of my ability to honor Him and spread His message.
  • Yet there are also a great many temptations to sin with my mind and with my mouth (typing fingers) and present a poor witness.
  • I have stumbled before in being so present online.
  • Yet when I sadly do, it presents more opportunities to repent, grow, obey and rely on Him- and to be mindful next time.
  • Seeing before me in living color so vividly the woes and successes of fellow believers; and being accountable to an online community of believers widens my perspective and reminds me of how large His body really is.
  • It presents a tendency to want to focus on just the virtual believers to the exclusion of those in real life.
  • When someone is encouraged by something I’ve written, it offers a high incomparable to any other.
  • When I receive letters from people who have come out from under a false teacher, or have strengthened their walk because of anything I’ve written, it makes it all worth it
  • People online can be mean, nasty, and hide behind cowardly anonymous comments. Combating their effects can steal your joy and re-direct your energy better used in other ways.

So, you see, the pros and cons are similar to laboring in any other medium or any other sphere. No better, no worse, just different considerations to consider.

Unlike other people who have expressed distrust or disdain over social media use to share a holy Christian witness, I don’t believe social media is the devil. It is merely a vehicle into which we can pour our energy and message depending on what the Lord has called us to do. Some pour their message into children through motherhood. Others who are not called to motherhood became missionaries and brought the message to orphans overseas. Some who were writers without the advantage of social media got the message out anyway using the vehicles of their own day- hymns.

So be mindful of the medium you choose to employ to spread God’s message, from your own tongue in real life to the cold virtual reality of a laptop keyboard, to… whatever else. As a matter of fact I’ve always held that the internet is one of the world’s great inventions. The Gospel message can be disseminated in podcast, tract, devotional, online bible, visually through art and animation, Youtube, the ancient writers’ work is spoken alive online to new generations or can be read anew for those who can’t afford the precious tomes but can afford the lower price of an online connection or even free at a library. Wow!

Through online blogs and sermons and devotionals I was strengthened by John MacArthur’s preaching and discovered the Puritans and Reformers. I connected with solid doctrine at The Master’s Seminary and learned of Paul Washer’s fire. I learned that I, too, had a platform that may strengthen even one woman seemed too good an opportunity to pass up- as long as I kept my priorities straight. But that’s like any ministry, it’s life, isn’t it? It is all a struggle and no matter the sphere or means the Lord provides, the devil will attempt to corrupt it.

So make your decisions about social media with your husband or pastor or family. Decide how “out there” you feel led to be, and which means to use. Elisabeth Eliot, Gladys Aylward, Eliza Spurgeon, Fanny Crosby, Katharina von Bora (Mrs Martin Luther) all used the means at their disposal and through obedience to the Lord to influence those in their spheres. How large or small or what that means the Lord will use through you within that sphere is a personal decision. But don’t let scary stories or condescension about social media taint your view of how useful it can be to getting the message out there. Just be safe, be wise, and the Lord will take care of the rest.

Posted in theology

There’s always the Coconut Telegraph

By Elizabeth Prata

In January of this year, after Joe Biden was inaugurated and it was clear that Washington DC would get clear of President Trump, the purge began. Social media was expelled of conservative voices, organizations, and accounts – wholesale. Many people reported their accounts were suddenly and without warning suspended. It was as if a rock was thrown onto an ant pile and the ants had to scurry for a new home. Religious and conservative voices were no longer welcome, this much was clear.

Lots of people, including me, were not only shocked at the simmering hatred that oozed to the top of the bottle and overflowed, but were chagrined at how we had taken social media for granted. It was as if we thought it would always be there. We’d become so used to the gift of being able to exchange spiritual concepts, discuss theology, and proclaim Jesus’s excellencies on all these free public platforms, we felt as if the rug had been pulled out from under us. How would we get the word out if we were denied opportunity to Facebook, Tweet, or Instagram?

Continue reading “There’s always the Coconut Telegraph”
Posted in theology

Social Media Diaspora

By Elizabeth Prata

When the persecution under Nero began in AD 64, the Christians scattered. The Church at Jerusalem had grown mightily these first years. Remember in Acts when 3000 were converted under Peter that first day, and many more were converted since, stayed. The church at Jerusalem was so large, that complaints were starting that the Greek Christians were marginalized at the food distribution in favor of the Israelite Christians, so the Church selected 7 men to oversee it.

When the great fire broke out, Nero the Emperor blamed the Christians. His persecution of them became direct and cruelly evil, devising new ways to torture them. Life in Israel was ever more tenuous, so they scattered to Asia and other distant parts.

Continue reading “Social Media Diaspora”
Posted in discernment, theology

Taming the Tongue on Social Media

Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. (James 3:4).

Our boat circa 1995

I was watching my Twitter follow count the last few days. Surprisingly, I was nearing 1,000 followers. That isn’t a lot, but it’s a lot to me. 1,000 is a new and exciting level.

I have two blogs, mirrored on two platforms, (Blogger and WordPress) so that means 4 blogs. The End Time which is this one, with Christian content, and The Quiet Life, about art, crafting, cooking, etc. I’ve got Twitter. I have an Instagram account with a minimal amount of followers. I have two Facebook pages, one called The End Time and the other is the personal one. I have a GoodReads account. I use email. I text to my GroupMe church and sundry church small groups. I have a Pinterest account. I have a Disqus commenting account.

I’ve learned modern terms like ‘reach’ and ‘impressions.’ I have ‘stats’.

Some years ago John MacArthur said that he has never worried about his reach (influence). He focused on the depth and knew the Spirit would take care of the reach.

I was concerned from the very beginning about the depth of my ministry, and I said if I take care of the depth of my ministry, I can leave the breadth of it to God. You know, if it’s something He can use, then He’ll take it where He wants it to go. So I’ve never done anything to take it anywhere.

I took his words to heart and I’ve never done anything overt to push any of my social media. I’ve had The End Time blog for 9 1/2 years and The Quiet Life for 12. I don’t do SEO, I don’t request friends to go look at it, I don’t concentrate on the statistics. I know that the Spirit will put whatever He wants of what I write in front of whom He wants to. I’ll write a little PS to this thought I’ll add at the bottom, though.

I listened to a good sermon this week, twice. We all have a God-given desire to communicate, said Chris Hamilton in his sermon Taming the Tongue on Social Media. We want to be heard.

He said that until recently the opinion making and influence reach was in the hands of a very few people. I remember that time before the internet distinctly. Prior to the internet the Average Joe or Jane remained obscure all his or her life. The only times someone would be guaranteed to get into the paper was when they were born, married, or died. Sometimes your name went into the paper if you went to jail, or were derelict in paying property taxes. That’s it. Opining on the culture wars of the day, publishing books or poetry, presenting your photography portfolio, announcing things on television, wase left to others, a very few others. Cut to today:

The agenda of public thought and discourse is no longer set by a few people in the news networks [and newspapers]. It’s set by just about anyone, such as wannabe celebrities, rap artists, actors, or minor journalists. There has been a rush of human beings to become a source of data, perspective, leadership, and influence with words…~Chris Hamilton

Now, billions of people every day say things on any social media that they want.

Before we’re saved, the desire to be heard is a sinful desire. Even when we have good intentions, our sin-nature means that the desire to communicate is always self-glorifying at some level. We can’t help it. The utter depravity of man is never more on display than when posted on social media. ~Chris Hamilton

The tongue is a restless evil and a poison.” (James 3:8b).

After salvation, the Bible is clear on right speech and wrong speech, giving over many verses to the subject. A major series of verses are in James 3. Here is Chris Hamilton with 12 ways the Bible says we are to use our tongue-

1.   Confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord. Romans 10:9
2.   Teach God’s word (we all teach in some capacity. Deuteronomy 11:19; Heb 13:7
3.   Speak of God. Psalm 71:8
4.   Preach the Gospel. Matthew 28:20, Romans 10:14, 1 Timothy 4:12
5.   Speak truth. Ephesians 4:25
6.   Building each other up. Ephesians 4:29, 1 Timothy 5:14
7.   Admonish one another (warning using the word of God, not our opinion). Colossians 3:16a
8.   Sing. Colossians 3:16b
9.   Expressing thankfulness. Colossians 3:16c, Ephesians 5:20
10. Pray. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
11. Confess sin. James 5:16
12. To make a defense and give a hope that is within us. 1 Peter 3:15

God gave us a tongue and told us how to use it, but we are unable to comply without the saving grace of God.

The tongue is a rudder. This is the rudder on our boat. The boat weighed 23,000 pounds. A small shaft running through the rudder and connected to the steering wheel was all that made the yacht go where we wanted.

the boat out of the water, exposing the rudder

As for participation on the internet and social media: it calls for WISDOM.

James 3 goes from a discussion of the tongue straight into wisdom. Think about why that might be for a minute…

This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (James 3:15-17)

Is our conduct on social media:
pure,
peaceable,
gentle,
reasonable
full of mercy ?

Or is our conduct on social media

earthly,
unspiritual,
demonic ?

At minimum we should be thinking about that before we press send.

As Mr Hamilton preached, And then there is the case of silence. Not speaking. Saying nothing. No words. Silence can be an expression of worship, humility, wisdom, chastening, etc. God did not give us a tongue in order to remain silent. Obviously. No command in scripture says to not use words. But consider our contribution to the internet and whether, in some cases, a response might not be necessary. Silence can reign supreme sometimes. It’s OK. (Ecclesiastes 3:7; Ecclesiastes 5:2; Revelation 8:1).

Silence also protects our own ignorance. Let us (me) not put our own ignorance on display. (Proverbs 10:19).

We can and should remain silent in response to the foolishness and sin of others. (1 Peter 2:21-22, referring to Christ’s trial, where He remained silent). And a case is made to remain silent in the face of conflict. (Proverbs 26:17).

Mr Hamilton was tough on Christian participation in social media. His stance was that using social media to promote the name of Jesus is good and fine, but if we do that, we are entering territory that is teaching. And the scripture says not many of you should become teachers. He is right. He said to his immediate audience, “some of you should stand down.” He is right again.

I thought about it for a long time, and as appropriate, applied the scriptures and the warning to myself. Should I stand down? How is my tongue? I meditated.

On the other hand, we do have this marvelous opportunity to, within our sphere, encourage, lift up, share verses, learn of others’ burdens so we can shoulder them, and so on. I do feel called to teach and I employ that online. (My foremost priority are the real people in my real church life though).

These are some of the stats of the most popular ‘Christian’ teachers online today. Their evil influence reaches millions.

PS: As for my own reach & influence, I am not concerned with the reach or the stats but I’m highly concerned with my content- that it’s accurate and edifying.

With all the false out there masquerading as truth, how can I NOT promote Jesus, share credible ministries, offer true interpretations of the Bible’s words, with every means possible? The world will always love its own. But as long as I have a tongue in my head or an online connection, here I speak, I can do no other.

With the Lord’s help and Chris Hamilton’s words and admonishments ringing in my ears, I pray that as I do speak, it’s pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy. I face a stricter judgment. And that does give one pause.

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

Tips and resources on using Social Media

social-media-2636256_960_720
Photo Pixabay ,CC

Do you feel trapped by social media? Does it make you sad, or anxious? Do you waste time? Many people say yes to all of the above.

I like social media. I have an account at Pinterest, Twitter, 2 Facebook pages- (a theological page and a personal page), two blogs (one theological and one personal) and an Instagram. My personal blog is 11 years old, my theological blog is 9 years old. I have 4,325 essays at my theological blog.

I am also on GroupMe, a mass group text messaging service. LOL I obtained my very first cell phone last month, solely for the purposes of calling AAA when my car breaks down (and is always does) and to receive church messages. I have photo accounts at Flickr and Unsplash. My account at Flickr is 11 years old and I have 1,936 pictures there. Unsplash is newer. I joined when it began, three years ago.

So you can see that I enjoy social media, to say the least. But then again, I have a lot of time, being unmarried without children. I like to stay-at-home and use the internet for witnessing in discrete and selective quantities. (I also attend church, go to small groups, disciple, and witness in real life, to be clear.) I also use it for my entertainment, having no television.

I’m old enough to remember when the internet didn’t exist, and it was hard to get your message out. I mean in that era when I was unsaved, my message was my secular writing. It was hard to break the gates of publishing in the 80s and 90s. So when self-publishing on blogs and such came along in the 2000s, I was thrilled. No gatekeepers except my conscience.

Being unsaved for most of my early adult life, until age 43, I didn’t have a Jesus message to share. But now that there are so many venues to share about Him and learn about Him from others’ social media pages, I enjoy using it all for that purpose. I like being able to get the message itself out more widely. Therefore, I have a goal, to use social media as a platform to share the beauty and truth of Jesus Christ. I use it to encourage, exhort, teach, and edify. I use it to learn from others.

Even then, I still have to limit my use of it. Temptations abound! I think long and hard about who I am going to ‘Follow’ or ‘Friend’. I do not want excessively negative things passing before my eyes. I liked when FB implemented an option to mute friends, that is, not to unfollow them but to not see their posts. I don’t like to see continual political posts. I won’t look at abortion photos. I won’t follow someone rambunctious or rebellious. Constant ‘woe is me’ pity parties get a mute.

As for my ministries, I also work to get the me-centeredness out of my fingers typing, and stick with my goal and plans: focus on saying something scriptural, something positive about Jesus, and something encouraging to my friends and church members every day. If I don’t, what is the point of all these social media accounts?

Still with all that social media can be very depressing. Often, it displays the worst of man, unsaved and saved. Here are four essays that I hope will help bring perspective and encouragement regarding social media.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Social media requires a different kind of brain work than does sitting for long periods with a book. Personally I think the two kinds of reading are at odds. I strive to maintain the ‘book reading’ skills I’d taken for granted most of my life. I do feel a negative impact in this area from social media use. So does Michael Harris:

I have forgotten how to read

For a long time Michael Harris convinced himself that a childhood spent immersed in old-fashioned books would insulate him from our new media climate – that he could keep on reading in the old way because his mind was formed in pre-internet days. He was wrong

Some people take long breaks from social media, or take the drastic step of abandoning it altogether. Here, Aaron Armstrong has some tips for using (or not using):

You don’t need social media (even if your brain tells you otherwise)

This weekend, my wife and I spent a great deal of time talking about social media—specifically how she responds to it. For a few years she was on Facebook, up until a particularly negative incident led her to abandon it.

In the old Bulletin Bard days (with 300 baud, remember that? lol) something called “flame wars” would erupt. That’s just internet lingo for people fighting online. Arguments are easier online because we forget there are actual people on the other side of the screen. Somewhere. Flame wars ignite on Twitter, Facebook…anywhere there are people. Here, Michael Coughlin reminds us at Things Above Us that

You Don’t Have To Enter Every Argument You’re Invited To

Everyone you meet is made in the image of God. Thus, each person you encounter has a level of dignity because of his or her Creator, and you are responsible to treat folks with respect as a consequence of this fact.

I was a journalist for almost 6 years. I hunted stories, dug up stores, investigated, published. Of course, a reporter is driven to get the story first. That drive still ignites me when a major even happens, but as a Christian, even a Christian ex-reporter/now-blogger needs to hold back and ‘consider these things’ first. And pray. When everyone is jumping on the bandwagon is takes maturity, patience, and wisdom to know when to speak and when not to speak. Not everyone needs to know my opinion. But then again, if we have some insight that might help a local body, then by all means publish. The wisdom is to know which to do when. Chris Martin has a few ideas for us.

3 Ways NOT to Use Social Media Immediately Following a Tragedy

I made a concerted effort to stay off of social media most of this past weekend because I was already a bit exhausted at a lot of the response I was seeing to the tragedy last Wednesday. … I should say before I continue, what follows are my opinions. These suggestions are not stone-cold social media sins. So, take them as you will. Here are three ways NOT to use social media immediately following a tragedy: