“Social media” might be only a decade or so old, but it has grown astronomically and has gained in popularity throughout the world. Social media, broadly defined, is virtual engagement and interaction with other people on various online networks, platforms, or systems; practically speaking, social media includes popular social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, weblogs (“blogs”), video websites like YouTube, customer review websites like Yelp, and online communities like Pinterest or Reddit. Through these various forms of social media people are able to maintain virtual friendships, collaborate on projects, post information, and/or discuss all sorts of subjects. We do well to consider how we can effectively promote the Gospel and glorify God through our use of social media.
Social media represent wonderful venues and opportunities for promoting the Gospel of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20, Romans 1:16). Bible verses and spiritually themed articles can be posted or advertised through Facebook, Twitter, and similar websites. Individuals and congregations can promote Bible studies on Meetup. Sharing is at the heart of social media; a post can “go viral,” which means that it has been shared by enough people so that thousands, if not millions, have been exposed to it. Normally this involves “memes” like cat pictures and the newest dance fad, but just as easily could involve spiritual material promoting the Gospel of Christ!
Social media often brings down some barriers found “in real life,” especially geographical barriers. Through social media Christians have the opportunity to associate with fellow Christians who live nearby as well as halfway around the world. Christians from different parts of the world can participate in real time Bible studies through Skype or a Google+ hangout. Spiritual material which might otherwise have received limited exposure in a certain area can now be accessed by all sorts of people around the world. Many people are exposed to the Gospel of Christ through various forms of social media who otherwise may not have heard (cf. Romans 10:11-18).
Through social media Christians can develop, maintain, and nurture connections not only with fellow Christians but also people of the world in order to encourage them in the faith or to reflect the light of Christ before them (Matthew 5:13-16, Hebrews 10:24-25).
Whereas past generations would need to consciously strive to maintain connection with people from their past through letter writing, phone calls, and face-to-face conversations, through Facebook and similar venues we are able to maintain connections with everyone from elementary school classmates to people we met a few days ago and see what is going on in their lives from afar. We then have the opportunity to “weep with those who weep” and “rejoice with those who rejoice” and to strive to be a good influence in their lives for the Lord.
Yet with every strength and opportunity with social media there is a corresponding weakness and danger. False teachings are often promoted through social media (cf. 2 Peter 2:1-3). Just as we can seek to reflect the Lord Jesus and promote the Gospel through social media, the danger exists that we might turn people away from the Gospel instead. Many times pictures and messages are posted or shared that do not honor the Lord Jesus but promote the gratification of the flesh (cf. Galatians 5:19-21). Some seem more interested in bashing or praising politicians and political parties than in promoting the Kingdom of God (Philippians 3:20-21). Social media relationships can prove rather superficial and are no substitute for substantive, deep relationships with other people in real life, especially within the local church (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:12-28).
Christians have the liberty of using and enjoying social media. Do we seek to honor Jesus through social media, giving reason for others to glorify God, or does our use of social media expose us as hypocrites, giving reason for others to blaspheme? Let us reflect the Lord Jesus through social media, and honor God!