This is the second in a four part series exploring the Christian’s approach to social media. Today we will consider the benefits of social media after last week tackling the dangers. In the next two weeks we will look at why and how I use social media and finally offer some tips for using social media.
In recent years I have often listened to friends and family publicising the fact that they have left social media. Some people are simply ‘fasting’ from it, while others have quit it altogether. I have found that there is usually an air of pride that accompanies these announcements. However, I have rarely heard people publicising the fact they are joining the social media ‘club’. Often those who join social media can do so with a sense of shame/embarrassment – feeling like they are joining something they shouldn’t be.
But, there are plenty of benefits to using social media and those who use it should not be ashamed – given that it is being used well. Below is a brief list of benefits, before we turn to Scripture to consider an overarching benefit.
I have had the great privilege of being able to travel. In particular I have spent brief periods of time in both Peru and Zimbabwe.
While in these countries I spent time with people who had a significant impact in my life, formed friendships with others I had things in common with and met numerous brothers and sisters in Christ. However, after a number of weeks I had to travel thousands of miles back home to Northern Ireland. There is now a considerable physical distance between these people and me.
Yet, with social media I can enjoy the great benefit of maintaining and even strengthening these relationships. I can watch friends timelines and to a degree ‘experience’ life with them, and they too can do the same with me.
Social media offers the great benefit of keeping and strengthening relationships, in particular long distance relationships.
Living the Gospel
Although there is a persistent debate concerning the balance between proclaiming the gospel and displaying the gospel, the fact remains that the gospel must be both displayed and proclaimed (in what proportion we can leave for another day).
Social media I believe offers just one more avenue in which the gospel may be lived out and displayed. It provides us with the opportunity to allow people to share our lives, albeit in a limited way. Paul told the Thessalonians ‘we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves’ (1 Thess. 2:8 ESV).
Therefore, social media offers us the benefit of giving people a window into our lives – our priorities, our calendar, our service – and in giving people a window into our lives we live the gospel, to a degree, in front of them.
Connected to the above benefit, social media can give us an audience which is usually bigger than we often enjoy.
When I delivered my talk on social media I delivered it to a group of 20 young people. Last week I was preaching at my church’s prayer meeting, again I had an audience of approximately 20 people. There are many people who will not make the time to come and listen to me teach the Bible, or share my thoughts on particular topics (and I don’t necessarily blame them). However, through social media I enjoy a much bigger audience. In addition to a bigger audience, I have an audience which constitutes non-Christian family members who wouldn’t listen to me in person, old school friends who shunned me when I confessed Christ and others who could not make it to hear me.
Social media gifts the benefit of an audience (although we should treat this audience with respect).
I have only recently realised this as a benefit.
I follow a church planter from Wales called Dai Hankey on twitter (@daihankey). From time to time he will tweet that he has some spare time and will take prayer requests and pray for people. This is a great idea, and a good way to use social media.
In my new job with Baptist Youth I have reversed this idea and repeatedly posted on social media prayer requests for the ministry of Baptist Youth. Lots of people have responded both in person and through social media. This effort has began to cultivate a group that consistently check Baptist Youth’s social media and pray for those issues and concerns shared.
Social media can be used beneficially by creating a prayer ministry.
Last week I quoted the book of Colossians. We must return there to see the overarching benefit that social media can be:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Col. 1:15-20 ESV).
The key verse here is 16, ‘For by him [Jesus] all things were created…all things were created through him and for him’. Social media falls into this category; it has been created for Jesus. It can be used for the glory of our Saviour and this is the overarching benefit of social media.
John Piper, concerning social media and these verses from Colossians, tweeted ‘All things were created through Christ and for Christ. The world does not know it, but that is why twitter exists, and that is why I tweet’. He also tweeted, ‘The Lord of the earth and sky, Can thread a needles eye. So he may judge it mete, To rescue with a tweet.’
This is the overarching benefit of social media – it can be used to the glory of God. Not only in the faithful living of His people, but perhaps even through saving someone through a tweet.
What a glorious thought, God saving people from every tribe, nation, language and tongue through the gospel displayed and proclaimed through social media!
Certainly we can say that social media can be beneficial.