Monday, October 06, 2014

Mission Monday: Social Media as a Digital "Mission Field."

In the first church I ever served as pastor, I had a sign conspicuously hung at the exit to the main doors of the sanctuary front.  That sign read "You are now entering the mission field!"  Though well-intentioned, I would realize over the next several years--as most new pastors do--that the real line between church and mission field is not geographic.  Its the line between belief and unbelief--between repentance and rebellion.  And that line can be found within nearly every visible church on the planet.

We now live in a world where lines of segregation with regard to mission are disappearing fast.  One example of this is the line between "domestic" and "international."  More than 120 languages are spoken within a 30 mile radius of my central Maryland home.  And even southern cities like Dallas now boast a foreign-born population that exceeds 40%.  The world is becoming smaller.  And even if you don't live in an area like that, the laptop, tablet or phone you are using to read this article gives you instant access to that world!

With these realities in view, this is a crucial time for churches to understand and participate in the social media revolution.  Last night, the Mid-Maryland Association held its annual meeting, which included a large  breakout session led by my friend Marty Duren on how Christians and churches can be the presence of Christ on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like.  A few in that room are just getting used to the idea and needed remedial help.  Other more tech-savvy folks received some great principles for how to establish your presence, draw an audience, and incarnate the Gospel into a digital atmosphere.

While Marty said many helpful things, the one principle I wish everyone in Christendom had heard last night was this one:

Don't obsess over anything except Jesus.

As he said this, my mind immediately took me to Paul's second letter to Corinth, where he calls Christians "ambassadors for Christ." (2 Cor. 5:20)  Never has there been a more important time for followers of Jesus to wear that identity and responsibility.  And never has there been a more critical place to live out this principle than cyber-space.

We all have our opinions.  We all have our political positions.  And we all have very strong opinions about a lot of things.  And every so often, its OK to let those be known.  If you troll my social media pages, you can probably find out how I feel about a wide range of issues.  But if I am to honor the spirit of 2 Corinthians 5, I need to ask myself whether people have to look very hard to know what I believe about Jesus.  

What about your social media presence?  If the average non-Christian looked at your Facebook page or Instagram site, what would they see?  When they turned off their tablet or closed their laptop, what would they say is your passion?  Your focus?

If you want to use social media as an outlet for evangelism, this question must always be at the back of your mind.  I'm not encouraging you to log-jam your friends' networks with pithy Christian memes (in fact, I'd say that's not 'mission' at all.  Its just very, very annoying, but that's another post for another day).  I"m just asking whether we talk more about Calvinism, college football, gun control, eschatology, Islam, alcohol, marginal income tax rates, gay marriage, Israel, immigration, the world series, patriotism, or Jesus?

In his first letter to Corinth, Paul put it this way.  "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."  Perhaps this morning is a great time to commit ourselves to that very same principle on Facebook.

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