Disclaimer: Part of the reason for writing this is personal. But then, what is social media about, if not personal?
Well, maybe social media can be about our personal relationship with Christ.
We’ll come back to that, but first let’s talk about me.
How willingly are we to shift our use of social media to be salt and light, instead of salt in a wound?
You see, this is personal, because I’ve found myself recently having been blocked, kicked out of, and reprimanded by a handful Facebook group pages.
On the whole, that doesn’t bother me. Frankly, I’m slightly amused. The events bring to mind the Groucho Marx quip, “I refuse to join a club that would have me as a member.”
Being kept out of the speakeasys also improved my life, very similar to when I realized the correlation between drinking problems and hanging out in bars.
What was troublesome, however, was that each of these Facebook groups that banished me: were Christian groups. That hurt. Then I detected a pattern. None of the groups gave me a heads-up that I was close to violating their group charter, as a result of what I was posting. I found out only after sending a private message, asking why I was blocked.
I even went about and asked for forgiveness and another chance, but I heard nothing back.
Then I became angry.
Old as I am, my Christian naivete was showing. I expected more.
Then I let go. “I refuse to join a club…”
Go into The World
Years have passed, and there are several other groups in which I engage and have a vibrant relationship. And it is by participating in those other groups, reading group guidelines, and the tone of many post exchanges, that not only make me feel that my personal experience is not unique.
It also makes me wonder how we – Christ-following social media users – may underestimate our influence. Not just our influence among Christians in our groups, but also among our non-Christian friends, who wonder about Christ and come across our personal posts.
In short, how much do Christ-followers recognize and utilize the potential of social media, as a discipleship instrument?
Moreover, how willingly are we to shift our use of social media to be salt and light, instead of salt in a wound?
Here are some thoughts:
The pattern of being rejected coincided with an interesting season in my life. My associate pastor’s position involved connecting people with our church. Increasing our social media presence was part of that effort.
I began feeling that our website and social media were tangible extensions of our church, because social media was providing a daily congregational presence. Social media, therefore, was a church of its own, and this was an exciting possibility … especially in terms of discipling others.
The Church of Facebook
Not long into the process, my tenure as an associate pastor ended. Through newly expanded ministry work at KIT Ministries, it made me a frequent visitor at other churches, and new opportunities introduced me to Christian groups on Facebook. As I engaged with those groups, I saw them differently than the other Facebook pages that I’d liked, including the professional and alumni groups that I had previously decided to follow.
I viewed Christian pages as a network of virtual churches, where I could learn and share expertise. I felt companionship with many people, though I’d never met them.
So, when I was blocked from one of those Facebook group pages without explanation, it was like attending the church around the corner … and having the door shut in my face.
When I asked for forgiveness, only to be rebuffed, I felt I sat in a congregation of hard-hearted, judgmental Christians.
“I refuse to join a club …”
I wondered how often that happens in our pews.
So, a point of reflection and discussion for group administrators, moderators and users:
- How often do you view your group page, or personal page, as a church?
- How would your interaction with individuals who post, or the tone of your posts, be different if you viewed yourself as a pastor, elder, deacon or church member, rather than just another Christian using social media?
- How might your group guidelines be written differently, to align with scripture or a statement of faith, rather than merely group rules?
The Deadly Sins of Posting
Let me be clear: No administrator can be, or should be expected to address each individual’s posts, any more than a pastor should be expected to address each individual complaint.
I could not, nor would endeavor, to plant a group page. I have great respect and gratitude for those who take the time to oversee them.
On the other hand, having taken on the responsibility, Christ-following social media users are called to a higher level of communication: as administrators and users. There must be guidelines, just as Paul wrote to the churches in Asia Minor, about order in worship and the use of gifts. Can we express them in the tone of Christ – the love of Jesus – that is the question.
Across the spectrum of Facebook group pages that I follow, there are two consistent errors that are apt to be cause for dismissal, i.e., the sins of posting:
- Abusive language
Abusive language is what it is.
Self-promotion is a variable.
What’s acceptable in one church, isn’t allowable in another church. Elements may include posts about personal announcements, sales, blogs, events. This was my habitual error.
I came to discover that by my posting links to other stories, our ministry website, or using the phrase “my blog,” that I had violated the charter.
Nevertheless, correcting these “sins” is a great opportunity for spiritual growth – discipleship. Jesus and Paul offered biblical examples.
Read about some of those examples in the second part of this piece on Monday, June 10.