Every week I hear people raise concerns about social media and question whether a church or a pastor should really be involved in the digital medium. I believe the concerns are raised out of pure motives but most of the warnings I hear have a root that goes far deeper than social media.
Before we go any further, I’m not talking about what I consider to be legitimate external dangers or concerns such as online stalking and online bullying. Rather I’m talking about dangers that have less to do with social media and more to do with learning to live a well balanced Christian life.
Here are examples of the warnings and concerns I hear almost weekly:
- There’s porn on the internet.
- People are always arguing with one another.
- There’s too much bad language.
- Social media is too time-consuming.
- Social media is anti-social.
- Social media is filled with smut.
Again, that’s just a sampling.
The pattern of these concerns is that they either relate to external sin (what others do that we might see) or internal battles (like personal struggles and other bad-habits).
I believe these concerns are birthed from an assumption too common among evangelicals. The assumption that we need to protect ourselves from the “sin out there.” And social media has become a easy target for evangelicals of pre-millennial generations. And I think the true enemy (the Father of Lies), likes it that way.
There’s so much potential to use social media for God’s Kingdom that if the devil can stoke the flame of fear in the evangelical community to keep us off it, he will.
So let’s consider one concern I hear all the time, which is that social media is filled with “pop up soft porn.” Porn is always a legitimate concern, but let’s face it, if you want to avoid “pop up” soft porn then you better avoid the mall or driving, or television or generally going outside.
Billboard ads for strip clubs are everywhere. And lingerie banners can be found “popping up” all over the mall. And similar soft porn has even made it to prime time television.
Like it or not, soft porn is everywhere. It’s embedded in our culture. And though we’re told in the scriptures to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:14-19) I’m left with the impression that some Christians would rather just leave the world than change it.
The other day some friends of mine read my recent article on how social media can help pastors do a better job. Over ice cream they raised the concern that the flip side of that coin is that some pastors spend so much time on social media that they get nothing else done.
I took some time meditating on that concern and then it struck me, those pastors don’t have a problem with social media, they have a problem with time management!
They don’t need to stay away from social media (though the Devil would love nothing more than that!). They just need to manage their time better. (My buddy Bill McConnell over at Doing Stuff Daily can probably help here.)
Trevin Wax recently wrote along these lines in his article called “The Duggars and the Evil Outside.” In that article Trevin writes:
I’d like to point out a problematic, but fairly common assumption in many corners of evangelicalism — an assumption that needs to be challenged. It’s the idea that sin is something out there that we need to watch out for. The reality, however, is that sin is not primarily something we need to be sheltered from, but delivered from.
We can’t run from or shelter ourselves from social media. If we do, the devil wins. We can’t give the devil the digital space. Not when almost half the population on planet earth have incorporated the internet into their daily lives.
The problem is not predominately social media or the dangers of the internet. Problem is within each of us.
- Are you spending too much time on social media? Your problem is time management.
- Are you getting into too many arguments online? Your problem is a need to prove to everyone you’re right.
- Are you tempted to flirt with someone other than your spouse on social media? Your problem is infidelity.
Medieval monks built monasteries so that they could avoid the temptations of this world only to discovered the real problem, which was that the world was inside of them.
Let’s not make that same mistake with social media.