Going Beyond The "Like"

It is obvious that we now live in a social media-centered world. Facebook is by far the most widely known and used social media site with over 1.44 Billion users worldwide (and that number grows daily). Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google + continue to grow as well. Our society desires connection more than ever. More than ever, though, that connection comes electronically.

As social media has become increasingly popular, we’ve changed the way we use our language. Terms such as Like and Share have had their definitions changed by the social media wave. Hashtag and Retweet are completely new to the English language within the last 10 years. We have so embraced a digital conversation that our personal vocabulary has been transformed. Our language and our actions to show agreement with or affirm a positive relationship with an activity, group, thought or social cause in a public forum have been transformed as well.

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A Changing Public Discourse

In years and centuries past, public discussions were held in a variety of locations, but primarily at the city center or city gate. For example, in Roman culture, if you wanted to participate in a public conversation, you would walk to the forum in your city or town. The word forum literally means “public place outdoors”. There you would join in the crowd of people who were civilly discussing the idea, concept or social cause. At times the discussion would become heated, but at the end of the day the issues were voiced, debated and sometimes settled.

Today we tap our Home button and use our thumb to direct us to a new city center – social media. It requires little to no physical effort to engage. Social media has taken the forum and brought it into our homes (even our hands) and given us the opportunity to discuss, debate, theorize and pursue new ideas like never before. But in the shift we’ve lost our ability to communicate.

There is a classic scene in the book of Acts where Paul is in just such a civic center. In Acts 17 we see Paul engaging in a public discourse with the philosophers (and others) about their religious beliefs. From the context given, it is obvious that this was not the first time that they had heard from Paul (17:17) and they took him to present his teachings to the high council (17:19). In the following verses, Paul unpacks for these philosophers and religious leaders the truths of Jesus. He expertly uses pieces of their current culture to point out that their hearts are longing for the “Unknown God” (verses 23, 28-29). The responses of those in attendance are recorded as well in this passage: “some laughed in contempt, but others said, ‘We want to hear more about this later’’ (v.32) and still others “joined him and became believers”. (v. 34).

Some Thoughts To Consider

Paul’s example in Acts 17 is not the only example in Scripture of a public discourse. Jesus had several with the crowds that followed him. There are Old Testament examples of prophets (Isaiah, Elijah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah) all entering into public discourse to proclaim the truths of God. In most of these Scriptural examples, the public discussion and public proclamation of God’s word and His truths did not change the minds or hearts of the majority in attendance. After hearing hard truths, even Jesus’ own followers walked away (John 6:66).

As we close up our “We Are Sent” series, we thought it would be helpful if we left you with a few opportunities to consider how you can live a “sent” life in our social media world.

  1. Advocate for something – don’t attack against. Many who want to enter into public conversations on social media are simply looking for a fight. The best way to pick a fight is to attack an opposing viewpoint instead of advocating for something. Instead, choose to advance a better way, a better choice or a biblical truth. Paul illustrates this in Acts 17:22-23: “‘Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.” Paul takes a known fact about those in his audience and instead of turning them into villains, he points out the truth that their hearts are predisposed to worshiping something (the Unknown God) and then advocates for Jesus.
  2. Pursue (and share) biblical truth. Instead of joining groups or forums to participate in non-productive, adversarial discussion, seek out those that are like-minded and will help you more deeply understand your faith or that will press you to more actively live it out. When you do engage in a conversation that has “gotten sideways” do so with grace and look for common language or ideas that can help you direct the conversation toward the Gospel. Again, Paul in Acts 17 is disheartened by the idol worship of the high council (and those around Athens) and instead of pushing them away with divisive language, he instead draws them deeper with purpose and hope: “‘His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone.” (17:27-29)
  3. Put down your phone (and engage your neighbors). Sometimes simply walking away from social media for a season is the best thing we can do. If we were as active in face-to-face conversations with our co-workers, family and friends as many of us are electronically, there’s no doubt that our culture would be different. But we would be different people too. The ability to civilly discuss an idea or a topic requires more mental engagement, tact and care when the person (or group) with whom you are discussing it is looking you in the eyes. Take a risk, step away from the screen and share the grace and hope you have in Jesus today.
Post Series: We Are Sent

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Oussama

    I agree that a lot of churches miss the mark on Sunday moninrgs. I think Sunday service should the touchpoint. The time when everyone involved in the different church activities comes together to say hi, touch base, and encourage eachother. The REAL church happens between Sundays, because church is about people and relationships and those don’t get built in an hour singing songs and listening to someone preach. I think there is value, too, in Sunday service because it is a time to pass on traditions and connect with the ‘past church’ as well as with other churches around the world. Knowing that for 2000 years people have been gathering to take communion, for example, and that millions are doing that around the world now, can be encouraging, and awe inspiring. But, I definitely agree that most churches and Sunday services are far from what they could be. I would also encourage you, as you try to find a church, to look beyond the Sunday service to the community, and to consider, what could I contribute to this church , rather than what do I want in a church. Although what you want is important to consider, what part you can play in the church is also vital. Search for community, that is what church truly should be.

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