The Spiritual Discipline of Social Media

The Spiritual Discipline of Social Media

Social media is a double-edged sword, really. On the one hand, we have instantaneous access to a platform able to reach a great multitude of people in all parts of the world. In just this blog’s short life, I’ve gotten several views from Canada, Romania, Great Britain, Zambia, Greece, Thailand, and Germany. Never in my life would I have ever expected my voice to travel so far, but thanks to social media, it has. With a few minutes of typing and a couple clicks here and there, I can broadcast a message to a 24/7/365 live audience of hundreds, thousands, potentially hundreds of thousands of people. This has done wonders for the advancement of the Gospel and the equipping and mobilizing of the Church for ministry and I wholeheartedly believe that churches and Christians should try to use social media for these good reasons.

But on the other hand it can absolutely consume you. It’s so easy to get lost scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Feedly, and whatever other rabbit holes you come across. When you spend time and energy crafting the perfect post, the likes that you receive bring a sense of validation to the effort you put into it and you find yourself expending more time planning the next perfect post and before you know it you’re totally that guy who’s “on his phone all the time.” This is especially harmful when browsing social media interferes with more important matters. John Piper voiced a wise concern when he said that “one of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.” It’s also not so helpful to our ego’s or our hearts that we spend so much time crafting an identity and reputation that is so disconnected from who we are in reality. We put up the good, the witty, the smart, and the honorable, but completely leave out the bad, the silly, the stupid, and the despicable.

Or maybe that’s just me.

In any case, I’ve seen these qualities in myself and I want to do something about it. I don’t want to ignore the negative aspects of social media in my life, but I also don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water and not take advantage of the positive aspects of social media. Here are some guiding principles that I am adopting to try to better harness the power of social media for good, and minimize the effect of social media for bad:

Freedom Fridays: Every Friday will be spent disconnected from social media. I’ll be using an app conveniently called Freedom to help me do this. It will be installed on my iMac, MacBook, iPhone, and iPad and scheduled to run from 6:00am until 11:00pm every Friday. I’m also gonna throw my phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode during this day so that I won’t be too distracted by texts and other notifications throughout the day. I’ll still be able to field calls and texts from important people–wife, parents, pastor, Keith Urban–but most everything else I will not be notified about. These days won’t be spent doing anything out of the ordinary save for the conspicuous absence of social media. (Don’t worry, this post was written yesterday and scheduled to be posted today).

I will use my social media platforms primarily as a ministry tool. This means that I will strive to make the majority of my posts and tweets geared towards Gospel-centered matters. Occasional family pictures and such will probably find their way online because the three ladies in my life are far too beautiful to not brag about every now and then and I’ve also moved them 1,000 miles away from their mother and grandmothers. But this will also help limit how much of my social media contributions are based on self-promotion. I desire to make much of Christ, not myself. When it comes to social media, the Baptist’s maxim is most helpful: “He must increase, and I must decrease.” (John 3:30).

I will seek accountability and oversight in my online activity. What I mean is that I will filter any major posts, whether on this blog or elsewhere, through my wife, pastor, close friends, etc. I’m a pastor now and more than ever I’ve been confronted with the weight of the biblical qualification of “being above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2). I don’t want to bring shame upon myself, my family, my church, or most importantly, my Lord, by a poor lapse in judgment in my word choice or tone. Too many young pastors allow their youthful angst to be displayed a bit too prominently and I don’t want to be one of those guys. I’m hoping that one of the above people will be able to catch any of this before it ever goes public.

No more pictures of my dinner. Sanctification. It’s hard.

What this all boils down to is that I desire to glorify the Lord in all that I do (1 Corinthians 10:31). I want to wisely utilize the blessing that social media is and can be for His glory, but that wisdom also tells me that I need to put safeguards in place to prevent this good thing from becoming a distraction. I’m asking you all to hold me accountable to this. I’m also encouraging you to consider adopting these principles for yourself. If you’ve got any other suggestions as to how to better steward social media, feel free to leave a comment or tweet at me, but don’t expect a response until Saturday.

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