Facebook and the Kingdom

Facebook is an interesting beast. I have given a lot of thought to my philosophy of Facebook. I think most of us have adopted some type of philosophy or strategy for how we will interact with it. Some avoid it like the plague. Some have an account not to post anything about themselves but to get updates on friends or family. Some want to be known authentically. Some want to be known superficially. All of these are fine. I don’t think it’s appropriate to make moral judgements about how other people choose to interact with it.

I find it especially interesting how different Christians interact with Facebook. For many, it’s a place to state Christian beliefs and stand up for Christian moral issues. Again, I won’t pass a moral judgement on that. And for famous Christians, their personal Facebook page is sometimes a clearing house for their ministry—announcements, devotionals, and so forth. I’m in this weird middle place. I’m not exactly famous, but people read this blog that I don’t know personally, and I get more and more requests to be friends on Facebook with people I don’t yet know.

Which leads me to articulate my own personal Facebook philosophy. It is simply this – Facebook serves the relationships I already have and want to cultivate at a deeper level. Frankly, many of those relationships are not with believers. I don’t feel that Facebook is the place to plant my Christian flag on an issue, though maybe it will help me build a connection with an individual because I know them, their children, their likes, and their dislikes that facilitates real conversation in person about Christ and the Word.

Facebook has helped me connect with cousins that I otherwise wouldn’t get to see but maybe once a year. It lets me know when my friend across town is sick and needs a meal or when a coworker’s marriage is falling apart. And it’s how I let my mom know I have a sinus infection, my friends at church know that I need prayer, or the other preschool moms know that I’m going to the playground in our neighborhood. It’s the place that I save pictures from my family vacation.

Also, I have made genuine Facebook-only friends. One friend in particular became my Facebook friend after we met online when she reviewed one of my books. Though we haven’t met in person, we have become true friends online, and she often writes supportive, encouraging responses to me.

My husband and I often talk of the struggle between public and private ministry. Facebook can be either public or private. Many use it to support their public ministry which is perfectly fine. But our burden as a family is that private relationships and ministry come first. So far, it’s what I have learned and experienced privately that has seemed helpful to people publicly on this blog, through my books, and during various teaching engagements.

In our age of social media, many seem to clamor for a larger public presence. I have been guilty of that at times. I’m thankful for my grounded, private husband, who reminds me regularly that the kingdom comes quietly, slowly over time. There is excitement in large activities with a wide impact, but they can’t distract us from the kingdom value of quiet conversations over coffee about marriages, children, and worship. Or warm hugs and faithful support when someone’s private world falls apart. This is where the kingdom comes and the place that I want Facebook to serve in my life. If you struggle with the value of what you do privately verses the exciting things other seem to do publicly, don’t be discouraged. The kingdom is like leaven, Jesus taught. It starts small but spreads along and along slowly but surely. It’s not top down from public ministry but bottom up from one on one contacts. The kingdom work you do in quiet is the stuff of which Christ talks. Do not be discouraged in your quiet love and concern for others.

Luke 17 20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

15 Responses to Facebook and the Kingdom

  1. Dee July 26, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

    I totally agree with your FB philosophy. That pretty much sums up mine also. However, I hope you have a hard copy, either a quality DVD or prints, of your family pictures. Computers crash and FB changes it policies randomly!

  2. strengthfortoday July 26, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    I see FB as a tool. For me, it has been a very helpful tool. It certainly is what you make it. I too have connected with friends and family with whom I had lost touch. I've also re-met high school friends who knew me prior to my conversion (they probably feel more like they are re-meeting *me* because grace has changed me). I have made some genuine friendships via this venue, so I confess I do struggle with those who imply that such relationships are not “real”. I like sharing a laugh there. I am grateful to learn of people's needs there. Some days, as a SAHM, it is the only adult conversation I have until my husband gets home from work. 😉

    FB is also where I plunk my musings that are not big enough for a blog post but were big enough to make me think…and may perhaps do so for others. My FB news feed is very often an edifying read. It can really encourage me. I've enjoyed seeing you there!

    FB can be many things to many people…a soap box, a newspaper, a toy box. Just like most everything else in life, it requires balance.

  3. kbonikowsky July 26, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    Great post. Thank you for reminding me what Jesus said about the Kingdom. It is so easy to get off target and love the spectacle. It is encouraging that we don't need the hoop-la; the kingdom is in us.

  4. sterlingsop July 26, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

    I agree with your philosophy, and have only one thing to add. I am a Christian and I prefer to spread the Word by living my life as an example of Christianity(well, I try to!) and I don't like pushing it down people's throats on FB. I believe it is not our job to save people's souls, that's down to God. It is our job to plant the seed and show people the way by the way we do things, not by battering them over the head with “truth”!

  5. Roberta July 27, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

    I have a chronic illness which keeps me home bound a lot. I thought maybe I could connect with other Christians, relatives, and friends on Facebook. I joined but was struck by the “noise” of the babel going on there. Just short bursts of energy blasted me. After about 6 months I canceled my membership as I couldn't take all the commotion. I enjoy reading blogs as I can take my time. I find blogs are more interesting. I do e-mail several friends and relatives to keep up with them. Sometimes it is awhile before I hear from them as they are on Facebook!

  6. carole July 28, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    “I'm thankful for my grounded, private husband, who reminds me regularly that the kingdom comes quietly, slowly over time.”

    Yes! What a blessing. And what a great reminder.

    Last summer I quit Facebook somewhat on a dare/whim but really my instincts had been daring me to “just quit” for months. My frustration as a non Facebook person is that it has become so much the norm that I feel out of the loop. Pictures are not shared with me. I am unaware when someone's sick or happy or broke their foot, etc., etc. Of course, back in the days before Facebook none of us would feel “out of the loop” if we didn't automatically know all these things about our 100+ friends ….

    But I ramble and grumble off topic.

    🙂

  7. leslie g. July 29, 2011 at 6:26 pm #

    This is unrelated to your post, but I wanted to tell you I just started your Ephesians study and it is already giving me a lot to think about– coming at a very opportune time in my life. Thank you.

  8. Wendy July 29, 2011 at 6:57 pm #

    Thanks, Leslie. I needed some encouragement today. 🙂

  9. not2brightGRAM July 30, 2011 at 6:32 am #

    Interesting and timely post! Being in online sales by profession, I am a huge Facebook patron, and two days ago made the decision to take a “Facebook Vacation” to reset my priorities.

    Yes, I have made genuine Facebook-only friends.

    Yes, I have reconnected with old genuine friends.

    Yes, I have found relatives from across the world.

    Yes, I have even been told I'm like a John-the-Baptist of Facebook (not sure if that was a compliment or a complaint).

    But, until I stop seeing my everyday life through the lens of “wouldn't that make a great status update?!”, and “I can't wait to post this on Facebook!” I NEED A BREAK!

    I need time to sit at Jesus' feet -quietly- and look out the window at the trees.

    Thanks for an excellent reminder that one day I will give an account of my every word to the King – Face to face.

  10. Wendy July 30, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

    Not2bright, I appreciate that idea — facebook vacations. I too have thought of life in terms of status updates. I was on vacation with family at the beach last week, and it was helpful to have a little distance from the internet. In fact, I'm traveling all month and hope the time away will bring me back to a place of facebook balance. 🙂

  11. JosieJo August 1, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    Interesting what you (Wendy) and sterlingsop said about not planting your Christian flag on FB. I definitely avoid controversial issues that might offend my non-Christian friends, but I often put Bible verses or Christian quotes as my status, or post links to Christian songs or articles about faith (I've linked to a couple of your blogs for example). I don't do it at all in an intentional “I'm going to witness now” kind of way – I post all kinds of other quotes and music and so on as well, just sharing things that have spoken to me or reflect where I am at that moment. And I don't go overboard with the “God is so awesome!!!” stuff!

    I find it's a nice way to show what I care about without feeling like I'm ramming my faith down people's throats or demanding a response. I'm often surprised by the people who 'like' my status or comment – today I posted the Tim Keller quote you have here, and my non-Christian supervisor has liked it, along with a girl I knew at school whose faith I don't really know anything about. There are a few people I know in 'real life' too who I didn't realise were Christians until I saw them commenting on things I posted and/or post similar things themselves. I guess for me it's all about how it fits in to your FB use on the whole – if you're a 'light user' who isn't very open in updates in general, it might seem unnatural to share that kinda stuff. Whereas for someone who uses it a lot like me, it might seem unnatural not to.

  12. Chad Gleaves August 3, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

    Hi this Chad of http://getyourchurchfanpage.com/fm , Yes I'm with you on using Facebook as a tool for personal outreach,and I too believe that there should be limitations on using FB for churches.

    One of the things we teach is to keep your personal friends below 400 so that it is possible to keep up with everyone. If you have too many post (from 1000 friends), Facebook becomes overwhelming and unmanageable and people often give up on Facebook.

    Second thing: Use a Facebook page for your ministry. If your outreach needs a bigger platform on Facebook, use a Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php. Pages have more limiting features than Personal Facebook profiles and will cut down on your news feed clutter and makes large number of people very manageable. Great post by the way, will be share your post with our readers. Thanks

  13. Hannah August 22, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    I stop by occasionally and really appreciate your writing ministry. This post in particular caught my attention and I share so many of the same observations. Fwiw, here's a bit I wrote about wrestling with the same issues (please excuse any appearance of self-promotion; not my intention at all-just didn't wanted to avoid re-typing my observations here.)

    http://sharperiron.org/article/toward-theology-of-facebook

    Thanks again for your service to us readers!

  14. Hannah August 22, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    * “just wanted to avoid re-typing” 🙂

  15. Wendy August 22, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    Hannah, I actually read that article when you first posted it and enjoyed your thoughts.