As Christians we believe that God calls us to live out our faith in all kinds of different arenas. We are called to live out our faith in our homes as we raise our kids to love Jesus and as we treat our spouse with love and respect. We are called to do our work skillfully and for the glory of God, even when that work is not distinctly Christian work. We are called to love our neighbors, whether or not that always means talking about Jesus. In today’s modern world where life is lived online, should we consider God’s calling as extending into our online profiles? Has God also called you to your Facebook, Twitter, instagram, and tumblr?
I had an opportunity to spend some time talking about this topic specifically with a friend of mine. Justin Wise is an author, trainer, and speaker when it comes to online marketing and social media. In fact, he recently released an awesome book called Social Church all about how the church might embrace social media. In light of his work with social media, I asked Justin to do an interview about the subject and what it looks like for the Christian to live out his faith in a social media world.
[gss-content-box color="gray”]Make sure you check out Justin’s book The Social Church: A Theology of Digital Communication. [/gss-content-box]
Me: If you are a Christian, God has called you. He has called you to your family, to your community, to your workplace. Do you think this extends to our internet presence? And if that’s the case, how does God call us to live out our faith in the digital realm?
Justin: The best way to answer that is by looking at the offline version of living out your faith. Followers of Jesus live out their faith in all kinds of different ways. In the scriptures, we most clearly see this in the commands to “Love God,” and “Love others.” As Christians we are called to love God and love others, period. This means we approach our work with this in mind, we approach our families with this in mind, we approach our friendships with this in mind, and we approach social media with this in mind.
Me: So for the Christian trying to go about using their Facebook, twitter, and instagram for the glory of God? Does this mean that the Christian should tweet a verse-a-day and instagram quotes of bible verses with a cool filter?
Justin: A Christ-centered approach to social media isn’t about constantly tweeting bible verses and beating people over the head with it. Instead it simply asks the question, “How can I live out my life online in a faith-based way?” In many ways it is simply living out your Christian faith online and letting people witness that. And that can look a thousand different ways.
Me: When I think of this question, I think of the quote that’s attributed to Martin Luther that says, “The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes.”
Justin: I love that quote. Let’s give an example of what this might look like. Let’s say you are a Christian entrepreneur. Not an entrepreneur running a Christian business, but a Christian who wants to start a normal, not Christian, for-profit business. As you start your business and run your business you might use your twitter account in a thousand different ways. You make sure that you are rendering a service that you are proud of. You make sure your service is something that you care about. You make sure you use tools like twitter to build connections with customers that you care about. It may even mean that flowing out of the platform that you build, you use this platform to elevate others or promote an individual or organization that doesn’t have a platform of their own. It’s not necessarily about quoting scripture, it’s about doing good and using your social media to help make that happen.
Me: In your book, The Social Church, you make the comparison between social media and the printing press. But we aren’t all Martin Luther, so what role do we play as we use our tweets and instagrams?
Justin: This is actually the genius of social. When you look at the printing press, it was still a very expensive piece of technology and very few had access to it. The impact of what we are seeing today with social will be much greater because of the accessibility. Anyone with a computer connected to the internet can start their own publishing channel. Even if you are not looking to reform Christianity, the barrier to being able to publish, share, and connect with ideas is lower than ever before.
Me: I know with me, when it comes to technology I tend to jump in with both feet right away. What cautions would you suggest to someone like me who is all about the new devices, the new networks, and the new technological fads?
Justin: Use social media; don’t let social media use you. Social media, and all technology, can quickly become consuming. And this isn’t simply only a time thing, but it can even be a mind-share thing. Are you constantly engaged with your Facebook even when you aren’t on your phone or desktop? For those of us who are embracing social, we also have to learn to be able to distance ourselves and disengage.