Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Social Media as Spiritual Discipline

Every follower of Christ knows (or should know) that this journey we are on is not one of accidental, whimsical, or random actions as we iron out this relationship with our creator, but rather it is intentional. I suppose perhaps one could coast through life without giving much thought to the disciplines of the faith, but it might raise some questions with other Christ followers who were more purposeful about the rites of their faith. I guess I would say this, if faith is a pinball machine, we should be more like the flipper than the ball. We should be doing the acting, rather than being the ones acted upon.

We call these "acts" spiritual disciplines, and they are pretty obvious to anyone who has spent at least a little time in church. Prayer, study of Scripture, and church attendance have for years been considered to be the important spiritual disciplines--and rightfully so. Another discipline that was always difficult for me was journaling. For a while I tried to journal and write down these "aha" moments I had when I was studying the Bible, but often it seemed canned and forced. I felt like every time I sat down with a Bible, I was supposed to have this mind-blowing revelation of truth and to be honest, it didn't always happen...not to mention the fact that my handwriting has been mistaken for ancient cuneiform. Also, I found that when I did journal something, I hardly ever went back to look at what I journaled. It just sat there in its nifty little book. The whole thing was frustrating and felt like in some strange way I was trying to earn my salvation.

But fast forward a few years. The internet and other technologies have taken over all facets of life. And for the longest time I heard about "blogs" but I didn't have a clue what one was. Then after the internet was established, social media came into the picture. Now everyone is on Twitter or Facebook and wouldn't you know I even have a blog. And what is my blog? For me, it's a journal. But rather than journaling every time I study and feeling like I have to write something, I try to be open for those teachable moments when God gives me those glimpses of who He is, then I sit down and write about it. Also, a blog can be shared with others, so maybe the things this spiritually dim-witted and hard-headed sojourner has learned can be of value to someone else. (side note, the blog is also legible because I can type rather than writing in my chicken scratch)

Some people do blog daily, like my online friend Adam McLane who has even written a post about how to blog consistently, which I highly recommend. His article has some great tips on ways he is disciplined in his blogging. If you have never had a blog, it is very easy to do. There are free blog sites (Wordpress , Blogger), where you can write your blog for free without paying any web hosting fees (such as this blog), or with a little web knowledge you can host your own blog on your own domain. In a blog of this type, all the copyright and content belongs to you and can be done for less than $100/year.

So what if you don't have a blog? Are you on Facebook or Twitter? Part of the Christian experience is the idea that we are on this journey together. We may go hear a sermon at church, but in a Sunday School class or a small group we have a chance to interact, discuss, and share our experiences with one another. Social media gives us that ability as well. As followers of Christ, who are we to keep the things we learn about God to ourselves? Surely, if God teaches us something, others will benefit from it if we are just willing to share it. So I want to offer some ways we can make social media a spiritual discipline.

1. Be intentional about sharing spiritual things with others. While we all want to update our status about how we are cheering on our favorite sports team or how we are proud of our child's good grades, be also willing to share what God is teaching you with others, even if it's just in a few sentences.

2. Be willing to pass on what others have learned. None of us have written the book on being a Christian, but there are a lot of other believers just like you and me out there who have been given some tremendous insights about God. Whether it's the pastor of a 20,000 member megachurch or your neighbor down the street, when these people share insights that they've learned about God, repost or retweet them so others can learn, too.

3. Be consistent. You don't have to blog daily like my friend Adam, but be on the lookout for things God is doing in your life and try to share those things on a regular basis. If I learn something while I'm not at a computer, I try to write it down somewhere so I can remember to write about it next time I sit down at my desk. This allows me to share things on a regular basis.

4. Be yourself. I write this because part of social media is being who we are. So if we decide we are going to be more intentional about sharing spiritual insights, that doesn't mean we have to stop sharing about our life experiences, our thoughts and feelings, so that we can be the next Facebook guru who brings peace, comfort, and healing every day to all of our 178 friends. I think if all we ever post or tweet is Bible verses or quotes from great Christian thinkers it becomes a turn-off to those who are not on this journey with us and they begin to formulate opinions of us because we don't seem like we live in the real world. I think it's great to post things about how you are excited about eating at your favorite restaurant or how your favorite baseball team won its first playoff series in the history of the franchise, but if God is an important part of our life, shouldn't we be sharing what we learn about him with others?

So what are your thoughts? How do you use social media to share about what God is teaching you? Have you ever been turned off by someone who used social media for spiritual purposes?

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