2 Social Media, Fear and Boldness for Christ
Social media websites, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, are powerful platforms for sharing about God’s work in our lives on a frequent basis. Since posts to sites like Facebook and Twitter can be short and include links to content hosted elsewhere, they have a “low bar” for people to pass over to get started. For example, photo sharing sites like Instagram and Snapchat are perfect places to share photos accompanied with Bible verses. The Instagram channel @verseofthedaycom is a case in point.
Social media posts can also connect us to rich media content which can be used transformatively by God to reach the lost and share His message of hope, forgiveness, and salvation by grace. That content can be media created by us, or it can be created by others and re-shared / reposted with a link.
— Pocket Share Jesus (@PocketShare) February 10, 2019
When we create and/or share any of the other forms of multimedia highlighted in this book with others, we can serve as catalysts for other people to encounter God. In this context:
A catalyst is an event or person causing a change.
Our social media posts can serve as digital signposts to the stories we can tell about God’s active role in our lives.
Identity and Technology
Today it is common to encounter people, frequently older adults, who readily identify themselves as someone who does not use technology well, or “is not a technology person.” Yet we live in an era when digital communication has been “normalized” in many communities and nations. We should be aware of the risks and pitfalls of digital communication, but also choose to leverage its power and potential to reach others through these channels with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I am amazed how many adults start conversations with me by saying, “You know I’m just not a technology person & I can’t use these tools in very powerful ways.”
In our digital era this is tantamount to an admission of illiteracy, & even worse, a desire to remain illiterate. /1
— Wesley Fryer, Ph.D. 🌎🎙🚀 (@wfryer) March 16, 2019
Literacy in a given culture is defined by the media / mediums through which knowledge and information is shared with others. According to studies by PEW Research in 2019 and 2018, almost three-fourths of adults in the United States use Facebook, and of those users almost 70% use the website daily. Among younger adults, a majority use Instagram and Snapchat regularly. While we cannot predict with certainly how the popularity and use of specific social media websites will change in the months and years ahead, it is reasonable to expect large numbers of people will continue to utilize and connect with each other as well as organizations through social media in the future.
We each have opportunities to influence people who are in our respective spheres of influence. At home, at work, in church, in different organizations in which we participate and connect with others, we have chances to build relationships and both influence and be influenced by others. As you develop your own media creation skills, using the suggestions and tutorials included in this book as well as from other sources, the author encourages you to share those media creations with others on social media.
You may not need to create any new social media accounts or channels to become “a digital witness for Jesus Christ.” Rather, you may simply decide to start sharing Bible verses, reflections, and “media products” based on your own study of scripture and walk with our Lord on the social media platforms you already use.
Social media platforms can be largely “content agnostic” as long as shared content conforms to published community guidelines or standards. The ways individuals and organizations choose to use social media platforms, however, varies widely. For this reason, you may want to create a “special channel” on a social media platform to share your faith. Or you may choose to share your faith “as part of your regular feed.” There is not a single path or option in this regard which will be an appropriate fit for everyone, in all walks of life and all circumstances.
In the case of the author, Facebook (facebook.com/wfryer) has become a space to share updates about family, some professional work and links, as well as media relating to Bible studies, church sermons, Sunday school classes, and spiritual development. Instagram as well (instagram.com/wfryer) is a space for the author to share personal photos and updates, as well as Bible verses and Christian-related media.
Twitter, however, is a little different. The author has a large professional following on Twitter (@wfryer), and several years ago created a separate channel on the platform for sharing about Christ and faith (@pocketshare). The reason for this “separate channel” was not to hide or conceal Christian identity, but rather to unleash creative potential to share about faith on the platform. People “follow” different accounts on social media for different reasons, and generally have a set of expectations about the content which will be shared there based on different signals. We not only signal the focus of our social media channel by what we share, but also by what we write in our ‘profile.’
Whether you choose to create new social media channels / profiles to share your Christian journey of faith with Jesus, share on your existing channels, or do a mix of both, the author prays you will not only grow in your faith in God through these activities but also serve as a digital catalyst for others, pointing them to God’s Word in Holy Scripture as well as a prayer-led life seeing God with passion and vigor.
Boldness for Sharing Jesus
Jon Bloom, writing for DesiringGod.com, identifies three ingredients for “Christian boldness.” Boldness in this sense, he writes, “is not a character trait.” Christian boldness is a decision and an attitude based on our perceptions of three things:
- Spirit-empowered conviction
You may not naturally see yourself as a “Christian evangelist” or a “missionary.” As a follower of Jesus, however, you should acknowledge and identify yourself as “a child of God.” As a unique and important member of God’s family, you have been equipped with specific spiritual gifts to both share the Good News of Jesus Christ and to do the work of God on earth. We are each equipped and called according to our unique gifts. The apostle Paul wrote in the 12th book of his letter to the Romans:
‘Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.’
One of our important tasks as followers of Jesus is to discern through prayer, study, reflection, and conversation with other believers, the spiritual gifts with which God has blessed us. Knowing and understanding your own unique gifts, it is the author’s prayer that you would find ways to share your love of Jesus and your “witness,” or testimony of God’s transforming acts of love in your own life, with others through both face-to-face conversations and through digital media.
Economies are primarily defined by scarcity rather than plenty. It is therefore more accurate to describe our current age as an “attention economy” rather than “an information economy.” In our era of scarce attention and plentiful information, the words and ideas we share with others matter. Be bold to share your love of Jesus and the words of Holy scripture with others. As children in the family of God, we are both equipped and expected to share the stories of our faith and life together with our Lord.
‘God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.’
Fear of Creating and Sharing
Most kindergarten or first grade classrooms are filled with bold, creative artists who are unafraid to express themselves visually and share their work with others. As students get older, however, it is common for many to develop fear and hesitation when it comes to activities like drawing and the prospect of sharing their creations with an audience. Authors David Bayles and Ted Orland highlighted these dynamics in their 2001 book, “Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.” When it comes to sharing artistic media creations about Bible verses, our walk with Jesus, or other aspects of our Christian walk, we can face multiplying fears. Not only can we have the natural fears about sharing our creative work as artists and media makers, we also can face fears of negative judgement and rebuke from friends, family, and others with whom we have contact both face-to-face and in digital spaces.
In the face of these substantial fears and obstacles, the author offers the metaphor of “the sandbox.”
Ideally, sandboxes offer us the opportunity to build and create with abandon in a defined environment separated from other distractions and complications. Where is your “digital sandbox” for creatively expressing and sharing both your love of Christ, and your journey of learning at His feet? If you are uncomfortable sharing your faith publicly on your existing social media channels and profiles today, perhaps you can and should create one more more separate channels for social media sharing about Jesus?
If we have our eyes open to the realities of “surveillance capitalism” in our economy thanks to Silicon Valley today, we need to acknowledge that public sharing about Jesus and our experiences as Christians will create digital ripple effects. Targeted advertisers present us with marketing messages based on our digital footprint. We should not be filled with fear as Christians, and in this context we specifically should not fear a social graph in which we are identified publicly as Christians. Depending upon where you live and the treatment accorded acknowledged Christians by government authorities, you may need to be cautious identifying yourself as a follower of Jesus Christ. For those of us living in representative democracies where freedom of expression and freedom of religious practice is an enshrined and protected right, however, we can and should be bold to be known to others as Christians.
The closing sentences of the apostle Paul in Romans 8 offer us inspiring encouragement to remember no matter what we do or where we go, as followers of Jesus we can never be separated from the love of God.
‘And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” ) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
Therefore be bold and courageous in your sharing about Jesus and His unbounded love for you. Embrace the discomfort which can come with learning new tools and strategies for communicating, and the feedback which will not be universally supportive as you share your journey of faith with God. Remember God has called us as his children to tell the story of Jesus, and He that has promised to walk with us down the paths of our lives is faithful and true.
- catalyst - Dictionary Definition. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2019, from Vocabulary.com website: https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/catalyst ↵
- Fryer, W. (2019, March 21). Adult Identity and the “I Can’t Use Technology Well” Introduction. Retrieved April 20, 2019, from Moving at the Speed of Creativity website: http://www.speedofcreativity.org/2019/03/21/adult-identity-and-the-i-cant-use-technology-well-introduction/ ↵
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- Lord, Make Me More Bold. (2017, February 10). Retrieved April 20, 2019, from Desiring God website: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/lord-make-me-more-bold ↵
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- Bayles, D., & Orland, T. (2001). Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (1 edition). Princeton, N.J.: Image Continuum Press. ↵
- Zuboff, S. (2019). The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (1 edition). New York: PublicAffairs. ↵
- Targeted advertising. (2019). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Targeted_advertising&oldid=892064352 ↵
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