The Apostle Paul knew how to connect with people. He would go where the people were to share the good news and in the first century, this was most often the town square. Town squares were the marketplaces and the social gathering places in times past. This is where conversations happened, ideas were exchanged and debated, and networking took place. For Paul who was “called to be an Apostle and set apart for good news” (Romans 1: 1) the town square became his favorite forum, perhaps most famously the Areopagas in Athens.
Town squares are no longer the center of social discourse and debate. Social media is where people are gathering, debating, discussing ideas and connecting with others. If you want to be relevant in today’s world you need to be connected through social media.
Social media is no longer a fad; it is established in our culture. We are learning that social media is the best way to share news about our church family. The new “front door” to the church is through social media and the web. The Apostle Paul would be all over Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. He wrote: “I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9: 22) Used effectively, social media can be a positive and powerful channel for sharing the good news of Jesus. But, there is a downside.
For many, social media is not social at all. In fact, studies are revealing that the more time people spend on social media, the more isolated, lonely, and depressed they tend to be. It’s not difficult to see why this is true. Just look around the next time you are in a restaurant or a public place and see how many people are completely absorbed in their smartphones. I have observed families who are eating together, but no one is talking to each other; mother, father, teenagers, even small children are lost in their own worlds glued to their phones.
I will be the first to confess that I am addicted to my phone. The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is check for messages and emails. Then I read the news on several different sites including The Dispatch, look at the weather, check the baseball scores, and occasionally I will open Facebook to see what everyone else is doing. I can also use my phone to listen to music and audio books, make hotel and air reservations, monitor how far I walked during the day, check the exchange rate between the dollar and the Euro, and in one of my favorite apps, check to see if the moon is waxing or waning! And, oh yes I almost forgot—I can actually make phone calls! Smartphones have changed the way we live, but we must be careful that they do not control us or isolate us, and that is what is happening with too many people.
When God created the heavens and the earth he rested on the seventh day. He also established a Sabbath day because he knew that a day of rest, a time to reconnect with God, to step back and reflect, meditate and worship was essential to the well being of humankind. But by Jesus’ day the Sabbath had become a day of duty and obligation. It was controlling and demanding rather than renewing and liberating. Jesus brought it all into focus when he said, “The Sabbath was created for humans; humans weren’t created for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2: 27 CEB)
Back when the internet was first created (Al Gore, right?); it was designed to be a powerful tool to serve humanity. This has proven to be true many times over and the advent of social media has only magnified its power. But when social media becomes addictive and controlling, when families don’t talk to each other because they are lost in their Facebook worlds, when social skills are diminished because of social media, and when we don’t have time to thank God because we are too busy thanking others for “liking” our posts, it is time for a Sabbath.
You don’t need a smartphone to be connected with God. In fact, you can connect much better with God without your device. He knows what you are thinking without you even having to post it. Try it. You will be surprised what you have been missing.