Author of The Wolf in Their Pockets and Terms of Service, Chris Martin, shares about technology and its effects on our spiritual lives. Hear more about technology from THINK|23.
Our relationship with social media can easily misdirect our worship. We are, as human beings, created to worship. We can’t avoid it.
God is a jealous God. He wants His people to worship Him. If we find ourselves in positions of spiritual leadership among the people of God, we should feel some weight and responsibility to help people set aside the alluring idols of the world and reserve their worship for the God of their salvation. But how do we do that when social media can make it so easy to worship ourselves or the amazing world God has created? Let’s dive into a few ways we may do that. These may feel boring and rudimentary, but that’s okay—boring and rudimentary things aren’t inherently bad.
1. Remind those you lead of their sin and shortcomings.
This step of leadership would be most appropriate if you’re leading someone who clearly wants to be worshiped (but would never say as much). Social media has led many to believe they are the main characters not only of their lives, but of others’ lives. Some people in your church may believe they are the most important church members you have. They may believe that if they left, the church would soon crumble around their absence. If you find that social media is leading people in your care to have an inflated sense of self-importance, it may be time to have a difficult conversation with them about their haughtiness and idolatry of themselves. Approaching people in this way requires conviction and confidence in the Holy Spirit and God’s help, as well as a love and compassion for the person you’re confronting. Many of us can master one of those, conviction or compassion, but it is challenging to have both.
2. Lead people to find their hope in the finished work of Christ.
The people you lead may be led to idolatry because of their relationship with social media. Or they may even be led to despair and discouragement because social media has revealed the brokenness of the wider world to them. Even further, some people in your care may worship a particular person on social media, an entertainer or influencer, and when that person has a fall from grace, the person in your care who admired that influencer may be left wondering who they can trust. They just watched their idol shatter before their eyes, and they may be left wondering where they can turn. They need to be able to turn to you so that you can point them to Christ.
In whatever ways social media may have the people in your care in a state of spiritual unhealth, you must lead them to find their hope in the finished work of Christ and the promised future we have with Him. Our hope amid whatever we see and experience in the world, by the grace of God, is rooted in the unshakable finished work and future promises of Christ, not the derivative works of a broken creation. We do not hope in social media influencers. We do not hope in some utopian vision of the future of the internet. We do not hope in personal fame. We hope only in the finished work and promises of Christ. In this we can rejoice. What an amazing grace it is to be able to cling to both the past and the future when the present can feel so precarious.
Encourage the worship of God in the regular rhythms of everyday life. There is truly nothing that can supplant the importance of regular prayer and Bible reading in the life of the Christian. No Christian who only attempts to commune with God on Sunday mornings can expect to faithfully walk the narrow road of the Christian life. If we have any hope to have intimacy with God, we need to spend time with Him often, even if the amount of time is not substantial. You likely understand this if you’re reading this book, but are you doing it? Likewise, are you leading the people in your care to spend time with God regularly?
We’re Always Worshiping
People attend worship services on their phones every day when they open their favorite apps. They worship influencers. They worship lifestyles. They worship entertainers. The only practical hope we have as we attempt to combat the prevalence of idolatry in our relationship with social media is to worship God at least as frequently as we use social media.
As Christians, we don’t read our Bibles and pray because we’re afraid of what God might do to us if we don’t. We read our Bibles and pray because in prayer we speak to God and in His Word God speaks to us. Regular devotional times of Bible reading and prayer, however rudimentary and mundane they may seem, are foundational to the Christian life. It is how our relationship with God becomes more than a hall pass out of hell.
If we want the people we love and lead to stop worshiping the wonders of God’s creation or themselves, we need to lead them toward a deeper, more intimate relationship with the God of the universe. No weekly worship service can combat the daily crush of content that flows through their feeds and into their faces. Daily discipleship by social media is best fought with daily time with God.