We live in a complex world surrounded by cell towers that provide high speed Internet access to super fast handheld computers that look and operate like a phone. According to a PewResearch study, “Some 73% of online adults now use a social networking site of some kind.” The age of social media has consumed us. At times, the social media culture benefits us. Too often this technological world constrains us.
When was the last time you had to literally stop talking because the people in the room were in another room (or world depending on how you view it) through their phone? Some people are taking strides to overcome such challenges. Baskets are appearing at the door where party hosts are requesting that you drop off your smart phone upon arrival in order to stay engaged in real conversations during your time in their home. Some business owners are requesting that you disengage the tech world during their business hours and meeting times in order to stay on track and remain efficient.
As we unravel the complexities of the technology world, one thing is abundantly clear – Facebook cannot replace your church. Although Facebook and other social media outlets provide a point of connection for friends and family, Facebook is unable to become a replacement tool for the local church.
Peter preached his famous sermon, about 3,000 souls were saved. God’s church was founded, established, and was experiencing rapid growth. Acts 2:42-47 gives us a glimpse into the practices of the early church:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (ESV).
As we read about the interaction of the early church in the New Testament, we see a common “togetherness” that permeated the church. They were together for worship and for fellowship. They enjoyed time together. They spent time together. They prayed together. They shared meals together. They were a together people.
Facebook Lacks Genuine Connectivity
We pride ourselves on being a connected culture through social media and Internet advancement. However, the question remains – are we really that connected? There are 152 million active users of Facebook in the US and Canada. Facebook users spend about 21 minutes of each day on the social media site. With all of this time spent on social media websites, why do so many people feel disconnected in life and the church?
When you first login to Facebook, you can be overwhelmed with faces that you haven’t seen since high school. Facebook offers you a point of connectivity to rekindle old friendships and stay connected with distant family members. However, after a season of using Facebook, you may find that you really don’t connect with the people through the screen. Sifting through a list of typed status updates and instant messages beneath profile pictures is simply not enough.
The church is more than a campus or a building. If you’ve been a follower of Christ for any length of time, you certainly have come to realize that the church consists of the people. People in our world are longing for real depth and personal intimacy in their relationships, and this is certainly true within the church. Facebook may allow you to see a person’s chosen image, but it lacks a realness that transcends status updates and profile pictures. Most people don’t want their intimate life placed on display through social media, so an obvious barrier prevents depth in Facebook friendships.
The church is a group of people who have been brought together by Jesus Christ. The church assembles together for worship. The church lives life together away from the church campus. Therefore, assembling together for worship and fellowship outside of the weekly gatherings is essential for the health and vitality of relationships. This will not happen through the world of Facebook. Status updates cannot replace late night conversations over coffee.
It’s “normal” to be connected to someone through Facebook while remaining extremely disconnected from them in reality. It’s time to stop using Facebook to replace the genuine connectivity that God intends for His church to experience together. Facebook can be useful for evangelism, marketing, or outreach in general, but it lacks in building genuine community.
Facebook Lacks the Reality of Prayer Support
I rarely post prayer requests on Facebook. There is a reason for that. It’s really quite simple. Facebook isn’t my church. I have posted updates and prayer requests on Facebook, but that’s merely a means to get a more broad group of Christian friends to pray. I did this when my daughter was hospitalized earlier this year with her diabetes diagnosis. However, on a regular basis, I communicate my prayer needs and requests to my church. Facebook is a means of collecting and sharing information, but real prayer is done with my church family.
I often read status updates where people post information and I see statements in response that read, “prayers going up now….” I’m really not trying to be cynical, but I often ask myself how much real prayer is being offered up through Facebook? We are really good at saying, “I’m praying for you” when in reality we aren’t praying at all.
Facebook has literally thousands of prayer related pages and online communities. In fact, the “Prayer” page on Facebook has over 1.4 million likes. It’s highly probable that many people who are members in your church but rarely attend the prayer meeting are among that 1.4 million people who “like” and visit the prayer page on Facebook.
Facebook lacks a real voice behind the prayers. Facebook cannot replace a group of people gathered together during a mid-week prayer service weeping over an unrepentant brother. Facebook cannot provide an intimate prayer circle of real friends who are helping you with substance abuse or porn addiction. Facebook can provide you with information. You can provide people with information. However, God designed His church to be together rather than connected through screens.
Before you leave the church for Facebook, I would encourage you to think about leaving Facebook for the church.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Josh Buice
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You may be interested in the book by Tim Challies – The Next Story