Gospel-centered social media

This post is intended to be a recap of what we’ve been doing in Redeemer’s Jr High youth group. However, it is quite applicable to all of us insecure generations living in the age of social media.
Social media like Facebook can be very helpful to stay in touch with people that you don’t regularly see. The youth were quick to pick up some positives about things like texting/social media, but a little slower to see some of the negatives. However, most of the kids eventually either pointed out or agreed with the fact facebook/texting provides a “great” place to hide from people. Folks will often post or text “bold” words that they will not say in person. 
So we considered the simple question: Why? 
Genesis 3 gives us a pretty good picture of why this happens. As soon as sin entered into the world, Adam and Eve tried in vain to cover themselves and their shame. They hid behind leaves. That’s why we have a tendency to hide behind a computer or cell phone screen.
So when we text message or do facebook posts that we would never say in person, it goes back to the fact that we really are not believing the gospel as much as we think. Since our sin is rooted in disbelief-as it always has from the beginning-we need to recognize that hiding behind a screen is tantamount to not believing the gospel: what Jesus has already accomplished. 
Romans 8:31-35 says that we are not condemned and no one can bring a charge against God’s chosen ones. The more we believe that, the less we’ll hide behind a screen. We can say things that people need to hear even if they don’t want to hear them. We can then not write things that we should say in person. We can then not text things we shouldn’t say at all. The more we believe the free we are to love each other.

The following Sunday we considered  how to actually use facebook/texting in a positive way. Ephesians 4:25-32 lays out some commands for verbal communication. But since much of our communication is now not verbal (for better or worse-probably latter), but written, the same thing applies to texting and facebook. Things like speaking truth in love, as opposed to responding hastily in anger or with slander, seemed to resonate with the youth. 
We instructed them to NOT EVER respond by facebook or texting while angry. I promised them, they will NEVER say, “I really wish I would have responded right away, because I would have had such great gospel centered things to say to that person that ticked me off.” They will always be glad they waited. But few of us ever take the time to not respond right away. It’s hard, but not impossible.
Of course the only way to do this behavior, is to go back to the gospel. Ephesians 4:32 reminds us that we forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven us. Regardless of whether the other party has repented or not, we can have compassion because God has first shown us compassion. And when we screw up on facebook and texting, and don’t believe the gospel as deeply as we need, we can be rest assured that Jesus never hid behind fig leaves or a computer screen. He never slandered though he was slandered. He did it for us so that need not fear God’s retribution. 
In the end, that’s really the only way we become motivated to encourage one another through our text messages and facebook posts. We could have spent 30 minutes telling the youth to NOT post/text mean things, but instead TO post nice things. That would have been practical. However, that would have been no different than if they were being taught in a synagogue or a mosque. The gospel is what sets our message apart from the rest, providing forgiveness as well as power. After going back to the gospel, we then discussed some practical implications which stem from belief in it.
If you made it this far, and God bless you if you did, you’ve probably realized this post is just as applicable for you as it is for youth.

A freeman model for fellowship and participation

Finally some good news for the Bucs after reports of DUI’s and alleged shootings. Fortunately for the young Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they have found a real leader in baby-faced Josh Freeman. Because of the ludicrous NFL lockout, teams are unable to have true, coach organized activities. However a number of teams, including the Bucs, have still met together regularly to develop their gifts. Normally these spring OTA (organized team activities), mini-camps and the like, are “voluntary” in name only. The players are expected their coaches to be there. But it says something when the players actually want to attend and you have 100% participation. Such was the case with Tampa Bay.
The best “fellowship” (in the sense of “participation” as it is often used in the N.T.) seems occurs organically. When the laity, not the pastor, takes the initiative to gather folks together to serve as one team. You know God has blessed your congregation with good fellowship when folks naturally gather together to serve one another. That’s something that can’t be scheduled or programmed, but only wrought by the Spirit. 
When folks legitimately love one another, and organically and voluntarily meet each others needs, people outside that fellowship will notice. They’ll notice and want to be part of that team. A team that gathers and works together not because it has to, but because it wants to do so.
That’s a healthy team and a healthy church. I imagine that was one thing unbelievers found so attractive about the early church in Acts 2.