A Must-Read Passage Before Posting on Social Media

2 Timothy 2

23Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. 24The Lord’s servants must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone. They must be able to teach effectively and be patient with difficult people. 25They should gently teach those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will believe the truth. 26Then they will come to their senses and escape from the Devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. (2 Timothy 2:23-26, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

If there was ever a passage that should be required for Christians to read before engaging with others on social media, this might be it.

Obviously, Paul did not have social media in mind when he wrote these verses, but there was definitely an issue that was creating some controversy and division among members of the church because Paul writes these same words (“avoid godless and foolish discussions”) four times in his two letters to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:7; 6:20 and 2 Timothy 2:16, 23).

The controversial issue that Paul was addressing was likely a heretical teaching circulating locally that was causing needless arguing and debate among believers.

The key verse, in my opinion, is verse 24, which states that, “The Lord’s servants must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone. They must be able to teach effectively and be patient with difficult people.”

If you’ve spent any amount of time on social media over this last year, you know that kindness, gentleness, civility and friendliness are not words often used to describe the typical interactions people are having. Indeed, quarreling seems to be the norm.

In short, people on social media are often not kind. In fact, many people, including Christians, are the exact opposite of kind. What I mean by this is that it seems that many people engage in social media in a way that appears to be purposefully confrontational.

We are living in extremely difficult and polarizing times. The events of the past year, including Covid lockdowns, mask mandates, economic uncertainty, racial division, protests and riots, as well as the build-up and aftermath of our national election, have all contributed to a growing sense of anger and unrest.

Nobody wants to be overlooked or feel marginalized. We want our voices to be heard and our opinions to matter.

Social media is the digital town square for the 21st century. Therefore, in order to use our voice, we can feel a strong urge to engage in discussions that are happening on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media forums.

But what happens when we engage in those forums and people disagree with us? Or worse yet, what happens when others call us names or marginalize us or even ridicule us because of our beliefs?

The natural reaction is to respond in kind. We want to be right and we want to “prove our point.” But Paul is urging us to be patient with others and kind in our interactions.

Admittedly, this is difficult to do in some cases. But we represent Christ to those around us. Therefore, we have a duty as believers to act in a way that Christ would react if he were posting for us.

Reflection

In what ways have you engaged in “foolish and ignorant arguments” in  your interactions with others?

What topics or hot buttons cause you the most difficulty in being patient with difficult people?

What steps can you take to be more kind and gentle towards others in your communication?

 

Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

Evangelism in the Digital Age

Every day thousands of people around the world connect to the internet seeking answers to their questions. The internet has actually made it easier for spiritual seekers to seek out spiritual information because they can do it in relative anonymity, which turns out to be very beneficial, especially if you live in a country that is hostile to religion in general or Christianity specifically.

Cru has had a digital presence for many years with the creation of our everystudent.com and everyperson.com websites.

Using strategic google advertising and marketing, articles that appear on our sites are viewed by thousands of people from around the world each day, with millions coming to know Jesus as a result.

A few weeks ago, I contacted Marilyn Adamson, who directs our online evangelism efforts. I’ve known Marilyn since 1998, when she and her husband were on a summer missions project that Jen and I attended in Myrtle Beach. Her husband Mike was one of my trainers that summer as Jen and I were being trained to become new Cru directors at UC Davis.

I e-mailed Marilyn to let her know I was available to connect with Young Adults who might come to Christ through our websites and who continue engaging with us via one of our Follow-Up platforms, such as StartingWithGod.com.

Marilyn promptly e-mailed me back to tell me that the timing of my e-mail was “quite interesting.” We set up a phone conversation where she told me she had just been approached by someone who wanted to help Cru expand their online evangelism efforts by utilizing Facebook advertising.

Cru’s evangelism efforts had mostly been promoted through google advertising so Facebook would be a new avenue of engagement.

Marilyn was apprehensive about moving forward with Facebook advertising because she just didn’t have the capacity to monitor and manage our Facebook page (everystudent.com). But my “timely” e-mail made her think that it could work if I would be willing to manage and oversee the Facebook page. I agreed to help.

After a few days of nosing around the site, I noticed a lot of activity and interaction, mostly from people reacting to the articles and videos they had seen, or users posting positive comments of approval. But from my vantage point, it was hard to know whether the ads were really making an impact. I simply didn’t have access to the marketing data that would give an indication of the effectiveness of our campaigns.

I e-mailed Marilyn about a week later to share my insights. She quickly responded telling me how thankful she was that I was monitoring the page and weeding out spammers and scammers and interacting with people who were wanting to engage.

She then told me something that floored me. She said that in just the few weeks they had been promoting the site through targeted advertising, over 330 people had indicated decisions to place their faith in Christ!

A few days ago, I saw some “Insights” that Facebook sends their users regarding the amount of traffic and activity on their page.

I was amazed to see that in the 28 day period shown, our ads reached over 7 million people, with over a million people engaging in some way with the content being published (Likes, comments, sharing, etc.).

Social media is a mixed bag these days and I’ve written about the downsides of social media in previous posts here,  here and here. But there are positive aspects to it as well and it’s not likely to go away as it has been firmly planted within our culture.

One positive benefit of social media is it allows us to get the gospel to millions of spiritual seekers very quickly and we can reach people in locations that would be very difficult to get to personally.

If you would like to use everystudent.com or everyperson.com articles to reach people in your network of relationships, consider sharing an article to your Facebook feed or other social media platforms and invite your friends to read and discuss with you. It’s an easy way to share your faith with others!

An Ancient Example of Cancel Culture

1Some time later, King Xerxes promoted Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite to prime minister, making him the most powerful official in the empire next to the king himself.  2All the king’s officials would bow down before Haman to show him respect whenever he passed by, for so the king had commanded. But Mordecai refused to bow down or show him respect.  3Then the palace officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why are you disobeying the king’s command?”  4They spoke to him day after day, but still he refused to comply with the order. So they spoke to Haman about this to see if he would tolerate Mordecai’s conduct, since Mordecai had told them he was a Jew.  5When Haman saw that Mordecai would not bow down or show him respect, he was filled with rage.  6So he decided it was not enough to lay hands on Mordecai alone. Since he had learned that Mordecai was a Jew, he decided to destroy all the Jews throughout the entire empire of Xerxes.  7So in the month of April, during the twelfth year of King Xerxes’ reign, lots were cast (the lots were called purim) to determine the best day and month to take action. And the day selected was March 7, nearly a year later.  8Then Haman approached King Xerxes and said, “There is a certain race of people scattered through all the provinces of your empire. Their laws are different from those of any other nation, and they refuse to obey even the laws of the king. So it is not in the king’s interest to let them live.  9If it please Your Majesty, issue a decree that they be destroyed, and I will give 375 tons of silver to the government administrators so they can put it into the royal treasury.”  10The king agreed, confirming his decision by removing his signet ring from his finger and giving it to Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite—the enemy of the Jews. 11“Keep the money,” the king told Haman, “but go ahead and do as you like with these people.” (Esther 3:1-11, NLT)

Have you heard of this social phenomenon called “cancel culture”? It’s when someone commits an offense, whether intentional or unintentional, that so offends another person that they seek retributive justice in the form of public shaming and ridicule, often for the purpose of seeking a viral response of outrage that might lead to larger consequences, such as loss of job or livelihood.

As I read the third chapter of Esther, it occurred to me that this phenomenon of cancel culture isn’t new. In fact, it has existed for centuries, even millennia.

Haman is actually an ancient example of cancel culture. He gets so offended by the fact that Mordecai won’t bow to him that he decides that it’s not enough to punish Mordecai, but Haman decides to eradicate, erase, yes CANCEL, anyone even associated with Mordecai. (Does this sound familiar?) Hence, Haman approaches the king and arranges for the execution of all Jews throughout the empire on a determined date about a year into the future.

What motivates a person to want to completely cancel or even eradicate another person or race? Verse 5 gives a clue as it says that Haman was “filled with rage.”

Unfortunately, we live in a culture where many people are filled with rage. We can easily become offended and demonstrate unloving and unforgiving behavior towards others (see my post on January 3, 2021 regarding “Online Interactions”). When offended, our tendency is to react and seek immediate justice instead of slowing down and responding in a loving and gracious way.

Cancel culture is real and it’s a symptom of a greater problem – humankind’s sinfulness and self-centeredness. Contrary to what we might think, it’s been around for a long time, and I suspect it won’t be going away any time soon!

Reflection

When have you experienced cancel culture, either as the recipient or initiator?

What issues might cause the kind of outrage in you that would lead to wanting to cancel others?

How can you invite the Lord to develop within you the kind of heart that would demonstrate love, grace and forgiveness to others?

About Online Interactions

You should also know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control; they will be cruel and have no interest in what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act as if they are religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. You must stay away from people like that. (2 Timothy 3:1-5, NLT)

Is it just me or do people seem angrier and more polarized these days?

Two hallmark characteristics of Christianity are love and forgiveness. Jesus raised the bar by telling us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) and to forgive others an unlimited number of times (Matthew 18:22). Yet even among Christians it’s sometimes difficult to see these qualities of Jesus expressed.

Social media, in particular, has contributed to an environment where it’s easy to argue with and even slander others with whom we disagree. If you spend any amount of time on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Nextdoor, you’ll quickly see conversations devolve into the equivalent of a digital junior high food fight. It often seems as if kindness and civil discourse no longer exist. We can often fall into the trap of arguing with others to prove our point.

Alan Jacobs, in a 2017 blog post (https://blog.ayjay.org/vengeance/) warned about the dangers of vengeance and vindictiveness online:

When a society rejects the Christian account of who we are, it doesn’t become less moralistic but far more so, because it retains an inchoate sense of justice but has no means of offering and receiving forgiveness. The great moral crisis of our time is not, as many of my fellow Christians believe, sexual licentiousness, but rather vindictiveness. Social media serve as crack for moralists: there’s no high like the high you get from punishing malefactors.

Paul’s words to Timothy are especially relevant to us today. Given the environment in our culture and on digital platforms, it’s often easier to look like the people Paul describes than the people Jesus invites us to be.

Reflection

In what ways do you find yourself mirroring the people Paul describes?

What would help you to maintain the loving and forgiving posture of Jesus in your interactions with others?

As we enter 2021, my prayer is for an extra measure of self-control so my  engagements with others will be seasoned with grace, love and kindness!

Is Healthier Social Media Possible?

Last week, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and came across a post from a friend who was announcing they were taking a break from Facebook mainly because of all the misinformation, politicizing and negative interactions.

Many people are taking a break or Sabbath from social media because of the negative interactions and anxiety it causes
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

I feel ya! Going on social media these days can feel like entering the gladiator ring. You never know what political viewpoint is going to be thrown at you or who is going to challenge your ideology or what news article is going to pop up in your feed.

You innocently start off with a desire to see “What’s up?” with some of your friends and before you know it you’re engaged in a heated debate with a person you never met about some political policy on which you disagree. It’s easy to get worked up and riled up.

One of my favorite authors, John Ortberg, describes his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted as “Spiritual Disciplines for Dummies”, and says that the purpose of spiritual disciplines is really to train ourselves to love God and love others more.

Ortberg suggests that sleep could be a spiritual discipline, reasoning that If lack of sleep causes you to be grumpy and irritable, then a good night’s sleep could help us become more loving people! Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash

In one of the chapters, Ortberg makes the case that for some people, the most important discipline they could practice is getting a good night’s sleep. His reasoning is that if being sleep deprived makes you moody and grumpy, then the best thing you can do to love God and others is to ensure you are well rested.

Maybe Ortberg is on to something! Given the polarizing nature of social media these days, it’s easy to see why so many people are deciding to take a break from it. The sad part about it though is that in this season where we’re sheltering at home and not physically able to connect with others, we could use the benefits of social media now more than ever. Is healthier social media even possible?

A friend of mine thinks so. Mike was a student I discipled years ago during my early days with Cru at San Jose State. Years later we’re still in touch and Mike and his family are living in Kansas City. After working as a graphic designer for most of his career, Mike has teamed up with a couple of believers who not only think that healthier social media is possible, they’ve created an app that aims to prove it.

Mike DeVincenzi is one of the developers of The Jump, a new app that seeks to provide a healthier social media ecosystem. Go to: thejump.com for more info. Photo courtesy of thejump.com

The Jump is an app that markets itself as “Healthier Social Media” with a mission of “bringing together authentic community, robust tools and a positive culture to create a better ecosystem.”

How are they doing that?

You can learn more at thejump.com but here are a few benefits:

For one, there are no ads, so you won’t be endlessly bombarded with posts urging you to buy an item that you happened to search for online last week.

Second, there are no algorithms. Tech giants like Facebook and Twitter use sophisticated algorithms to push content to you that THEY think you want, instead of just letting you determine what you want to see for yourself.

Additionally, in our high tech world, privacy is always a concern. Who has my data and what are they doing with it? The developers of The Jump are just as concerned about privacy as you are and pledge not to sell your data to third parties.

Last year I spent some time using The Jump app with my boys Cross Country team and was really impressed with how it functions. It seems to work especially well for teams and groups.

Check Out My Jump “The Lowedown” by clicking the image or the following link:
https://plm4.app.link/XH0QcDNap5

Personally, I love the idea of social media enabling me to stay connected with the people who are important to me, but much of the current social media culture is toxic and polarizing. The Jump may just be the alternative we’ve all been looking for.

I’ve created a Jump (group) on the app for those who want to stay connected to us and our ministry (Group icon is shown at left).

I invite you to try it out by texting 54293 to (913) 828-0100. You’ll receive a personal invitation to download the app and join our Jump.

In these crazy, uncertain times, now more than ever, we need a way to stay connected to encourage and support one another. Please let us know, in whatever fashion works for you (text, e-mail, snail-mail, The Jump, or whatever), how you’re doing and how we can pray for you!

We are so grateful for you and we pray that the Lord is protecting you and meeting you in the midst of this global crisis!

Living and Ministering in Digital Babylon

Based on recent Barna research, Faith For Exiles is the latest book by David Kinnaman.

As I read the words on the very first page, I was hooked. David Kinnaman, in his latest book, Faith For Exiles, was describing what it was like to drop his oldest daughter off at college, with all of the emotions that you would expect. Having just dropped our twins off at schools that are 3000 miles away, I could relate to Kinnaman’s fears and anxieties concerning the question of how your child will fare spiritually in this new and secular environment without our guidance. Is their faith strong enough? Have we built the right character into them? Did we do a good job of preparing them spiritually for what lies ahead?

TOP LEFT: Jacob (left) waits in line to get on a bus to enter summer training for the Naval Academy
TOP RIGHT: Joshua waits in line to enter summer training for West Point
BOTTOM: Sign at West Point directing new students where to go

Kinnaman’s 2011 book, You Lost Me, argued that the church has a dropout problem. Research at the time showed that 59% of Young Adults who claimed a faith upbringing had left the church. New research shows the problem has gotten worse, with 64% of Young Adults abandoning the faith of their youth.     

What accounts for such a mass exodus? Kinnaman, and his co-author Mark Matlock, argue that our culture is “especially and insidiously faith repellant.” The biggest culprit, they contend, is our smart devices, which have created a digital culture that actually works against us. As a result, believers are swimming upstream, fighting to maintain their values and their faith beliefs in a culture that is becoming increasingly opposed and in some cases hostile to these values and beliefs.

Click on the image to watch this short video from thebibleproject.com, which explains what exile is and how the theme of “exile” is woven throughout the Bible

The Old Testament highlights God’s promise that if His people followed Him and worshiped Him alone, they would prosper. But He warned them that if they were disobedient, He would bring judgment in the form of invading armies who would conquer them and take them into captivity. Much of the Old Testament is story after story of the nation of Israel forsaking God to pursue false gods. God continually sends prophets to warn them of impending doom but His message inevitably falls on deaf ears.

Click on the image to watch this short video from thebibleproject.com, which highlights what it was supposed to look like for the Israelites who were living in exile in Babylon and what it means for us as believers “living in exile.”

God finally hands his people over to the Babylonians, who take the Israelites into exile, where they live for 70 years in a foreign land, amidst a foreign culture that serves foreign gods and does not share their religious and cultural values. In fact, one of the goals of taking a conquered people into captivity was the systematic dismantling and eradication of their culture and the assimilation and adoption of the invading empire’s culture and values.

Imagine what it was like to be a Jew living in Babylon. How hard would it be to resist adopting the culture in which you’re thoroughly steeped, while trying to keep your own faith and religious views alive?

Young Adults spend an enormous time on their phones and the content is not always helpful to to maintaining a vibrant faith. Photo by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash

We haven’t been taken into captivity and we’re not living in a foreign land, as the Israelites did, but the authors make the case that the internet age in which we’re living has created what they refer to as “Digital Babylon.” A sobering graphic shows that the average 15-23 year old spends nearly 2800 hours in a typical year engaging with media on their phone. For the average 15-23 year old who is not a Christian, only 153 of those 2800 hours contain ANY kind of spiritual or biblical content. The Christian Young Adult fares only slightly better, with 291 hours of biblical content to offset the nearly 2800 hours of input they’re getting.

Our “smart” devices have created a digital environment that is slowly indoctrinating us to views and values that are contrary to our faith. This is what it means to live in “Digital Babylon”.

It’s not all bad news though. There is a segment of Young Adults, identified as “resilient disciples” who are thriving spiritually even in this current cultural context. The book is really about the practices of this group that enable them to maintain a vibrant faith. It turns out that we’ve already identified many of these practices as critical to thriving spiritually and as a result, we’ve already implemented many of these practices in our own ministry to Young Adults.

Our prayer is that our influence would increase and the Lord would show us new ways and avenues to impact Young Adults, who are seeking to live as resilient disciples in “Digital Babylon.”

We greatly appreciate your partnership and your prayers as we strive to this end!