Tuesday, October 18, 2011

In Defense of Facebook....

The last couple of years have seen several high-profile pastors, primarily from the FIC stream, decrying the evils of Facebook and its use. Frankly, some of their concerns are well-founded: the excessive time spent online by many Christians is poor stewardship; also, many marriages have hit the rocks because of the temptations offered by "social networking". (Looking up and connecting with old flames is a bad idea, folks, even in cyber-space). Additionally, Facebook seems to have changed the way the younger generation (and their parents) view friendship - we've become yet more isolated as we reduce social communication to comments in boxes. As with many things, social networking sites have their downside.

However, the fact remains that if used wisely, Facebook (in particular) is an ideal evangelism tool.

Ten years ago, if you had told me I could show an article on the Trinity - in Bulgarian - to 25 (or so) of my non-Christian friends in Sofia - simultaneously - I would have wondered what you were smoking. Sharing a link on Facebook affords one the opportunity to engage in (online) discussion - or not. It is a more subtle (and less threatening) way of sharing doctrinal truth than, say, initiating a discussion with your best friend's brother at the Fourth of July cookout (and seeing that he is visibly uncomfortable). There are those who will read an article in the privacy of their own home, and even months after the fact ask you about it. A shared link is low pressure; there's no awkwardness. Not interested? Don't click. But truth is there for the taking - and I'll be happy to make it available.

In fact, there are many ways of sharing biblical principles on Facebook, but it's invention offers something actually far better: a way to stay in touch with far-flung people after you have met and built relationships with them. This is exactly how I have seen two young women come to Christ in the last 8 weeks.

In late August, I served in Albania at an evangelical summer camp for teenagers. It was a lot of fun, quite frankly, and I became quite close to a number of the kids - who, predictably, "Friended" me on Facebook. Two weeks after returning home, one of the 17-year-old girls (who comes from a family openly hostile to religion in general and Christianity in particular) initiated chats with me. She had many questions about grace, belief in Christ, and the afterlife. In addition to sending her links from the gotquestions.org site which dealt with Gospel fundamentals (in both Albanian and English), I explained to her how she could know Christ and what regeneration is. She turned to Him in her heart; went to church the next week, and is now a devout follower of Christ - despite the fact she has no discipleship and virtually no fellowship in her hometown.

Last week, another one of the teen girls - who had been discussing college applications and the upcoming TOEFL exam with me - suddenly switched gears mid-way through a Facebook chat. "Marie...can I ask you a favor?" she typed. "Can you teach me to pray?" Naturally, this led to an in-depth discussion about how we can be in relationship with God - through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Thanks to the British church-planting team (under whose auspices I served in Albania), she already knew a lot about the Person and work of Christ. She just needed help connecting the dots, and the assurance that she could be His child. She wrote, "i feel the necessity to believe on Him..." I have never witnessed such a sincere hunger and desire to know God as I did during that impassioned "chat", nor such spontaneous joy after she repented and prayed to know Him as Savior. Also from a non-Christian family, she had fears and we talked about counting the cost. Undetered, she began reading the Bible online and sought out the pastor two days later to tell him about her conversion.

While these two conversations (and subsequent changed lives) would not have happened in this way without direct, real-life, human connection and relationship, the fact of the matter is that I was only with these girls for 8 days...and following that, our friendship continued remotely. Facebook is the medium through which we were able to stay in touch...and ultimately, God used it as the tool through which I was able to lead them to Himself. (The "means" is always His Word. There are different ways of communicating His Truth, though: online versions of the Bible work just as well as leather-bound editions.) Bible study is easier to conduct via Skype, however, as multiple people can participate in real-time.

I praise God for the two young girls whose names are now written down in glory, and for the technology which can certainly be used for His glory.


Anonymous said...

So glad to see all the fruit-bearing in these relationships! Great reminder that many things aren't good or evil in themselves, but how we use them. FB can be a time-waster but also a good tool.

Anonymous said...

Praise God, for that wonderful testimony, indeed, technology in itself is not bad, people who abuse it make it bad. But then we can say the same about other things too,books, movies, etc, etc...good positvie post!

lyn said...

What a blessing to read this, thank you for showing how God can use technology for His glory, praise God for the salvation of these young souls!

Bless you Marie,