First off, this is not a rant against Facebook. I love Facebook. It’s the only way I’m able to keep up with my very large and amazing family. It’s great for storing and sharing pictures. More importantly, it’s helped me take steps to get to know my church family on a more personal level. Seeing their status updates throughout the week allows me to pray for them, encourage them, laugh with them, and serve them better.
I tend to be the kind of person who doesn’t rant on Facebook or even post negative things. I try to be positive and light, focused on what activities I’m involved in, and share happy events. These types of things seem more appropriate for a social venue with 200+ friends and family members reading my status updates. When your audience ranges from pastors, parents, grandparents, kids, old friends and new it seems wise to practice discretion and limit the deep personal content.
Here’s the rub: sometimes we use Facebook, and its appropriate surface relationships, as a crutch and forget to get to know one another on a deeper level. This is the Facebook Syndrome, or the, “Hi, how are you?”, “Fine. How are you?” Syndrome.
My life is far more complicated and difficult than any of my Facebook statuses would ever indicate. (This is a personal choice. I don’t have a problem with someone posting prayer requests or negative circumstances.) Because I choose to do this, I often wonder if others do as well. Because I know some of my Facebook friends on a more personal, open level, I know they do.
This means we don’t know what a week has held for a fellow believer based on their Facebook status updates. They may have experienced horror, joy, sadness, depression, struggles, or persecution. Some things may weigh so heavy on a believer’s heart that posting anything about it on Facebook can seem flippant and disrespectful. Sometimes things can happen that are so painful talking about them in the lunch line or between services is humanly impossible. Behind the smile or the busy status update could be concern for a brother or sister overseas, a sister or friend’s miscarriage, a grandparent’s death, a long term illness, a chronically sick spouse, a difficult marriage, great loneliness, job stress, or aging parents.
Our lives are more than our Facebook status updates. We want to share life’s blessings and wall up our tears. It’s nice to be happy and busy. We certainly don’t want to come across as whiny, needy, or depressing to others. But, dear church members, if we don’t move beyond quick hellos and Facebook status updates we aren’t serving or loving one another. Who will bear us up if we don’t share our tears with one another?
Go out of your way to get to know your church family. You don’t have to be the only shoulder to cry on – we all have emotional limits – just don’t content yourself with a Facebook only relationship with your church family. Don’t be satisfied with a surface relationship. That’s a great place to start, but don’t stop there. Practice hospitality. Text, write a note, go out for coffee, visit, and share. Be open with your own walk and needs, without gossiping, and listen to the person on the other side of the table. Actively seek the unpopular, fringe members of your church. You will find that when you seek to be a friend, you suddenly have many friends. When you pour yourself out for others, you are blessed. Don’t think about yourself, think about others and you will find that the Lord has fully supplied your needs.
We live in a culture focused on ourselves. We can create our own online personas, take selfies at more forgiving and filtered angles, and we indulge in a fair amount of ‘me’ time. With all this online exposure and all this time focused on yourself, do you ever feel alone? Do you ever wish someone knew you, understood what was going on in your heart and head, and still liked you? Dear friend! If you want to have friends, be a friend. We have forgotten about self-sacrifice. Pouring yourself out for people is largely uncool these days, but it’s the mark of a believer in their church.
You know the popular passage “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you”? Have you ever noticed its context? It is in the context of our submission and humility in our local church! Think about that! Is it hard for you to reach out to people? Is it hard for you to open up to others on anything deeper than your weekend and your favorite movies? Do you talk to wise, older women and then take their advice? Do you listen to your family? It’s hard. It’s very hard to be in an active, open, loving church family. Why? It requires work, planning, and purpose. More importantly, it requires you to work with sinners. It requires you to forgive and love. It requires you to be a soldier of the Lord, to put yourself in harm’s way for the sake of the soldier next to you, and he might be the one hurting you.
The good news, the silver lining? Christ is the head of this family, our elder brother, our King. He walks amongst His lamp stands, and He commands us to cast our cares on him. So dearest family member, let’s strive together to shake of the ease of a relationship only as deep as Facebook, and go at the hard work of learning, listening, and loving each other. You and I might be surprised to find we have plenty in common, even if it’s just grace – what a place to start! My experience has been that my preconceived notions about my fellow church members are often wrong or far too shallow. I have found that when I take the time to get to know my church family, they are the salt of the earth.