Social media has been on my mind lately. It seems it’s a great tool and a great danger. It can quickly become the “street corner” in Matthew 6. I wonder if the constant postings of ourselves, with great lighting and stuff may end up being more about us. Some people say “everyone does it,” but I’m wrestling with it as I see young guys in our church family doing it a lot. I want to make sure my motives are pure if I feel led to have an honest discussion with them.
My friend’s humility in approaching this issue was commendable. Social media has become the air we breathe. A generation raised on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube thinks nothing of regularly (constantly?) letting others know what we’re thinking, what we’re reading, what we’re listening to, where we are, what we ate for dinner, and who we’re hanging out with.
Especially who we’re hanging out with. Selfies with friends are a national past time. And it’s a bonus when we can post a selfie with someone famous. “Check out who I was with!” our social media proclaims. We do it with musicians, athletes, actors, and politicians.
Unfortunately, we also do it with Jesus. Only the subtext seems to be, “Check out who Jesus was with!”
It’s the paradox of the worship selfie. When we’re supposed to be drawing attention to the glory of the Savior, we manage to find a prominent spot in the picture.
And it poses a dilemma for those of us in public ministry. It at least raises a few questions.
When does my desire to show others how God is using me become more about me than God?
Should my role as a musician in the church affect my use of social media? If so, how?
Can I promote myself/church/ministry on social media without it being about me?
How do I navigate the expectations of our culture for information and the value God places on humility?
What Are We Aiming At?
If we’re involved in leading congregational worship, our goal is to display the glory of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. That purpose is reflected in verses like these:
Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! (Ps. 34:3)
My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day. (Psalm 71:8)
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. (Psalm 145:6)
Social media can blur the lines between magnifying the Lord and magnifying us, between speaking of God’s awesome deeds and our awesome deeds. And if we don’t aim at exalting Christ, it’s easy to take a lot of worship selfies with Jesus. And feel good about it.
If you serve as part of a church’s leadership, even if you don’t have an official position, you’re directing people’s attention to something. But it’s not only when you stand (or sit) in front of them. It’s when you tweet, post a picture on Instagram, write a blog, or put something on Facebook. Where are we pointing people’s attention, affections, and adoration?
The best we can be is signposts. Signposts are directions, not destinations. No one stops the car on a journey to gaze longingly at the signpost. They take note of where it says to go and continue on their way. So the people we lead should only only be aware of us long enough to know which way their thoughts, emotions, and affections should go: to God’s glory in Jesus Christ.
If we aren’t using social media intentionally, it’s easy for us to slip into the paradox of the worship selfie. And these are some of the potential results:
- We look less like servants who want to reflect a crucified Savior and more like public figures who should be admired for our abilities.
- We end up using the church to promote our songs, our gifts, our achievements, etc.
- Frequent posting encourages a mindset that people need to be constantly updated on what we’re doing.
- Other people start to simply copy what we do, without understanding why we do it, resulting in methodology that’s separated from theology.
Social media isn’t bad in itself, although like all forms of communication, it tends to shape and influence the message. For those involved in leading music in the church, here are a few ways we can use social media to bring glory to Christ and not ourselves.
Focus on your congregation, not just your band.
Keep in mind the church is everyone and not just people with a microphone. Videos or pictures of your congregation passionately proclaiming the praises of God can encourage others to do the same. Granted, your congregation may not be as good-looking as the people up front. But if the people in our church aren’t singing, we’re performing. The truth is, our church services don’t have to look awesome on Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook to glorify God. Actually, most often they’ll look a lot like jars of clay (2 Cor. 4:7).
Use social media to thank people who serve.
Rather than always focusing on what I’m doing, highlight people in the church who serve faithfully, joyfully, and selflessly, week after week. It would be great to see as many pictures/posts of set up teams and kids’ workers as there are of musicians.
Draw attention to great lyrics, not simply great music and visuals.
Post video clips of songs that speak truth into the hearts of weary, troubled, or suffering Christians. One way to do that is to add lyrics to your videos, or post them below the video.
Share happenings, not hype.
Posting what you’ve been doing or about to do is helpful. Telling people how amazing, great, awesome, unbelievable it is, not so much.
A Few Suggestions
If you find social media to be a constant temptation to glorify yourself, here are a few ideas to pursue change:
- Spend more time reflecting on what your life is all about – the glory of Jesus, crucified and risen to redeem us (Col. 3:1-4; 1 Cor. 15:3-4).
- Before you post, ask how what you’re going to do will edify others (Eph. 4:29).
- Take a hard look at how often you post on and look at social media (Rom. 13:14).
- Use vacations primarily to focus on the people you came with, not your social media friends.
- Read Tony Reinke’s book, Twelve Ways Your Phone is Changing You
- Use social media to give people a unique perspective they wouldn’t have otherwise.
- If you can’t use social media without falling into deeply engrained habits of self-promotion, wasting time, or sensuality, cut it off. Take the apps off your phone. Get accountability. Follow the wise counsel of John Owen: Be killing sin or it will be killing you. Better yet, follow Jesus’ counsel in Mk. 9:43-48.
Both our culture and our flesh tell us that gratification comes from being noticed, applauded, appreciated, and admired. But God tells us that in the end, everyone will worship Him, not us (Rev. 22:3).
And we have the joy of leading ourselves and others to do that now.
Let’s not miss out on the opportunity.