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Where is our focus?


Recognizing a generational shift


Published: 15 August 2019 (GMT+10)

Previously published in a CMI Newsletter, January 2019

Recently, I heard a message about social media, saying it creates a preoccupation with self. I pondered whether it is causing a quantum shift away from correct biblical relationships and resultingly our witnessing efforts.

Personally, I was brought up as a child of the ‘speak when spoken to’ generation. It was important to listen to others and not to inject yourself into the conversation. I’m sure you can already realize how social media encourages exactly the opposite—as it invites unsolicited opinions and comments.

In 1936, the famous self-improvement and salesmanship guru, Dale Carnegie (1888–1955) wrote a best-selling book called How to Win Friends and Influence People. In short, he said that if you show an interest in others, extend friendship to them first, then you will easily amass friends and, thus, you will be able to influence them. Obviously, his goal was sales, but interestingly, I think Carnegie adopted some biblical principles.

While it’s great to have friends, it’s greater to be a friend

The obvious example of this is when God extended His hand to mankind, loved us and sacrificed Himself for us. God is unique and obviously does not need us. Nonetheless, Philippians 2:8 says, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Or “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

On social media everyone’s favorite topic is them

“For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:21). Paul was talking about his fellow laborers in Christ. Today this is us. 1 Corinthians 3:9 says: “For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” Without a biblical mindset in place before we venture into social media, we are likely to be swept up in the promotion of self, and consequently develop the opposite of building relationships with the goal of edifying Christ. Consider Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Our method of winning friends is to get them to ‘Like’ our “Look at me and see what I am doing” posts. I believe this leads to looking for our identity and self-worth in the wrong place. These are not real relationships. Proverbs 13:20 warns, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” As our younger generations grow up with this as a cultural norm, I wonder, long term, what effect this will have on society and even within Christian families. It continues to promote the ‘me’ generation. If we want music, information, food or whatever, we can get it right now via the Internet. It’s aimed at meeting ‘my needs’. The culture shift from focusing on others to focusing on self will make it increasingly hard for us to win people to the Gospel.

Train a child to get their focus right (Proverbs 22:6)

Understanding who we are comes from understanding our identity in Christ. The obvious ‘first’ focus for a Christian should be God, then others, me last! If we love God first, then Godly principles, including those of friendships and relationships will flow from Him. This should make it easier for us to communicate the Gospel to others. C. S. Lewis recognized this when he wrote: “When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now.”1 Here’s some passages to remind us that this is biblical.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3–4).
“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs. 18:24).
And the very best example of a friend was given by Jesus Himself, who said: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Turning it around and using social media for God

In today’s world change occurs breathtakingly fast. But we can adapt to new innovations if we first stop and think how we can apply biblical principles to them. The first application is to think how to make it about God, not us. The best form of evangelism has always been one to one communication. So, encourage your family and friends to post and highlight what Kingdom work you/they are doing and why. Highlight what Christian topics you are interested in. Show how Christianity is making a positive difference.

On the flipside, social media presents possibly the greatest witnessing tool in our history

This is because we have access on a personal level to hundreds and even thousands of people. And when you like someone else’s posts, perhaps relate their activity to something biblical to arouse their interest. And the most obvious of all is to link them to CMI’s own Facebook page where they can interact with other Christians, or post a relevant article, book or DVD from CREATION.com. How many of us think of using social media this way? I encourage you to take up the challenge. You might not have as many ‘Likes’, but the ones you do get will demonstrate the fruit of your work and may have eternal consequences. And keep in mind that the only thing we are taking to heaven with us are the people we lead to Christ.

References and notes

  1. Collected Letters, Volume III. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Christianity for Skeptics
by Drs Steve Kumar, Jonathan D Sarfati
US $17.00
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

Philip R.
In short, he [Dale Carnegie] said that if you show an interest in others, extend friendship to them first, then you will easily amass friends...

When I was young we had a poem on the back of the toilet door:
I went out to find a friend,
But could not find one there.
I went out to be a friend,
And friends were everywhere.
Cameron N.
I am an early 90s Millenial who has basically seen the rapid advancement of social media grow in my teen years and become a staggering necessity for connectivity and advancement in my young adult life for pretty much all of my peers. I've read reports that even though we are more connected, we feel even more alone. One other thing that the article mentions is the me generation thing. I have often struggled with the concept of dying to self. How much of denying and duing ourselves is enough? Even when you sacrifice and sacrifice no one around ever seems satisfied and peacekeeping seems impossible. I have often wondered what it means to treat others as greater than yourself as well. Should you deny your intelligence or skills for the sake of others? Should a natural born pianist give up the piano because his parents want him to be a doctor? This I have struggled with on my walk. What constitutes as pride and self inflation and what constitutes as a personal acknowledgment and affirmation of my God given talents? Another thing about Social Media is that I personally just sometimes don't know what and how to share. Self promotion feels too egotistical yet when I create or laugh at something or learn I really want to share it but it feels hollow and meaningless.

I sometimes ghost out and just disappear and am then not in contact with anyone on social media for long periods of time. It's a dillemma for sure...
Gary Bates
"No one around seems satisfied." I think that the social media preoccupation with self means that people think it is someone else's job to keep them satisfied or happy. I would encourage you to talk to your pastor or a counsellor to understand what it means to die to self. I suspect it will be different for different people depending upon what strongholds are in their life. All the best.
Geoff T.
Very good article. I have been doing a blog for about 10 years now. It is definitely pointing to God and Jesus but I try to incorporate life as it is and our every day experiences.I possibly could better spend my time in real time visits with people.
Deon B.
Social media is a no-no for me. The owner of Facebook is an Anti-Semite [SEE CMI'S CORRECTION OF THIS BELOW] and should not be supported by Bible believing Followers of Christ; the same for Twitter and the likes. When will people wake up to the reality that the social media is controlling our Evangelical World View. Stop supporting them - if you just follow the debate of how FB controlled votes in 2016, it will be a wake-up call to Americans.
Gary Bates
Deon, I previously published your comment without correction but it has since been pointed out to me that your statement about Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook's founder) is factually incorrect. He is ethnically Jewish and even had a Bar Mitzvah when he turned 13 as can be verified here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Zuckerberg.
Margaret P.
I loved the article. In fact, I often post your essays and videos on my Facebook page. It's quick and easy to bring the truth of creation to everyone who reads it. I consider it my ministry for God. I hope it's occurred to your readers to also do this.
Louisa G.
This article should be entitled 'What is our focus?' and the question is, 'What has this got to do with the Creation vs Evolution debate? Are we to look forward to CMI's next article on the evil's of owning a television? Why women should not wear slacks? Or why guitars should not be allowed in church? Seriously, there are dozens of petty nit-picking legalistic bloggers out there in cyberspace, the world does not need another one. This is, without a doubt, the most disappointing CMI article to date.
Gary Bates
I'm sorry you could not see the point in the article and instead apparently had a knee jerk/emotional reaction without reading it correctly. Nowhere did the article say social media was evil or that we should not use it (read it again and see this for yourself). The article was about using it for good, that is, evangelism, and particularly our focus on creation evangelism. But at the same time also ensuring that while using it we kept our eyes on heavenly things instead of getting caught up in looking for self worth and identity from others. So, it had everything to do with CMI's mission of information dissemination. BTW no one is forcing you to read our website article and it would appear you really don't know that much about us to make such inferences about what we might write about next etc. But if you do choose to read and decide to make comments, then please make them based upon the actual content of the article instead of misrepresentation, and worse still making baseless accusations about what we might do next. Bearing such falseness against brethren is hardly a Christian virtue, is it?

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