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
- Collected Letters, Volume III. Return to text.