I am, admittedly, a big fan of social media. Much of my job revolves around the many online platforms that seem to rule our world these days, but I’m also prone to scrolling for far too many minutes in my personal time. It’s fun to stay connected with friends from college who now live all over the country, to follow brands and influencers I love, and even to stay up to date with events and news from my church.
In a recent article Erin Davis wrote for Revive our Hearts called "Facebook, You Are Not My Church", she shares some of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s hopes for his extremely popular social site: “Stop our growing sense of disconnectedness. Weave strength into the social fabric. Bring the world closer together.” Davis goes on to share that Zuckerberg also hopes that Facebook will help fill the void left in our lives by declining church attendance, and those words stopped me in my tracks.
This summer, I’ve been pretty sporadic in my church attendance. I used to pride myself on being someone who would show up every single Sunday without fail, never letting anything get in the way of me being with my people to worship together… but now I’m realizing it’s been over a month since I’ve been. Yikes.
When you’re on Facebook all day long, reading articles and blog posts, following inspirational accounts that share Bible verses and prayers, absorbing other people’s thoughts and feelings, it can start to feel like you don’t really need to go to church. After all, can’t I just watch the sermon online or listen to a church’s podcast and call it good? Can’t I just connect with friends online instead of having to shake hands and make small talk in the corridors? Isn’t it enough to just follow Christian accounts on Instagram and read Scripture when they share it on top of a serene sunset photo?
No, says Davis. (And I have to say I agree.)
“The First Christian Church of Facebook can only temporarily spackle the holes in our hearts and lives, ever fix or heal them,” she writes. “We need Jesus for that, and Christ’s Plan A for our sanctification and the world’s redemption is the local church. Not the cyber church. Not the podcast church. Not the blogosphere church. Not even the Facebook church.”
If you’re still not convinced that showing up in real life matters more than just connecting online and calling it good, here are a few of the reasons Davis shares as she makes the case for our local churches:
- “The Church is physical.” Acts 2:42 is the go-to verse about the early church, but it paints an important picture for us even today about what church should look like. In The Message, it reads “They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.” The key here is together. We have to gather in physical, real spaces to experience the fullness of life and not just a half-hearted digital substitute.
- “The Church has shepherds.” If there’s one thing the Internet is, it’s a free-for-all. There is little that is off-limits or restricted, and that can be dangerous. We easily hide behind screens, typing and searching and reading things we might not willingly admit to in our “real” lives. But the church? It has leaders. It has pastors, elders, deacons, ministry leaders, small group leaders… shepherds. “Spiritual authority is a tremendous gift given to us by a loving God who knows our sinful hearts,” writes Davis. “The Church is a safety net woven by God because of our tendency to choose sin and then find ourselves in a free fall. It cannot be replicated online. We need our pastors.”
- “The Church needs you.” I think often about the body of Christ imagery in 1 Corinthians 12-- we all are different parts of the same body of believers, and we all are essential to functioning at our best, our healthiest, and our fullest. If limbs and muscles and organs were missing, the body would be a mess. But together? We can rise up to the calling of the Great Commission, make disciples, do ministry well, and build the Kingdom. “The Church was created for you, and you were created for the Church,” says Davis.
So, I probably won’t delete my social media accounts. I will probably stay connected online to the people, the organizations, and the leaders I love… but I will also get up on Sunday morning and go back to church. Because I know that for as much as I try to fill up the holes in my life with things online, there is no substitute for being with believers in the same room as we learn together, grow together, and glorify God through worship together.
“Facebook,” Davis writes, “you are not our church.”
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock-diego_cervo
Publication date: July 28, 2017
Rachel Dawson is the design editor for Crosswalk.com.