A Theology of Social Media - Part 1
July 20, 2021
Social media and technology continue to represent an untapped opportunity for the Church to disseminate its message and disciple individuals. With that in mind, I am starting a series I call "A Theology of Technology" which will focus on excerpts from my book, Changing the Way We Do Church: 8 Steps to a Purposeful Reformation.
Here is the definition of technology I use throughout my book :
Technology is a body of knowledge devoted to creating tools, processing actions, and the extracting of materials. The term ‘technology’ is wide, and everyone has their way of understanding its meaning. We use technology to accomplish various tasks in our daily lives, in brief; we can describe technology as products and processes used to simplify our daily lives. We use technology to extend our abilities, making people the most crucial part of any technological system.
We tend to think of anything that was developed in our lifetime as technology but are not as apt to apply the label to something that existed before we were born. For example, we usually don't think of our refrigerator as technology but it is. In church, we don't think of the video projection during services as technology but we do categorize the iPhone as technology (although my five-year-old granddaughter will grow up not to think of it as such). The point is that at one time ink, paper, the Roman road and sea travel system, and the ships that carried Paul's letters were new technological inventions that eventually were taken for granted.
Is there a theology of technology, if I can label it that, that extends even to the use of social media? I believe there is, so let me present my case. You be the judge if it’s valid. Let's start by looking at some verses that speak to the issue of technology and how it fits in with the Church and its mission. We begin with a sub-category of technology and that is the written word.
- “Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them” – Deuteronomy 31:19.
God had Israel compose a song to remember, but in this case, the theme was to commemorate their unfaithfulness. We compose and write to help people remember God’s faithfulness, even when we are unfaithful to Him and His ways. The instruments we use to write, publish, broadcast, distribute, and watch all allow us to produce, store, and process what we or others write.
- “Appoint three men from each tribe. I will send them out to make a survey of the land and to write a description of it, according to the inheritance of each. Then they will return to me” – Joshua 18:4.
God asked the scouts to submit a report of what they saw in writing. I am not sure why He required it in writing, but perhaps it was so they could keep the vision alive of what God had promised them. The same holds true for us. We write and broadcast what we see in faith, which may be something that cannot be yet seen except through the eyes of faith. Then once it happens, we can look back and see how God led us along the way and was faithful to His word and promises.
- As the men started on their way to map out the land, Joshua instructed them, “Go and make a survey of the land and write a description of it.” – Joshua 18:8
It's interesting that the people could write at this early stage of history. This would have represented an early form of technology using papyrus and ink to record words that could be read and understood by others. And why did they write? Presumably so others could read what the spies had seen.
- “Go now, write it on a tablet for them ,inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness.” – Isaiah 30:8
We are not writing anything that compares to the inspired word of God, yet we should write down or send out what we believe God is showing us—about His word, His promises, our experiences, our creative interpretations of truth capable of communicating that truth and God’s beauty to others—all with a view toward providing a witness for future generations concerning God’s love and acts in every generation. Think of those who did this: John Wesley, St. Augustine, St. Thomas a Kempis, John Calvin, D. L. Moody, G. Campbell Morgan, and Martin Luther, and Martin Luther King Jr., just to name a few. Aren’t you glad that they didn’t simply rely on the spoken word but made the effort and invested the time to record what they heard and saw for us to consider and learn from today? Shouldn't we do the same?
We have plenty more to consider but this will suffice for this first entry in our Theology of Technology series. Stay tuned, there's more coming!