Episode 4: Social Media and the Ekklesia (Church)

Description:

TSR talks social media, cultural engagement, and the church. Come join The Socially Remote!

Summary:

We continue our discussion of social media with guest Grumpy Dan from the Deck the Hallmark podcast. He pushes back against our views on social media and suggests it can be a tool for meaningfully engaging with others. We discuss how the church might better practice faithful presence by fostering genuine relationships and proclaiming truth in a sea of relativity.

The Podcast:

Introduction

The guys briefly reviewed the previous week’s episode (see full synopsis here) and then introduced their guest, Grumpy Dan from Deck the Hallmark podcast. He is a Greenville native, the host of several other podcasts (including History or His Story), a foster and adoptive parent, a fan of the show, and has (to his knowledge) the only podcast network in Greenville.

Dan will provide a good counterpoint to the conclusions we reached in our last episode, because he and his podcast have benefited significantly from social media. And before we jumped into the Sneak Peek, Matt reminded listeners that the last episode contained quite a few statistics that might be helpful to review for more details concerning this topic.


Sneak Peek

We want to discuss what we feel is the overall impact social media has on certain traditional institutions like media, politics, and government. And, of course, we want to discuss what the church’s response to and engagement with social media should be.


For the Counselors

Steven

He has really grappled with why social media is not a legitimate substitute for real relationships. Ultimately, it comes down to having a third-party moderator curating our conversations. And for that reason, social media will never be a replacement for real relationships.

David

We don’t have to accept that social media has to be a part of our lives. It’s okay to choose whom we keep up with. We don’t have an obligation to try to maintain every relationship we’ve ever had. By doing so, we often focus on the inconsequential at the expense of the consequential and end up sacrificing the quality of other relationships.

Matt

Social media is not a substitute for genuine conversation, and it actually poisons real conversation. The way people relate to each other is different. They likely would not say to people’s faces what they are willing to say on social media. Ultimately, it contributes to lowering our discourse and hardening people. Interestingly, after we recorded our previous episode, the Wall Street Journal wrote a lengthy article about how Facebook recognizes that its platform creates divisiveness and a deterioration of our conversations. The article further reports that they studied ways to remedy it. Ultimately, Facebook chose not to fix the problem.

Dan

People are very nasty on social media. But historically, at the advent of every new communicative technology there are people who think it dilutes conversation, destroys public discourse, and is bad for the morale and intellect of our overall electorate. The more people who have a voice, the dumber we’re going to sound. However, we cannot put a price on having more people involved in the public discourse. It is our cultural currency when it comes to discourse.


Deep Dive

Introduction

There’s a sense that before social media, we had a general consensus about “facts.” Now, because everyone has an opinion, there’s a sense in which “facts” have left the realm of objectivity and moved into the subjective. This was recently illustrated when the Oxford Dictionary’s 2016 word of the year was “post-truth” (discussed further in this article. The term is defined as “relating to circumstances in which people respond more to feelings and beliefs than to facts.”)

And, while it’s true that “the more people who have a voice, the dumber we’re going to sound,” we also seem to have lost respect for the thoughts and opinions of “professionals,” those individuals who offer an opinion or report on something after careful reflection and analysis of the facts. From a historical perspective, we once had a trust level and an agreement on some fundamental facts. But social media has eroded thoughtful dialogue into partisan ideologies, hot takes, and slow burns. More people have access, more people are reporting, and more people are arguing.

The Counterpoint

Dan: Culturally speaking, we believe that absolute truth has not changed, yet we’ve somehow convinced ourselves that absolute truth was easier to find in some bygone era. Absolute truth serves as our anchor in a sea of relativity, so, as Christians, we should swim freely in that sea knowing that we are connected to an anchor. And for that reason, social media has a positive influence on our culture and politics, because we get more information and connect with more people from a diverse background. That should both challenge and strengthen our faith. That doesn’t mean there aren’t pitfalls. Like anything, it can become an idol, but, on the whole, it’s a positive.

The Response

For some, the cultural engagement may be overwhelming and it may not seem to be making a difference (has anyone changed their mind based on what they saw on social media?), but if you’re willing to acknowledge that you don’t have everything figured out, then it can be a very powerful agent for iron sharpening iron (Prov 27:17). Alternatively, perhaps it all boil down to a personality difference. Regardless, it ultimately doesn’t seem to pay off, because it doesn’t seem to have tangible benefits. Most of the real relationship progression seems to happen off Facebook, whereas, on the platform, there seems to be a lot more relationship breakdown. Perhaps social media doesn’t actually give everyone a voice, but, rather, gives everyone a platform for sin.

In general, in this sea of relativity, religion and spirituality are at an automatic disadvantage. Even though we have the anchor of absolute truth, we are looked on with suspicion. The problem is that, in a sea of relativity, everyone’s truth is the same, but the Christian’s absolute truth is actually viewed as “less-than” instead of the “more-than” that it is. And it goes beyond that. There is a suspicion against all the traditional institutions (government, church, media, etc.). As a result, we need to ask if the church should even be involved in such a medium.

The Church

The church got by for a long time without social media. And the role of media in the church tends to turn into a marketing exercise very quickly. We need to assess the motivation behind our involvement. Christianity is supposed to be focused on getting the message out to the ends of the earth, and if social media can help us fulfill that mission, then we should take advantage of it. But we also have to be careful that it doesn’t become a substitute for discipleship (e.g., “I tweeted my verse for today–Great Commission accomplished!”).

Facebook has become long-form social media. James Hunter in To Change the World says that the Christian’s response in the sea of an ever-changing culture is to be a faithful presence for Christ. In the South, that too often manifests itself as “community involvement” handouts (volunteering at soup kitchens, giving money to the needy, etc.). But being a faithful presence is, instead, approaching people of differing opinions on an even playing field. Treating them as people and not projects. That presence does not ebb and flow with the tides of the culture. It means being there, being present, and being available. If that means social media, that means social media (but it doesn’t have to . . . and, honestly, sometimes social media can actually get in the way of that).

Noise vs. Wisdom

There is a proliferation of “facts,” a lot of stories, and a lot of knowledge on social media. But there’s not a lot wisdom. And that is where the church can really stand apart. We are articulating biblical, Godly wisdom, which is where the Church (big “C”) can really do good and provide a counter to the social media, post-truth culture. In comparing knowledge vs. wisdom, 19th Century English pastor, Charles Spurgeon, offered the following:

“Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”

Charles Spurgeon

In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul wrote that God’s true wisdom was revealed through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. We can impart biblical truth and biblical wisdom and offer genuine fellowship and community, because people are looking to social media to find those things, and we know they’re not finding them there. They are increasingly isolated, increasingly lonely, and increasingly separated from other people. The Church offers the solution to this and so much more!

We can’t rely on social media for those intrinsically human and intrinsically ecclesiological things we need as believers.


Parting Shots

David

We’re an hour in and none of my thoughts have changed (ha ha). Social media is not without redemptive qualities, but it is probably not worth the amount of time and energy we spend to keep it up. It can be a tool, a supplement to the mission we’ve been called to, but we must be careful not to allow it to become a substitute.

Steven

Social media is being designed and engineered to create an addiction, and we all seem comfortable with getting our hit on a daily basis. We willingly invite it into our homes. We need to click cautiously and be cognizant of our motivation, and we need to examine our heart on the issue. I have two quick book recommendations. First, to address the “sea of relativity” (which can, at times, even enter the church), Kevin Vanhoozer’s Biblical Authority after Babel. Second, for a good book on how to approach technology as a family, read Andy Crouch’s The Tech-Wise Family.

Matt

Social media is not an adequate substitute for genuine meaningful conversation. It has served as a detriment to discourse in the culture. There’s a difference between knowledge and wisdom, and using social media to enunciate every opinion is unhelpful for meaningful discourse. And, unlike real, face-to-face discussion, we always have to remember that there is a third party involved. And that third party is profiting in the billions from your use of their platform.

Daniel

The beauty of the Christian life is when we know it’s not about us, that there’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation, and that our worst day is not any further away from God’s grace than our best day. That truth gives us the ability to live life with an open hand. As soon as we close our hand around something that is not the gospel, that is our sin nature. So if you can enjoy social media with an open hand and it’s beneficial to your role in being a reflection of Jesus to others, then go and do it boldly.


Conclusion

It was nice to have a bit of counterpoint on this episode. “Grumpy Dan” shared with us how to hear more from him. Find Deck the Hallmark anywhere you listen to podcasts. Follow on Twitter and Instagram @hallmarkpodcast. Bramblejampodcast.com currently has 5 podcasts. They plan to have a dozen by the end of the year.

And you can reach out to us by emailing us at hello@thesociallyremote.com.


Bonus Content – the Dark Side of Social Media

Foreword

We continued the conversation on a special bonus episode with Grumpy Dan from Deck the Hallmark. We discuss the censorship of user content by the various social media platforms through their respective community rules or polices.  You can listen here: The Dark Side of Social Media


Links and Stuff

The Podcast

Thanks for reading about this episode, and don’t forget to listen on:

Check out our website, TheSociallyRemote.com, for all the current happenings. And join us on our next episode, where we will continue to talk about social media and our response to it.

About The Socially Remote

Does it ever seem like the longer you adult, the less social you become? The responsibilities of being a spouse, a parent, and an employee often leave us with little time for meaningful interaction outside our home and office. As a result, many of us aren’t even remotely social. We try to fill the void with outlets like Facebook and Twitter, but we soon discover social media isn’t as social as it sounds. And the effort we put into soliciting likes and comments doesn’t produce stronger relationships with other people like we’d hoped.

This podcast is an attempt by a pastor, a lawyer, and a generalist to combat the growing culture of social isolation by making time for meaningful conversations about life, theology, and the church. We want to create space in our lives to engage in regular discussion and debate with those around us, and we hope this podcast will encourage you to do the same.

So join Matt, David, and Steven as we take a deep dive on the issues that matter to us and try to put real conversation back in its rightful place.

We are The Socially Remote.

Learn More and Reach Out

If you want to know more about the hosts, check out their bios and links to outside work, here.

Got a show idea or feedback? Contact us at hello@thesociallyremote.com

For the Lawyers

Legal Disclaimer: The views expressed on this podcast belong solely to the individuals expressing them and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of their respective employers.

Deep Dive segment introduction from “Dive” by Steven Curtis Chapman on the Speechless album. Used with permission courtesy of the Stable Collective.

About the Author
Steven Halbert is a husband, father, son, and brother. He has held various roles in children and family service organizations and currently works as a product manager for an industrial manufacturer. He enjoys teaching adult Sunday school, which is where the idea for his book - The Relational God - materialized. He has an associate degree in Bible and a master's degree in English; and he blogs about business, relationships, and the church at stevenhalbert.com

5 comments on “Episode 4: Social Media and the Ekklesia (Church)

  1. Bob Allen says:

    Another good podcast.

    As usual, several things caught my attention:
    • “The more people that have a voice, the dumber we’re gonna sound.” So very true!
    • “We’re just 3 normal guys who want to have a conversation.” Uh, “normal”?
    • “The church not getting into social media is essentially like saying, ‘I’m going to go to this culture and be a missionary, but I’m not going to learn the local language.” Maybe not a good analogy. If Dan’s brother were overseas around a lot of new missionaries (**NOT** to be interpreted, necessarily, as young missionaries), he would discover that an awful lot of them in the last 10-15 years think they can do just that — be effective and not learn the language. ‘They speak English.’ or ‘I can use a translator.’
    • “Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell muddy the waters.” Oh, yes!!!
    • The church in culture: “A faithful presence in our culture is what’s required.” Yes!
    • A social media presence can never be a substitute for in-person ministry or proclamation.

    1. Thanks Bob! I really enjoyed this discussion a lot. And I appreciate knowing what you found helpful. I also appreciate that tidbit about new missionaries. Anytime I travel overseas for business, I always feel so lazy. So many of my European colleagues know 3 or 4 languages.

  2. Diane Buie says:

    Great information and great dialogue. I like the quote, ” Wisdom is the right use of knowledge.” your posts/podcast gives us a lot to consider about how we use social media or, if we use it at all.

  3. Diane Buie says:

    Sharing on my FB Author page!

    1. admin says:

      Hi Diane. Matt here from The Socially Remote. Glad you enjoyed the episode. Obtaining knowledge without applying it rightly-wisdom-is certainly something we are losing in our culture. Hope you keep listening!

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