Technology is a gift that should be redeemed and utilized by the church for the global mission of God – to see people from all nations exalt Jesus as Lord.
With The City we can be more aware of prayer needs inside our body. Through Facebook I was able to speak about Christ with my college roommate in Spain. On Twitter the gospel is penetrating countries that missionaries cannot.
However, this does not mean we should blindly embrace all technology without considering the inherent dangers. One of those dangers is relying on social networks for community. “Twitter is a time-filler for me. I get on when I have nothing else to do.” This might be the truth, but it’s not the whole truth.
Designed to press on our need for relationship, social media is a subtle step toward relying on technology for community. But the question we need to ask is why? Why are we so easily satisfied with the illusion of relationship we experience through Facebook and Twitter?
The answer is that sin is still present in our lives. It continues to be the great deceiver that leads us to shallow pursuits for pleasure. While the gospel is calling us to light that leads to depth, sin woos us to darkness that breeds shallowness. One avenue for the darkness of sin to flourish is relationships mediated by technology. When technology is overly relied upon, it leads toward shallower relationships that do not produce the joy of gospel-centered community because gospel-centered community is meant to be lived out face to face.
In the apostle John’s day, it was not Facebook, Twitter or email – it was paper and ink. While he leveraged these tools for the purpose of the gospel, he was also cautious to not overly depend on them for relationship.
2 John closes with these words: “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” There is a completeness to our joy that can only be experienced when the church lives face to face. Surely, like me, you know this. Surely you know that time spent over a good meal with good friends breathes life into our souls, while too much Twitter leaves us exhausted.
The lie behind the illusion is that more conversation in less time is better, which simply isn’t true.
The impact of recognizing this illusion extends to our families, neighborhoods and workplaces. The church shadows a day to come when we will no longer “see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” – a day when sin is no more, a day when the mirror is pure and we are face to face with Jesus. Until that day we offer a taste of what is to come to a hungry people – people hungry for more than what Twitter can offer.
The heart of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is that the overflow of gospel-centered community would be gospel-centered multiplication. The redeeming mission of God is carried out through the local church in the context of community.
So for the heart of Jesus to be extended from the church to the world, we need to follow the example of John leveraging technology as a supplement for mission but not leaning on it as a substitute for face-to-face community.
Only through face-to-face community is our joy complete and the gospel extended.
In this, our community says to a lonely and hurting world that there is acceptance and love to be found at the foot of the cross, and you’re invited in.