No matter who you are and what age group you are in. Social media is a phenomenon that has impacted your life. From the early days of email correspondence and AIM to networks like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat that have become so popular; social media is something that is a major part of the world we live in.
In our day, people use social media to: stay in touch, to find information, to pass time, to be entertained (games, videos and music are all accessible on social media), to relieve stress and to escape reality, to express thoughts and opinions on a public forum, to gain subject matter for real life conversation, to learn about others, and because it’s convenient.
Social media is something that has engrained itself in our society from young to old. The question I have to ask is this: can we, Christ followers, engage these types of things that become so entrenched in the daily lives of people? There are some who say that social media is evil and some who preach that it’s from God. Many people also demonize entertainment, hate Starbucks and constantly condemn new trends as they explode in our society. Can we engage culture, especially if that culture is more secular than we might like?
Acts 17:22-34 HCSB
Then Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus and said:“Men of Athens! I see that you are extremely religious in every respect. For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed: To An Unknown God
Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it — He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring. ’ Being God’s offspring then, we shouldn’t think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image fashioned by human art and imagination.
“Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has set a day when He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.”
When they heard about resurrection of the dead, some began to ridicule him. But others said, “We’d like to hear from you again about this.” Then Paul left their presence. However, some men joined him and believed, including Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
Philosophy was a cultural phenomenon in Greek society
Paul approached these people who would gather together and reason with one another and he began to reason with them about the God of Heaven, about Christ and about repentance for salvation. Here’s what I notice and this is actually going to be our main point from this text: Paul took a cultural phenomenon and used it to communicate the Gospel to the people on Mars Hill.
When we read this passage, we often think that it demands we reason our faith to everyone we meet, trying to convince them of what we believe; but I think that would be a huge misreading of the text. It may be important for us to know how to reason according to the faith, but something more fundamental seems to be occurring in this part of the story. Here we see a description of Paul using something that is popular in society in order to effectively communicate the Gospel. Our command in Scripture is to love people (Matthew 22) and to share the Gospel (Matthew 28). Paul did this by taking advantage of a certain culture that was not inherently sinful and sharing the Gospel in the context of that culture. He did so without taking part in the society’s sinfulness. He did so with great understanding, which required he be involved enough in culture to at least know about certain trends; like what’s happening on social media, or like if I asked you who you think died on the season finale of the Walking Dead.
It is important for us to engage culture, and in order to engage culture we must at least know about the fads within our culture.
Should Christians drive culture or be counter cultural?
There are two trends I see in the world of believing Christians. The first is a belief that Christians should drive culture or society; that we should, somehow, become the driving force behind fashion, music, art, architecture, education and so on. We take the responsibility upon ourselves to create a world that honors God. This is why we’ve invented and founded Christian schools, Christian radio stations and even Christian coffee shops.
The second is a belief that Christians should separate themselves from culture altogether. There are people who say Christians ought not listen to anything on secular radio. Christians should not watch movies with a certain rating or buy coffee from companies like Starbucks.
As we look at the work of the Holy Spirit in Paul, here, I want us to notice two things: He was not driving culture. He did not launch a Christian forum at Mars Hill. Secondly, he was not countering culture. He did not stay away from those dirty, filthy sinners and heathens who only cared about debating one another.
Paul actually invested in that culture, a culture that was already present. While some of those at Mars Hill ridiculed him, some became very interested; and some even followed him. Paul used the culture so people in that culture or society would, one, hear the Gospel, and two, understand the Gospel.
In the same way, we use the culture to perpetuate the message of the Gospel This is amazing. It means the gospel is truly multicultural and truly applicable to all generations and to all cultural contexts. God is the God of all people!
The call on our lives
As the Holy Spirit leads us, He will lead us to engage the culture around us just as He led Paul to engage the philosophers on Mars Hill. Our goal is never to argue someone into salvation. Now, a debate may be a part of our culture and may be a valid way to communicate the Gospel, but most of you reading this article will not be involved heavily in the world of debate.
Let’s use the cultural norms that are around us, instead of theorizing about how we can get involved in the world of formal debate.
Social Media is a cultural phenomenon that has swept the world. I have discovered that on any social network (except Twitter), selfies get more views, likes and comments than anything else that is posted. We live in a seflie world. It’s part of our culture. While there is something wrong and sinful about making life all about us, there is nothing wrong with taking a selfie. Why would we not use this cultural phenomenon to share what God is doing in our lives everyday? Even something as simple as posting a selfie with a Gospel-centered description: “I’m so thankful for the day God has given me today!” We never know how many doors would be opened for us to share what Christ has done!
In the same way, we work hard in school. We practice good work ethic on the job. We endure when we participate in athletics. We pray before our meals, even asking our waitress or waiter if they have any prayer requests (and leave a good tip). We strike up friendly conversations with those ringing us up at WalMart. We have sleepovers, cookouts, movie nights and we do not fear culture.
We use these things in our lives as a platform to share the Gospel with those we love and new people we meet. We do this so that people will actually hear the Gospel and so that they might understand. So, yes! We engage culture and we do so respectfully and generously for the purpose of the Gospel. Some people will ridicule us, but others will become interested and some may even choose to follow Christ. In this life, we may be ridiculed for the message that we share; but some will become interested and a some will follow Christ and be saved.