We try new media tools because of the Biblical mandate to "be all things to all people to win some." But just because we try different tools to communicate our ministry, doesn't mean these tools can or should be used in the same way by everyone. If you are in a ministry that requires 24/7 social media interaction, and you love it—what follows is not for you. It's for people who may be very tech savvy, yet feel vaguely guilty and inadequate, for not sharing their personal lives to the digital world.
Here are 5 reasons why you don't have to feel guilty if you want to use Facebook and social media primarily for professional ministry news and updates and not for personal sharing:
#1: Your calling doesn't require it
When Paul first became a believer, he says, "I did not consult with any man" (Gal. 1:16). He goes on to say that he spent three years in Arabia and then went to Jerusalem, where he saw only Peter and James. He didn't return there for 14 years.
During those 17 years I'm sure a lot of networking, interaction, and the formation of the Christian faith was taking place in Jerusalem. Peter was busy preaching to multitudes and interacting with both Jews and Gentiles. That was God's calling for him—but it was not what Paul was called to do. One wonders if Paul had interacted with the disciples in Jerusalem instead of spending time in Arabia if he would have been able to rework the understanding of the Old Testament and reconcile it with God's inclusion of the Gentiles in the family of God. It was Paul's calling to do this alone. He needed to listen to only one voice while he did it.
Sometimes God calls people into constant, open interaction with others and today that requires social media sharing and interaction. Sometimes God calls people into silence and solitude.
Only you can determine God's calling for your life. Obedience to His call will influence the following considerations.
#2 You don't have or don't want to use the time required
We all know we are immortal, we all know we will live forever. We spin out dreams and desires in ways a dozen lifetimes can't contain and we can't help but do that. We always plan, want, envision more than we can fit into a day or a life and are always surprised when we run out of time.
Though we dream eternally, we forget we are living in a time-limited world. There never is enough time to do what we need to do, let alone time for all our wants. Facebook and all other forms of social media can take a tremendous amount of time. How do we know how much is too much?
From your calling you should have a sense of how God wants you to use your time. The time priorities of an evangelist will most likely be quite different from a person God calls to be a writer or teacher. An evangelist will spend the majority of his or her time interacting, building up relationships, using every possible means to answer questions, explore ways to share the gospel message. For an internet evangelist (see http://www.internetevangelismday.com for a huge collection of useful material on this topic), every new social media tool, idea, resource is important to test, try, and use to the fullest.
For a teacher, perhaps one who is called to scholarly, theological teaching, the priority for this person may be solitude to study, research, meditate, and correlate ideas. The internet may be a useful tool for research, but social media may be an unnecessary distraction. Determine your calling first, then allocate the time you spend on Facebook and other social media based on what is required to fulfill your calling.
#3 Your personal sharing can be a distraction and sin to others
Did you ever wonder why the Apostle Paul never talked about what it was like to meet a wife of a man he had helped kill before he traveled on the road to Damascus? Or what it meant to go to a church and meet the children he left without parents? He doesn't tell us, instead, he said:
"Brothers and sisters,. . . . one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13-14).
Paul focused on his calling in Jesus and what he needed to do, in the present, to fulfill it. Pain, hurt, the people killed, the families broken—this is not what defined him, it was not what he wrote about.
We do well to follow his example. Not only for our own focus and peace do we need to keep some things private, but for others, because no matter how much you might want to share something, people may not want or need to know about it. Sharing in private with a counselor, confessing sins to a priest, pastor, or sponsor may be necessary for healing. Pouring out your heart to the Lord is essential and encouraged, doing the same thing continuously in a public forum is not.
#4 You don't have to look at and comment on what causes you emotional pain
For some, feeling that you must read the perpetual Christmas-letter cheerfulness of Facebook and other social media is not only not necessary, but painful. For example, to read about and see the pictures of cute grandchildren for a woman who has had a series of miscarriages and no children of her own; or to look at the vacation photos of food and shared adventures for a couple working at low-paying jobs, who can't image two days off together and who can't remember their last vacation—being told you must watch this stream perfect pictures of seemingly perfect lives (or at least photo-enhanced perfect ones) can be agony for those with gaping holes in their hearts.
What's even worse is the unspoken social-media pressure that not only must you read about and look at all this, you must comment about how cute the kids are and how wonderful the vacation pictures. You must compound pain with phoniness.
You don't have to. You don't even have to look. You don't have to comment. And you don't have to share about how upsetting they are to you.
You can spend your time reading the Bible or Christian books, blogs, and websites that will build you up in your faith and ministry. You can learn how to defend the faith, find answers to difficult questions about the Bible, learn church history. Instead of intensifying pain over what you don't have and may never have, focus on becoming all you can be in your service to your Lord. Remember, your time is limited and you have a calling to fulfill.
#5 Your ministry isn't about you and the success of your ministry isn't ultimately your responsibility
I don't read C.S. Lewis, C.H. Spurgeon, or Augustine or any other writer, past or present, to find out about their hobbies, irritations, or what they like to eat. I read them for what they can tell me about God and how I can know and serve Him better. For current Christian leaders, does it really make the content of an author's writing more convicting because many of his tweets share his love of ice cream or the obvious frustration of air travel?
If you are in ministry, people will get to know all they need to know about you through your ministry and what is pertinent to it. You don't have to put in extraneous personal details in text or tweets unless you honestly feel God's calling you to do that. In addition, too many inconsequential, personal details can not only be an irritation, but a distraction from the purpose of our ministry. Our ministry focus should never be on us, we are channels only. Christian ministry isn't, or it shouldn't be, about celebrities. We have one God we worship—the rest of us are all simply fellow servants. Keep the focus on Him.
In addition you don't have to participate in social media personal sharing for your ministry to fulfill God's calling or for ministry success. When Zechariah was rebuilding the Temple, he was reminded:
“ 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit’, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zech. 4:6)
As Zechariah was reminded, God is the one who determines what is built, what stands, what falls.
If you are faithful in your calling, He will determine your success, if, when, and where He may or may not choose to give it. Any ministry result of lasting value is because of Him, not because you made use of every media, every minute.
Be faithful to your Lord, listen to His voice, and let Him decide and guide you on your involvement in social media. Maybe you will spend significant amounts of time interacting and using it, maybe not, but whatever you do, be sure it is on the basis of your calling and obedience to Him.