Could You Serve Christ in Obscurity?

Having written a general article about the craving some have (which I fight) to become a celebrity in their own cyber world and asks the introspective question: could we live in obscurity?

There is a spiritual angle to this as well. Could I serve Christ with few knowing what I am doing for the Lord’s cause? Can I do a good deed to His glory and to accomplish His will and be content that my brethren do not know what I have done? Could I truly keep the right hand uninformed of the left hand’s work?

Do I serve Christ so that others may see. I may not sound the trumpet for all to hear and may refrain from praying loudly on street corners, but do I “glorify God” by proclaiming on social media all the good things I am doing in the kingdom? Could it be that I would never boast in what I have done but would “humblebrag” freely to the clicking likes of others?

Then the accusing question sounds within but a question asked too late for me. You are a preacher. You are not invited to speak in lectureships or gospel meetings around the nation and you write nothing that is posted for a broader audience in bulletins, newsletters, or on the Internet. You do incredible work for the Lord but only the people in Flyover Town, USA (or a small remote town in a foreign country) know what you do. They love you dearly and credit you with their great spiritual growth and you help generations of people follow the Lord. But no one else knows what you are doing and you receive no accolades from brethren in other places. Could you be content with this? Could you be content that aside from your local associations, your works are known only to God? The question is moot for me but may be life changing for another.

Who are we serving? Why are we serving? What is the real answer to these questions?

Consider the attitude of the apostles in 1 Thessalonians 2:4-6:

but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.

As bondservants of Christ, we should heed Paul’s command to those who were physical servants of men in Ephesians 6:5-8:

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.

Celebrity is an illusion. How sad if we chase the praise of men and disqualify ourselves from the praise of God (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18). How futile is the fickle praise of men. Let all be done to the glory of God.

Could You Live Without Internet Celebrity?

Could you live in obscurity? No Facebook celebrity. No personal reality series unfolding on social media. No wide audience knowing what you ate, what you are thinking or doing, or the great people you are with. No sharing music, books, and movies that demonstrate cultural savvy or counter-cultural enlightenment. The only people who know these things are the few you interact with daily in the physical world who love you. Thoughts are shared across the table, not the keyboard, and certainly not on the keyboard under the table. Could you live like this?

What if you wrote a beautiful story or poem, profound article, or other work of art but could not share it with the world? Could you be content with enjoying its beauty yourself? We often create to communicate but could we contently create for creation’s sake?

I am challenged by this thought. It gnaws at me. I love the interaction; the sharing but sometimes it is not sharing. It is broadcasting. Promotion. Diatribe not dialog. That selfish imp inside who cries out to be seen and heard; to be known and loved, even if shallow attention and click-through reaction can be interpreted as love. Was it liked, shared, retweeted, or favorited? Did you see it? Did you care? Do I care? Am I seeing?

socmedia logosFor any career, passion, or achievement, could you be content to enjoy it without broadcasting it? What makes us cry out for attention? Why do some feel the need to regurgitate every thought, feeling, and interest upon their Facebook wall or into the Twitterverse? These are carefully managed presentations of ourselves for the world to see. My profile is not my reality. It is a carefully curated illusion presented for consumption. It is brand “me” for the world to see but, the secret we all know, is that it is not me. It is a caricature of who I am and how I live.

The form, the media, is not the problem. It is how I use the power given to me. Will I use it to feed my ego, create celebrity, riding on an emotional roller coaster of shares, likes, and comments? Can I simply enjoy the act of creation, share it, and walk away. No pathetic lingering at the dashboard to see how often it was read and shared. Perhaps this post could live on my computer, for my eyes only. I’m too weak for that now. It must be posted. It must be shared.

But the bright light of the truth dispels the illusion: Internet fame is real world obscurity. Ask the person on the street if they know the famous blogger you follow and they will answer with a blank stare. The joke is on us. We cannot live in obscurity so we carve our place in the virtual world through copious sharing and posting and find that in all the bleeding and baring our soul, we remain obscure. A raindrop of a tweet in a raging river. A heartfelt post quickly scanned and forgotten, dispelled by Grumpy Cat or the meme-of-the-moment. We face the hard reality: in cyberspace, no one can hear you scream.

5 Ways to Use Social Media to Glorify God and Teach Others

Most teenagers have some type of social media account (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Myspace) they use to exchange information and cat pictures with their friends and keep up with what is going on in their world. Some consider these networks to be the opening of a great world of information sharing while others  cite them as examples of the downfall of civilization. In truth, they are neither good nor evil but are simply tools that can be used and abused.

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Like anything in their lives, Christians must use social media properly to be bright lights in a dark world and reach out to those who have no relationship with Him. Because of the connecting nature of these tools, we have opportunity to use them to connect others with God. Here are five ways we can use social media to glorify God and teach others.their spiritual life instead of polluting their heart or distracting them from God’s service.

  1. Remember that the things that come out in social media are the things that are within your heart. Let your heart be filled with good things and let them be evident to others.Be a good example. Social media posts reflect the things that we want the world to see about us. They often reflect our interests, beliefs, principles, and loves (and too often our meals–whatever). Do the things we “like” reflect whatever is pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent? (Philippians 4:8)
    • What do the musical groups, television shows, movies, actors/actresses, etc. that we like say about what we put into our hearts?
    • Do the things that we share include profane or foul language?
    • In our pictures, are we dressed modestly?
  2. Edify others. The word “edify” means to “build up.” Do the things that we say encourage others or do we gossip about  r insult others? When we know that someone is going through a difficult time we can offer words of comfort or let them know that we are praying for them. As people discuss their needs, we can see opportunities to serve them. Perhaps we can ask our parents to help us prepare a meal for them if they need one or go over to their house to visit and pray with them. When things are going good we can rejoice with them (Romans 12:15).
  3. Invite them to teaching opportunities. Facebook is a great way to announce Bible studies and worship services to your friends. You can lead them to teachers of truth.
    • For example, you could post “We’re having this great study in our Teen Class on ___________. I have really been learning about ___________________ and it has helped me a lot! Our next class is this Sunday morning at [time]. We meet at [address] -or- give link to the church web site if you have it.”
    • You can also advertise special Bible classes, gospel meetings, or sermons directed towards visitors. Post the invitation several times over a  few days and especially the day before the event.
    • Reflect the excitement you have in how it helps you as you try to interest others in attending.
  4. Teaching others.  Facebook’s sharing features are a great tool for sharing articles (like these on GodlyYouth–hint), Bible verses, links to audio/video sermons, books. and other material useful for teaching others. When you read a good article that educates or encourages you, share it with others and note the things with which you agree or disagree or important points to consider with this resource. Some people share quotes, hymn lyrics, and Bible verses which can be a positive message on the Facebook wall. You can also take opportunity when someone is saying something wrong about what the Bible teaches, use the opportunity to correct them in a spirit of meekness (2 Timothy 2:23-26). When someone says they don’t understand something about the Bible or what’s going on in the world, offer to study with them privately online or in person.
  5. Be a peacemaker. Jesus blessed the peacemakers in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:9. Social media gives us opportunity to cause problems with others or be at peace with them. If our focus is on the salvation of souls, we will not have a spirit of bullying others or tearing them down online. We cannot control what others do but “as much as depends on us” we can live in peace with others, Romans 12:18. Don’t use social media to gang up with others on another person, to tear down or insult others, or senseless arguments. There may be times when you must disagree but can do so without being disagreeable. Be careful in your choice of words and the tone of your message so even if you speak things that are not acceptable to the recipient, your attitude will be honorable. Realize that you may still be misunderstood, reviled, and insulted, but don’t answer in kind. Respond in humility as Jesus did, 1 Peter 2:23-25.

School Bullying 4: Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a new type of bullying that arose with the introduction of email, texting, and social networks such as Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook. StopBullying.gov describes cyberbulling as:

  • Sending hurtful, rude, or mean text messages to others
  • Spreading rumors or lies about others by e-mail or on social networks
  • Creating websites, videos or social media profiles that embarrass, humiliate, or make fun of others

This type of bullying takes place at all hours of the day and does not require the bully and their victim to interact in the physical world. Sometimes the bully can act anonymously so the victim doesn’t even know who the bully is. The mean messages can be sent repeatedly to harass the victim and can even be automated. As a result, the victim can feel that there is no safe place to avoid the bully or bullies and will fear that their reputation is being ruined.

The first thing you have to remember about cyberbullies is that they are cowards. They strike from a distance and the anonymous bullies are the greatest cowards. There are people who occasionally want to post mean messages in response to my articles. They are not wanting to discuss differences of opinion but just want to insult me and move on. In the Internet world they are called trolls and most bloggers just ignore them because they obviously have nothing good to contribute to the conversation.

It is more difficult when the person attacking you is doing so in school and online. Victims of cyberbullying may not want to go to school to hear how others responded to the online attacks and may start to feel bad about themselves. As with bullies in the physical world, there are some things you can do (much of the advice was from StopBullying.gov).

  1. Don’t Start the Bullying. Be careful what you say online about other people. Some people start bullying because they think they were wronged by someone and they are lashing out immaturely. Don’t reveal anything that might embarrass others (even if it is true) or to put another person down. The old advice of “if you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all” is wise online.
  2. Don’t Reveal Anything Embarrassing About Yourself. Don’t post secrets or other things that you wouldn’t want everyone in school to know. Don’t take immodest pictures of yourself and certainly don’t post such pictures! Once information is published you have no control over where it goes.
  3. Restrict Your Friends List and Followers. Make sure your privacy settings on social networks only reveal things to your friends. Stalkers look for public pages for victims so there is more reason than just cyberbullying to restrict your posts and pictures to friends. Keep your tweets private and only share with your friends. This will allow you to control what is placed on your wall and who sees your information.
  4. Do Not Retaliate. If someone starts cyberbullying, do not respond online!! Do not allow them to draw you into a fight. Deal with the problem offline.
  5. Block the Cyberbully. Thankfully the technology exists to block phone numbers and social network users. Stop them from accessing your accounts or phone if possible.
  6. Report the Cyberbully. As with other bullying, get the adults involved. Most online services have rules against using their services to attack others. Reporting the abuse to the service provider will often get the account suspended while the provider investigates the user’s posts. If they find that there is abuse they will close the account. School officials will also want to confront the bully to stop them from attacking others as well and perhaps help the bully get counseling to help them to quit their abuse.
  7. Seek Help. Get help from adults to deal with the emotional effects of the bullying. Even though you know what the person said wasn’t true, it sometimes helps to have someone who is older and more experienced to help you deal with any lingering effects of the bully’s actions and to put it behind you.

For all bullying, there is a wealth of helpful information online. Do a Google search and discuss some of the things that you find with your parents. The adults who love you want to help you and often you can help them by educating them on how they can assist.

What advice would you give others for dealing with cyberbullies?