Whatever Happened To The Hidden Life?
I first came across the book as a smug non-user of Facebook nodding sagely as I read about the obvious pitfalls of time wasting, declining levels of concentration and 'selfism' but then was humbled once I'd opened an account to see how quickly I found myself doing the very thing the apostle Paul urges us not to do: 'seeking to win the approval of man' and 'trying to please men not God' (Galatians 1:10). Rather than leaving the reader condemned or mistakenly resolute to change his or her ways through will power, Tim Chester gently points us to Christ who 'more than meets the needs that social media appear to satisfy'.
A Vital Check
This week I read this very short book written by the ever–insightful Tim Chester of The Crowded House Sheffiled and Porterbrook network. It is an eye opening, heart piercing and in many ways scary read that offers very timely advice as to our dependence on social media. Some of the statistics in this book are terrifying, for example Facebook was mentioned in a third of all divorce proceedings in 2011. The average person spends more than 20 hours a month on Facebook, nearly a whole day every month. All the way through he advises that despite all its virtues Facebook is very dangerous, it is the classic trajectory of idolatry, that when a good thing becomes an ultimate thing it does serious damage.
If you are a Facebook user I would definitely suggest reading this book, it takes about 30mins to read and is real food for thought (half your Facebook browsing time). As a result of its challenge I felt compelled to close my Facebook page, however let each one make up their own mind but let’s not continue blindly down a potential destructive path that exchanges the real for the virtual and the deep for the superficial.
Gospel Oriented Social Media Usage
Will You Be My Facebook Friend? Social Media and the Gospel
I received this complimentary copy of the booklet, Will You Be My Facebook Friend, via Cross Focused Media. The booklet is less than 50 pages long and is easily read in one sitting. Tim Chester is the author of this booklet.
About the Author:
Tim Chester is the pastor of The Crowded House in Sheffield, UK. He is also the founder and director of Porterbrook Seminary, and author of over 20 books. You may read his blog here.
Chester breaks this booklet down into four easily digested chapters:
What's the problem?
Recreating my world
Escaping my limitations
The facebook of God
Each chapter concisely and adequately covers its topic. Tim begins with many of the statistics of how social media's prevalence and provides both dangers and benefits to its existence. He builds on these dangers over chapters two and three, and then provides what a proper focus should be concerning facebook (and other social media) and the Gospel.
Tim uses obvious grace when pointing out the dangers of becoming consumed with social media, yet speaks clearly about the reality of being deceived into creating a little kingdom for myself. I appreciated the balance. I found the third chapter, Escaping my limitations, to be a bit befuddling at first. Chester's main point of the chapter, from what I understand, is that facebook and other social media sites, tend to pull us from real, physical community and deceives us into thinking we are experiencing community when we're online. This is a great point, but I struggled to comprehend what he was saying at times. (This may be just a poor reflection on my reading comprehension...which may mean that I'm really skimming the material? That statement would be humorous if you've read the book)
The most practical and rewarding part of the book was the Twelve Guidelines for Social Media. Tim provides very practical, and Christ-like, application to what he has written. This is crucial to keep the reader from just self-righteous, legalistic impositions on their facebook usage. Tim allows the freedom found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ to seep through every page of the booklet and more so in these guidelines. The book is worth the purchase price if only for this list.
I would recommend this booklet wholeheartedly. In fact, I would highly suggest that parents use it as a resource to discuss how the Gospel and facebook fit together. This is something easily digested and is practical in it's material. I think it would be a great resource for youth groups, schools, and church libraries.
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26 ESV)
Give to the Congregation
In my hand is a small book (48 pages) with a powerful punch, Will You be my Facebook Friend, by Dr. Tim Chester. This author and church planter makes us stop and ponder the idea of social media. He asks us to examine how we’ve been changed by it. He echoes what God asks us in Haggai, “Give careful thought to your ways.”
Dr. Chester doesn’t preach at us through the pages but lays out a measuring tool to challenge us to take a second look. What does the scale tell us? Have we been weighed and found wanting? His wise, gracious, challenging and thoughtful words bring healing not harm.
I favorably recommend this book expecting pastors to pass it out to their congregation or introduce it Sunday School. The slippery slope is there, but we don’t all have to take the path. When we do what is right in the eyes of God then how can we go wrong.
A Biblical Sobering Look At The Use of Facebook
Marshal McLuhan has written that “the medium is the message” and author Dr. Tim Chester adds “how we communicate changes what we communicate.” And there is not doubt that Facebook as well as Social Media in general has changed both how we communicate with God and with others as well as what we communicate. The statistics that Dr. Chester reveals in his book concerning Social Media use are staggering and sobering. He writes for example Facebook has over 500 million users, with half using it on any given day.” He also states that Facebook users “share over 680,000 pieces of content” every minute of every day So, Facebook is definitely a Social Media Force to be reckoned with. But how has it impacted us as Christians personally in the areas of our relationship to God and with one another?
As author Chester shares Facebook allows us to “recreate our world” thus allowing us to be something or somebody we are not. A person can be what and who they want to be on Facebook and everyone can be someone if they so choose…but to really be popular on Facebook you have to stand out from the norm and be really unique or different. So you now have a Social Media tool that allows us to create a page about ourselves and we can put on a different face and become virtually popular because of the content of our posts in the not so virtual world of Facebook and Social Media. And even for Christians many post content that is not at all consistent with whom they are relationally with God and with others in their real time world. After all as Dr. Chester informs us who is going to follow someone who is not positive and beautiful and got it all together? He exposes the subtle danger of Facebook causing us to be something we are not to the world and our Facebook friends and the not so subtle danger of feeding into our selfishness and pride, thereby leading us to sin against God for God has called us to a life of selflessness and humility rather than shameless self-promotion.
Dr. Chester also writes about how Facebook can cause us to “Escape our Limitations.” The door of the world is opened to us through Facebook and Social Media and far too many of us blindly walk through the door into a world that offers an almost limitless number of so called friends and opportunities. We are no longer bound by time and space as finite creatures. The world is ours to claim if you know how to properly use Facebook and Social Media to our advantage. Dr. Chester reminds us that Jesus Christ has recreated us and our self-identity and worth are truly found in a relationship with him and not thousands of so called “friends” who “like” us or our posts on Facebook. With Facebook and Social Media God and Christ many times are taken right out of the picture of our lives with our having little time for him and for meaningful face to face real time communication and relationships with people in the world that exists right around us. And that is far more important to God and the advancement of his Kingdom than our wasting hours each week communicating with who really know who about all the what’s happenings in “our” lives. And I admit candidly I have been far too guilty of this in the past and feel convicted about changing my behavior in the future.
In his chapter of the book entitled, “The Face Book of God” Dr. Chester reveals how “through Facebook we can show our face or image to the world” but it is “through the gospel we see the face of God, the glory of God” which is far more important. The issues of being real, relational and a servant of Christ to others are greatly hindered by Facebook not only by the amount of time it consumes because we spend hours of our lives on it but also by the messages we communicate to people while we are on it.
The good news is the Dr. Chester does not throw the “baby out with the bathwater” or become all legalistic throwing a bunch of new rules at us to follow that would make us appear more spiritual and like God than we really are. As if we don’t get enough legalistic, “if you only try harder you will please God more” messages already so it is refreshing that Dr. Chester remains solidly Biblical and practical in how he suggests we approach the issue of Facebook and Social Media in general in our lives. And to help us he concludes his book with “Twelve Guidelines for Social Networking” that are Biblical, practical and truly liberating in the deepest sense of the word for those of us who are believers in Christ and have been liberated by Christ.
I think if you are a believer in Christ and are a heavy and frequent user of Facebook and Social Media; a “Social Media Junkie” if you will, you will find Dr. Chester’s book to be a refreshing departure from the traditional worldly focused and bondage engendering thinking of people who are leading us in the world. They would be people who either do not know our God or have a personal relationship with him or who do know him but are not growing spiritually because they are absorbed far too much with the inordinate use of Social Media such as Facebook in their lives. I hope the book “Will You Be My Facebook Friend?” both challenges and changes your thinking and life in regards to the use of Social Media in the future as much as it has mine.
A great book
It’s striking, given the amount of time that many of us spend communicating with others online, how few of us have stopped to reflect on why we do so? This great little book will help you do just that, exposing wrong motives and showing us how faith in Christ challenges and changes the way we engage with others online.
Tim Dennis, UCCF Midlands Team Leader
Read this book!
Get off–line, turn off Spotify and read this book! You’ll get through it in less time than many of us spend on Facebook each day, but this book will do you lasting good. Tim Chester writes honestly and urgently about both the potential and pitfalls of social media, calling us back to the 3D relationships we were created for. Like.
Dave Gobbett, Associate Pastor, Eden Baptist
Tim Chester is always insightful, and this little book is no exception. Wise, gracious, challenging and thoughtful, it will benefit anyone who uses social media. First class.
Andrew Wilson, Teaching Pastor, King s Church, Eastbourne
This book is concise, insightful, challenging and compelling. If social media is something that you, or those around you, are engaged with, you’d do well to un–plug for a while and plug–in to what Tim has to say on the matter. Uncomfortable truths are presented alongside wise, gracious advice. Above all we are repeatedly pointed to Jesus and encouraged to live real lives, rooted in genuine community and marked by the gospel. ‘LIKE’
Dai Hankey, Church planter and author