‘Dad that was one of the best weekends I ever had’ my daughter said. She was speaking about a weekend way back in 1989 when members and families on United Beach Mission teams met up for fellowship and teaching. She had only been seven at the time and along with her brothers and a crowd of other children they had a whale of a time.
They remembered riding on trolleys, swinging on ropes, making friends. But what pleased us most as parents was the learning, as they got older, from people who had a passion for God and His word; people who were joyfully living for God without all the distractions of questionable entertainment.
Now our children were in their twenties and most had left home. But how could we remind them of the good times we had as a family, with other Christians, and of those spiritual landmarks in their lives?
I grieved that Franky Schaeffer could be so bitter and his memory so selective, about his Christian parents, Francis and Edith Schaeffer, whose lives had so blessed me. The sad truth was, for our own family most of our photos were still buried in boxes in the loft; carefully preserved but mostly unseen! We had to do something!
But that’s when Facebook came in! The children were on Facebook; so was I, to keep up to date with them, to keep contact with others, to tentatively meet others in our new village and simply just to learn ‘how to do it’!
So in January after finding the slides of that ‘best weekend ever’, paying Jessop’s 50p/slide to convert them to JPEGs, I uploaded them onto my Facebook page and tagged them with a few names. The response wasn’t long in coming in the form of a short text message!
Hi Dad, Awesome photos. Thanks. Could you also put up the group photo at the wide game and also the meal time photos.
Thanks Naomi XXX
In fact those photos brought a huge amount of pleasure and grateful memories to all the other ‘boys and girls’ as well. Because of the way Facebook allows you to tag photos with names, others were automatically alerted and quickly joined in the delight and encouragement of meeting up again.
The fact is, while traditional photo albums are good, it is far more effective to share photos digitally online so family and friends around the country can enjoy them together.
Using Facebook effectively
Facebook is one of the biggest examples of internet based mass social media. Today everyone can be an author, editor, publisher and distributer using Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc. While that has its disadvantages – more on that in a moment – it is also a great strength.
If we have anything of the sixteenth-century reformation spirit about us to proclaim Christ and be salt in society, we will be there! We will enthusiastically adopt new skills so we are most useful to others and not a hindrance to this generation.
But you do need to be intentional and know why you are on Facebook. Recently a friend used it to share a Bible verse with his friends; over 3,000 people publicised the c4m.org.uk site (‘like’ it); and I put up details on my ‘wall’ of a creation talk by Stuart Burgess in our village hall. It is a great way to organise events, contact and keep in touch with people whom you want to encourage in the Christian life. Living in a new village it gives me the opportunity to help people who need information and be helped in return. Above all it is very relational, so it’s an opportunity to be friends, take an interest in others, and open up and share part of your life and faith with others.
Sharing your life … yes, that can be a problem as well. Remember that people judge you by your words, actions and photographs. It is a good rule to write only what you would be happy to see displayed on a roadside bill board. Yes, the Facebook ‘News Feed’ is not private. Recently a police force had to apologise after an officer posted comments on Facebook apparently mocking Falklands War veteran Simon Weston. The officer is facing reprimand. If your Facebook is merely full of irreverent trivia that too can sadly reveal a self-obsessed rather than a Christ-like life. Some have lost their jobs because they stole their employer’s time when they should have been working. And as we all know, it can be a great theft of our own time. Worst still, indecent photographs and porn on other sites are all too accessible, a few clicks away. It is worth pausing to note that internet pornography is a huge problem.
So how can I say ‘No’ to ungodliness?
Time – Could I spend this time in a better way? And am I more enthusiastic about Facebook than I am about reading my Bible? Is my devotional life shrivelling up?
Words – Are the words I write true, kind, helpful and respectful to others?
Accountability – Be a ‘friend’ of your son or daughter on Facebook. Keep the PC in the family room. Don’t allow laptops upstairs. Suggest Internet users sign up for www.x3watch.com
Honesty – Determine that you cannot be entertained by anything that breaks one of God’s ten commandments. Put sin to death (Col. 3:5). If you find that you can’t control your use of the internet then get rid of it (Matt. 5:29). We don’t have a TV in our home for the same reason.
Discipline your mind – “whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4v8 ESV
Our main motive for living holy lives, including on Facebook, should be the love of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ ‘who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for himself His own special people, zealous for good works.’ That means we will do all we can to live for the Lord. That may well include Facebook. But God’s grace also trains us to take deliberate steps to ‘say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives’ (Titus 2:12).
Alan Pibworth is an elder of Wilstead Evangelical Church, Bedford.
Facts about Facebook
Facebook is a social network site launched in 2004. As of March 2012, Facebook has more than 900 million active users (one out of every eight people in the world). Users must register before using the site, after which they may create a personal profile, add other users as friends and view their profiles, exchange messages, and receive notifications when friends update their profiles. Additionally, users may join common-interest user groups, organized by workplace, school or college, or other characteristics, and categorize their friends into lists such as “People From Work” or “Close Friends”. After a recent much publicized share offering, Facebook is currently (June 2012) valued at around $67 billion (about £43 billion). It’s monetized value lies in the massive aggregation of personal data that can be used to target adverts at users. Along with Google it is the most visited website in the world. You have to be thirteen years or over to use Facebook, but it is estimated that 7.5 million members are underage.