Social Media, Worship and that Sinking Feeling

Posted by Craig Borlase on 10 June 2014

Another day, another tweet from a worship leader trying to sell me some product resource the church. This time it was a link to a new lyric video that someone else had posted, but yesterday it was a sketchy photo of a pre-tour rehearsal. Tomorrow I’ll be due a reminder that the global release date of some album or other is fast approaching. 
What’s the problem? Surely I can unfollow and unsubscribe at will? Don’t they have a right to tell people about the songs they're releasing? What do we expect when we choose to follow those who make their living from the songs we sing or the music we buy? And aren’t my complaints as predictable as grumbling about the lack of substance on TV while still knowing who was the last person to be evicted from the latest reality tv experiment?
Contrary to the last 144 words, this is not a piece solely about the industry of worship. I have more than enough blood on my hands and money in the bank to prove my guilt and disqualify me from calling anyone out. But I’ve been thinking of late that, for a small minority of us within the church, social media isn’t bringing out the best in us. 
While we think we’re presenting the world the us that we really want to share - the witty, nicely scrubbed-up, highly exciting version of ourselves - social media betrays us. Far from presenting the best of me, we show the world the ugly truth about how we really want to be seen. That string of self-serving posts about our latest success alerts others to our issues - arrogance/insecurity or whatever else is at root. The faux-glam photos might have missed the double chin, but they can’t hide the need to be seen as something that we’re not. Tweet about how you're just about to reach the next follower milestone and, well, frankly you deserve to lose a few.
We’re all broadcasters now. And with the potential to distribute our stories, shots and short-video clips comes the dilemma that all editors face: what content goes up and what gets canned? Trouble is, while it’s easy to share, nobody’s yet developed an app to teach us what to hold back. 
All of which isn’t that big a deal if we’re talking about holiday snaps and career updates. But when we add Christianity to the mix, things don’t seem to end up quite right. It seems like we get tempted to use social media to communicate a version of the faith that fits neatly into the pixels. We snack on the lite-bites - the pithiest quotes, the simplest reductions - before something else catches our eye. Living off the froth we demand little more of our Christian social media leaders than that they secure our attention and affirm our aspirations. We become their fans, followers and acolytes, and in return they keep us entertained.
So, what do we do about it? Worship leaders - you’re not all the same. Some of you use social media well. You refuse to take yourself seriously, you resist the clique, you use art to inspire and share with honest vulnerability things that help those who look up to you. Others of you are less good at it. You use those few characters to sell - maybe a product, but often a version of yourself that we all know doesn’t stack up. You build a brand and raise your volume when what you were called to do was be drowned out by the myriad sounds of worship that you had - in some small way - helped to release. At the end of the day, I suspect that we were never meant to remember your name anyway.
how can we move towards a healthier collision between faith and social media? 

For those of us doing the following, how can we move towards a healthier collision between faith and social media? Maybe we should stop demanding that which is bad for us: stop following the peacocks, quit treating Christian leaders like mainstream entertainers, resist the industrialisation and commercialisation of faith. 
Social media's potential to connect people in spite of geographical and social barriers could - should - be seen as a massive opportunity for the Church. It should make us think and talk and listen and change. If we settle for it turning us into spectators then we will be guilty of a fail. An epic one.
Why? Because Christianity - the practice of a life lived in service of Christ - is a lot of things. It is comforting and it is dangerous, it is liberating and captivating, wildly transformative and intensely personal. It shakes kingdoms and transforms families, highlights our failings and invites us to approach our Maker. Communication is at the heart of the matter and is a fundamental component of Christianity: with God, yes, but with others too. 
Are we really sure that the best we can squeeze out of the digital revolution is a slicker way of selling and a cosier Christian ghetto?

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