I Tweet & Apollos Blogs, But God...
The advent of the Internet age has brought with it precedented opportunities to evangelize the lost and edify the saints. Just twenty years ago, a preacher's realm of influence was limited to the souls in the pew each Sunday, and whoever happened to read the occasional article that might be published in a magazine or journal. I still remember the days when an article "going viral" meant it got reprinted in Bulletin Digest. Today, social media, blogs, and podcasts have become the new ways to disseminate information and share content. Anyone with a little tech Know-How can begin building a "Platform," and I'm a big believer in ministers using these new mediums to reach more people with the Gospel.
But along the way, a terrible trap seduces many of us into its steel fangs. The trap has always existed, but it has become a more alluring temptation in the Internet age. It is the temptation to use our Platforms to promote ourselves and not Jesus. And I may be more guilty of this than anyone.
In first-century Corinth, there arose divisive groups in the church that followed prominent men in the Christian community. Some followed Paul on Twitter, others read Apollos' blog religiously, and still others listened to Peter's "The Rock" podcast. Paul condemned these factions, saying that they should all be about one thing: Christ.
For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? — 1 Cor. 1:11-13
Later, Paul went on to say:
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. — 1 Cor. 3:5-7
It's OK for our individual talents to shine through in our respective ministries, but not to the degree that we create divisive cliques that refuse to work together for a common purpose. All our efforts are to be for Christ, or else our efforts divide Christ. Just as Apollos and Paul were but servants, so are we. One may plant or tweet, another may water or blog, and still another may podcast, but God is working through all of us to reap an incredible harvest. None of our platforms, in and of themselves, are anything special. They only have meaning as God uses them for his glory.
For the past few months, I have been thinking a lot about collaboration vs. competition. I cannot adequately express my gratitude for those in the church who seek to collaborate for the sake of the gospel vs. compete for personal gain. I am grateful for those who share so willingly, those who leverage their influence in order to bless others, rather than remain territorial. And I want to be more like them. I want to collaborate instead of compete. And I want to do it in Jesus' name.
There are so many great things being done in the digital world these days. I simply do not have time or space to list all of them, and if I tried, my human frailty would inevitably forget one. But there are many. My prayer is that we continue to work together for the cause of Christ and not allow Satan to divide us. I have benefited from collaboration, and I believe others have also.
But I occasionally feel the temptation, the allure of the steel trap, to be selfish with my influence and self-promoting with my platform. I repent of that. Instead, I am actively seeking (and hope to remain so) to also spotlight what others are doing to serve the Lord so that Christ can be glorified. I don't want to be selfish with my social media usage, my blogging, and all my other efforts to influence the world. I want to seek out ways to encourage the efforts of others.
To bloggers, podcasters, and platform-builders, I have a message for you. Actually, Paul has a message for you: Do it for Christ's glory and not your own. Be a sharer, a collaborator, rather than a selfish competitor. The end of the road for us is not riches or fame or glory, but reclaiming a lost world for Jesus and deepening faith in the Crucified One.
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