This is a guest post from Stephanie S. Smith. Stephanie is a twentysomething writer, editor, blogger and independent book publicist. She runs her business, (In)dialogue Communications and is a blogger at www.stephindialogue.com where she blogs about embodied faith, creative life, and millennial culture. Give her a follow on Twitter @stephindialogue.
In high school I had a journal with a verse quoting John the Baptist emblazoned across the front, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” During my teen years, this was my creed: serving on the sidelines, pointing to Christ.
But this was before the advent of social media. Before I became a book publicist and promotion became my profession. Before I got wired to my laptop and began internally cheering at every blog hit, Facebook “like,” and new Twitter follower. It seems everyone is clambering in some way or another for influence, and I, like many writers and bloggers, began to develop a love/hate relationship with social media. To me it seemed like the two causes are held in tension:
How do we reconcile building our own platform and building Christ’s Kingdom? Are the two mutually exclusive or can they work in harmony?
As much as people might like to champion social media or blame it as the scapegoat for our culture’s vices, I’ve learned that social media is what you choose to make it. Like all things on God’s green earth, we can either use it as an instrument to further God’s Kingdom, or we can fashion it into an idol for our own self-worship. And the deciding factor is often a posture of the heart.
Back to John the Baptist, his life is a primary example of this. In John 1, the religious leaders insist on finding out who exactly this prophet is, and John replies by defining himself as the voice merely introducing another: “John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (John 1:23). Like many authors, pastors, and bloggers today, John the Baptist was building a “platform” of sorts; Scripture tells us that when he preached, whole cities went to listen (Mark 1:5)! But John’s purpose was not to draw attention to Himself. He was preparing the way for a greater Word, a Word from heaven. John knew that he had a voice of influence, and he used it to usher people into the presence of the Savior.
The same choice is ours today in the digital realm: we can either use our voices of influence for our own self-promotion, or for a sacramental purpose: as an avenue of grace extending beyond ourselves. I know that I have been guilty in the past of using my voice simply because I had been handed a loudspeaker, but my online interactions were not ministering to anyone, they were simply adding to the noise (to borrow from a Switchfoot lyric).
I’ve learned that when it comes to social media and ministry, the medium is NOT the message. If we’re ever blogging just to fill the empty space, or speaking into cyberspace just to tally up our influence, we have forgotten the life-saving message of redemption. But there is a third way. Let’s use our voice to usher others into love, to speak truth and meaning, and to prepare the way for a greater Word.
Stephanie S. Smith is a twentysomething writer, editor, blogger and independent book publicist addicted to print and pixels. After graduating from Moody Bible Institute with a degree in Communications and Women’s Ministry, she now runs her business, (In)dialogue Communications, from her home in Upstate New York where she lives with her husband. She blogs at www.stephindialogue.com about embodied faith, creative life, and millennial culture, and you can follow her on Twitter @stephindialogue.