IVP - Online Pulpit - June 2011 Archives

June 10, 2011

A Golden Opportunity

By Lynne Baab

Media attention to the perils of Facebook and cell phone texting has created a wonderful opportunity for people in ministry to talk, teach and write about friendship. Friendship challenges in our time involve far more than the dangers of electronic communication, the favorite media topic.

3419OP.jpgIn the interviews I conducted for my recent book, Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual Age, I heard repeatedly about three friendship challenges: mobility, busyness and the challenges of the new communication technologies. Ironically, the third challenge—the new communication technologies—has arisen in part because these new ways to communicate help address the first two challenges. When we’ve moved across the state or across the world, Facebook, Skype, instant messaging and texting helps us keep in touch with friends. And when we’re super busy, some of those same technologies help stay in touch with friends. Yet those new ways to communicate create challenges of their own.

Because electronic communication is embedded in the lives of most people today, I wish Christian leaders would talk more about how to use them responsibly and with love. Here are a few recommendations:

(1) Create opportunities to discuss the love passages in the Bible, such as 1 Corinthians 13 or Colossians 3:12-17. Ask people how they feel they are showing love, compassion and kindness using the new ways to communicate. Most people have lots to say about the way they show love on Facebook or in text messages, but they are afraid to talk about it because they hear so much negative talk about new communication technologies. Let people learn from each other about the ways love can be shown online and with cell phones.

(2) Encourage people to slow down when online or when texting, to think before posting flippant comments or to pray about a friend’s needs before leaving their status update on Facebook or before closing their text message on the phone. Love matters, and love requires time.

(3) Encourage a multiplicity of ways to communicate. Recently my husband posted on Facebook that his sister had died. The next day one of his Facebook friends showed up at the door with two big candy bars in hand. She was walking her dog, so there was no expectation that she would come in and talk, but she wanted to express her support.

Online and cell phone communication are part of daily life for most people today. Rather than telling people to turn off their electronic machines, help them grow in their ability to show love using them. In addition, encourage people to mix it up, to communicate online and through phone calls, written cards, a walk across the street or across the hall for a conversation. Sometimes the best way to show love involves switching to another mode of communication.

Friendship is one of the places where we learn Christian character. All the hype about Facebook has given us a golden opportunity to deepen our teaching about how to reflect Jesus’ love in friendships.

BaabOP.jpgLynne M. Baab’s most recent book, Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World, has received strong endorsements and reviews. Lynne is the author of numerous books, including Sabbath Keeping and Reaching Out in a Networked World. Visit her website, www.lynnebaab.com, for reviews and other information about her books. She is a Presbyterian Church (USA) minister with a Ph.D. in communication from the University of Washington, currently a lecturer in pastoral theology in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 10:10 AM