Saturday, 22 January 2011

Facebook and Fellowship

I confess to being baffled. I don’t understand quite what is happening when I feel a sense of loss because a “friend” whom I have never met, but only exchanged written words with, leaves Facebook. I am even more perplexed when I consider how I would feel if I didn’t have access to Facebook at all. I suddenly realise I have become dependent on Facebook and blogging for a great part of my Christian fellowship.

Facebook for me started out as a way to get in touch with old school friends. It developed into something completely different when I “friended” someone I heard interviewed on a Christian radio show. I’d never done that before, for it’s very un-British to barge in on someone without waiting to be introduced! And then suddenly I was exposed to a whole new circle of friends, who were open about sharing their love for Jesus with others. Some of those friends also had blogs which I started reading. And now, almost a year later, I realise that these “friends” have become a big part of my life, I love them dearly, I am edified and encouraged by them so much in my walk with Christ Jesus, and the thought of not having this fellowship is very unsettling.

Is on-line communication “real”? Well, that’s an interesting one. I wonder if it’s the kindest form of communication – you get to see my heart, without the irritations of how my heart works things out in practice. You get to see the good intentions, but not the failures as I struggle to daily work out loving God and loving neighbour as myself. Do you have an accurate picture of who I really am? I don't know - I think so, for I pour out my heart and soul into what I write. But if we were to meet in person - well, one friendship with an online blogging friend has transcended from virtual reality to real life and we remain good friends, so that gives me hope that you are not getting a completely unrealistic view of me!

Is it possible to "love one another" through the written word? Well, let me just testify to you how I have been "loved" through the written word.

I am loved when I am encouraged and exhorted to remember Christ and who He is, what He has done, what He will yet do. Reading blogs and comments on Facebook, I have been challenged as to whether I am living each day in the sacred, abiding constantly in Him; whether I am living each moment ready for the return of Jesus; reading beautiful words from Octavius Winslow has fed my love for Christ; I have read a testimony from the heart of a Christian, full of grace and truth, which has challenged me not to water down the truth for the sake of misguided sympathy; I have been challenged in my mothering of my own son as I read of how a friend nurtures her boys in the giftings and talents their Heavenly Father has bestowed upon them; I have been encouraged in my praying for the church through a beautiful prayer which a fellow sister has shared, and exhorted in my praying for the persecuted church. And all that is just this last week!!

I have also been loved in other ways through the written word. When I meander around theologically as I try to grapple with the Truth, people who have never met me are so concerned about what I believe that they take the time to write to me, to guide me along the path to Truth, to pray for me! When I once shared personal information about a home situation, I was stunned by the loving response I received, and God alone knows the difference that has had on my prayers for this situation.

I hope I am also able to love others through the written word. I am becoming increasingly conscious that the temptation to jump into a discussion on some theological issue or other to share my views may not always be the wisest course of action, and that with the written word as well as with the spoken word there is "a time to be silent and a time to speak" (Ecc 3:7). It is my prayer that every comment I make through my keyboard may be "full of grace, seasoned with salt" (Col 4:6). I also realise that through Facebook I have been able to share my faith with my non-Christian friends in a way that would never have been possible before, surely the heart of love. Opportunities to speak of the Lord are few and far between in person, yet through this medium I find I am able to express my true heart before them.

There is, however, the ever-present issue of spending way too much time in front of the computer - it seems to take a lot longer now for me to complete my accountancy work than it used to, as I break off to read another reminder of God's goodness. However, on one of those breaks from my work last week, I read this article by Teresa, over at Music from Broken Chords, where she quotes a passage by Octavius Winslow on the lonely walk of the Christian. That touched some buttons. Then I was reminded by Elizabeth of Tozer’s “The Saint Must Walk Alone”. He says: “The pain of loneliness arises from the constitution of our nature. God made us for each other. The desire for human companionship is completely natural and right. The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world. His Godgiven instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone... He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk.”

And I now realise why it is that Facebook and blogging have become such an important part of my Christian walk of faith. This lonely pilgrim has suddenly found a group of likeminded believers whose hearts are utterly captivated by their Lord and Saviour, who are likewise eager to speak of Him and His beauty.

We may not be meeting in person, but I do believe that “virtual, on-line” meeting is accomplishing the exhortation in these following verses!

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)


  1. Well said. Working in Christian radio can be very isolating and if you take stands on anything today, you get a lot of flak. Finding like-minded friends in person is not easy these days. It's hard to fit in in church where I'm often held at arms' length, so the true Christians on facebook encourage me and spur me on. Many times a verse in a status or a quote is convicting and helpful. Thanks for writing this great post. You said what I have felt for a while now.

  2. This is truly one of the most well thought articles I have ever read on this topic. You have identified all of the key components and factors to consider in this "virtual" phenomenon, and I agree wholeheartedly with your conclusion. My husband and I have been blessed beyond words by the fellowship of the saints on FB and blogging. It was, in fact, one of the many tools that God used to restore us at a time of brokenness in our own lives. We have found friendships and teachers -- albeit from the distance. Two things to keep in mind -- which you already touched upon. (1) It doesn't replace fellowship in a local assembly. I'm not referring to those in transition. (2) We must be sensitive to the potential to neglect relationships and responsibilities -- not the least of which is our time with the Lord!

    WONDERFUL post! Sorry for the long comment!!!

    Love and blessings!!

  3. Diana, my dear friend! Only a few years ago I would have thought it nuts, creepy even to say such a thing to a person I know only "online" my how times have changed. I have struggled with this same thing over and over again for the past few years. About three years ago, by way of the internet God opened my eyes to the truth of His word in such a way that I had to leave my Church. I suddenly realized that in order to follow truth and God I had to make major changes and it was a tough decision. I made friends online quickly, only to have that end up in a pretty hurtful situation. I really thought it might be the end of social networking and blogging for me, at least for a while. It was around this same time I realized I was surrounded by like minded people, like you and it was such a comfort and encouragement. I have learned so much in my stumbling around, seems like I have to fall down and scrape my knees a few times but I have been on the right path, seeking God no matter what and I have found such wonderful Pilgrims to walk with on this journey home, that in itself amazes me and is such an undeserved blessing. I have truly met wonderful, loving people. People who inspire me and encourage me, and people to laugh with and cry with. It's been amazing experience but at times I have questioned it too. In fact I was hanging my new shower curtain just now thinking about those old friendships that ended and how hard that was and wondering, just for a second it it all worked out for the better. Knowing full well it did, but I guess I had a teensy moment of feeling sorry for myself or questioning if I handled it right, etc. etc. Then I read your post! God has such an amazing way of leading us and guiding us, and he uses other people so often to do that. Thank you for allowing me into your world, it's been a huge blessing and even though I have never seen your lovely face, I love you dearly! You are my Sister in Christ and that amazes and blesses me so much! I have so many of you all to say that about, and I hope that we have so many more great conversations in 2011. Bless you Diana and I send my love and dreams of Yorkshire across the pond to you! And sorry, I wrote you a book!

  4. And I forgot to tell you: YOU are one of those blessings that I have come to know through this world of FB and blogging....but I think you knew that already! ; )

  5. This was so well written and echos my thoughts exactly! I have met more "true Christians" on FB than anywhere else. There seems to be a stimga that "online" friends are not as real as people you meet in real life. I beg to fiffer, people online tend to expose themselves in ways you never would in a one on one setting (unless you were already very close friends) I have met people I consider some of my dearest friends on FB, people know will be lifelong. God is definetly using this to unite his church in close bonds. Thank you for writting this.

  6. Thank you for this post. I have been questioning this very thing for a while. I have been wondering if sharing the gospel online had any worth. It has felt like I've been talking into the wind sometimes. But I have discovered that I need to keep sharing. I have gotten to know some very amazing people who are my brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world and it is my only fellowship at times. I do not have a gospel preaching fellowship where I live and it is lonely. These fb friends constantly challenge me and teach me and even rebuke me and that is what I need. I know it can't replace a local fellowship but for now, it is all I have.

  7. Diana, I thank God for the support and encouragement I receive form the online community, and thank God for having met friends and sisters like you! But I also ask God to keep me from the subtle evils that these venues can foster. For me, personally, Fb and blogging have added to my lack of time management. I also seem to constantly fight 'new' pride lures. But one big danger in particular is how quickly we can make and unmake friends, show partiality, or engage in what is known as passive aggression!

    Although I'm not glad to hear that disappearing friends break your heart, I am glad that you still have 'real' human feelings! What on earth do I mean? The making and unmaking of friends at the touch of a button may foster calloused hearts! Not too long ago, one online friend announced that she's cleaning her friends list. At least the warning preceded the---click---gone! This sort of thing bothers me... for lack of grace maybe? Why be so exclusive, because it's more rewarding to preach to the choir?

    I stepped away from it all once just to make sure that it had not become an idol! During my absence I've also noticed the time and productivity issues.I promised myself to quit Fb or blogging immediately if it should ever threaten to become an idol or time thief again! God must come first! Fb or blogging should only come after GOD, my husband, family, church, neighbors.

    But does it, really? Can those priorities compete when the online community seems so much kinder and more encouraging than most of those around us? While I enjoy the many blessings and benefits of the online community, I have to, have to, have to... remain brutally honest with myself! Do I read God-centered books or even the Bible in order to find the next great Fb quote or blog content, or am I truly faithful to God and my priorities? Am I the only one struggling with this? If I am please pray for me!

    Love and blessings!

  8. Diana, I wish we could be at one table, all of us "virtual-friends" talking about this! I agree with you all; it is true what all of you have said.

    Whenever I talk about you to my family I refer to you as my friends... you are my "real-life" friends... because, isn't this world in which we have met each other real-life too?

    For me, each one of you is special. I am grateful, just like you, to have more like-minded friends and sisters in Christ.

    I also agree wholeheartedly with Petra, when she says how careful we must be when coming to the window that opens all this virtual world for us.

    And just like in any other area of our lives; we must see that we seek to glorify God in all we do and say.

    Today I am grateful for you!

    Blessings from Mexico!

  9. Petra I have, and continue to struggle with these same issues. It's so tough, we have to be prayerful and, at least in my case be very slow to speak or comment sometimes. I think FB is a wonderful tool for us to connect and share the Gospel but it our flesh is involved it's right out there for the world to see, in real time. Like Becky said how wonderful if we could all sit around the table drinking coffee and discussing life into the wee hours...Girls how wonderful will it be when we can meet and do this together someday when we go home, we really can talk forever! Love to each one of you and blessings on our Lord's day tomorrow.

  10. Excellent post, Diana:)

    You spoke for so many of us, and what is more, you reinforced your own convictions, which is always an encouragement to others. When a person gives considerable thought to a thing and lands on the side of Truth, it strengthens those of us who are listening. Thank you!

    It's true, as Ingrid said, that these days we're living in lend themselves to isolation. Our culture fosters it and our national sins condition us towards, among other things, selfishness. It's clearly something Christians especially need to guard against. Relationships are vital, they're God's way...I like to think about the time when Jesus saw Zacchaeus up in the tree and told him that he was going to have dinner AT HIS HOUSE that night, He was, in essence, teaching us that friends are loving and friends are bold.

    For me, Facebook is a blessing. You are all dear to me, and I have made the mental assent that you all live somewhere, breathe, eat and sleep just like me, and you matter because we share these precious bonds in Christ! It's apparent that we all desire to glorify God in all that we say and do, and it's our safeguard as God has blessed this lovely circle of friends.

    Diana, Look how you blessed your sisters today!
    Thank you!


  11. Apologies for the book-length reply below. This is one of those times I wish allowed individual replies to comments, for I want to reply to each one of you individually for sharing your heart!

    Ingrid – thank you so much for your encouraging comment, and I am thankful you have been encouraged and spurred on in your faith through FB, and in your continued call to sound the warning signs against false teaching in the church. Bless you.

    Christina – great to hear your testimony of how FB has blessed you. I completely agree with the 2 points you raise. I especially need to bear in mind the potential to neglect relationships and responsibilities. And I am sure you know you are one of my blessings too : )

    Teresa – my dear friend!! I just love the way you pour out your heart into your comments, thank you for what you have shared here. I have such a similar testimony to yours in how through the internet my eyes were opened to the truth of God’s Word, I was hunting around because something just didn’t “feel right” with the teaching I was hearing, and thankfully I came across articles which crystallized the issue for me of the lack of gospel preaching. And as they say, the rest is history! You are especially dear to me – anyone who loves Yorkshire has a special place in my heart : )

    Alondra – thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. I think you are right about how God is uniting His church through FB. Bless you!

    Marusha – thank you also for dropping by to add your comment. I appreciate them all. I encourage you to keep on sharing the gospel online, we never know what impact it will have. And even if it continues to be “talking into the wind”, I know it pleases our Heavenly Father to hear His family talk of His love (Mal 3:16). I am sorry to hear you don’t have a gospel preaching fellowship where you live. I pray God in His grace and mercy provides this for you.

    Petra – mmm. Wow, you have shared the depths of your heart here. I relate to it all. Let me reassure you you are not the only one struggling with these issues! Time management is my biggest issue. I have to be frank, the thought of giving up FB scares me, for the loss I would feel. Is that wrong? I don’t think so – if I were told I could no longer meet up with my local fellowship I would feel similar. God has made us to share together and encourage one another. The main difference I guess with a local fellowship is that you have set times where you gather. The issue I find with FB is there is a constant fellowship there. I do need to set some time boundaries and see where that goes. Bless you!

    Becky – I long for that table-discussion with you all! I have dreams of an International Bloggers Convention where we could all do exactly that... : ) I wholeheartedly agree with you that we must seek to glorify God in all that we say and do online, and am thankful that you do exactly that! Bless you my friend!

    Elizabeth – thank you. Your response has reinforced me again! As I was pulling this post together, I came to the sad conclusion that if I had a theological/spiritual problem, for one reason or another I don’t have a real-life female friend who I can pick up the phone to and chat that through with. I truly thank God that He has brought along friends with wisdom such as yours that I can discuss such issues with online. Love you.

  12. What a lovely post, Diana. Your FB experience is in some ways similar to mine. In the beginning, I saw Facebok as a vast wasteland, filled with minutae and non-intimate intimacy. But I made the decision to get onto Facebook so that at least ONE person (me) might be speaking truth into the lives of my dearly loved - but lost - family members and friends.

    Imagine my delight at finding such sweet Christian fellowship! It was completely unexpected, this finding of like-minded brothers and sisters, who are all seeking to know Jesus more, and to love him more and serve him more.

    And Diana - I'm so glad you barged in on me! But then, I'm American, so I guess that explains that ;) It must be hard-wired into us rascally Yanks to appreciate such things.

    In all seriousness, your friendship has been a blessing to me, and "I thank God upon every remembrance of you."


  13. "...the thought of giving up FB scares me, for the loss I would feel. Is that wrong?"

    Diana, while I honestly cannot answer your question for you, I can tell you that I would not be scared to walk away from either Fb or blogging. But I would be scared if I couldn't walk from it! However, I would be very sad!

    Here is why it wouldn't scare me: God opened my eyes with 1 and 2 Timothy and other scripture. I was not facebooking or blogging yet, but received much information on heresy and healthy vs unhealthy churches online, and for that I am most thankful. Plus, I met a slew of friends with similar backgrounds. How awesome is that? And here we all agree. Except that meeting at Becky's house would be even better!! :-)

    However, I'm sure that God would have provided (and will provide, if need be) the means and fellowship needed to teach and to bless me as much or perhaps more, even if I had not utilized the worldwide web (especially in honor of God and good time/money stewardship). And that's just my couple of pennies' worth in lieu of your question. Much Love, Petra

  14. Christine - you're not so bad for a rascally Yank ;) As I reflected on this post this morning, I was surprised at the extent to which you have shaped my FB life, and I am thankful that I have been influenced by such a godly woman. Bless you.

    Petra - I absolutely agree with you that God will always provide exactly what we need, and that He gives and He takes away as He sees fit for His Name's sake. Can I walk away from FB? I don't desire to at the moment. I am sure if I believed it would honour God by walking away though, then I would. I struggled and struggled and struggled over leaving our church a couple of years ago. So many good friends, we'd shared our Christianity with these folk for 12 years. Not easy to walk away from that. But as it became apparent that's what we had to do, He gave us the grace to do it. And I'm still working through the grief from that loss. Yet I'm sure it was the right thing to do, and God will continue to direct our path as we seek to serve Him. Does that make sense?
    Thank you for challenging me, and making me think! Love to you.

  15. Diana, I think you have voiced so beautifully the opinions of all of us here. Yes, it is a lonely road out there for most of us, and for some even in their own churches.

    "He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk.”

    SAD BUT SOOO TRUE! I can't even begin to express how much I've learned through blogging this year - not just knowledge wise, but throough interacting with my online friends in a way that is edifying. The encouragement I've received from you and everyone else cannot be underestimated. I had to discontinue Facebook because of the incredible amount of time I was spending at the computer. But I enjoyed it for the same reasons you have. My bookkeeping has suffered greatly too!

    What a blessing you have been to me Diana!

  16. Diane, my bookkeeping sister!! I thank you for being one of those who has loved me, for the concern you showed about my beliefs when you hardly knew me. I am truly grateful. You have blessed me and encouraged me. Thank you :)

  17. Dear Diana,

    I just stumbled upon this blog entry and smiled. I might not be a blogger like the rest of you but so much of what you write about is true in my life, too. I can't do justice to your writing. You have covered so much, and so well. There are just a few things that I'll touch on.

    For me, I have the added isolation of working from my home. Petra's comments re: lack of time management resonate with me. I've had to take steps to change what was bad practice in how I spent my time (and which I am still working on). If I'm at work, I must do my utmost to do all for the glory of God and not steal time from my employer. If I'm cleaning my home and doing laundry, I need to focus and make sure it gets done as, once again, I do all for the glory of God and want to do my best. I need to stay focused on my work and stay off fb unless there is a break time that I can use accordingly.

    I have received much benefit form the friendships that I've made with my sisters in Christ on FB. I won't be leaving FB but I can ration out my time and be disciplined in doing so. As Petra said, using it only after God, family, church, neighbor...

    If we are truly Christians and being honest in our walk, we will present our real selves to one another. I keep in mind, also, that I have known people in my community here in Minnesota, and in my own family, who presented themselves one way in public, and another way in private which was shocking when found out. We must always be discerning but I can't imagine my life now without the friends I've made on FB. It's been an incredible blessing to me.


  18. I love the godly wisdom you have shared here, Ruth. And I think God may have used it to shine His light on an area which I need to address - the time management issue. I love how you say you need to stay focused on the task at hand and do all for the glory of God. Yes. Maybe we can encourage each other in this :)

    "I can't imagine my life now without the friends I've made on FB". Same here! xxx

  19. WOW! And now, 3 years later I love you even more!