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The church has always had to walk a fine line when it comes to relevance.

Are we supposed to meet people where they are, or does the presence of Jesus speak for itself?

Does striving for excellence in our field really bring glory ultimately to Christ? And what’s the perfectly right formula for how much you have to talk about Jesus in order for people to associate your success with Him and not your own talent?

We always come back to this little kicker: “Be in the world, not of it.”

Gauntlet = laid.

I’ve run into this struggle in the world of social media. I spent a year or two diving into social media and trying to discover all it has to offer. I read the book Social Church to find out how a church can use social media to its advantage. As intentional as I strive to be with social media, using it as a tool and not just a hobby, I still find myself sinking into the depression of I’ll-never-be-good-enough-or-do-the-coolest-things. Over Thanksgiving my husband and I did a “social media fast” to break the habits that so quickly form, and also to not miss Thanksgiving. You know what’s scary? All this still happened, even though I tried to break the social media code… to control it without letting it control me.

However, just like the title of this blog tells, the struggle is REAL, people! As a person, church, business or celebrity of the 21st century, you absolutely cannot expect to shove social media to the side, and have the influence, relevance or impact in this great world you desire. I also firmly believe that we can’t get bogged down under the unhealthy weight of the Pinterest lifestyle. This is yet another one of those fine lines we find ourselves walking, and I want to share the perspective I’ve found that’s helped change my social media tactics, specifically when it comes to ministry.

Instead of trying to use social media as my own tool for gaining prestige or popularity, trying to get people to my events or to know the name of my church, I’ve decided to let my time on social media be completely driven by the Spirit of God.

I think about the times in Acts, in particular, where the Lord created divine encounters… the Holy Spirit sends Philip to the desert road south of Jerusalem, and there he meets the eunuch who is just dying to understand Jesus, salvation and water baptism. Or  Steven, the martyr, yelling out the words of Jesus right when Saul is standing there consenting his death. These examples, and so many others, remind me that walking the line, following the leading of the Holy Spirit, often brings you to a life-giving encounter with someone who really needs Jesus. Honestly, I don’t really want to be in the sticky middle of social media. I’d rather write it off forever—that would be easier than walking the line. But this new perspective has me seeing that God can use every word I type, every picture I post, everything I share or tweet or double-tap, to His kingdom’s advantage. We may try to deny the fact that likes, comments and shares hold any weight, but really, there’s no point. When I use my influence as a pastor in a large church in a small city, I remind people that there is someone they can go to when their world falls apart. Making myself available as the Spirit leads is a powerful strategy.

So my thought is, if I’m going to be a part of this world, I don’t want to waste anything. I’m going to continue facing the struggle and leaning into the purposes of Jesus in my world. I may have to pull myself out of the quicksand from time to time, but that only means I’ll get stronger and stronger every time. I might even learn more tricks along the way. In the end, it’s all about being available for the divine encounters the Holy Spirit is setting up for me, and I don’t want to miss a single one.

- Whitney Parnell

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