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It’s a daily challenge for me to find the “sweet spot” where my limited time and individual’s unlimited needs can coexist without tension. Typically, the folks with needs far surpass the amount of time I have to help them. I suspect if you’re a caring person with at least a moderate leadership gift, there is a nagging disparity between your daily time allotments and the number of people who want to get together with you.
If you are like me, one of the most important things you can do today is re-evaluate how you spend your time, specifically as it relates to those who want a piece of you.
I like to think about “redemptive-time-stewardship-practices” in concentric circles that work out from the most vital to the least important. I’m using the term “least important” to talk about how much time I can give to a person rather than making a statement about the quality of a person’s being.
Every person is important because God made everyone in His image (Genesis 1:27; James 3:9). Being a creation of God makes a person significant, so I’m not talking about their ontology. I am talking about how “God-given importance” does not automatically give everybody an all-access pass to my calendar. With that view of importance in view, here is my list, in order of importance, of the people who get my time.
This model for relationships follows somewhat loosely how Jesus seemed to spend His time. His priority was Himself and His relationship with God. Then He appeared to have an inner circle of friends, namely Peter, James, and John.
His “circles of relationships” grew to the other nine disciples, a close network of friends—Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and there were the multitudes. The religious crowd was people the farthest outside His network.
Jesus was a finite man who had to make decisions regarding where and with whom He spent His time. While He loved everyone, He did not give everyone His undivided attention. We would be wise to learn from and follow His lead.
Time and Relationship Priorities for The Lord
Now I come to what has become one of the more time-dominating time consumers in our culture today. I’m talking about social media, where a periphery group of relationships gathers while consuming more and more of our time. For some people, it has become an addiction: a relationship replacement. I have a love/disdain relationship with social media.
Building community on Facebook (and any other social media site) is not building biblical community—not if we are talking about koinonia, which I am. Though you can deliver a “pinch of encouragement” to a person on Facebook, you will never be able to know that person the way someone needs to know them.
Facebook is mostly a place where people chat, talk about their grandchildren, and show cute dog videos. It is also known for providing a battleground where combatants with differing opinions can spar.
For me, Facebook is mostly, if not entirely, a marketing tool, though not a good one because it does not accomplish our primary missional goals—meaning, Facebook is not a transformation community. It mostly feeds our “chat” preferences, which I have no inclination to do.
At best, it’s on the lowest end of the biblical encouragement scale. Though a blurb about this or that can cause pause as one ponders a spiritualized word, message, or picture, it can never accomplish what a real friend can do for you.
For some people, Facebook is like a pill that helps them to feel like they have real friends; they feel like they are part of a community. They get their “need-for-relationship-fix on,” but they are always arm’s length from those people. This manipulation permits them to maintain total control of the relationship; they can “like” or “unlike” you at any moment.
This contrivance makes Facebook a better answer than the church for some Christians because of the nearly painless relational experiences they can experience in the FB Universe (FBU). It is for these reasons that I have grave concerns about the long-term effects of this cyber environment.
In a real way, Facebook is not serving our ministry well. This issue is one of the reasons why I set up a free forum on our website. I’m looking for relationships that want transformation rather than a spiffy “quote of the day.”
Time and Relationship Priorities for You
I am continually thinking about these things while seeking to strike the right balance that does not cater to a significant problem that is in too many peoples’ lives while using the Facebook medium for the cause of Christ.
I’ve used the analogy of a missionary going to where the people are and communicating to them in the way they want it. In that way, Facebook is a “kind of” missional community.
But there has to be a line drawn quickly and definitively. Ultimately Facebook, as I have outlined, is not a transformational community. It’s a hang. So while I want to go into their tribal village and sit in their huts and smoke with the village people, I also want to call them to a better way of living. And that is where I draw the line: Facebook does not do that well.
And Facebook does not want me to draw that line that motivates people to leave their platform. They are not for me. Facebook is as determined as I am to build a community that keeps folks in it.
And there lies the tension. Facebook will do all it can do to keep people spinning through their feeds, creating addictions, satisfying lusts, while never motivating them to move from FBU.
The other drawback is what is called “sharecropping” in social media. Facebook is their “land” NOT my land, and they can do whatever they want to do with their property. The worst case scenario is that they could shut down or lose market share. (e.g., My Space or DIGG.) If I promote, build, and maintain a large community on Facebook, and if they went away, it would be a considerable loss to our missional endeavors.
Currently, we have 12,000+ people congregated on our Facebook page. That’s a lot of people for which I praise God for kindness. But Facebook is their land, and they can do what they want to do with it, which btw, they make changes every two weeks, nearly without exception, and those changes do not always have our best interests in mind.
I’m a settler on their land, and I must never forget that. To build a ministry on Facebook can be risky business, which is why we have been working hard to maximize that medium while it’s relevant, but not putting all our eggs in their basket. Or, to stay with the analogy: to put all our villagers in their village.
If we want to be a transformational community, we have to make our central community our website. That is our wisest move. We have done this for years by creating some excellent resources and means to communicate those resources to the global community.
Our Forum, for example, has been one of the primary “means of grace” that the Lord has used to create and build our transformational community. It’s a grace-filled place where people can come to find answers to real problems. A place where real people can be real, not just present the more “attractive side” of themselves to others.
I hope that people, who are serious about change and are looking for answers, will leave the Facebook universe because they want a place where they can let down their guards and be real. They are looking for biblical solutions to their relational and situational challenges.
None of us have unlimited time. We are finite people living within real constraints. When it comes to being redemptive in people’s lives, it’s imperative we establish the best possible means to be good stewards of the time and resources that the Lord has provided for us.
Rick Thomas leads a training network for Christians to assist them in becoming more effective soul care providers. RickThomas.Net reaches people around the world through consulting, training, podcasting, writing, counseling, and speaking.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and in 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).