The Social Dilemma
Each week we will be sharing a post from a staff member in response to the most recent sermon in our “Reset” series. Click to watch, listen or read the sermon shared by Crosspoint Church – Bellaire Campus Pastor Chris DeArman on November 8, 2020.
I think it’s funny how God often picks three or four different avenues all at once to get our attention. For those of us who attend worship or enjoy sermon podcasts, it is probably common for God to use a time of teaching from a Christian leader to drive home a point He has been seeking to share with us for some time. The sermon is just one of a million different avenues that He might choose to communicate with us and, more often than not, He has already used three or four other methods in conjunction with the Sunday morning message from a pastor to try and get our attention.
This past Sunday, Pastor Chris took a section of the Sermon on the Mount that, at first glance, appeared to be focused primarily on giving our finances to the work of the Kingdom.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” – Matthew 6:1-4
It would be easy to take this passage at face value, accepting the directive to give to those in need. However, Chris points out that this teaching is multifaceted. On one hand, of course, this is about giving and serving those in need. But the heart of the issue is how you give and serve those in need. He points out that, during this time, people would literally throw coins into the place where offerings were collected, seeking to make the most noise so that others would notice.
The modern day equivalent of this might be waiting until the restaurant employee is looking at you before you put a cash tip in the jar on the counter. You might want to “get credit” for this act of kindness. With online giving so prevalent, it can be safe to assume that most of us are not seeking attention for our gifts to the Church, but that does not mean we haven’t found other ways to seek after attention and approval.
Chris spent a portion of his sermon talking about the desire for attention and approval that is most often sought through social media. Which leads me to the lesson God has been trying to get through to me for some time.
In August, Netflix released the documentary, The Social Dilemma. In this movie, the creators dive into the world of social media, interviewing the men and women who were part of the teams shaping the websites that have become integral to our daily lives. I have heard multiple people casually mention this movie, but have put off watching it in favor of my nightly routine of mindlessly consuming episodes of Parks and Rec. However, Chris’s sermon, and the mention of the impact of social media on our spiritual lives, was enough of a prompt to get me to push play on this title.
One thing I love about God is that He can use things and people that have absolutely no interest in Him to communicate with us. In combination with the sermon from this last week, God has used a documentary made by people who have no apparent spiritual bent or motivation, to shed light on a spiritual issue that I, and millions of others, are facing.
Beyond just exacerbating our desire for attention and approval, social media has widened the schisms in our population, simply by basing our online experience on an algorithm that seeks to put in front of us the content the programmers and engineers believe we are most interested in seeing. In order to keep our eyes glued to the screen (so advertisers will pay more for their ads), the algorithm has almost entirely eliminated diverse opinions and experiences from our digital “field of vision.” We are only seeing the type of content that has previously caught our attention, and even posts from friends who have a different experience and background from us are less likely to appear in our social feeds.
Social media can truly be a source for good things, but I am starting to believe more and more that the most sinful elements of our human nature have found a place to thrive unchecked online. The pursuit of approval and affirmation at all costs, which Jesus addressed in this passage from the Sermon on the Mount, is just one of a myriad of issues that social media can magnify in our hearts. The beauty of the word of God is that one small point in a sermon can trigger an avalanche of introspection, and you might end up addressing an issue that wasn’t even mentioned in the original message from the pastor.
For me, God has been nudging my heart daily about the amount of time spent on social media. I am almost constantly refreshing my feed, looking for the latest content, under the guise of wanting to be “informed.” After hearing Chris talk about social media, which prompted me to watch The Social Dilemma, God finally got through to me on an issue I have been largely ignoring. I am not completely free of the chains of social media, but I have deleted from my phone the app that was consuming most of my attention, and I can already tell I am making tiny steps toward some freedom that I have not had for quite some time.
This illustrates the importance of the regular consumption of the word of God. If you can get all this spiritual guidance from one point in one sermon, imagine what you can gain when studying the Bible on your own becomes part of your daily routine. So many of us rely heavily on the preaching of God’s word on Sundays for our spiritual breakthroughs. Listening to teaching is only one of the many ways God will use Scripture to shape your life, and free you of sins and struggles. If you, like me, have had an experience where God used a sermon to drive home a point that He had been attempting to make for a while, then you can see how adding daily Scripture reading could multiply these moments 7 times over by experiencing God’s word daily.
I am thankful that God still uses the preaching of His word to work in my heart. If you haven’t already, take some time to listen to Chris’s sermon, and see what God might have to teach you.
Justin Kellough is the Media Arts Pastor for the CityRise Network, overseeing our digital ministries, and assisting with creative elements of worship both on campus and online. Justin lives in Stafford, TX with his wife, Kristen, and his two children.