On March 17, I’ll be speaking at Moore College’s first Centre for Christian Living event for 2016. The topic: Learning to speak Christian in an online world.
Thursday March 17 2016
Learning to Speak Christian in an Online World
Where: Moore College, 15 King St Newtown
Speakers: Lionel Windsor and Tony Payne
Tickets available: Centre for Christian Living website
I’m not going be speaking as an “expert” on the internet / social media – because I’m not! Rather, I’m going to be exploring the Bible’s teaching on Christian speech, and applying that teaching to the weird and wonderful world of online communication.
The CCL asked me some questions to “meet the speaker”:
CCL: How many devices do you have in your home?
Lionel: It’s easy to count them, because our family of 5 keeps all our laptops and mobile devices in a plastic tub every night (to charge them and to keep them out of our bedrooms). The answer from last night’s count: 17.
When did you write your first blog post and what was it about? What sort of response did it get?
2003. It was called “Should theological students have a day off?”
It’s hard to know what kind of response it got, since my website didn’t have any kind of commenting or stats feature at the time!
What do you think are the best three things about the internet and online communication?
- It opens up new opportunities for the saving gospel of Jesus Christ to be broadcast and heard / read by people who otherwise might not know of him.
- It “democratises” evangelism – i.e. it provides opportunities for all Christians to speak / type the gospel and be heard by others without feeling they have to be a “professional speaker”.
- It gives people a connectedness that they might not otherwise have had, especially those who would otherwise be isolated by their location or life circumstances.
What do you think are the worst three things about the internet and online communication?
- It “disembodies” speech and relationships – i.e. it fosters and encourages fast-paced shallow “conversations” without the element of relational context, personal presence and most of those non-verbal cues that make personal communication deep and real. As the words are multiplied, the actual communication becomes shallower – and more antagonistic (see Proverbs 10:19).
- It turns our speech and relationships (including our Christian ministry and evangelism) into a commodity that can be owned, manipulated, bought and sold, and twisted for profit.
- It creates multiple opportunities for misinformation, slander, degradation, and just plain crazy weirdness to be given a voice, perpetuated and believed. I’ve seen friends of mine being bullied. I’m not sure if the perpetrators realised that’s what they were doing. But it’s awful to watch, and leaves long-term scars. Moreover, the clarion call of the gospel can be muted by the endless noise.
Why do you think it’s important for Christians to think seriously about how they ‘speak’ online?
Christians need to be online – or at least some of us do. That’s because there are real people who spend a large part of their lives online, and these people need to hear (or read!) the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” (Romans 10:14). If we Christians aren’t there with them, they will not hear of Jesus. All they will hear is the “noise” – the endless frivolous chatter, and worse.
But – we need to be very serious about how we speak. That’s because God takes our speech incredibly seriously. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, for example, when he talks about living God’s way, much of the time he’s talking about the way we speak. We need to speak the truth in love to one another (Eph 4:15), speak the truth to our neighbour (Eph 4:25), let no corrupting talk come out of our mouths (Eph 4:29), not even mention sexual smuttiness, let alone joke about it (Eph 5:3), but instead be thankful (Eph 5:4), etc. The gospel must make an impact on our mouths as we speak (and therefore on our fingers as we type). Otherwise, we grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30) and perpetuate the darkness (Eph 5:7-14).
For more information on the event and to get tickets: