In March 2016, I gave a talk titled “Learning to Speak Christian in an Online World” for Moore College’s Centre for Christian Living. In this talk, I took the Bible—in particular, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians—and used it to help us come to grips with what Christian speech is all about, and how that affects our speech in the online world which many of us are facing.
Here are the links to the full video of the talk, Q&A, plus the talk outline and PowerPoint.
Video: Learning to Speak Christian in an Online World
Main talk (49 minutes):
Q&A (24 minutes):
Outline: Learning to Speak Christian in an Online World
1.1 Learning Christ
But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:20-24)
1.2 Learning to speak Christian
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, . . . Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:25, 29)
1.3 Learning to speak Christian in an online world
2 In an online world
2.1 The paradoxes of social media
2.1.1 Mediated socialising
2.1.2 Broadcast conversations
2.1.3 Hyperconnected but misconnected
2.1.4 Together alone
2.1.5 Words multiplied, communication divided
2.1.6 Manufactured authenticity
2.1.7 Controlled freedom
2.2 Attitudes to social media
2.2.3 Conscientious objectors
2.2.4 Disciplined users
3 To speak Christian
3.1 The Word of Truth
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, (Eph 1:13)
3.2 Broadcasting the Truth
3.2.1 God’s social media:
Of this gospel I was made a minister [or “go-between”] according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, (Eph 3:7-8)
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (Eph 4:11-12)
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. (Eph 6:14-15)
[pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Eph 6:19-20)
3.2.2 Opportunities in the online world
3.2.3 Challenges in the online world
3.2.4 Learning to speak
3.3 Speaking the Truth in Love
3.3.1 In Ephesians
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph 4:15-16)
. . . that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:18-20)
3.3.2 Opportunities in the online world
220.127.116.11 Speak the truth
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another. (Eph 4:25)
18.104.22.168 Walk in the light
for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. (Eph 5:8-12)
3.3.3 Challenges in the online world
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Eph 4:26-27)
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Eph 4:29)
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Eph 4:30)
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph 4:31-32)
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. (Eph 5:3)
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Eph 5:4)
For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; (Eph 5:5-7)
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Eph 5:18-20)
3.3.4 Learning to speak
4 Further Reading
- Byers, Andrew. Theomedia: The Media of God and the Digital Age. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade, 2013.
- Challies, Tim. The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.
- Kryger, Steven, and Andrew Cameron. “From the Archives: Face to Face or Facebook.” Centre for Christian Living, February 15, 2016.
- Steyer, James P. Talking Back to Facebook: The Common Sense Guide to Raising Kids in the Digital Age. New York: Scribner, 2012.
- Tong, Peter. “Doing Theology in a Digital Culture.” In Women, Sermons and the Bible: Essays Interacting with John Dickson’s Hearing Her Voice, edited by Peter G. Bolt and Tony Payne. Matthias Media, 2014.
Includes pictures and passages to go along with the talk:
Summary from the Centre for Christian Living:
Lionel’s talk focuses in on our speech in the online world, particularly on social media and specifically through Facebook. That Lionel has thought a lot about how to be Christian in the online world is evident through his discerning analysis of the place and impact of social media on our relationships. After discussing a number of the paradoxes inherent in social media, Lionel applies the wisdom of Ephesians to how we might use social media and engage our friends in fruitful, God honouring conversations. A theme throughout the lecture was whether social media is a place where our ‘old self’ – characterised by our sinful desires (envy, pride, anger and so forth) – is on view, or whether we are obviously putting on the new self in this public, though private, arena. This is a thought-provoking and practical lecture that is worth listening to and discussing with your Christian friends and family. It would be a great once-off/ end-of-term Bible study evening to listen to Lionel’s talk and then discuss it as a group if you find yourself with a ‘spare’ week sometime!