by Nona Jones (with Bronwyn Lea)
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space. Learn more here.
When I opened my Instagram app, I noted my Direct Messages inbox was filled with messages. I’d posted a quote from my book earlier that day, saying “what was meant to leave you broken will be used by God to make you brave,” and within a couple hours I had dozens of stories of heartbreak waiting for me. “I’ve had so much suffering,” one woman wrote, “but your post made me curious. I’m wondering for the first time what God might be trying to build in me through all this pain.”
Despite the time demands of my career and family, I make a point of setting aside time to respond to messages like these. After all, the whole idea of social media is that it was always meant to be social, that is to say: designed to open up and facilitate relationships and conversation. Broadcast media like the news just puts a message out there and hopes someone will hear it, but social media allows us to put messages out there and to read and relate to people as they respond… which makes it the most excellent opportunity for discipleship.
After spending more than half of my life in ministry, I’ve found that church tends to be defined as a place you go on a certain day, at a certain time, to hear someone teach. But Jesus’ life is instructive: he didn’t say “hey, come to the temple Sunday and listen to this awesome parable I have to share!” Rather, he spoke about God as he moved about, meeting people where they were at.
The unexpected gift of social media for me has been seeing how it has removed so many barriers to ministry and discipleship. With apps on my phone, I can follow Jesus’ example of how, where, and when to connect: looking out for opportunities to encourage and help hurting people, and point them to God anywhere and any time. I can share about a book I’ve been reading, and how the leadership principles so often point back to the word of God. I can share a story of God at work and testify about him, and no one has to go to a building, watch a program, or set a timer to be able to receive it.
Being aware of real-time listeners and readers on social media challenges me to be more intentional when I log on. “Whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” says Colossians 3:17. The social media application of that verse surely then means, “whatever you do, whether you post or whether you scroll, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
So when I post, I aim to be intentional. There are so many people hurting, and I try to encourage. I try to always be pointing people towards the truth of the Word of God and the hope of the gospel. And I try to engage: responding to comments and messages as I’m able.
People are always saying more than the caption of their post might suggest, which is why I ask God to give me eyes to see what he sees when I’m scrolling my newsfeed. I pray, “God, please help my eyes to focus on where somebody needs encouragement, so I don’t just scroll by something YOU want to speak into, or you want me to do.” I don’t want to be the social media equivalent of the Levite or Pharisee in the Good Samaritan parable who saw someone bleeding and then scrolled on to the other side of the road.
Sometimes friends and family will share things on social media they may never have said face to face, and if we have eyes to see and ears to hear - we might have opportunities to love and serve or heal or celebrate with them we would otherwise have missed. Some people only share their best moments on social media, but there are others who share their more vulnerable things there, and it’s important to honor those opportunities, too.
The true power of social media is that it gives us visibility into people’s lives: they can see into ours, and we can see into theirs. And with that vision, comes an opportunity to minister in ways and places we never could before. It’s a gift. Let’s steward it well.
Nona Jones is a rare combination of preacher, author, business executive, entrepreneur, and worship leader. In her day job she serves as the Head of Global Faith-Based Partnerships at Facebook and is also CEO of eChurch Partners. Her memoir, Successfrom the Inside Out, chronicles her unlikely story of success after a childhood filled with physical and sexual abuse between the ages of 5 and 11. Visit NonaJones.com to learn more and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube at @NonaNotNora.