Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Facebook: Giving Your Church a Boost?

I'm not happy about writing this, but this theme, this question keeps coming back around in discussions with friends, family, basically anyone I know who prays for others or has recently been in need of prayer:

When you need prayer, where do you go? Are the prayer warriors you know, found in your church, or do you forego the traditional list and head right for the little blue and white icon?

I have spoken in front of groups, petitioning congregations for prayer or encouraging praise for answered prayer, only to watch eyes fall to the floor, or hear the winsome chirp of crickets as my words hung out there like Wile E. Coyote, run out of cliff. I have never felt as prayed for and lifted up as I did recently, when the prayer warriors I solicited and the brothers and sisters in Christ who stood with me and for me, were intentionally sought. I grant you, I have matured in my faith, and I was much more vocal about my need for prayer and specific things that were being accomplished through prayer, but this is not only my story, but what seems to be the story of many.

I found prayer on Facebook. Now, in my case, as I am sure with others, it is difficult to define where my FB friends end and my church friends begin -- they overlap considerably. And, I know I had prayer warriors in two churches lifting me up, in addition to my FB friends. But in the past, as I said, I have solicited prayer strictly from previous church families, and have not exactly experienced the same phenomenon. As a matter of fact (and I have mentioned this before also), when I announced my daughter's departure to Army boot camp, and asked for prayer, she was repeatedly wished "good luck" after the service. One person said they would pray; not a soul offered to pray with her or me. Do not misunderstand: I am not trying to judge, but merely point out where some of our church members and, therefore, our churches have their heads these days. The folks at the firehouse wished her "good luck." The ladies at the hair salon wished her "good luck." Shouldn't our churches look different, sound different, be different?

A friend of mine, a member of her church for over ten years, and someone I consider to have a much better grip on this whole "Christian life" than I do, said to me a while back, "I'm not sure what it takes to get on the prayer list at my church, but..." Her point being, not only had she asked for prayer and felt as though her request had been ignored, but she couldn't even seem to make it on the list for people to ignore! She then followed with, "I'm just going to continue to use Facebook; I know who my prayer warriors are, and I will just seek them out."

Another friend had simply said, in reference to church prayer chains and prayer lists, "Oh, I can't be bothered with that; sometimes things change so quickly or happen so unexpectedly, I just post it on Facebook, and I know it will get handled in prayer."

And just a week or so ago, my brother and I were texting in reference to his wife's current health issues. I asked about his church's prayer chain. He said they'd left the church they had been attending, were still looking for a church that was strong but not impersonal -- "In the meantime, there's Facebook."

I said before I was not happy about writing this. I could be. I could be ecstatic if a prayer storm blew over Facebook in addition to the one blowing through our churches at any given time. I could be ecstatic if the FB prayer phenomenon was an overflow of the prayer movement bubbling and alive in our local congregations. I could be ecstatic if this was simply a life of prayer and devotion to God lived out on FB, the same as it is in our churches, our places of employment, our ball fields and grocery stores. But from what I'm hearing, none of these is the case.

Facebook has largely become an instead of, rather than an addition to. Facebook is a place to reach our "target audience" because our churches are not. On Facebook we find those who will kneel before God and faithfully intercede for us in our times of need, and will lift their faces to the Lord in gratitude and endless praise, because those who are sitting down the pew from us week after week, sadly, will not.

Scott and I have begun attending a church and from what we have seen so far, we are very hopeful. I've met some of the folks from this church who were praying for me during my illness, and in speaking to some since, I feel assured they are still praying for my continued recovery. The prayer life within our Sunday school seems vibrant and successful. It is my prayer that twenty years from now I can give the same report.

But, what about you? Where is your church in all of this? Has Facebook given your prayer life a boost, or has it given your church the boot?

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