We received the information early Friday morning that well-known Christian author and speaker Dr. Henry Blackaby was missing. Because of his close relationship to LifeWay professionally and to many of us personally, we made the decision to change the blog schedule at ThomRainer.com and related social media so we could get the word out about Dr. Blackaby.
The hours that followed were tense and ultimately extremely gratifying. We would soon learn that Dr. Blackaby had a heart attack and became disoriented. Christians around the world were able to hear through social media of his latest purported location according to his credit card charges. Of course, we were praying that he was the one actually using the credit cards-and he was.
Social Media and the Unity of the Body of Christ
It was amazing to see Christians from various backgrounds come together in unity for this man so many people love. Whether the social media venue was Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or many other forms, we were united in purpose.
The level of disagreement and nitpicking among Christians was turned down dramatically for a brief season. The critical spirit that we Christians often exhibit for the world to see subsided. We were one with one purpose.
Social Media and the Power of Prayer
One part of the social media exchange regarding Henry Blackaby was informational. Through various venues, we learned that he was missing. We learned where his credit card was being used. We learned the make, color, and model of the automobile he was driving. And we would soon learn the license plate number on the car. All of this information going out through social media became instrumental in finding him.
The greater use of social media, however, was the articulation of prayers by hundreds of thousands of believers. You could be thousands of miles from a brother or sister in Christ and still have an awareness that you were praying together. Nearly 200,000 unique visitors visited this blog Friday. I was overwhelmed with the numbers of people expressing prayers in writing. Christians from all over the world were banded together for good and for God's glory; the power of prayer was so clearly evident.
Social Media and the Glory of God
We are all well aware of the evil and hurt that takes place on social media. We Christians are keenly aware that our own witness is often compromised by the words we choose to write, and the invectives we hurl at one another.
But the problem is not social media; the problem is our hearts. We make a conscious choice to use this instrument for good or for evil.
The story of the disappearance of Henry Blackaby is a poignant and powerful reminder of what we Christians can do when we unite in love, even over something like Twitter or Facebook. Though Dr. Blackaby faces a road of surgery, treatment, and recovery, this story did have a good ending. He was found. He is safe with his family. For that we give thanks to God.
But even if God had not answered our prayers in the way most of us were hoping, this story would still have been incredible. Christians were united in purpose. Christians were united in prayer. Christians focused on our commonalities instead of our differences for a brief season.
Ultimately, the story of Henry Blackaby and the social media response was a reminder for all of us who call Christ our Savior. I for one can say without reservation that I was reminded that I am to do all things for His glory. And that includes my participation in social media. I pray that God will remind me to ask before I strike another key on the keyboard, before I write another blog post, before I comment one more word on Facebook, before I tweet anything or post a photo on Instagram, am I doing this for good or evil, for myself or for the glory of God?
Thank God for the safe return of Henry Blackaby. And thank God that we believers got to a get a taste for a brief season of what it means to come together for His purpose and His glory.