(Photo: AP Photo / Press Association, Martin Keene)
Texas megachurch pastor Kerry Shook admits he might be addicted to Twitter. But he and thousands of others around the country gave that up for 24 hours as part of a national fast.
"We wanted to do something drastic to wake people up," he told The Christian Post on Thursday, a day after the National Facebook Fast, which he spearheaded.
Going a day without e-mail, text messaging, tweeting and updating Facebook is considered drastic for many Americans, including Shook who considers himself tech savvy and whose church utilizes Twitter during worship services.
"It was tough for me," said the 47-year-old pastor of Woodlands Church near Houston.
He came out of the fast tweeting, "I survived!"
The fast on Wednesday was essentially a challenge Shook issued to get people to act more intentionally in relationships with one another and with Christ.
"We're just hoping people will learn how to limit it because there are limits to technology," explained Shook, who's more into Twitter than he is Facebook. "We love it but it's just not very good at building deep and rich relationships. It shows how addicted you are when you do that."
Shook had noticed the negative impact of technology within his own family. His entire family – including four children who are in high school and college – owns iPhones, an iPad and a MacBook laptop, among other things. While in the same house, the family would text back and forth to one another, he confessed.
"It's just really easy to use technology and not get face to face," he said. "We've really tried to, over the last couple of years, limit it at times to really get close to the people that we love."
Shook and his wife, Chris, spelled out the concerns they have with how relationships are being formed in a hyper-connected world in their new book, Love At Last Sight.
Social networking, they say, has redefined what "friend" means.
"We have bought into the false idea that if we're connected to huge numbers of people in cyberspace, we must be important and loved," they write.
Many have forgotten the power of connection found in looking into someone's eyes or the transformative effect of an embrace or a handshake, the Shooks lament.
"I think that so many people, even believers and people in our churches, have bought into the lie that relationships – if it's really love – will just happen naturally and everything will click and it'll be easy, sort of magic. And that's just not the way it is at all," Kerry Shook explained to The Christian Post.
"Relationships take intentionality, effort, creativity and we talk about the art of acting intentional and risking awkwardness and stepping out. And sometimes it doesn't feel natural at all to do the right thing and the commitment that it takes."
The Shooks always say, "Live your life for those who'll cry at your funeral, instead of trying to skip over those who love you the most to impress people who don't really care."
Shallow connections aren't the only concern. Shook has seen at least one marriage break up over connections made with an old flame on Facebook.
"I think that's another big danger," he said. "When you start playing around with that kind of thing, you think it's no big deal. 'They friended me. I'll find out what's going on with them.' [When] you start down that path, you know where that path ends."
And for Christians, there is even greater cause for concern when it comes to a relationship with Christ.
"We're not bashing Facebook or technology because we use the technology to get the Gospel out," Kerry Shook clarified. "But I do think it can make us lazy in our relationship with Christ.
"When we are so used to everything happening easily with all the technology in relationships, it does make it shallow at times and so we carry that over into our spiritual life."
Churches and pastors really need to teach about the importance of solitude and stillness that's talked about in Scripture, Shook said, adding that some of the ancient disciplines are needed more today than ever.
"I'm not saying throw away all your technology devices. But you do need to be able to turn them off and tune them out so you can tune in to the Lord and tune in to the people closest to you," he said.
Woodlands Church's 20,000 members along with believers at about 100 other churches are kicking off a 30-day Love At Last Sight challenge the weekend of Sept. 11. The challenge includes a Facebook fast at least once a week and intentional face-to-face interactions with the community through random acts of kindness and service projects.
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