The web can be a hissing snake of temptation trying to get us, not only to bite the apple, but to keep chomping on it all day and night. It can be used by the underworld to undermine our ministry effectiveness and, no, I'm not talking about porn. I'm referring to the underestimated underbelly of the internet known as neverending web surfing and social networking…in other words: wasting massive amounts of time on the web.
Now before you react I want you to think with me for a moment about how much time you spend on the web doing nothing productive. I focus on the word nothing because many productive things can be done on the web. I think of my buddy Tim Schmoyer who cranks out productive tools and training for youth leaders. His video trainings and blogs erupt from his current experience as a youth leader in Minnesota. His training is practical and Biblical and run with the blessings of his pastor. From everything I can tell it has not taken away from his ministry effectiveness but actually enhanced it. Why? Because he not only gives training away on his site but receives ideas from youth leaders all across the nation that he himself can implement in his own youth ministry.
But I get the feeling that for many ministry leaders, what may have started as a foray into social networking and blogging so that connections could be maintained and some cyber ministry done, has turned into a gigantic waste of time. For many ministry leaders it is easier to hide behind our desks surfing the web than it is to actually go out and do hands on ministry. I wonder, I really wonder how many pastors and youth pastors are wasting hours a day on Facebook, youtube, surfing or blogging while ministry needs of real people around them remain unmet.
I don't have stats to prove this, just intuition. Maybe it erupts from my own personal battle to keep my web time to an hour a day or less on average. Maybe it comes from the last blog entry of Mark Oestreicher on ysmarko.com. His was one of the few blogs I would read on a regular basis. But, last week Marko decided to call it quits. He writes,
i've been having a value stand-off, between what i say my values are and how i'm living my life. and it's eroding (and threatening) my long-term happiness, and the life i really want.
let me get to the point:
1. i'm going to stop nurturing the whole "ysmarko" thing. which means, starting today, i'm going to stop using facebook (i'm planning on deleting my facebook account tomorrow), and stop twittering (i'm going to delete my twitter account tomorrow), and this is my last blog post on ysmarko (at least for the foreseeable future, though i'll leave the blog sitting here for now).
He goes on to write,
"i know this is going to be hard in many ways, and i'll likely go through some form of withdrawal. but i'm also excited about the new focus, extra time, and relational presence i expect to experience in the coming months.
i've enjoyed the interaction i've had with so many of you through this blog, and pray god's blessing on you, as i ask you to do for me."
I respect Marko for making this decision so that he can focus more time on his family and his ministry responsibilities at Youth Specialties. And, while I'm sure that he wouldn't expect everyone to make this same decision, it should, at the very least, make us pause and consider about our own ministry values and how they may or may not conflict with how much of our time is spent on all things cyber.
If I were the devil I would do everything I could to distract every Christian I could from the things that matter most. I would take something amoral like the world wide web and use it as a web to capture my prey. I would tangle their schedules in the sticky seduction of endless, mindless social networking. If I couldn't poison their minds through online porn, I would, at the very minimum, keep them locked in my web world so that they would have less time to minister in the real world. And I would do it all while whispering the caveat that "everybody's doing it" and "this is how ministry is done in the postmodern world."
Again, I'm not saying that time on the web is sinful at all. But it, like anything, can transfrom from a tool into a temptation, from a nice addition to our lives into an addiction that consumes our lives. Let us use the web to accomplish our calling and not be used by it.