A Sidekick's Blog

A True Church is More

January 30, 2017
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According to Ligonier, the marks of the true church are:

Pure preaching of the gospel,
Pure administration of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and
Church discipline.

But of course, a true church ought to be more than just these. It is a place where disciples are made. It is a place where the people become a family and friendships are forged that make discipleship – and pure gospel preaching, pure sacraments, and church discipline possible.

Friendship is absolutely vital. One can belong to any church with these three marks and still never become a disciple if he or she is not open to the risk and joy of forging real friendships. We can call each other “brothers and sisters in Christ” without ever learning the real meaning of the common bond we share under our Father God and Elder Brother Jesus Christ.

That’s the hard part. In every church I have ever been a part of, with the exception of two in my childhood, I have forged no friendships at all. Lots of acquaintances, lots of people that I shared a lot in common with (music ministry, youth trips, mission trips, etc), but no friendships that fostered real discipleship to Christ. I’m lonely as can be, surrounded by people who call me “brother” but with whom I share nothing but handshakes and casual conversation once or twice a week.

I can’t say I ever really learned how to make friends, or even to be a friend.

At my age I wonder if it’s too late now.


Why I Dumped Facebook

February 12, 2015
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No matter what I did on Facebook, it seemed like it always hurt someone. Someone I left out, someone I included, someone who took me seriously when I wasn’t serious, or vice versa. I was only on Facebook because my family begged me to get on there so they could “keep in touch.” As if the phone had stopped working. Or e-mail had disappeared. Or the Postal Service had gone out of business. There are a zillion and eleven ways for family to keep in touch, with or without Facebook, and I frankly resent being forced into a single one. A proprietary one at that, in which every “like,” every click, every comment, and every check-in is logged and sold to targeted advertisers. I don’t like being reduced to a commodity, and that is exactly what Facebook users are. My phone still works, family and friends. So does the United States Postal Service. So does my e-mail. You want to keep in touch because family matters to you? Then answer my letters (e-mail and snail mail)! Return my phone calls! Make a few keystrokes if it’s important to you. If “keeping in touch” just means clicking a “like” button once in a while, then we have very different ideas about what keeping in touch means. And, apparently, very different values when it comes to family.

There is an alternative “social networking” site that I’m still on, but it is far from ideal, probably not safe for kids, for the easily offended, or the easily provoked. I don’t think I’ll even stay on Diaspora either since almost no one there shares my interests and the federation of content (as opposed to having it all on a centralized network) needs a lot more tweaking before Diaspora can really function as a viable “social network.” They do keep trying, but I think the main issue is more basic than the ones they keep re-trying and re-tweaking.

I don’t tweet, and I never will. I don’t “check in” on social media and I never will again. I like and I share and I comment, but I use the telephone, email, Internet message boards, and this blog to do that. Besides, in my experience, communication that isn’t done person-to-person is at high risk for misunderstanding, hurt feelings, drama, and other pointless, unnecessary headaches. That is what finally drove me off of Facebook, but all along there were other concerns that gnawed at me:

Privacy concerns: I’m not shy with my opinions, and I’m probably already on a dozen watch lists for my political, religious, and vocational views.


Permanency:
Nothing posted to facebook is ever deleted. There is a permanent record of every little thing I ever liked, posted, or commented on. Including some stuff I wish I could take back. An impossible fantasy on facebook. I still have a future to think about, too: Finishing college, getting a job, applying for loans… everything with my name on it is available on-line to potential employers, partners, professors, supervisors, fellow employees. And most of it is simply none of their business.

False friendship: People who never kept in touch for years suddenly appear and want “friendship” after having ignored me for years. Just – no. I don’t put up with that sort of phoney behavior from memebers of my own family! So why in heck would I put up with it from someone who has let himself become a stranger?

I am not for sale: Facebook is not free. No multinational corporation is simply giving away a product for people to use as they see fit. Facebook users are a commodity, to be sold to targeted advertisers. Your likes and dislikes, favorite things, and affiliations are valuable information which is gathered by Facebook and sold. It doesn’t make sense for me to give that valuable information away and let Mister Zuckerberg use it to line his own pockets and share none of the profit with me. I’m not a commodity to be bought and sold. This for me is an ethical issue, and I’m ashamed that I ever took part in it.


Big Brother is Watching:
I’m sorry if this sounds paranoid, but it isn’t only the NSA that has me nervous about sharing every little thing on “social” media. It’s all the other players in this global intelligence game as well. Members of the military are cautioned all the time about what they post to sites like Facebook. Enemies use posts from soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and their families to gain access to information which seems innocuous and harmless, but used cumulatively and coordination with other global cyber-sources can lead to disastrous consequences at home and overseas.

In the end it was “family drama” that finally got me to listen to my own conscience and close the door on Facebook. People who are accustomed to communicating only in memes and text messages can expect to be misunderstood, offended, scolded, and “unfriended” frequently. Real life relationships are becoming an endangered thing, and the simple skills needed to maintain good relationships are vanishing. I hope they will last beyond my own generation.