Summer’s not really over yet, but the season changed at Circle of Hope’s Public Meeting last night and I’m ready to move into the fall.  Sorry to those of you who haven’t gone on vacation yet.  I feel a bit like the guy who asks “How was your weekend?” on Sunday afternoon.  Forgive me.

I spent the Pentecost season off of Facebook (and this blog, instagram, tumblr, twitter etc.).  It was a communal experiment among the pastors and a few other leaders at Circle of Hope.  We wanted to unplug to see if our disconnection hurt us at all.  Does facebook as a medium actually help our cause, or do we spend a lot of time shouting into the void when we could be making real-er connections?  We want to be the media which for me means I want to know people and I want people to know me.  I believe that in a relationship with me or someone like me people have the best chance of meeting Jesus.  This summer I wanted to see how the virtual relating of facbookland worked by letting it not work for a while.

The most notable changes occurred within me and my habits.  Without the distraction of facebook I was more productive.  I read more books.  I started a new cell and hung out with those new people in my life.  I got out into Philadelphia on the Circle of Hope Summer Tour and I didn’t worry about the storytelling of the experience before the experience was over.  I was in the moment, relating to the people around me as I was with them.  I did not triangulate a thousand people into our interactions.  I have to admit that I am an image conscious person.  I worry about what people will think.  Facebook plays into this character trait by encouraging me to manage a virtual image of myself; and because I am a leader of a community, I manage an image of Circle of Hope too.

Image management isn’t all bad.  I want to be received well by all sorts of people so that I might speak into their life after earning a place of trust.  I want to be a conspicuous force for good in the world so people will see my good deeds and glorify my father in heaven.  I know for certain I can do these things without facebook, but I’ve decided to do it with facebook again because it’s a way that people relate and it’s the only way I relate to some of the people I barely know or knew well before they or I moved away.

Facebook is a very dangerous tool.  It can suck me in and begin to make me who I am.  I can begin to be an image of myself rather than the me I really am now.  This is the easiest way for the enemy to undermine me.  If I can’t do it to a perfect standard; if I can’t be the person I wish I was, then I might as well wallow in my sin, or my ineffective strategy, or  whatever else is currently unhealthy in my life.  That’s enough reason for me not to go back.  Put that on top of the image that the marketers are making of me–the detailed niche market of Benjamin White that has extended from ads to the actual news feeds of my friends.  I now only see what they want me to see from private users too.  Everything filtered, manicured, marketed and algorhythm-ed for my viewing pleasure and for facebook’s maximized profit.  A dangerous tool indeed.  But I’ve read the instruction manual, I’ve got my safety goggles on, a bit clearer now after a season away and I’m ready to relate again there too.  I’ll probably see you there but let’s not keep it there. okay?