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FaithOut.com, Godtube.com, and Our Online Ivory Tower

I’ve been getting a lot of email invitations to join FaithOut.com, which claims to be the first “Christian alternative to Facebook.” If you want to join FaithOut, go right ahead. I’m sticking with Facebook, and I ‘m a Christian. My spirit is stirred at what some believers are doing in the online realm of things. Instead of engaging and impacting the online culture for the Kingdom, we’re attempting to create an online Christian subculture into which we can retreat. GodTube is another very popular example. (I actually use GodTube simply because of a lot of videos that are offered there that you can’t find on mainstream alternatives, but nonetheless…) This, in my estimation, is quite similar to the popularity in the brick-and-mortar world of Christian bookstores, Christian coffee shops, and other forms of Christian alternatives to secular offerings. Here are my concerns…

1. We’re missing the point of what being the “salt of the earth” is all about. We’re hoping to remain safe inside our salt shakers. If we aren’t in a Bible study at church (nothing wrong with this unless it prevents us from engaging people outside the church), we’re shopping at a Christian bookstore and surfing FaithOut.com. But salt, by its nature, permeates the culture – it spreads out and flavors everything around it. Salt can’t flavor other salt – that job is done.

2. When we offer alternatives, it’s rarely as nice as what the world can do. I’ve heard it said that “whatever the world can do, Christianity can do it ten years later and 90% as well.” I agree. Many of our attempts to create an alternative subculture are shabby attempts and cheap imitations.

3. We bring our motives into question. Facebook has a $15 billion value. I’m not sure why. I like Facebook, but if some servers blew up, it would be worthless. Nonetheless, the advertising revenue possibilities are such that it’s extremely valuable. FaithOut, GodTube, etc., etc. are ad-driven. They mimic the revenue models of secular counterparts. I don’t have a problem with someone making money online. But I think branding a major media conglomerate as a “Christian alternative” with the intention of making millions of dollars off of it could get our testimonies in trouble. I only hope that Christian entrepreneurs who launch such ventures are honest about wanting to profit so that we aren’t being double-minded in our approach.

For me, it all boils down to our missionary mandate. Imagine if we decided to find an uninhabited portion of land – some virgin forest unexplored and untouched by human machete. Further imagine we declared it Christiantopia – a “Christian alternative” to living in a nation. Hey, we could elect whatever president we wanted, pass laws that honored our convictions, and have Christian music piped into every home (of course, we’d argue about whether it should be traditional or contemporary).

The problems with this mindset are obvious…

  1. God is creating such a place – a new heaven and new earth, a new Jerusalem.
  2. If we created it, we would mess it up instantly.
  3. God’s will isn’t that we have for ourselves a special and segregated “Christian nation,” but that we impact our own.
  4. We would remain in the confines of our comfort zone

Someday, God will provide us the very Christian utopia for which we long. In the meantime, I think His command is to “get out of the saltshaker!”

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  • Angie

    I’m not sure I agree with you on this. Where do you draw the line? Does this mean we shouldn’t have Christian schools or colleges? What about Christian movies like “Fireproof”. They obviously couldn’t do it as well as Hollywood-so should they have not produced it? I think its okay to have Christian bookstores so that we can be educated, encouraged and equipped to carry out the great commission. We need SAFE places on the internet to feel that our children/teenagers can engage wihtout fear of harm-to connect with other beleivesr. We have to be salt, but we also need to be able to retreat and recharge our batteries . . .I mean if what your saying is true-why have church-isn’t it a SAFE Christian Bubble??

  • Brandon

    You make excellent points. In fact, I think I stand corrected. I feel a bit frustrated about a general apathy toward engaging culture. However, I must consider my own struggles with this apathy.

    My words should really not be an attack on such efforts. Instead I should be issuing a challenge to individual believers, in a positive way to make sure we keep the balance.

    I did not realize just how negative my words sounded. I will still argue, however, that we shouldn’t abandon the culture entirely for a Christian mini-world of our own. I definitely concede that I’ve been too critical, though. Thanks for speaking up!

  • John Paul

    Don’t be too hard on yourself, Brandon. I think you have both made excellent points.

    You’ll find this argument among just about any group of people with their own set of beliefs or ideas. For instance, I am somewhat of an environmentalist, and I am currently working with my local government officials to help improve the quality of life in my city by making it more environmentally friendly. I’ve found that I can sit down in a room full of people who are just as passionate about this cause as I am, and we can come up with some great ideas. In order to make these ideas a reality, however, we must leave that room and spread the ideas to the community that we intend to help. If we were to stay in that room our good intentions would never find their way to the ears of those that need to hear them.

    I think there is a happy medium that must be reached. There is no black and white, but more of a gray area. There is a time to stay in the room, but there is also a time to leave the comfort of that room.

    I tend to agree with Brandon’s stance a little more because if everyone were to stay within the “bubble” of their beliefs then growth would not be possible.

  • http://www.timothyfish.net Timothy Fish

    I think you’re right in that there is something of a tendency for people to take just about everything that is out there, stick Christian in front of it and call it good. Some of these are better choices than others. Creating a Christian version of something when it is the participants that determine the nature of a thing is probably a waste of resources and it pulls Christians out of areas where they are needed if we are to make an impact. When Christians disappear from the discussion, the world continues to discuss among themselves and they come up with the wrong answers. We see the same problem with schools. When small church schools try to pull all the good teachers from the public schools, we have public schools with more non-Christian teachers filling the void. I don’t see it as such a big problem with colleges because of the way people make choices concerning college.

  • Robbie

    @Angie

    I agree with you Angie. It’s great to know there are safe alternatives such as FaithOut where we can fellowhip and be encouraged. Yes we are called to be salt in this world and all Christians should take this mandate very seriously but as we know the Church is for Christians not the world and it’s good to have places like that online then we can get our Faith OUT and spread the great news for everyone!

  • Brandon

    It’s interesting to me the response that this post generated. I still think I was too harsh and really, my post should have been a challenge to individual believers to make sure we are balancing out our “grouping up for fellowship” and our “going out to make a difference.” I’m going to work on a follow-up post soon to that effect.

    Thanks for weighing in. Now go join FaithOut and watch a video on GodTube. Unless you’re at work, in which case you should get back to work and stop reading my blog. :-)

  • http://navigateyourmarketing.com/ David (Marketing Integrity)

    It is good to connect with you Brandon.

    This type of post will generate a good conversation because there are so many directions that people can come at this from. I resonate with your passion to be SALT…because that is where I too am coming from. I can appreciate the need for a safe environment for families as well. I just hope Christians will not use “safety” as an excuse for being afraid to live out who they really are. All too often Christians shy away from letting their faith shine out. The fact is that we do not live in the land of Christiantopia and we must show people the true hope and purpose our life has in relationship with Jesus. So, I for one choose to boldly interact on Facebook and Twitter with people who are not Christians so they might see that Christians can be in the world but not of it.

    Excellent thought provoking article!

    David (Marketing Integrity)’s last blog post..Pastors Who Endorse Marketing

  • Melvin

    I received an e-mail to Faithout, I checked it out and I was impressed as I was with God-Tube. I like the idea when I view things I on the web I can see things I won’t have to be make sure my kids are not around to see or even lead me into temptations. I work in a retail place of business and I take that opportunity to be the salt there but it is nice to have a place to “recharge”. If a person has no problem with Facebook or YouTube then by all means go or stay there but it is great to have an alternative not just the only choice. I myself have to keep monitering the time with the family or we can be on Facebook or now Faithout to much that we could or have missed opportunites for ministry in our own commmunity. It is great to be avaiable to minister to those on Facebook or Faithout but it is your neighbor next door that you can go face to face that makes the biggest impact.
    I feel that the gospel however it is given out should be done but having choices makes you make a decisions so things have to weighed out and convictions would have to be inline.

    God is good and he uses what ever is available if it will bring a soul to to the kingdom of God.

    • Brandon

      Melvin, I appreciate your input. Had you seen that Godtube.com changed its name to Tangle? I feel this really helps by allowing it to still be a Christian (clean and family-friendly) site while being branded in a way that inserts it into culture. I further agree that it’s real life, face-to-face relationships that matter far more. I’m rarely impressed when someone says they reached ten people for Christ in a chat room, only because it’s so anonymous, but I’m thrilled when someone has an impact on their neighbor. Great points.

  • Chris

    I’m thrilled when ANYONE is turned to Christ. Chatroom or next door. =)

    Great message and I’m glad you wrote the way you did. It brought to mind things I have not thought about. Keep it up, Pastor Brandon.

  • http://smudge77.multiply.com/ marion

    I totally agree with you Brandon about
    “Instead of engaging and impacting the online culture for the Kingdom, we’re attempting to create an online Christian subculture into which we can retreat.”

    I often turn down requests from Christians to be contacts [especially the kind who just post devotional type blogs]

    hope you don’t mind me commenting…came across this blog when I was Googling for ‘Christian concern for blogging with integrity’

    I can’t stand Facebook, it’s a bit shallow [in my personal opinion], but I find Multiply a great place and resource for blogging in many ways.

    marion’s last blog post..Reading Books ~ Stretching The Brain ‘Muscle’

    • Brandon

      Marion, glad you chimed in and thanks for the feedback and the link – I'm not too familiar with Multiply. I'm a Twitter fan myself – cuts out 95% of the Facebook "stuff" that nobody really cares about and just allows you to connect and share resources easily.