Growing Deeper into God's Design

What If Facebook is the New Church and Google is the New God?

To whom do you bow?

Several years ago, I was living outside Boston and working at a prestigious, but very secular, university. I was fully immersed in a secular world, a secular job, a secular society. I was living a life that was very much of the world, doing things my way and getting it all wrong. That’s when my world started falling apart. God was shaking everything, stripping it all down so that there would just be me and Him left. But first, when I was hurting and looking for answers, I Googled it.

I recall the day vividly, sitting in my office in my specially designed ergonomic desk chair that cost way too much, staring at my Mac, and tears streaming down my face. My husband had left, my boss had died, and my daughter was sick.

My computer came alive with that hopeful chiming hum that it makes. I opened my browser and I typed the question, “What am I supposed to do now?” as if a search engine could answer that question.

Of course, I knew it was a silly thing to do. I was very nearly praying that question, but to Google, not God. And of course, it offered me nothing particularly useful.


Just for fun, now, quite a many years later, I searched the same question to see what would come up. First up, a video, then some song lyrics, followed by a list of “17 Things You Should Do Right Now” and “I’m pregnant: What Do I Do Now?”… you get the picture.

A couple weeks ago, my husband read an article from Christianity Today that reports that Mark Zuckerberg claims that Facebook is the new church. As my husband told me this, my mouth gaped open. But, at the same time, I knew it should not surprise me. In fact, I immediately recalled the day I “prayed” to Google.

And it made me ask, “Is this where we’ve come? What if Facebook is the new church, and Google is the new god?”

I knew that much of the world doesn’t spend their days with heads bowed in prayer, but they do spend their days with heads bowed over their phones. I knew I was guilty of social media excess too! I knew I had even once searched those words that should’ve been directed to the one true God, and not the falsely omniscient god of Google.

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While once upon a time, people turned to God for answers, for love, for hope… and they turned to the church for community and teaching, we now look for those things in different places.

We still live in a world of people who are seeking answers and community. Only, now, we spend our days on social media and the World Wide Web hoping to find them.

While nothing has changed with the things people seek, still needing answers, love, hope, acceptance, community and teaching, we seek them in different places. Rather than turning to an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God, we’ve turned our gaze to the neon gods we’ve made.

This song really hits this point home…

I am not declaring all social media or technology to be evil. I think that is as silly as claiming a car killed a person, when there was a drunk driver behind the wheel. However, the world has become drunk with the foolishness and distraction that social media and the internet has offered.

It’s a false god.

Like the children of Israel, when Moses went up the mountain to meet with the real God, the Israelites made themselves a false god to worship to distraction, to fill a void. But it didn’t fill the void. It only distracted. And now we are guilty of the same.

When you seek god in Google, there is no peace. Just emptiness.

I know. After I typed that question, I sat waiting for some magic to happen. Some peace to fill me. Answers to my crisis. A direction. Something. Anything. But there was nothing. No peace. Just emptiness. Just more loneliness.

And that’s the problem. If Facebook is the new church and Google is the new god, the masses who seek fulfillment in those avenues will find nothing, only more emptiness. They may find some temporal distraction, some entertainment, but what the one true God offers is so real, so much more. What the world needs in Jesus. What the world needs is the church to offer a stronger community than the world is finding in Facebook.

If Facebook is the new church, the masses seeking fulfillment there will find only emptiness. Click To Tweet

The real God, whose name is YHWH, brings real peace, real hope, real joy, real change, real love, real life. And we, the church, need to be His representatives. He is not a temporal distraction or mere entertainment that leaves us even emptier when our experience is over. Instead, He leaves us full!

I sure hope, that people aren’t actually turning to Google and Facebook to fill the voids of their lives, but unfortunately, it’s probably accurate to call Facebook the new church. Where people once turned to church for community and answers, for help, for fellowship, even the very church is now turning to Facebook to meet those needs. And we need to be careful not to fall into that trap.

Facebook, unfortunately, is like the mega of megachurches. It’s everywhere, connects everything and offers everything from virtual parties to virtual Bible studies, to virtual community. It’s tempting to surrender our days to Facebook browsing and Internet googling, I know! But God designed us for actual face-to-face relationship with real people and not pretend personas. We have to fight this new “church” that Zuckerberg wants us to surrender to, and persist in engaging with others in real life fellowship, real life community, real worship… we need to be the real church.

We must not settle for answers that an algorithm generates at the click of a few keys, but seek God for His real direction that is personal and individualized to us, because He knows us, He made us!

We must not settle for answers an algorithm generates, but seek God for His real direction... Click To Tweet

So, what if Facebook is the new church and Google is the new god? God forbid!

4 Comments
  1. Diana says

    Such an important message ,Sharon . As bloggers, sometimes we tend to compare how many followers we can get and find our happiness relying on those numbers as well. Let YAHWEH get all the glory,power,followers,and dominion. Amen

    Blessings,
    Diana

  2. Mike Cole says

    I hesitate to comment because I know people don’t like to listen. But yes, Internet, tech, and such is the new church or should we say the “church” is the tech and Internet etc??
    Love is personal, love is daily face to face interaction. As we read the NT church did. Now we drive to “church”, to see people once a week for most church goers. And not much interaction even then because it’s a “service” for U to enjoy and learn from, with the kind of music U like. “Church” in an individualistic society is about U, not about personal self denying love with each other on a daily basis!

    Hearing a sermon about love on Sunday from a paid “professional”, “Pastors” living the easy life, people owning multiple or high priced houses while sitting next to others at church who can’t hardly afford anything–Individualistic and not personal.

    Paul saying he worked hard to pay his way and local leaders should too (Acts 20), Paul laying down his life everyday for the people, the people selling properties to help other believers–Personal Love!

    “Let’s help feed the homeless next Friday at the shelter”- Individualistic way of showing love. U can keep them separate and out of your life and church!

    Getting to know those people personally and having them to your home for dinner and then eventually holding them accountable for their claims–Personal Love.

    I could go on on and. And normally I don’t ever write this online. I rarely even say stuff in person about this stuff unless someone brings it up. I don’t know…something about u, at least what u have written about yourself, is just like me. Years ago when I first became a pastor. It’s been a long crazy road.
    Church reform does not, will not work. History has proven this. Satan masquerades as an angel of light. He likes people to go to church, as long as they stay entertained and on the fence. He likes church reform attempts. Because they only cut at the branches of the problems not the roots. And it makes people feel like they are accomplishing stuff. Satan attempted to trick Jesus himself with Scripture!
    U can not reform a system that does not line up with the truth of the Gospel. Think hard and pray hard about this. I will not write of it anymore to u.
    Keep pressing on! 🙂

    1. Sharon Butler says

      Oh on the contrary, I love hearing from people. I love different perspectives and think we can all learn from each other. I agree with your sentiments here. Yes, it all must be done in person. Face to face is essential. God didn’t design a web-based church. Even Paul traveled to his various church plants! Right? The problem is that the church is missing it. They are not creating a family. They aren’t being the body, so what they are offering is no better than an online community – and far less convenient. They’ve got to return to a Biblical model or we’re in trouble. Thanks again for doing me the honor of commenting, against your usual style. 😉

  3. heatherericksonauthor says

    My husband has often made this analogy when it comes to pubs. This one hits all of us close to home, though. Very thought provoking. Shared. 🙂

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