Reverend Cedric Miller of Living Word Christian Fellowship Church in New Jersey has banned Facebook. He’s ordered about 50 married church officials to delete their accounts or resign and has called on married people in his 1,100-member congregation to delete their Facebook accounts. The problem isn’t lost productivity to Farmville—it’s adultery.
I’ll let that simmer for a minute.
Miller said 20 couples from his church have had marital problems in the last six months after a spouse reconnected with an ex on Facebook. Miller previously asked couples to share Facebook logins for accountability, but is now going further.
“I’ve been in extended counseling with couples with marital problems because of Facebook for the last year and a half,” he said in an AP story. “What happens is someone from yesterday surfaces, it leads to conversations and there have been physical meet-ups. The temptation is just too great.”
According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 81% of its members have either used or been faced with evidence from social networking sites in divorce cases in the last five years, including Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. A do-it-yourself divorce site in the UK has reported that one in five petitions it handles cited Facebook.
Let’s just say it: “People are getting divorced because of Facebook.”
It’s How You Use the Tool
I say that’s ridiculous. Fun fact: Facebook is neither good nor evil. It’s just a tool. It’s all about what you do with it. Let’s not condemn the entire tool because a few people don’t know how to use it.
It’s easier to live in extremes when there is confusion, and the church is really good at condemning things because they’re too hard to control: books, movies, television, the Internet, etc. What if we had abandoned those mediums because they were occupied by darkness? I shudder to think where we would be without being able to use those tools in today’s world. The church is called “light” for a reason. There have been some courageous, Bible-believing followers of Jesus who took a stand and demanded light in the dark places, and I’m thankful because now it’s our turn.
Facebook for Good
Here are some ways a tool like Facebook can be used for good:
- Be Real: Let your staff and team be the genuine people they are. Don’t use them as promotion robots. Release some control and let them use Facebook naturally.
- Remove Barriers: Connections through Facebook tend to break down barriers for people. I know several folks who attended a church already knowing several members. It really helps.
- Have Conversations: Everyone is busy, but there’s something about a Facebook conversation that most people make time for. Whether it’s four sentences back and forth or month long messages, it can all serve to shine a light in dark places.
- Evangelism: I think this is an obvious one, but there’s another layer. If you are living a compelling, God-honoring life through Facebook, people will reach out to you with faith questions. We don’t always have to do the pushing.
Better Ways to Help Marriages
Adultery happens with or without Facebook (or any social networking site), so instead of banning Facebook, let’s find some real ways to stop adultery:
- Teach about the value of accountability. Suggest that members share their Facebook passwords with spouses and/or a friend. If you have people who aren’t willing to step into that, you can pretty much assume there is an issue and then help from there. (Miller doesn’t explain why this wasn’t enough for his congregation.)
- Turn Facebook into a tool. Create a Facebook group for people in your church who struggle with sins such as adultery, pornography, slander, greed, etc. Post encouraging scripture and teaching while allowing the members to have conversations and post prayer requests. And if Facebook is too public, make sure this kind of accountability is happening in small groups.
- Offer preventative marital counseling. If a marriage is in trouble, it isn’t because of Facebook. The problem started long before friending an ex. Get on the solution side of growing successful marriages.
- Lift up and celebrate successful marriages in your church. There is power in a story.
We cannot retreat because there is risk. We need to go where the lost people are, and right now, there are more than 500 million people who can be exposed to the gospel on Facebook.
Let’s dig in our heels for the sake of the gospel. Friend me. We’ll figure it out together.