Author: Michelle Cowen, Director of Outreach and Strategic Church Partnerships, MOPS
Have you ever stopped to think about how much time the average person spends on social media, reading news or scrolling on their phones?
Over the last two years, people have had more opportunity to consume news and media. As we found ourselves at home more, the natural response for many was to spend an increased amount of time on our respective screens – either out of necessity or by choice.
According to a recent study conducted by Plos One, “ … the role of smartphones on life remarkably increased, as well as increased the problematic characteristics of smartphone use” during the events of the last two years.1 It should come as no surprise that people are consuming more media and news than ever before.
This isn’t about the shoulds and should nots of smartphones and screen usage. It is, however, important for us to consider how our families, neighbors, coworkers and friends are spending their time. The information we consume has a direct impact on our worldview.
People’s answers to some of life’s toughest questions are being informed by 24-hour news sources and social media.
As we have seen an increase in media consumption, we have also seen an increase in willingness to have spiritual conversations. Lifeway Research reported that post-pandemic, 32% of Americans were more interested in spiritual matters. Interestingly, younger generations (those under 49) were highly curious as to why some were so devoted in their faith.2
Stop and think for a moment about who is represented in that age bracket – moms.
Moms, among others, are ready to have spiritual conversations.
We, the church, have a unique opportunity. The people in our lives are hungry for meaningful conversations. But they aren’t coming to us to have them. Let’s ask why.
Firstly, many Christians simply aren’t sharing their faith. According to the aforementioned study from Lifeway Research, “Six in ten (60%) Americans say many of their friends who claim to be Christians rarely talk about their faith.” The first, most simple step in engaging in spiritual conversations is being open about your faith.
This does not mean you need to be prepared to give a full Gospel-presentation every time you meet someone who may not believe in Jesus. But it does invite us into a space of regularly allowing the love of Jesus to emanate from our lives both in word and deed.
Secondly, many no longer view the church as a “safe” or trusted institution. For years, the church has been a source of comfort, tangible help, spiritual guidance and love. However, according to a recent Gallup poll, church membership dropped below 50% (coming in at 47%) for the first time.3 Ever.
Gone are the days when it is culturally expected for young families to attend church because their parents did. Our neighbors, coworkers and acquaintances are looking for safe places to ask some of life’s hardest questions. And they aren’t going through the doors of a church to find the answers.
Many are going online – as evidenced by the pandemic bringing a surge in search engine inquiries regarding spiritual topics such as prayer, Bible downloads and so forth.4 People are searching for information, comfort, understanding and hope through social media and news channels.
People are hurting, and they aren’t turning to the church for answers.
Lastly, many Christians do not have the opportunity to share their faith because they are only surrounded by other believers. Making space for authentic, true relationships with people who have different beliefs is incredibly important.
Here are some practical tips to help you share your faith with others:
Pursue friendship with someone who is not a Christian. It is no surprise that finding friends can be really hard. We are naturally drawn to people with whom we have something in common – often our faith or how we raise our children. Actively pursuing a real, authentic friendship with someone who does not share your faith will take commitment. It takes time to cultivate a friendship. You won’t run into this person at church, but you might frequent the same park or perhaps work in your yards at the same time. Keep your eyes open for someone in your life who may need a friend. Then take the opportunity to demonstrate the love of Jesus through regular, everyday friendship.
Practice hospitality. To practice something means that thing finds a regular rhythm in your daily life. How often does your family open your home to share a meal with someone who is not a believer? Taking Jesus as our example, we should be regularly engaging with those unlike ourselves. We should be regularly showing generosity to those around us as an opportunity to reflect the love of Jesus. Start small but with intentionality. Invite a neighbor for coffee, offer to watch someone’s children or cook a meal for a neighbor who just had surgery. Your actions will be a direct reflection of God’s love.
Be willing to engage in conversations that make you uncomfortable. This one can be tricky. Our natural inclination is often to run from uncomfortable conversations. But when we engage in relationship with those who have different beliefs, uncomfortable conversations will inevitably happen.
Here’s the thing: it is radical for someone to share an opinion or a controversial statement and then be met with love and patience. In today’s world, many expect to have divisive and heated discussions on all things related to politics, racial injustice, abortion and so forth.
Many expect Christians and the church to loudly argue or disagree with certain standpoints on hot button issues. What a radical example of Christ’s love to be willing to engage in hard conversations, openly disagree and then remain in close relationship.
The opportunity for the church is massive. In a time when media and news sources are so loudly communicating their own messages, we can be a soft landing place for our neighbors. We can be a source of hope, truth and stability by sharing the love of Jesus.
By regularly and intentionally engaging with our neighbors, we will show them that the church – that Jesus — is the ultimate source of peace and satisfaction.
- Are your actions toward those with differing opinions hospitable? Do your actions and words reflect God’s love to those around you?
- What small but intentional thing can you do this week to practice hospitality?
- Do you know of someone who might need a friend? What can you do to reach out to them this week?
- Pray that your eyes and heart will be open to those around us that need to see that Jesus is the ultimate source of peace, hope and satisfaction.
- “From low sense of control to problematic smartphone use severity during Covid-19 outbreak: The mediating role of fear of missing out and the moderating role of repetitive negative thinking.” https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0261023, 2021, December 21.
- “Most Open to Spiritual Conversations, Few Christians Speaking” https://research.lifeway.com/2022/02/22/most-open-to-spiritual-conversations-few-christians-speaking/, 2022, February 22.
- “S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time” https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first-time.aspx, 2021, March 9.
- “Pandemic prompts surge in interest in prayer, Google data show” https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/climate-and-people/pandemic-prompts-surge-interest-prayer-google-data-show/, 2020, May 22.