End The Lenten Social Media Exodus

Stop it. Right now. Don’t you click that “Deactivate your account” link.

Every year during Lent, a great number of young Catholic adults disappear off the digital face of the earth for 40 days, and fast from social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). It’s a beautiful thing to offer up to God when we live in a world where social media is almost essential for what passes off as “communication”. However, I think this is why we shouldn’t leave Facebook during Lent. Does a knight leave the battlefield until the fight is over?

We live in a world where if you can’t say something interesting in 140 characters or less people won’t pay attention and keep scrolling. This is also a world where information can be spread instantaneously to a multitude of people. If the Apostles had access to an evangelization gold mine like this almost 2,000 years ago, they would use it to its full potential. Of course social media can only go so far when spreading the most beautiful and personal message of Christ’s love (what with the lack of real human interaction) but it CAN bring people to Christ.

I wonder about something. Christ, before He began His ministry, went to the desert for 40 days because the “Spirit immediately drove Him out into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12 NRSV) after He was baptized. Jesus ate nothing during the 40 days and was tempted by the devil. Our 40 days of penance, alms, and fasting is to prepare us for Easter, the joy of our faith. Jesus took this time of solitude before He began His three years of ministry, but after this Jesus did not relent evangelizing. Yes, Christ went off by Himself to pray in solitude many times but we do not hear of a yearly exodus during those three years. When Jesus stepped on to the battlefield for the salvation of all mankind, He did not abandon the frontlines.

In Jesus’ time the best places to evangelize were the streets, the homes of friends and strangers, the marketplaces. Jesus went to where the people were. This is where He witnessed and proclaimed.

Where are the people of today at? The one place where people of all age, race, and religion gather and flock to from all over the world? It’s social media.

Social media can be a great detriment to our personal life, relationships with friends and family, and to our prayer life with God. It can be a distraction and barrier from the real world and true human interaction. This is why most Catholics give it up for Lent (I actually gave it up for 10 months when I served with NET Ministries!). To take these 40 days to grow closer in our relationship with Christ and devote the time that we would spend on Facebook to the Lord.

That’s great. That’s beautiful. I’ve got something that will bring you close to Christ while bringing others to Him.

I challenge you to NOT give up Facebook for Lent this year. Instead, use these 40 days to WITNESS and PROCLAIM the Gospel to your friends through social media.

Post your favourite quote from a Saint, or a Scripture verse daily.

Share what the Lord spoke to you in your personal prayer that day.

Offer to pray for any intentions that someone may have and your friends can comment their intentions.

Invite people to Mass, Adoration, or Stations of the Cross and then some form of socializing afterwards by making a Facebook Event.

Retweet the Holy Father’s tweets! @Pontifex

There’s so many beautiful ways that you can evangelize using social media this Lent. But of course you need to feed yourself and sacrifice during this season of Lent. So limit yourself to an hour of Facebook a day, and spend that hour evangelizing through it. It’s a lot harder to practice discipline than stop doing something altogether. We need to practice more self-control instead of having a cut-and-run mindset. If we had a cut-and-run mindset when it came to interacting with anyone who wasn’t Catholic for fear of losing our faith, evangelization would never happen. Yes, we can witness to them by living out our faith but if we never proclaim it, we will never be effective evangelists.

On the other hand, if you know that you can’t handle it; self-control is not going to bring you closer to Christ, then give up social media by all means! However, I’m sure that through the grace of God we will be able to use social media to spread the Good News and not lose our souls in the process this Lent.

I will be keeping my Facebook activated this Lent to proclaim and witness to my non-Catholic friends. This is the 40 day Lenten Social Media Evangelization Challenge; Will you take up the challenge?

Share and get inspired by others using #SMEchallenge and #versolalto to show your creative Lenten Social Media Evangelization methods!

John Lim

I'm 21 years old, Catholic and still learning. I currently work for a missionary organization known as NET Ministries of Canada as the Recruiter. I enjoy listening to my ever-expanding vinyl collection, reading, baking, and people watching on transit. View My Posts

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30 comments

  1. Laura · March 3

    I have to say I disagree. While social media can be a ministry tool and a great medium for evangelization, it is a life of holiness poured out to Jesus that truly brings others to Christ. If social media is hindering one from holiness, then giving it up IS the best way to evangelize. The message of our life must always be “let nothing hinder me from Christ”. If there is an obstacle in our life to holiness, I believe we must clear it. When we live that way, whether on social media or not, the world sees the true gospel.

    • John Lim · March 3

      I think you and I agree that witness (living a life of Holiness poured out to Jesus) brings others to Christ but I think you’re missing the other part that is essential to evangelization. Proclamation. Naturally living a life of Holiness will cause us to proclaim the Gospel. Why wouldn’t we share the love that we’ve found? But it is that intentional proclamation that can truly change lives. Jesus didn’t just witness but He proclaimed His message. There is something about hearing that you’re loved as well as being shown that love, that brings everything full circle.

      Like I said in the article if giving up social media is a better way to grow in Holiness, that’s what you should do. However I truly believe that by the grace of God, self-discipline, and intentional evangelization using social media can be a greater good than the repeated giving up of Facebook for Lent.

      I’m not saying we need social media to evangelize but it is a great tool that we can use to witness and proclaim. It is something that we can use intentionally to bring great glory to God.

      • Laura · March 3

        Yes, that’s true. I see your point and I agree. :) Thank you for keeping up this blog.

    • 1Hope4All · March 3

      Amen! I agree with you Laura! It’s good to evangelize but some people can get caught up on Facebook. It’s an addiction to many people and there are other things on Facebook besides Catholic information. We can evangelize just fine out in the world without having to be on the internet. We cannot go to Adoration over the internet. We cannot go to Mass over the internet. We cannot go out and touch someone’s life with a smile and conversation over the internet.

  2. Laura · March 3

    However, I should say that I agree with the fact that practicing discipline is harder than giving up something altogether. There is much wisdom in that, and it has certainly made me think.

  3. Laura · March 3

    You’ve swayed me. Giving up the internet for lent has never taught to me to have self-control. Instead of giving up the internet this year, I am going to practice self-control in using it and use it to share Christ with others.

    Keep posting.

  4. Lydia Bestul · March 3

    You ask, “Does a knight leave the battlefield until the fight is over?” Yes, St. Francis of Assisi did, because it wasn’t the battle he was called to fight. For some people, Facebook is used in a way that is detrimental to them. You make some good points, but I think you’re not qualified to tell people what they should give up for Lent and how they will become a saint.

    • John Lim · March 3

      Hi Lydia, I’m not sure if you missed this line or not but in my article I did state this:
      On the other hand, if you know that you can’t handle it; self-control is not going to bring you closer to Christ, then give up social media by all means! However, I’m sure that through the grace of God we will be able to use social media to spread the Good News and not lose our souls in the process this Lent.

      I’m not condemning people who give up Facebook for Lent but presenting a challenge to those who give it up because it is Lent. I even acknowledge the detrimental effects of social media:
      Social media can be a great detriment to our personal life, relationships with friends and family, and to our prayer life with God. It can be a distraction and barrier from the real world and true human interaction. This is why most Catholics give it up for Lent (I actually gave it up for 10 months when I served with NET Ministries!). To take these 40 days to grow closer in our relationship with Christ and devote the time that we would spend on Facebook to the Lord.”

      There are people who are not called to fight this battle of giving up Facebook but I think you and I can agree that it is the duty of every Catholic to evangelize (whether through big or small ways). The Church EXISTS to evangelize (Evangelii Nuntiandi). Social media is of course not the only way to evangelize but I believe that it is an opportunity to evangelize that we neglect.

      • Lydia Bestul · March 3

        Very true, your point has been made clearer! I hope you have a Blessed Lent.

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  6. Paula Rondon · March 3

    Hi John,

    You’ve offered a very reasonable alternative to the “I’m giving up Facebook for Lent” track — thank you! It’s very much in tune with “We are not of the world, but we are in it.” (I’ve switched the usual order of the clauses in this saying, because in my experience too many Catholics focus on the “not of the world” part and too few on the “we are in it” part.) Jesus Himself, as you alluded to, was in the world ministering to it at a specific point in history. How amazing that we are given the same opportunity! I’m glad you’ve recommended that we take advantage of evangelizing (sometimes in more subtle ways, other times in more overt ways) via social media this Lent. For those who decide to take part, I hope and pray it bears much fruit. And for those who need a retreat from the world, I hope and pray their time is filled with graces, too.

    Christ’s Peace,
    Paula

    • Paula Rondon · March 3

      I ought to have written “…ministering to His people…” !

  7. Jake Nelson · March 3

    I think what’s giving everyone such an uneasy feeling about this article is that it seems to assume that everyone who decides to give up Facebook for Lent has no awareness of the possibility of using social media as a tool for evangelism. As others have mentioned, though, I believe that many people make this decision with the idea of evangelism and/or witnessing in mind: every Lent, I see several comments/statuses from Catholic friends about how and why they have decided to go without social media and/or their computers: because real, physical relationships are more important, because it distracts them from prayer and quiet reflection, because it causes them to perceive people as their online persona instead of who they truly are, and so on. I would, indeed, agree that we shouldn’t give up Facebook just “because.” We should have a purpose and ideal in mind when we decide what our Lenten practice shall be, and I am certain that not everyone who gives up Facebook for Lent thinks about their fast this way. I am all for more intentionality when it comes to one’s Lenten journey.

    A better approach to this article may have been, “am I using social media in a well-ordered way? Am I making use of its evangelistic opportunities, and if not, how could I do so?” I gather that this is the true gist of your post — I don’t think you’re objectively against the idea of giving up Facebook for Lent, especially if it represents an obstacle to deeper holiness. You simply want young Catholics to recognize that Facebook itself is not an inherently bad thing, and that it represents a relatively untapped medium through which we can effectively deliver the Gospel message. That’s an idea I’m totally on board with. But for some, if not many, people, this is, indeed, a new perspective on and approach to social media. Developing this perspective might mean that we have to remove ourselves from that world for a time, to examine how and why we use social media at all. If we don’t occasionally step back from such things, we may not even realize how they affect us. Maybe I do, indeed, post a really great Catholic article from time to time, or send helpful, compassionate comments to friends in times of need. But I also spent a little too long on the page of a certain female friend. And I probably shouldn’t have watched that video my friend from high school posted. And is it really 2:00am? Man, going to be tough to get up to pray tomorrow morning. I think that, for most people, a six-week break from something so volatile as Facebook can help purge & purify the way we let it influence our lives.

  8. Jeni @ Patron Saint {of Poopy Diapers} · March 3

    Nice! I totally agree!! I’ll keep blogging, posting and tweeting these 40 days. :)

    The cream in my coffee on the other hand…

  9. JM Kraemer · March 3

    I find sometimes that turning off social media is counter productive. But for me it’s something that I can’t do. March is around the time I’m working on my annual Lego Church Project. So I’m always updating the page with pictures and notes about the progress of the build. So my feeling is to share my talents with those around me.

  10. Kara · March 3

    One thing I have found myself doing is fasting from Facebook every Friday for a specific prayer intention. Only I know I’m doing it (well, not any more) but I think one thing that sometimes turns me off is the big deal people seem to make about doing it. It’s not secret, it’s shouted, drawing attention to the sacrifice rather than just quietly retreating from the world.

  11. Gale · March 3

    Sixty years ago I was instructed (by a MEAN nun) to give up something you truly enjoy, be it candy, soda, harassing your sibling, etc. We were told we had to give up the practice for the entire Lenten season, there was not an exception to be made, not even on Sunday!!! You had to use your God given free choice to do this and you had to live the whole of the season without breaking that offering, you could not say to the candy store don’t carry chocolate because it is Lent, you could not tell the cola manufacturers not to deliver to your town because it was Lent, and for sure you could not ask your parents to put the “brat” in an institution somewhere until Lent was over!!! We HAD to use our free choice to do our Lenten duty, we did it because we believed that Christ gave so much for us and that through his blessings we were strong and able to do these 40 days of sacrifice and giving without asking for or getting special help. I feel if you can’t give up FB without deactivating then this is not a real sacrifice, it is the devil winning because you don’t believe enough in your faith. Christ went into the desert to pray and prepare and often the devil would invade his space, He never asked God to kick the devil out of the world, he simply exercised his free will which gave us many of his teachings, I have thanked him many years for those teachings because they helped me so many times. Ok, I admit I am long winded, my point is, if you can’t give it up without physically shutting it off then you may need to search for your free will, it is there within you, just pushed back somewhere, find it and you will have an easier time giving up something without it being taken from you. Just my humble opinion.

    • corv · March 3

      It takes two seconds to reactivate a deactivated Facebook. That’s far from any example you used from stopping deliveries of sweets and institutionalizing your sibling.

    • corv · March 3

      In fact, your opinion is far from humble, but rather gives the impression you are suggesting those who voluntarily abstain from fb by disabling the extra temptation of multiple notifications, are in some way lacking in sanctity. The sanctity you don’t mind letting us know you are not in short supply of. You may want to reconsider your off the handle judgments on the way some people handle what is in most cases, just a small part of their Lenten sacrifice.

    • 1Hope4All · March 3

      Wow, you act is if you know everyone’s heart. And I don’t see your opinion as humble. A person who does not deactivate Fcbk but refrains from using it is no holier than the person who actually deactivates it. There is such a thing as removing all near occasion of sin, free will or no free will. And to say such a stupid ignorant thing about putting a “brat” in an institution makes no sense at all. It’s not a good analogy.

  12. screwtape21 · March 3

    A great reflection to think about for lent. Just applicable to Protestants as Catholics. All Christians should let their light shine throughout the year in life and in cyberspace!

  13. Brian Gill · March 3

    Agreed, wholeheartedly: assuming that a presence in social media has an evangelical or faith-related facet to begin with.

    That’s why I won’t stop the regular posts to my A Catholic Citizen in America blog, abandon the online prayer groups I’m in, or stop letting folks know that I exist – and am blatantly Catholic.

    On a related note, instead of subtracting something from my life for Lent, I’ve been adding a routine: a chaplet, one of those Lenten companions folks publish, whatever.

  14. Cory Heimann · March 3

    My war knowledge is very limited, but don’t knights leave the battle field all the time? In fact don’t we use the same word for the spiritual life? A retreat is very different than a surrender. If someone is giving up social media it should be a retreat; a time to reflect on how we’re using these tools to further the kingdom. When one retreats on the battle field it’s to regroup and re strategize and win the war.

    • 1Hope4All · March 3

      Great post Cory Heimann! I agree. I don’t know why John is having a conniption over people deactivating. Let the people in peace! Let them do with Lent what they want. Each person makes whatever sacrifices they feel they need.

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  16. Matt C. · March 3

    Faith is an individual question/choice. Trying to convert others or make others “find Christ” is what led to crusades. It’s wrong. Let people find themselves whatever they are looking for, or need to find.

    • 1Hope4All · March 3

      Wow…. No one converts any one person. We only evangelize by showing Christ in us. Also by trying to educate through social media, or writing books and/or blogs on the internet. There are many converts who write books to educate people about Jesus and the faith He established in His Church. Anyway, only the Holy Spirit can convert a person. We only show love and kindness to people and yes, tell people about Jesus. If they want to hear out of curiosity, then we continue conversation. No persuading, no forcing. Just informing and caring and loving.

  17. Steve · March 3

    Amen brotha! Preach it! Grow in virtue & still can be on. Just don’t comment on things & waste time scrolling through 100s of pages.

    Video Sancto of youtube

  18. cyndi · March 3

    I was with you back in February! Thanks for another perspective…I enjoyed your blog post. http://www.embeddedfaith.org/1/post/2014/02/its-time-for-a-new-social-media-pledge.html#.UxqVs42YbIU

  19. Jen · March 3

    Thank you for some great food for thought. I hope you don’t mind, I referenced your post in my new blog. God bless you!

    http://gainingchristjesus.blogspot.com/2014/03/in-your-hearts-set-apart-christ-as-lord.html