- The Washington Times
Monday, May 2, 2022

A spiritual renewal advocate is urging evangelical Christians to take a 10-day “social media fast” to reconnect with God and share the gospel with others.

James Spencer, president of the D.L. Moody Center in Massachusetts, said the “Go Dark, Shine Bright” campaign aims to help believers take a “conscious approach” to social media. Instead of tweeting, he wants Christians to spend time in prayer and commit to sharing their faith with five people during the period.

“When we make space for the light of God to shine through, we are amazed at what He illuminates in our lives,” Mr. Spencer said. “But the more distracted we are, the harder it is to look with eyes that see and listen with ears that hear.”

He added, “We’re not anti social media. I think it’s often good for us to take a step back from the things that seem so pertinent and present in our lives, just to remind ourselves that we don’t live on social media alone. Christians need to be about digging into God’s word, prayer, and depending on him for all that we need.”

The call to abstain temporarily from social media comes amidst increasing concern over its use. A 2019 Australian study led by researcher Simon M. Wiksch found “a clear pattern of association” between the use of social media and eating disorders in adolescents, with Instagram being a leading trigger.

Earlier, Baylor University sociologist Paul K. McClure found that young adults who use social networking sites “are more likely to think it is acceptable to pick and choose their religious beliefs, and practice multiple religions independent of what their religious tradition teaches.”

Mr. Spencer asserted, “I’m not interested in demonizing social media. I’m interested in people getting back into God’s word and, and trusting and following it more than anything else.”

He acknowledged that some people may have to utilize social media for work or community purposes such as sharing public service announcements or marketing messages and can’t totally abstain.

“It’s more about the intention” than about a strict regiment, he said, which is why Mr. Spencer is calling on people to monitor what he calls their “discretionary” use of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The goal, he said, “is not to disrupt people’s work lives or anything like that. But to help them set an intention to really dig into God’s word to be intentional in prayer. And to set aside that sort of discretionary use and scrolling of social media that can really be just a distraction.”

Mr. Spencer, whose 2021 book “Useful to God” details lessons from the life of D.L. Moody, the renowned 19th-century evangelist, said that while Mr. Moody didn’t have to contend with TikTok, he saw Christians distracted by political and other issues and moving away from sharing the gospel.

Mr. Moody saw “this distraction happening in his local community, and [tried] to get people to refocus on the gospel,” he said. “And to remind them that this is what Christians are here for —  it is the one thing that we can say and do — proclaiming the gospel that no other group of people can.”

He said more information on the campaign is online at www.moodycenter.org.

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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