Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Plugged In: Proclaiming Christ in the Internet Age (Book Review)

This is Marie Notcheva’s second book, her first book (Redeemed From the Pit) I wrote a review for when it came out 3 years ago so I feel privileged to write a review for this one as well. This book is primarily written for Christians who desire to minister to others online whether it’s knowing how to respond to someone’s “I’m depressed” post, evangelizing or doing one-on-one counseling. A shorter book, just under 125 pages, but packed with really great advice!

In our modern technological age the internet has opened to us a whole world to interact with. It’s also a whole new sphere where self-promotion is free to abound, where attention-seeking can be disguised and it’s a whole lot easier to be mean and say things you would never say to a person’s face. On the positive side we have a multitude of opportunities to interact with people. We listen, we speak and seek to teach and encourage. With this comes great opportunity, but yet many challenges. How do we navigate communicating with people we have never met or rarely see face-to-face? Is it possible and effective to disciple someone online? 

Marie has years of experience with online relationships and counseling. In this book she explores with us the World Wide Web as a tool to be used, but with wisdom and discretion.  It is a great tool for evangelism and building up others in the faith, but Marie also shares a few stories that illustrate well some cautions we should have when interacting and counseling people online. How do you respond to a “seeker” who seems to understand the Gospel? How do you respond to someone’s seeming cry for help via dark and disturbing posts? Marie discusses various situations and how we can have more discernment in our responses. Many times we can learn to be creative in how we comment on something, but in some cases of more serious issues, private messages are better. Even a “hey, how are you doing?” communicates to people that you notice, and that you care about them .  All relationships are built on trust, Marie reminds us, and trust must be built over time by listening, caring and encouraging. 

True discipleship means a personal relationship, and truth be told, you cannot have a real personal relationship online. We are relational, physical beings and we need face-to-face relationships in order to truly thrive. Marie emphasizes this throughout her book as well as the importance of the local church, which is the community that is absolutely needed for a Christian to grow. If a “seeker” is not interested in getting connected with a church or meeting with a believer in their area then unfortunately that is likely a sign that they are not truly seeking change. Another important point Marie makes in this book is that social media interaction is not fellowship and online instruction is just that, instruction. It’s not discipleship. Marie writes that “a key component of real discipleship is lost online: accountability” (p. 35, emphasis hers) It’s important to be aware that many people say things online in order to gain attention. It’s easy to please people and say all the right things when you’re speaking through a computer screen.

There were a number of things I appreciated in this book. One was the reminder that just because someone wants to talk to us online doesn’t mean they need to monopolize our time. Marie writes, “If you are spending hours writing to someone who doesn’t seem willing to understand or search the Scriptures himself, you may need to re-evaluate the time you are spending with them.” (p. 47) .We need to keep our priorities straight and not get distracted by conversations that are not profitable. Discernment is needed in this area, and Marie shares great advice on how to know when to let an interaction end. Another thing I was reminded/convicted about was how easy it is to follow what everyone else is doing online. Social media especially is so narcissistic (self-focused) and designed to promote self and it’s easy to slip into that. I also appreciated her warnings about how easy it is to be sarcastic and snippy, and act/speak in ways we never would in person. Again, super easy to do; it’s so easy to type something sarcastic and not think about how the other person might feel because we can’t see their reaction. As Christians, everything we do, say and write should be done in love, for the edification of others and for the glory of God. And we all need to grow in this area!

In this internet-driven age we need Scripture-grounded thinking and discernment in how to use our time wisely and how to use the tools available to us. This book gives really practical advice on how to do that – especially for those of us who interact often on social media. I hope you’ll pick up a copy and be greatly edified by it!

You can purchase the book here, just $10 with Amazon Prime! (Also available on Kindle.)

For more information about Marie, to hear her testimony and learn about her counseling ministry, visit her blog: http://redeemedfromthepit.blogspot.com/

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