Lessons Learned from a Facebook Fast

The Facebook logo is pictured at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo ParkAre you addicted for Facebook? Near the end of 2014 there were 1.3 billion Facebook users. That is 20% of the world that is on Facebook. Facebook users spend an average of 21 minutes on Facebook each day. I think most people know what that 21 minutes looks like. It is the teenager who is always on the smartphone. I am 51. I love Facebook for many reasons. Yet I have been on a three week Facebook fast. I choose to fast and pray in March. Facebook was my primary fast. First Ruidoso is fasting and praying for revival in our country and renewal in the Church. I will get back on Facebook this Saturday. So I thought I would share a few lessons learned from a Facebook fast.
What I missed while on a Facebook fast?

Connecting with family and friends.

I love Facebook for a few reasons. Most is the way I am able to keep up with people all over the world. If I saw them a week after being on Facebook, I would be able to talk like we still lived in the same community. I keep up with my sister, my aunt, my cousins, my friends. I celebrate with successes. I pray with people on their challenges. I engage in conversation. I missed relating online.

Having immediate access to information.

I am an information junkie. I love the news. I remember reading about Michael Jackson’s death live on Twitter. News breaks first online, not on TV. I prefer getting updated in the world on Twitter (or Facebook). Of course I follow many Christian and church leaders and organizations. I get access to great information through them. Love it. I have missed having this at my fingertips. Yes I was online, but it is not the same as having a hastag of information as the click of a link.

Communicating things in my life.

I like to take pictures and share them online. I live in a beautiful place. I am also a pastor/theologian. I am opinionated. Sometimes too opinionated. Yet I like contributing to the world. I like to drive discussion. I sometimes say the radical thing. I also get to share the normal things of my life, family and church. I missed that while on this Facebook fast.

What I did not miss while on a Facebook fast?

The cluttered mind. Facebook communicates too much. Just keeping up with the news feeder is insane. While we get a lot of information, that is not always good. The past few weeks have been a blessing to clear the mind. I have enjoyed not having my mind full of everything. I have thought more clearly. Prayed more frequently. Read more specifically.

The drama of life. My last interaction on Facebook a few weeks ago was horrible. It was one where the response was political and racial in content. It basically sent the message to me that it is acceptable to sacrifice racial unity for present political expediency and success. When I read that, I joined my wife on a Facebook fast. I did not miss the drama of life that comes from the, sometimes sewer of online community called Facebook. Sometimes things are posted that are just sick or sad. We all put up with it, but I did not miss it.

The incessant checking. People check their smart phones a lot. While stats show we are on Facebook 21 minutes a day, we look like we are online all the time. I did not miss the constant need to see what the world was doing. The world was fine without my input. God is able to be God without my status updates.

Next Steps

I want to stay off but won’t. I plan to get back on Facebook Saturday night. Yet I do plan to not check it as much. I have much more to do. I need the thinking margin. The clarity that I lose in the 21 minutes broken up into awkward times in my day is worth keeping.

I am going to schedule my life a little more intentionally. Social media is a great place to communicate. One person said, “failing to enter social media is similar to not going on the mission field of the lost.” I do not know who said it. Maybe it was me. Facebook is where 1.3 billion people live in some way. It’s a mission field.

I woke up today with a few things on my mind. Some things that have been on the plate for years. I believe God gave me assurance and confidence to move forward on a couple of key things. I got a lot done this morning at 4:30 am. The verse that drove my planning on one page of my journal, that brought me to the point of making crucial decisions, is Proverbs 16:3.

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”

For your thinking: What is your own journey with Facebook? Do you need a fast from it? Maybe you could take a break for a day or three. Start on Easter evening. Just an idea. Is the clutter keeping you from clarity?

How to Give an Effective Altar Call on Resurrection Sunday

Easter is the big day. It’s an opportunity to share the gospel and see results. How will you reap the harvest? Have you thought about what you will do?

I want to make a suggestion I’ve used for the past few years. It works.

Scrap your traditional altar call. Ok, now that I have your attention and you have fainted, let me explain. I’m not saying you should totally do away with it. Although I have learned that to ask people to come forward on Easter Sunday (And Christmas) with such a large crowd is not the best way to get people to Christ. Here are some facts I have learned from experience.

The crowd is too big. Most will not move from a seat to an aisle to come forward. Some will. Evan many. Most will not. With a traditional altar call, you will need to have an adequate number of decision counselors on Easter to correspond to the harvest you expect. If you have three counselors, you will be saying, “I expect three decisions.”
Our culture does not ask anyone to come forward in public for anything. People who have not been in church in a while see it as embarrassing. I have known church insiders who are scared of the aisle. Try a 21st century altar call. Here is how you do it.

Use a card. Give EVERYONE card and a pen. Use it as a welcome card and a decision card for everyone.
Welcome. The welcome is an important time of the service, especially on Easter. When you welcome people on Easter, ask them to give you a prayer request. Provide a prayer request space. Provide a time right then in the welcome moment to write. Have a musician provide “writing music.” Amazing grace is a great song there in that moment. Everyone knows it. EVERYONE fills out the card, not just guests. Have them hold onto the card.

OR, just use the card at the end of the service if the prayer request angle does not fit.

End of service. When you get to the end of the sermon, do this. Share the gospel clearly. Preach, but also be the “decision counselor.” Do not put yourself in a position where you do not have enough decision counselors on a big day. You will hate yourself after the service.

Ask. Ask the people to make a commitment by turning from sin and by faith receiving Jesus Christ as savior and Lord.
Build an altar. Give a strong gospel presentation. No milking it down. Yet then give the people a prayer that solidifies the commitment. Give them time to pray on their own in their own words in the silence of their seats. Yet give them a simple prayer start. I got this prayer of commitment from Evangelist Michael Gott:

“Lord, come into my heart today. Come into my heart to stay.”

Let me be clear. A prayer does not save. Repentance and faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ saves. But building an altar is a good thing. Gott shares the gospel very clearly and strongly before the prayer. He makes sure “a choice is made or not made.” Clarity is important. You could change the prayer commitment to this:

Lord Jesus Christ, come into my life today, come into my life to stay. I repent of my sins and believe you died in my place and rose from the dead to give me new life. I receive you right now as my savior and Lord.”

Card. After the gospel is shared and after a time of commitment, then keep the moment spiritual by asking them to mark their decisions on a card. Many people will do this. You will see more decisions on Easter if you do this. You are not getting cheap decisions. You are giving more people a way to make the life changing decision of receiving Christ as Savior. You are the one man decision counselor. Each person is given the decision card. It is a legit method. I remember the late Dr. Roy Fish, my evangelism professor, telling us of this model. Many churches have used them for years and have been effective. Rick Warren has mastered this.

Hybrid. You could have people “fill out the card” yet then give a challenge to bring the card to the cross. I’m not planning on doing this, but you can. I’m not doing it because it will be “too many people” to have an altar call. We have 400 to five hundred more people on Easter. I prefer the follow up after the service.

Follow up. The key to this model is using the card is follow up. The more you can follow up, the better your results will be in baptisms, increased attendance, and spiritual growth. Get a team ready to make visits. Have an email ready to go out on Monday or even Easter Sunday. The follow up is the hardest part. Well there could be one other thing harder.

Prayer. You need to get a prayer team praying for Easter decisions. You need to mobilize your church for praying. You need to get them asking (Acts 1:4) for the power (Acts 1:8) that brings spiritual results. The card should have options on the back. Receiving Jesus. Baptism request. Membership. Renewing (rededicating). More questions. Include on the card what you want from people spiritually. Then have them leave the card on their seats or have them give the cards to ushers at the door.

There is much more you can do for follow up. You can give a Bible or book. You can also state to the people that you will follow up on their prayer requests and spiritual decisions. Then within 2-3 days, follow up.

What do you think? Be honest. How will you give the invitation for people to know Jesus Christ?