You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Gen. 50:20, NIV)
I can only imagine the gold mine Satan must have thought he hit when social media was invented. What a boon to capture the unsuspecting hearts and minds of young people by stealing their most valuable possession—their attention.
Google Scholar reports 78,000 research articles have been posted about the relationship between social media and mental health. They show a strong correlation between social media and issues like eating disorders, anxiety, depression, lowered trust and family functioning, and deep psychological distress.
But the victory of the Lord is triumphant over social media and Gen Z.
The first time I shared my testimony, my campus ministry leader said, “I love that we see God’s grace through TikTok.” I was shocked.
But it’s true that TikTok was a catalyst for my personal walk with Jesus. After watching several videos made by Christian peers, I was encouraged to read my Bible by myself for the first time. During quarantine in 2020, amid isolation brought on by my rampantly increasing screen time, the Lord called me out of disobedience.
What Satan meant to distract me and pull me away from the truth, God meant for good, that I would know the true gospel. An invitation from a stranger on the internet spurred me on to a deep relationship with Jesus (John 17:3).
Online Encouragement and Outreach
Though social media has become riddled with negativity and isolation, nearly all Gen Zers have an account—and more than half of us spend four or more hours a day there. This space, filled with believers and nonbelievers, provides a unique opportunity for young Christians to do ministry.
What Satan meant to distract me and pull me away from the truth, God meant for good, that I would know the true gospel.
Through social networking, I’ve seen believing peers do Bible-in-a-year challenges, join support groups, provide each other with resources, and pray for each other. Satan uses internet access to isolate us in an increasingly depressed society. But where Satan tries to confine us, the Spirit creates fellowship.
After all, Paul and the other apostles were no strangers to long-distance fellowship. Timothy, separated from Paul, likely felt increasingly discouraged, yet Paul reminds him of his fellow brothers in the faith fighting alongside him elsewhere (2 Tim. 4:9–18). Just as Timothy can be connected to believers he isn’t physically with, Gen Z can use social media to encourage one another to endure the race set before them (2 Tim. 4:7; Heb. 12:1).
We can do more than that. To see the church in places where we don’t reside casts a vision for the power of the gospel worldwide. It allows believers who feel isolated to see a unified church propelled on mission for the sake of the gospel. For example, despite growing up in a believing household, I didn’t even know I was supposed to share the gospel until I heard another young believer say it on TikTok.
Christ’s Preeminence Online
In our digital age, young believers have a special ability—and a special responsibility—to contextualize the preeminence of Christ, “for by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth” (Col. 1:16).
That includes social media. “Whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” Social networking certainly has dominion, rule, and authority over our lives. For us to acknowledge Christ’s preeminence is to recognize even social media has a God-given purpose, for “in him all things hold together” (v. 17).
How crazy is it that God has a sovereign hand over your Instagram algorithm? Do you consider your favorite social media platform to be through him and for him? As believers, we know God can and will use social media in our lives to accomplish his purposes (Rom. 8:28).
But that raises a question: What’s our responsibility online?
Our Obligation Online
The Great Commission begins with “go,” so Gen Z mustn’t be content with stagnation. We must choose to be mission minded. We must view social media as a resource rather than a distraction.
We must view social media as a resource rather than a distraction.
The goal isn’t to surround ourselves with believers so we can hide from the outside world but rather to view a united church as an encouragement to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18–20). Social media is equipping us to go into all the earth and spread the gospel to the whole creation right here and right now (Mark 16:15). Where Satan seeks to draw us away from God, God gives an opportunity to encourage, equip, redeem, and send out disciple makers for this generation.
It’s no mistake I was born in this generation (Ps. 139:13–16). It’s no mistake I first deeply embraced the gospel because of a peer on social media. Though I don’t remember the poster’s name or exactly what the video said, I do remember it was the first time I felt God calling out to me for something more.
It was the victory of the Lord to use something as ordinary as another teenager on the internet to do something extraordinary and call me according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28–29). For God has called a generation of laborers to a unique harvest, with a declaration of hope in a seemingly lost place (Matt. 9:37).