April 13, 2023

More Social, Less Social

Avoiding the siren’s song

Jared Thurmon

The siren song of the digital age is that we can reach more people with the gospel, far more efficiently, through technology than in person.

Just as a refresher, the siren song’s origins are rooted in Greek mythology. The sirens were beautiful women depicted with human upper bodies and mermaid lower bodies. They sang their bewitching songs and lured sailors to their doom on rocks near the shore.

Temptation is a funny thing. It looks good. It sounds good. It smells good. But somehow, deep down, we all know it doesn’t end well. We often realize that the moment we crash just as we are about to reach our intended destination. Though sirens are mythical, the application is real.

I have had the privilege over the past four years to learn the ins and outs of the wonderful world of the Internet and social media. This has included finding ways to get content to rank highly in organic searches, finding ways to get simple videos on biblical topics to get millions of views, and how paying to boost content can put it in front of millions of people.

I’m often tempted to listen to worldly sirens—just put the gospel on the Internet and let people hear it. The truth is powerful, and the rest will figure itself out. I’ve also learned that’s laziness and not the calling of Matthew 24 to take the gospel into all the world.


The theory of the truth is a beautiful thing, but it’s not what people want to know deep down. They want to know the same thing humanity, especially some of Israel’s longing hearts, wanted to know 2,000 years ago. Is God good? Does He transform someone’s life? Is love real or just a fantasy? To the heart cry of humanity, God sent His Son into the world to answer those questions. Jesus’ life was the tangible, the practical, that so many needed.

Think about it: the Father could have easily looked down from heaven and declared with thunder and lightning or even in kind, subtle tones that He was good and trustworthy and to have faith in Him. The earth and His people would have heard a beautiful message, and the rest would have been history.

But for some reason even the God of heaven, our heavenly Father, did not think that people just hearing or watching something was what they needed. He knew what humanity needed: a revelation of who God was. Someone who walked and dwelt among us. Jesus, the Desire of Nations, was the answer.

Being around Jesus, not just His existence on earth, was the answer. You may hear that someone is kind, but what about when they are treated rudely? The disciples got to witness Jesus in moments like that.


Fellowship, connection, is an important aspect of a felt human need, and this is especially true in the digital age. Fellowship refers to a feeling of camaraderie and togetherness that people experience when they are part of a group. This sense of belonging can be fostered through various activities, such as shared interests, common goals, or simply spending time together.

Maintaining a sense of fellowship is even more important in the digital age, during which people are increasingly connected through technology. The shocking thing is that more social media makes people feel less social and ultimately lonelier.

With more ways to check in on each other, say “Hi,” make jokes, and wish someone well, people are feeling more alone than ever! Not just lonelier. We have a crisis in our youth with anxiety and depression, largely related to how much time we are “on social” rather than being social.

I’m a huge believer that content is king. If we don’t have the ideas and concepts that will get people’s attention in this digital age, we are dead in the water. But just as important as the ideas we share is our connection with others in real life.

The Adventist Church increased its reach on social media drastically during COVID. Yet talk to any of our conferences, particularly in North America, or go to any of our churches, and you may notice something. Many of the pews are empty—at least more than they were three years ago.

The messaging had the chance to get to people, but it’s not the whole package. In an age in which social media use continues to climb, we should realize that something is wrong. We can’t listen to the siren song that technology is able to supersede real human interaction. Why? Because the data is screaming that it’s not.


What people want to see is the regenerative power of the gospel in people’s lives. This happens only in fellowship with one another. Ellen White makes this case. “Many take it for granted that they are Christians, simply because they subscribe to certain theological tenets. But they have not brought the truth into practical life. They have not believed and loved it; therefore they have not received the power and grace that come through sanctification of the truth. Men may profess faith in the truth; but if it does not make them sincere, kind, patient, forbearing, heavenly-minded, it is a curse to its possessors, and through their influence it is a curse to the world.”1

Here’s where this hits home. We all crave fellowship. But it’s that elusive thing: the less you have, the less sure you are that you need or want it. But the more you have, the more you realize that you need and want it.

Hebrews 10:25 is a familiar verse for many. “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (NLT).2

But how many of us are putting it into practice? Though I’m a huge believer that we need to do all we can while we can to press together and fellowship in person, we don’t have to be in the same room to experience fellowship. We can experience it over the phone if we make time for that phone call. We can experience it over Zoom if we have real dialogue and not just sermonizing. We can experience this via text. Some of my closest friends and I “fellowship” daily via text, and I feel loved by them and they by me, and yet we haven’t been in the same room in years.


I read a book last year about managing organizations in which some employees are remote and some are in person. I think the lesson can apply to us as members of the body of Christ. Some of us can be in-person often. Others, not so much. But one of the keys is doing it at least every quarter. There is something about individuals getting together in the same room and spending time together, eating together, asking each other how life is, and lowering our guard to enjoy some candid conversation.

Keeping our conversations solely in the digital space isn’t ideal long-term. But while we are away, just like those amazing letters from Paul in the New Testament, fellowship and love can be conveyed until we meet again.

What the sirens don’t often say is that technology can sometimes create a feeling of isolation and disconnection, even as it helps us connect with others. In the digital age, spending all our time in front of screens rather than engaging others personally can be tempting. I want to challenge you to prioritize real-life connections. Like Jesus, be there for people. Be present. We are told there is only one effective method to reach people with the gospel: we mingle, sympathize, minister, win their confidence, and then—and only then—do we invite them to follow Jesus.

1 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn.,1898, 1940), pp. 309, 310.

2 Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.