What Would Jesus Post – Book Review

What Would Jesus Post – Book Review

It’s been a little while since I’ve written a book review – I think it might even be as long ago as school…

But David Robertson’s recent book, ‘What Would Jesus Post’ is relevant enough to ChurchTrain to warrant some thought – and a good enough book to justify spending some time reviewing it! Oh, and I’m giving away copies to two winning readers, too! 

As usual, I have quite a lot to say! So in the interest of those who want something short and sweet, I’ve split this post in to two parts.

The first is a concise review of the book, which pulls key points from the second section, which contains my further thoughts and reflections.

Feel free to read either! There are purchase links below each.

 

Once you’ve read the review, don’t forget to enter the giveaway buy a copy!

Sorry, this giveaway closed on October 25th 2018 – winners announced soon!

 

The ‘Concise Book Review’ Bit

 

We are commanded to be salt and light in this world – but how are we to do this online?

This is the question raised in the foreword to ‘What Would Jesus Post’ and it is the question that forms the heart of the book. Billed as ‘a Biblical approach to online interaction’, we’re invited to explore more than just what Jesus might ‘post’ if He walked the Earth in our digital age. Moreover, WWJP covers the wider topic of the Internet and how we are to use it as Christians.

WWJP starts by arguing the relevance of the Bible to speak in to today’s world; only once this is established can we discuss which Biblical principles we need apply to our online life.

With these principles established, the author takes us back to basics with how the Internet works – especially useful for those who are newer to the Web, but a helpful reminder for all. Robertson has clearly worked hard to ensure the book is accessible for readers of all generations, yet it is still thought provoking for even the most technically capable among us.

Throughout the book each chapter considers a different issue, but each section is laid out in a consistent format; we move from the idea to Biblical principles, before some very practical guidelines on how we are to apply them. Finally, each chapter ends with a passage from the Psalms and questions for individual or group reflection. Issues covered include:

 

The internet as a public arena, prayer, porn, confession, sowing seeds, our digital tongue, dwelling in God’s presence, wisdom and discernment, humility, hospitality and generosity, the sabbath, spiritual gifts, spiritual fruit, gossip, persecution, the footprints we leave and community.

 

Obviously a lot of ground is covered! But most chapters are about 6 pages long, so in just 5-10 minutes you can get to grips with a topic, and have some food for thought about how you might approach it Biblically.

 

This book is so helpful in how it covers both positive aspects of the online world, such as the possibilities for evangelism and community, but it also equips Christians against some of the more negative aspects. Additionally, Robertson takes us beyond the internet, back in to the offline world, to consider how these issues apply on a wider scale.

In all of this, the author has a skilful way of taking common pictures or parables and applying them to real-life situations. Not only does this prove the relevance of Biblical parables today, but it allows the reader to grasp the practical implications of Biblical principles. One of these brilliant illustrations expands on Paul’s advice to the Colossians to season conversations with gospel salt (pg 67):

 

Be generous and sprinkle salty truth sparingly, and it will give your online words flavour. Dump salty truth online with little grace and anyone with an open wound will run screaming in pain.

 

This highlights the strength of Truth as a tool in our online toolkit, but also points out that if we use it in the wrong way we can cause hurt and end up distracting from the message itself.

Throughout the book, the author helps us to approach technological advances thoughtfully – especially those advances which have a direct impact on people’s everyday lives. This thoughtful approach leads us to a challenge: to live online as we do offline – single minded-ly, without a hint of hypocrisy. And this not because of our ‘digital footprint’, or the risk of public exposure, but because we are commanded to:

 

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:15-16

 

In a nutshell, this book offers both the practical advice, and the thought provoking principles to put this holiness in to practice.

 

What would Jesus post book review - ChurchTrain

 

You can purchase What Would Jesus Post on the BRF website, here. You can also visit the author’s website to find out more about him.

 

The ‘Further Thoughts and Reflections Bit’

 

We are commanded to be salt and light in this world – but how are we to do this online?

This is the question raised in the foreword to ‘What Would Jesus Post’ and it is the question that forms the heart of the book. Billed as ‘a Biblical approach to online interaction’, we’re invited to explore more than just what Jesus might ‘post’ if He walked the Earth in our digital age. Moreover, WWJP covers the wider topic of the Internet and how we are to use it as Christians.

As huge an innovation as the Internet has proved to be, the author points out that the underlying principles of communication and information have remained the same for many centuries. It’s just that now they are crystallised and take place much more quickly (pg 9):

 

The world is the same as it always has been and the internet reflects this. Go online and you will find that the great, the good, the indifferent, the bad and the ugly are all just one click away.

 

WWJP starts by arguing the relevance of the Bible to speak in to today’s world; only once this is established can we discuss which Biblical principles we need apply to our online life.

Whilst Jesus may not have sat in a Starbucks with a MacBook, we can consider what He might post online if He did. From the record of His life in the gospels, we can guess that there might be lots of Bible verses shared! Yet Robertson goes deeper than this, considering how Jesus is essentially ‘God posting Himself’ to the world in human form. So when Jesus shared scripture, it was more than just quoting literature – more even than living out the morals that the scripture promoted. He actually fulfilled the Old Testament.

 


 

With these principles established, the author takes us back to basics with how the Internet works – especially useful for those who are newer to the Web, but a helpful reminder for all. Robertson has clearly worked hard to ensure the book is accessible for readers of all generations, yet it is still thought provoking for even the most technically capable among us.

Throughout the book each chapter considers a different issue, but each section is laid out in a consistent format; we move from the idea to Biblical principles, before some very practical guidelines on how we are to apply them. Finally, each chapter ends with a passage from the Psalms and questions for individual or group reflection.

Most chapters are about 6 pages long, so in just 5-10 minutes you can get to grips with a topic, and have some food for thought about how you might approach it Biblically.

 

How should Christians act on social media - ChurchTrain

 

In the first chapter proper, we’re invited to explore the concept of broadcasting a message far and wide. Robertson helpfully invites us to consider how much preparation we would give to an important speech or announcement. He then contrasts this with the type of content we share online without a second’s thought. Despite often sharing without any non-verbal context, or with people we know very little (even complete strangers!), we can fail to put thought in to what and how we communicate online.

When we post, we’re publishing content to audiences across various levels of ‘closeness’ to us – yet it’s so easy to neglect this in our thinking, and to ‘just hit send’. On this idea of posting to the general public, Robertson writes (pg 20):

 

Everyone is aware of this, and yet the ‘one-to-one’ nature of the tech encourages forgetfulness to the extent that many people post in haste, repent at leisure and, increasingly, overstep the boundary between opinion and libel.

 

We’re invited instead to be mindful of the consequences – we’re encouraged to be considered with our online posting opportunities, rather than cavalier. The author takes us through the idea of praying before we post online – inspired by the time Jesus spent in prayer, with His Father as His companion – not a smartphone!

Another interesting concept in the book is that of the ‘personal digital pulpit’ that we can have online, if we choose. This is tied directly to our call to be ambassadors of Christ, being slow to speak and swift to listen – as we’ve considered before here on ChurchTrain.

 

Related post: Swift to listen – How not to do social media as a Christian

 

Importantly, we are reminded that, “The size of the pulpit is irrelevant; what matters is that it signposts the gate” (pg 42). That is to say that we should not be either discouraged or puffed-up by the amount of people to whom we’re able to broadcast our message. Instead we should focus on ensuring our words are Christ-centered, pointing others towards Him.

Whilst it is admirable to keep Biblical morals in mind when posting, Robertson points out that this isn’t necessarily enough. Ultimately, anyone can post something moral, but as Christians we have the further duty of linking what we’re saying to our faith – at least where it’s appropriate to do so. Without this step, we’re omitting the reason behind our message; in a post-Christian society we can’t assume that people will make this link. This, then, is the author’s difference between sharing a personal opinion and making use of a digital pulpit.

In terms of what other topics are covered in subsequent chapters, I’ll let the author himself list them! (pg 152):

 

In this book, we have considered: the internet as a public arena, prayer, porn, confession, sowing seeds, our digital tongue, dwelling in God’s presence, wisdom and discernment, humility, hospitality and generosity, the sabbath, spiritual gifts, spiritual fruit, gossip, persecution, the footprints we leave and community.

 

Phew! Obviously in reading WWJP you’re going to cover some ground – and some of them are pretty hard-hitting. Whilst not dwelling too much on sexual matters, the book covers the temptations that can be brought about by easy access to inappropriate content. This includes some practical combative strategies as well as an encouragement to offline accountability and discipleship.

 


 

In one of the later chapters, Robertson explains the concept of our ‘digital footprint’. This is to say that however secret we may think our browsing to be, someone is always watching. On a deeper level, though, as Christians we should be aware that there is no such thing as ‘private browsing’; all of our activity is visible to our Heavenly Father!

As much as this is a book aimed at tackling our proactive use of the Internet, it also addresses critical issues relating to the cultural changes brought about by the technology.

Not least of these is the idea of past public sin, where a Christian’s pre-conversion actions are openly visible. Of course, this allows others to dredge up their past. In this sense, the book covers not only ‘What Would Jesus Post’, but also ‘How would Jesus react to what was posted in the past?’ – and therefore, how should we?

With this in mind, the author tackles a Biblical approach to confession, as well as a pastoral understanding of the differing challenges faced today by older and younger generations. The author points out that if you’ve not yet encountered related issues in your own church life, it’s something that you’re likely to face soon. It’s therefore better to be prepared now! This, of course, goes for parents, as well as pastors. So, instead of avoiding discussion of online issues (perhaps out of fear for our children’s innocence) we need to be seeing the opportunities for teaching and discussion.

Other difficult issues such as online persecution and gossip are discussed, as we are invited to consider our own response. What action should we take when the online crowd gathers against us or someone we know? Do we stay silent, or do we stand up to the situation, even if it means risking further attacks.

 

Standing up as a Christian online on social media - ChurchTrain

 

Of course, not everything online is negative! WWJP also explores the potential for evangelism online, “sowing digital seed”.

Robertson has a skilful way of applying common pictures – a parable in this case – to life online. He points out, for example (p 56):

 

It’s important to remember the the point of sowing is not to sow but, as Jesus says in His parable, for the seed to grow and produce a multiplicity of what was sown (Mark 4:20) … The spiritual harvest is therefore not judged by the number of seeds sown … it is judged by the number of people who themselves become sowers.

 

We therefore need to be wise about how and where we sow online.

Whilst the idea of “forums” as such may seem a little dated, the author’s direction is spot on; online seed sowing happens in smaller communities, where relationships can occur and the seed has a chance to take root, rather than being trampled. And whilst you, the reader, may not be accustomed to participating in forums or bulletin boards, you are likely already integrated with digital communities. These may even be related to offline groups; think about your family WhatsApp, your NCT Facebook group or the Instagram chat you share with your colleagues.

In thinking further about how we present ourselves online, both in these closed communities and more open settings, the author encourages us to be “wise stewards of a digital tongue” (p63):

 

While it is not possible to alter the way others speak, Christians have an obligation to steward their own speech.

 

For me, it’s always surprising how easy it is to type things with a keyboard that one would rarely, if ever, say out loud. Following this thought, we’re helpfully reminded about the lack of non-verbal cues that are available when communicating online. So Robertson’s advice is to steward our online tongue beyond social media to any type-based communication. Therefore we should be sensitive in texts or emails that we send, and gracious with how we interpret those we receive: especially when our relationship with the other person is solely online.

Another of the author’s brilliant illustrations expands on Paul’s advice to the Colossians to season conversations with gospel salt (pg 67):

 

Be generous and sprinkle salty truth sparingly, and it will give your online words flavour. Dump salty truth online with little grace and anyone with an open wound will run screaming in pain.

 

Truth is such an important tool in our online toolkit – but if we use it in the wrong way we can cause hurt and end up distracting from the message itself.

 


 

Instead of a knee-jerk reaction (which churches can be prone to), the author helps us to approach technological advances thoughtfully. Of course, this is even more important when these advances have a direct impact on people’s everyday lives. So the book doesn’t shy away from such huge issues as have dominated headlines in recent months. We’re invited to think about data security, confirmation bias, echo chambers and ‘fake news’. We’re challenged on the need for wisdom and discernment as we consume online content: testing everything we hear, read or share.

Yet far from concentrating solely on our online activity and conduct, WWJP challenges our offline behaviour too. The author forces us to think about what real community looks like. It requires us to leave our comfortable bubbles (both on- and offline) in order to reach people with God’s Word. In another helpful application of a Biblical theme, Robertson writes:

 

It’s time for Christians to stop shielding faith-candles in corners and to hold aloft faith-torches in public (Matthew 5:14-16) – and the internet is a place of public engagement.

 

Fundamentally, we’re warned against a disconnect, where we “rarely apply anything [we] hear in to offline action” (p 72). Our attitudes to how we spend our time are challenged; not only is all that we do online in God’s presence, but all of our time is His too. We therefore have a duty to ‘spend’ it well as we steward our hours and minutes. The book also covers issues such as humility, hospitality, relationships, Sabbath rest, gossip, bullying and the difference between Spiritual gifts and Spiritual fruit.

These last two items of Spiritual gifts/fruit provide a fascinating discussion. We’re reminded that, “The way people use the internet reveals their ‘fruit’; and the way you interact online reveals yours.” The author carefully combines practical ways that we can be mindful of the fruits we grow with the Biblical picture of the righteous flourishing, bearing fruit in old age, staying fresh and green.

 


 

Throughout the book, the author helps us to approach technological advances thoughtfully – especially those advances which have a direct impact on people’s everyday lives. This thoughtful approach leads us to a challenge: to live online as we do offline – single minded-ly, without a hint of hypocrisy. And this not because of our ‘digital footprint’, or the risk of public exposure, but because we are commanded to:

 

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:15-16

 

The Internet offers everyone the same opportunity, whatever the motives behind our use of it. We are free to use it for practising Holiness just as we can use it for negativity, hurt and unhealthy habits. This book offers both the practical advice, and the thought provoking principles to put this holiness in to practice. We are invited to apply our common sense, whilst also looking below the surface of the web – not simply taking everything at face value. And of course considering what the Bible has to say:

 

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

 

In the incarnation, Jesus ‘posted’ Himself as ‘God with us’, changing the world. What Would Jesus Post invites us to consider how we can do the same for Him.

 

You can purchase What Would Jesus Post on the BRF website, here. You can also visit the author’s website to find out more about him.

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