FIRST PERSON: Henry Blackaby & social media
NASHVILLE (BP) -- We received the information early Friday morning (Sept. 20) that well-known Christian author and speaker Henry Blackaby was missing.
Because of his close relationship to LifeWay Christian Resources professionally and to many of us personally, we made the decision to change the blog schedule at ThomRainer.com and related social media so we could get the word out about his disappearance.
The hours that followed were tense. On Friday evening, we learned that Blackaby experienced a heart attack and became disoriented.
Christians around the world were able to hear through social media of his latest purported location according to his credit card charges during the 29 hours he was missing. Of course, we were praying he was the one actually using the credit cards -- and he was.
Social media & the unity of the body of Christ
It was amazing to see Christians from various backgrounds come together in unity for this man so many people love.
The critical spirit, level of disagreement and nitpicking we Christians sometimes exhibit to the world subsided. Whether the social media venue was Facebook, Twitter, blogs or other forms, we were one with one purpose.
Social media & the power of prayer
One part of the social media exchange regarding Blackaby was informational. Through various venues, we learned he was missing, where his credit card was used, the model and color of the automobile he was driving and the license plate number. All this information passed along through social media became instrumental in finding him.
The greater use of social media, however, was the articulation of prayers by thousands of believers. Nearly 200,000 unique visitors visited my blog Friday. I was overwhelmed with the number of people expressing prayers in writing. Christians from all over the world were banded together for good and for God's glory; the power of prayer was so clearly evident.
Social media & the glory of God
We are all well aware of the evil and hurt that takes place on social media. We Christians are keenly aware our own witness is often compromised by the words we choose to write about one another.
But the problem is not social media; the problem is our hearts. We make a conscious choice to use this instrument for good or for evil.
The story of the disappearance of Henry Blackaby is a poignant and powerful reminder of what we Christians can do when we unite in love, even over something like Twitter or Facebook.
Though Blackaby faces a road of surgery, treatment and recovery, this story did have a good ending. He was found. He is safe with his family. For that we give God thanks.
But even if God had not answered our prayers in the way we were hoping, this story would still have been incredible. For a brief season Christians were united in purpose and prayer, focused on our commonalities instead of our differences.
Ultimately, the story of Henry Blackaby and social media was a reminder for all of us who call Christ our Savior. I for one can say without reservation that I was reminded that I am to do all things for His glory. And that includes my participation in social media.
I pray God will remind me to ask before I strike another key on the keyboard, before I write another blog post, before I comment one more word on Facebook, before I tweet anything or post a photo on Instagram: Am I doing this for good or evil, for myself or for the glory of God?
Thank God for the safe return of Henry Blackaby. And thank God we believers got to taste for a brief season what it means to come together for His purpose and His glory.
Thom Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. This column was first posted on his blog at ThomRainer.com. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).