A Quiet Pastoral Life: The Holy Ambition That Led To My Social Media Exit

My relationship with social media has often resembled the break-up patterns of High School sweethearts. Things are good for a time, but then we break up. After a season of separation, we get back together (again) after a long walk. I have changed my relationship status with Facebook three times, before again logging on steadily because of how easy it is to keep up with friends and family. In 2017 I deleted twitter during my most difficult semester of seminary; only to create a new account, after graduation, simply because I could not help myself. Why do I think this time can be different?

I have just finished my first year as the pastor of a church I love, my wife gave birth to our second child, and I am in a new community with a lot of work to do. I have become convinced that social media is an unnecessary hindrance to my work as a pastor. This is certainly not the case for everyone, but it is for me. If its intentional addictive nature were not enough, I have found that social media allowed me love the idea of obscurity without actually pursuing it. No matter how present I am in my community, I often find myself wasting energy on problems that do not concern me. Some weeks I must have opened Twitter 1,689 times (for those who have ears to hear). More than that, I simply want to do better things with my time for the edification of my people and for the glory of God.

Through reading and reflecting on the writings of Eugene Peterson and Zack Eswine, a holy ambition has formed within me to live a quiet pastoral life. I desire for my mind to be less busy with what is trending, so that it might be more available for what is not. Those men might be able to have three to four social media accounts and possess the self-control not to be distracted by them. I do not. What I do have are holy ambitions that surpass the dopamine rush of scrolling through Twitter.

So I’m walking away from social media to live a quiet pastoral life for the edification of the flock of God and for the glory of God. What follows is a list of habits I’m prayerfully seeking to cultivate as I log off.

1.) Regular fellowship through hospitality– Facebook offers the appearance of meaningful relationships while denying their power. I want less notifications and more napkins with silverware at my kitchen table. During these moments, I want to be totally present. I don’t want to be worried about how many people liked my latest post on instagram.

2.) Undistracted communion with God in prayer– The past year has chipped away at my self-dependence. I’m hoping it will be obliterated in due time. The pastoral life is one of persistent prayer. It is not that time on social media is bad, but that more time in prayer is what is best for me as I serve as an under-shepherd of God’s people.

3.) Scripture memorization and meditation– I had the privilege of taking a class with Andy Davis during my time at SEBTS. His passion for scripture memorization is contagious and his Approach to Extended Scripture Memorization is as helpful a resource you can find on the topic. I’m convinced that committing books of the Bible to memory will not only be used by the Spirit to progress my own sanctification, but also make me a better preacher and counselor. Using Davis’ method I have memorized 1 Peter 1:1-2:9 and I’m zealous to complete the epistle. I hope to start Ephesians next.

4.) Unhurried study of the Scriptures with attention to detail– I was blessed to have wonderful biblical studies professors at SEBTS. They taught me how to study the Scriptures with attention to detail for the glory of God. I want more time to do that. I worked too hard to allow my languages to slip. Time on social media is not bad, but time in my Greek New Testament is better. This unhurried time should give me something meaningful to say when wonderful places like Letter and Liturgy allow me to write devotionally. I also hope to do more writing on this personal site.

5.) Reading more books that are worth reading– Life is short and we all have to make choices about what we read, but I want more time to experience the pleasure of reading books on a whim. Time on social media is not bad, but reading Alan Jacobs is better.

This may sound pretentious to some and ridiculous to others. But I only have so much bandwidth. I want to focus what little I have on Scripture and prayer in private so that in public, by God’s grace and in the Spirit, the members of Hermon are the beneficiaries.

I have carried the broken cisterns of social media for too long. I want habits that refresh, edify, and overflow into the rest of my life.