“It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.” – James 3:5-6, MSG
Oh James, if only you knew. Back in the First Century AD, people had a “small spark” at their disposal. Now each one of us has been outfitted with the equivalent of the Boring Company’s “Not a Flamethrower”. Don’t click that back button just yet. This is not a social-media-is-evil-let’s-all-join-the-Amish post. Just this morning I used social media to discover a new leadership podcast, network with a team of brilliant writers, help meet a community need, and to research recent attempts at mass flamethrower marketing. Later today, I will use it to share this post with a fantastic network of pastors.
Social media is one of the most efficient and dangerous tools at the disposal of the disciple of Christ. Billy Graham’s Internet Evangelistic Ministry reported 6 million decisions for Christ in 2015 (with intentional follow-up regularly provided!)1. Hence, efficiency! There are an almost infinite number of ways that Christ-followers can use social media to share the Gospel.
There are also, unfortunately, an almost infinite number of ways that Christ followers can use social media to misrepresent the Gospel. To help the reader avoid some of these pitfalls, here are 5 (intentionally humorous) things that Jesus would never post on Facebook:
The Good Deeds Announcement
Even without delving into the Messianic secret, it is pretty obvious that Jesus wouldn’t feel the need to share his accomplishments on Social Media. There is almost an entire chapter on this in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6). Jesus’ affirmation, like ours, comes from our Father, and is not conditional on works (Matt. 3:17). Use Social Media to promote and encourage others instead.
The Misinterpretation of Luke 9:26
Forget the exegetical nightmare for a moment, and reflect on what this actually communicates to your neighbours:
- I am willing to use shame as a means to share Christ.
- I care very much about what people think of me.
- I actually believe that Jesus looked a lot like Obi Wan Kenobi.
If you have shared something like this in the past, don’t stress! Chances are, your motives were pure. You just really love Jesus and wouldn’t want in any way to deny Him. I am not posting this to shame you (see #1), but to spur you on towards a better online representation of the Jesus who you so clearly love.
The Public, Unsolicited Food Critic
Public confession: I’m guilty of this. I was reading, “Small Town Jesus” by Donnie Griggs (highly recommend), and I was thoroughly convicted of probably offending an entire town in the past because I insisted on publicly sharing the superiority of my palate when it comes to fried chicken. We represent Christ, not the Food Network (unless you’re a Christian food critic, in which case I both applaud and envy you). When it comes to positive reviews, I encourage you to share liberally, and support especially the local businesses who are employing your neighbours.
The “Right to Offend”
Jesus actually had a lot to say about politics. Things like, “my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). We are called to pray for, live for, and anticipate the kingdom of God. But publicly criticizing our government’s stance on inflammatory issues is not the same as anticipating the kingdom. Peter, who politically was a Zealot before discipleship, later encouraged his readers, “submit yourself for the Lord’s sake to every human authority…fear God, honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:13, 17). Paul told us to pray specifically for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:2).
Social media is probably the worst (certainly the most divisive) place of all for the Christian to engage in politically charged dialogue. Let’s exercise our rights as free citizens to vote, write letters to our MPs and MHAs, lobby government for real justice, and extend the kingdom of God through the lives we live among our neighbours (1 Peter 2:12). The church is not a political party.
The Non-Specific Vent
A variously attributed proverb exhorts us to let our words pass through three gates, “is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?” I would add to that Paul’s entire list of “things to think on” in Philippians 4:8. We are not going to win the world to Christ in us with vague, passive-aggressive status updates or long, rambly vents. I’ll never forget Dave Overholt’s advice to a group of leaders at YCNL (this is a summary from memory): “Let your words be like lay’s potato chips: light, salty (Matt 5:13-14), and leaving people wanting more.” Let’s create a culture of social media sharing that is truly salt and light for a God-hungry world.