Vivid within my memory is when my parents bought our first computer—a tall, bulky tower with a massively heavy screen that sat in our kitchen. I can still hear the static beeping connection of the world wide web. The small screen I carry in my pocket is much more powerful and efficient than that massive first computer.
Little did we realize that our ability to communicate instantaneously with every part of the globe would be within reach just a few years ago. This ability has massive implications for Christian believers. Perhaps our Lord’s command to “go into all the world” springs to mind when we consider the limitless possibilities of technological communication.
It wasn’t long before “social networks” began appearing on the internet. Ways to “friend” family, acquaintances, and even strangers. Channels through which we could post thoughts and ideas, instantly receiving approval through likes, multiplication through sharing, and varied comments.
Like everyone else, believers were catapulted into this new digital world with no framework, rubric, or method for how to engage. We were in uncharted waters. Decades later, our engagement resembles more whining, fighting, disunity, and tribalism than it does an edifying ministry. While hoping to share the gospel, we’ve instead become impotent in our message allowing cultural commentary, opinionated observations, and self-righteous aggrandizement to replace gospel proclamation.
Why? One reason is that believers have drawn a line of demarcation between gospel ministry and social media. We tend to view social media as something different and separate from our work within the collective body of Christ. After all, isn’t it for personal opinions, self-promotion, political commentary, and cultural critique? Everyone seems to have found a voice.
What type of voice do you have?
The Work of Ministry
In Ephesians 4:12, Paul admonishes church leaders to properly equip those in the body of Christ for the “work of ministry.” Then he isolates the goal of every ministry: “the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). Every ministry in which believers engage (including social media) must foster three things: 1. unity of the faith, 2. knowledge of Jesus, and 3. Christian maturity. Paul clarifies that without unity within the body of Christ, a proper understanding of Jesus cannot be achieved, nor will Christians grow to the level of maturity possible. Perhaps there’s no better motto for our engagement on social media than these three objectives—unity of the faith, knowledge of Jesus, and Christian maturity.
What are some practical ways believers can engage and interact on social media that doesn’t hinder our Christian witness in the process?
1. Social media engagement requires one-anothering.
There are fifty-nine “one another” statements in the New Testament that speak directly to what we are to “do” and act toward another person.
“Be at peace with each other” (Mark 9:50).
“Love one another” (John 13:34).
“Serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).
“Forgive each other” (Eph. 4:32).
“Admonish one another” (Col. 3:16).
“Encourage each other” (1 Thess. 4:18).
“Do not slander one another” (James 4:11).
“Offer hospitality to one another” (1 Pet. 4:9).
Just a small sampling of these “one another” statements divert our attention and focus from ourselves to others. This then is a radical concept for social media—it’s not about us, our opinions, our commentary. Others become the attention of our ministry. As they’ve been called, the “one another” statements are not suggestions for a successful life but are commands for right Christian living. In other words, to properly live out our Christian lives, we must put others above ourselves. The anthem of self-righteous tweeting, posting, quote tweeting, and the like is “me, myself, and I.” We desire our opinions to be heard, our views considered, and our thoughts liked.
As believers, we are called to complete denial of self to maintain love, fellowship, and peace. When obeying these injunctions, believers ultimately obey the second great commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Mark 12:31), which puts the gospel of Christ on display as the transformative power that we proclaim to profess.
2. Social media engagement requires sanctified truthfulness.
An effective Christian witness only exists when a unified voice declares, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Based on the inherent and sufficient Word of God, sound doctrine is essential for turning-the-world-upside-down kind of social media engagement. In John 17, Jesus prayed that his people would be sanctified in the truth (John 17:17). “Sanctify” is the Greek term hagiason, meaning to make them holy. It’s indicative of setting one apart from sin. How are believers set apart from sin to be made holy? Truth. Jesus says the Word contains the proper ingredients for holiness, “your word is truth” (John 17:17). Therefore, if Scripture is the means through which believers are made holy, our social media accounts mustn’t be a smorgasbord of varied beliefs and ideas but an exquisitely set table offering the Scriptural truth-food that causes growth into the image of Christ. A social media account that glorifies God consists of sanctified truthfulness that bases every post, video, interaction, retweet, and every word upon the Word of God, and an abiding desire for holiness.
3. Social media engagement requires gospel fidelity.
The social media accounts of true believers must be filled with justifying, forgiving, saving, sanctifying, growing, and maturing language. A watching world must see that we haven’t “moved on” from the gospel but that we are dependent upon the gospel every single day. From how we set examples before our children in how we engage with others to how we train and model ministry, we must be committed to the faithfulness, dependability, and transformative effects of the gospel. The gospel unifies the very culture of the church. If for one moment we imagine that our creativity, entrepreneurship, initiative, or even intellect is the impetus by which Christians grow in Christ, we are deceived. We need the gospel because we’re a community of people (Eph. 4:32). As a community of faith, we sometimes wrestle with people with the same sinful struggles. We need the gospel because of our communion with God (1 John 1:3). From prayer to reading the Bible, from changing dirty diapers to our daily work commute, believers should be in constant communion with God through the gospel. We need the gospel because of our common enemy (1 Peter 5:8). The devil plants seeds of discord at every turn to disrupt and fracture Christ’s bride. The gospel truth of Christ is our only guard against his deception. Fidelity to the gospel recognizes that we are helpless, and Christ is our only source of hope. Fidelity to the gospel demonstrates that what we say on social media reflects the image of Christ bursting forth from our hearts.
In no way are these three engagements presented as an exhaustive list. They only scratch the surface of that which is required to maintain a social media account that loves others, shares the gospel, matures in the faith, and glorifies God.
So, the next time you push POST or SEND, ask yourself the question, “Am I fostering maturity, doctrinal stability, gospel fidelity, discernable living, loving vocabulary, Christlike growth, churchwide equipping, and spiritual building?” If your answer is no, it would be more profitable for you to delete your account than to go viral in the court of human opinion.