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When I first started sharing a lot on social media I thought I had learned something the world needed to hear. I was for the first time coming face to face with the true Gospel as the Bible taught it. It was just not something I could keep to myself. But a few years later I came to realize maybe Facebook shouldn’t have been my first go-to audience.

You see it’s only social media that allows a new convert to be a church elder the following day. To qualify for the office all I needed was to be vocal about my convictions and not necessarily godly in my character. I would point fingers at anyone but never myself. But while some said I was bold many saw my ignorance. I would see it with time and regret my quickness to share and fight in public.

You see social media can hoodwink us to think that this is the platform I just need to turn the world upside down. I have 3k followers and I won’t rest until they all know the truth. Sometimes I would even get offended seeing that good churches didn’t do as much online ministry. That was before COVID forced all of them to run there.

But now, I’m actually skeptical of how much can be achieved online. We need to think a bit more before we put that post out there. Sometimes we might conclude this belongs to my diary, not the public space. And if we cannot kill a post that says a lot more about us. Perhaps we are the ones who need help.

Don’t get me wrong I appreciate this platform and you know I use it as much as I can. There’s a lot of good we can do here. But unfortunately how we do this can sometimes lead to hurting than building the body of Christ. Sometimes what happens on these streets rarely makes a difference if not giving us the wrong labels.

But since like COVID social media is here to stay, we need to think a bit more about those we are trying to reach and how we do that. We need to know our world so we can be effective on this pulpit. And we need to remember the times we live in. Here are a few things to bear in mind.

You can’t put us in a box – “Hatupangwingwi”
We are a rebellious people in a democratic world. We hate authority and anyone who tries to tell us what to do. We despise those who hold their labels and show us how wrong we are. They might be right but who are they to question us? You might feel this way about this post and I’m sorry for the offense caused.
But this means that even a good pastor will have a hard time rebuking and correcting his loyal congregant. What about a stranger that you have no relationship with? I think you are inviting trouble before you finish your first paragraph.

It is for this reason that I think that deep theological questions don’t belong on the social media school where there’s such a wide range of standpoints and you are more likely to be misunderstood. If we are genuine and truly want to help people that’s not where we’d start. Going to the mosque and screaming, Jesus is Lord might look bold but I doubt you’ll do much before you are silenced. We also need to remember that the call to be bold doesn’t always mean we have to be offensive to be truthful.

I sometimes wonder how come we speak so less of the many things the Bible addresses simply and clearly to all. We speak little of the call to die to self and serve others. Speak less of killing sin daily. We speak less of the need to grow in the word and in prayer. Speak so little of our heavenly calling. Less of the call to one anothering. Instead, we always seem to go for what divides us not what would mutually build and challenge us all on social media.

Know your crowd -“Even Algorithms know their audience”
The interesting thing about this global village is that yours is just a small village in the wider globe. By this I mean you actually don’t have the attention of the whole world contrary to what we might imagine. Your audience is still people who mostly already agree with you. They subscribe to your school of thought and already like you. The exception is those you’ve attracted for the wrong reasons.

This means our posts echo what our clan already believes and it might help to ask what would build and encourage them. I was taught any good sermon has a specific audience in mind. But if we write our posts for people we cannot even imagine having a relationship with then we are just shouting to the air.

On the other hand, we need to remember how hard it’ll be to convert those outside our clan. Our posts ought to be directed to those we are already serving and meeting as often as we can. These would only reinforce what they already believe not try to teach something new and controversial in such an environment.

Change takes time and the right space
Perhaps this is the one thing we always forget with social media. We put up a post, wait to see the comments, and assume change is happening. But that’s just not how it works. How long has it taken us to change? And how did that happen? I doubt it was a post from a stranger on Facebook that did it. If we happen to convince someone on social media it’s probably because others are already working alongside them in real life.

I think it’d help if our posts were geared to mutual encouragement of the saints more than forceful and offensive engagement. Point them to the one who can grow and change people. Let social media just be a supplement to ongoing ministry, not the primary platform.

Remember we hate toxic people
Branding people toxic and cutting them off has never been easier. We’ll do it in a beat and I bet a lot of us have already blocked a number of people. Sometimes it’s the best thing to do in some cases. But this also communicates how easy it is to reject what we don’t agree with.

It means if we truly love and care about the people we want to reach then how we do it matters as much as what we post. For every challenge, I think a normal human being needs at least three encouragements. You’d notice the Bible labors a lot on positive motivation before the negative. Paul who was clearly unashamed for the truth spoke a lot of encouragement to the churches before he could rebuke them. If our wall is then full of offensive language I doubt you’ll achieve as much.

Our intentions are not always neutral

The Bible teaches us that our hearts are desperately deceptive. It’s possible to think we mean well and our actions are informed by a love for God, his Word, and his people. As I said we might feel disappointed that others in our circles aren’t trying to share the truth as much. But we need to ask ourselves what’s in it for me? Why is it that I feel so strongly about this? Is there something else lurking in my good intentions? What idol is begging my attention?

It is a good thing to share our deep-held convictions and it should give us comfort to imagine we are helping others. In a platform where people are already feeding on a lot of junk, I can say we need a more helpful and balanced Gospel diet. But I shouldn’t think it’s my job to comment on anything and everything. If I have to force my convictions on others then I need to be rebuked. I need to remember I’m a sinner too, that I haven’t arrived yet. For anyone who seeks to teach others, I think we doubly need to ask if we are learning from the Saviour ourselves. Are we killing our own sin? How are we pursuing godliness? Do we know our idols and might we be feeding them in the name of helping others?

So where does this leave us?
When all is said and done I would submit that God works despite our ignorance and arrogance. All of us would remember things we’ve said and done that we might regret today. Perhaps there are posts we’ve had to pull down. I think we shouldn’t beat ourselves too much if that’s the case though we should learn from it. If anything that shows growth.

This also doesn’t mean we only share what massages people’s egos. It doesn’t mean we cannot challenge others as the word is challenging us. Actually, any talk of the Gospel will be challenging and offensive. But it does call us to weigh what we do, be careful how we do it, and be intentional with those we have in mind. Our posts can benefit people we don’t know and didn’t expect but only because we were also informed by a love for a specific audience.

We need to be intentional with our ministry and if possible let our focus be on people we already walk with. There’s a reason Jesus had a primary audience among the twelve, not with the crowds and the Pharisees. Even when he spoke to the crowds he had the disciples and those who would be his disciples in mind. That old method of working a deep Gospel work with a few to reach the many is still the most effective model. Let social media supplement that not spoil, compete or take over from it.

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