Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Every now and then we encounter people who have destroyed their careers and lives simply by something they said. Politicians top this list. Someone will be doing great in their campaigns, and command the attention of their constituency only to say something in a rally that becomes their downfall. Sometimes you get that feeling that some people shouldn’t hold the microphone for more than two minutes. Other times we hear stories of people who were about to win a court case and then threw in a detail that changed everything. Our words can fight for us but so often they fight against us. But while politicians can deny what their tongue said preachers are even more vulnerable in this area.

Our words can fight for us but so often they fight against us.

Public ministry is a dangerous place to be because building a reputation takes years and yet destroying it only takes a few words thrown here and there. More is expected of those who lead and yet they are as human as any of us. The Bible says those who speak regularly are vulnerable to sin more frequently with their tongue, Proverbs 10:19. Those of us who love sharing our opinions on social media are vulnerable in sinning with our mouths and typing fingers. Speaking is the tool of the preacher but he needs to be careful it doesn’t become a weapon forged against him. So how do we guard our mouths without faking it until we make it?

Feed Your Heart Intentionally

The word tells us that it’s from the heart that we speak, see Luke 6:45. What comes out of the mouth is evidence of the food of our mind. We speak what we believe and when cornered what we truly believe. Some people are able to separate what they believe and what they need to say. They know exactly what to say in a particular context. But so often what’s hidden within tends to come to the surface. It’s worse for those who speak more regularly. Pretence will work for some time but soon the truth will come out.

The Bible doesn’t sugarcoat the failings of its human characters and the true nature of man. But it invites us to the transformation of the Gospel.

But instead of this hard double life the word frees us to know that God knows us truly and yet has called us fully. The Bible doesn’t sugarcoat the failings of its human characters and the true nature of man. But it invites us to the transformation of the Gospel. We are capable of a lot worse than we imagine but the Gospel is capable of changing us more than we would ever dream of. The remedy isn’t hypocrisy but continually feeding our hearts with the food and practice of the word. And here I don’t mean just read more Bible passages. I mean take the time to reflect, apply and own the word. Feed your heart with the truth and your mouth will be safe. Let the overflow of your speech be the evidence of what is hidden in your heart, the sweet and precious word of God.

Bridge Public Ministry with Private Life

When we read the Gospels we tend to side with the sinners who come to Jesus more than we do Pharisees. Why? Because we all hate hypocrisy and we can see it so clearly in others. Those in public ministry have a private life that can ruin or build their ministry. We are not expected to be perfect but we shouldn’t be hypocrites living a double life. Our private life left unchecked will influence our public ministry. Our hearts will betray our tongues or we’ll always pick and choose what to teach.

Instead, the man of God has to learn to be God’s student number one. He doesn’t stand as God’s lawyer but as his keen student who knows his own need and of those he ministers to. None of his sermons are directed to others. It always begins with him before it flows to beggars like him. If we don’t keep asking God to work in us, if we ignore our desperate need for the meal of the word then we’ll inevitably become hypocrites. Our mouths will teach what we don’t believe and soon our tongues will betray us.

Watch Your Tongue and Typing Fingers

We speak to such a diverse audience these days. When you post on social media there’s all kinds of people with different backgrounds and unique context that read your post. It’d be better if we had more opportunity to speak the truth to fewer people in a specific place and setting. But while we should do that more regularly still we’ll find ourselves having to speak to a more general audience. If you like writing like me then you know your audience will be even more diverse. For this reason I think we need to be even more careful with our words. Now more than ever we need to watch what we say, how we say it and who we intend to hear if we want to truly influence people with the truth.

We cannot afford to be careless with our words and expect anyone to take us seriously. The sword of truth should be used to dispel lies but not slay our audience. We ought to speak with care and wisdom to protect our audience from our extremes. Haven’t you listened to someone and knew what they were saying was important but the way they did it made you dismiss them. Sometimes I see posts on Facebook that makes me feel the author needed to take a glass of water to cool down first. How can we be expected to help others if we cannot control ourselves. Keyboard warriors need to be warned of their sinful hearts masquerading as defense for the truth. By all means we should speak the truth all while watching our hearts and controlling our tongues.

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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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You’ve seen them. Plenty of them. They come in a number of categories:

  • Security alerts. Either terrorism related (suicide attack planned on Hotel X / don’t go to this mall tomorrow) or local crime (thugs have come up with a new way to mug you / if you see X don’t stop your car).
  • Health scares. Don’t reuse plastic bottles / your car aircon will give you cancer.
  • Warnings of occult activity or fulfilment of end time prophecy. Your Bible is an Illuminati translation / the government is going to implant us with a mark-of-the-beast microchip / if you answer phone calls from this number you will be kidnapped by Satanists and sacrificed. (I even saw a message warning you not to forward hoax messages because they are being used by occultists to distribute hidden messages #Ironic)

There are probably other categories but those are the most common I’m seeing at the moment and the first three are the ones I see forwarded the most in our context. An obvious thing to say is that we need to check the truth of something before we forward it. Often the fact that there is no source given or errors in spelling, punctuation or captialisation is a sign this is rubbish. Often a quick Google is enough to show that it is a hoax (e.g. on plastic bottles see the Cancer Research UK statement). But drilling down a bit further through this; what is really going on here? Why does this stuff just keep on spreading? What are the cultural and personal forces behind this? Well I’m not at all sure – please share your thoughts below – but a few suggestions:

  1. Love. There is often a genuine concern for our brothers and sisters. We want to warn and we would want to be warned. I don’t doubt this is a major motivation.
  2. Oral culture. We are an oral culture; which means that information is generally not derived from official written channels (systems) but from informal word-of-mouth (personal contacts). For example, if I need to know how to apply for a particular permit or license I will not go to the government website (which may not actually have all the necessary information uploaded there, which is telling) but rather I will go to a friend or contact in the relevant ministry or who has experience of dealing with them and ask his advice.
  3. Democratisation of journalism. In the new century everyone is a journalist. I can start a Twitter account or Youtube account and instantly become the key authority on what is going on in Syria or Somalia. Presence (or apparent presence) is everything. Instead of trusting the BBC or KBC to select and edit sources for me I want the raw feeds; I want to be my own news editor. Put this on top of a pre-existing oral culture and you have a powerful combination.
  4. Free-floating information. Sources don’t matter. Citation is not important. Information is information, right? At school I copy the teacher and you copy me. Everything is ripped or downloaded. I share, you share, someone else shares. Who cares where it came from? We swim in a postmodern soup of soundbites and hashtags and un/misattributed quotations. (with many notable exceptions)
  5. Distrust of institutions and authority. Postmodern philosophy teaches us that power creates its own truth; history is written by the victors; all official speak is propaganda; every government agency is running covert black opps. There is enough truth in this to make it a very potent idea. Years of impunity and corruption at the lowest to the highest levels inevitably breeds distrust and cynicism. So instead of government and police we trust the little people and the rebels. Urban legends, conspiracy theories and Voodoo Histories multiply.
  6. Fear. This is the big one. As Edward Welch reminds us, fear is a massive motivation behind many of our actions… and our fears whisper to us of deeper fears… and our deeper fears whisper about what we really value. As a friend was pointing out to me this morning, there is a huge amount of fear in our nation at the moment and much of it boils down to a fear of death. As those in Christ, do we fear everything the world fears or call conspiracy everything the world calls conspiracy? (Isaiah 8:12) Do we believe the world is out of control or that that the Lord with scars is on the throne and ruling all things? (Rev. 5-6) Can we say with Paul, “to live is Christ to die is gain”?

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Since 2009 there has been a ‘warning’ going around through chain emails, blogs and social media claiming that ObamaCare will force all Americans to have a microchip implanted in order to access healthcare. This is often also claimed to be a fulfilment of Revelation 13 – Obama being the beast and the implant being the mark of the beast.

I wouldn’t bother to respond to this if it wasn’t for the fact that:

  1. Genuine, sincere brothers across the world are forwarding these messages and being worried by them.
  2. In some forms this rumour suggests that if Christians don’t know about this ‘satanic plot’ and have the chip implanted then they will ‘not make it’ when Christ returns / the rapture occurs. This strikes at the heart of the gospel. It is no longer ‘Christ alone’ it is Christ plus knowledge of a particular fulfilment of prophecy (strangely particular to America).
  3. The message sometimes talks about passing on this warning to all your contacts as ‘doing the work of an evangelist’. That makes my blood boil. This has nothing to do with evangelism.

In terms of the specific facts of the matter, the rumour seems to have been sparked by an earlier version of the ObamaCare bill that was voted down and never passed into law. This version (America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 HR 3200) included a provision to take data from implanted devices but did not enforce mandatory implants. The version that did successfully pass (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act HR 3590) had even the data retrieval section removed.

The other impetus, besides a particular politics, is a particular reading of the Book of Revelation. It is not so much that it is an overly literal reading, though that is part of it. More importantly it is simply not a very careful reading of Revelation. Read Revelation 13:11-14:13 for yourself and see if this is really about Obama and microchips. Have the children of God got his name and the name of the Lamb implanted as a chip under the skin of their foreheads (Rev. 14:1)? Do you see worshippers of the Lamb being tormented eternally because they have failed to notice a mark has been forced on them (cf. Rev. 14:9-10)? No. You see those who have been redeemed by the Lamb, sealed with his name and the name of their Father, singing a song of praise, rejoicing in the eternal gospel – the gospel of the Lamb who has been slain for them, the gospel of the One who has drunk the cup of God’s anger that they should have drunk.

That’s the message we should be sharing.

Some resources:


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