Christians love playing the “blame the media” game.
Not long ago, we might have had a legitimate claim that our reputation was bad because the media was against us. That’s not the case anymore.
Oh sure, the media in general may still think negatively about Christians, if they think about us at all. But the days of blaming someone else for our bad press are gone.
Do you know why Christians have a bad reputation today? It’s not because of CNN. It’s because of our own Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and YouTube videos!
Every day, we confirm people’s worst suspicions about us. There’s no one left to blame but ourselves.
Some Christians really act like jerks.
No, I’m not going to qualify that sentence by changing it to “some so-called Christians really act like jerks.” I’m talking about actual Christians. People who have a relationships with Jesus, read their Bible, go to church, share their faith and love their neighbor.
Then they get online and reinforce all the worst stereotypes about Christians as self-righteous, ignorant, out-of-touch jerks.
Pastors On Social Media
You know why so many Christians act like jerks online? Because they’re following the example of their pastor. (If that stings a little, sorry/not sorry.)
So why would I say something like that? Two reasons.
First, this blog is read by a lot of pastors, and someone who loves us has to tell us the truth about it.
Second, we have enormous influence over our fellow believers. Probably more than we should. Yet many of us seem to forget about that influence when we get online.
We’ll pray, study and edit our Sunday sermon, as we should. But when we get online we’ll shoot our mouth off without a second thought. Yet most pastors will reach more people with an offhand remark on our Facebook page than in our Sunday sermon. It’s a massive megaphone that we treat far too casually.
I regularly find myself appalled by the online behavior of pastors who are wonderful, gracious people IRL (in real life).
Social media is our public face. It’s like a massive magnifying mirror that reflects and amplifies everything we do and say. Especially our flaws. We have to stop using it to work out personal, political and theological vendettas.
Social Media – A Double-Edged Sword
The gatekeepers are gone. With social media there’s no one filtering the information.
The days when you needed to get a TV series, recording contract or publishing deal to be heard by thousands, even millions of people, are no more.
I’m living proof of that. I began my blog without anyone’s permission. Instantly, billions of people had free, 24-hour access to it. I also self-published my first book and made it available, not just on my blog, but through the biggest bookstore that’s ever existed so that anyone, anywhere can order a print copy of The Grasshopper Myth or download the ebook and start reading it within seconds.
Eventually, the blog was noticed and picked up by ChristianityToday.com and my next book, Small Church Essentials will be with Moody Press (coming in March, 2018), but I didn’t need CT or Moody to find readers. I found readers (or the readers found me) before any media entity got involved. It was just me and a laptop.
Our access is stunning. But with that access comes a huge responsibility. (Must. Resist. Spider-Man. Quote!)
More than ever before, we have an obligation to act in a Christ-like manner. Not just in church, but everywhere.
WWJD? Isn’t Just for Bracelets
You know that argument you had on Facebook over some point of theology, politics or morality? The one where you got upset and said some things you regret? It wasn’t a private conversation. A lot of people read it.
Imagine that everything you say is going to be amplified over a microphone into a crowded room full of friends, family and strangers. That’s what your Facebook page does.
People see it when you lose your cool and put a religious or political argument ahead of being gracious and kind. Including new and not-yet Christians.
Did that conversation draw them closer to Jesus or push them further away? And please don’t tell me that’s not the point. That’s always the point!
Stay Strong, But Be Respectful
No, we don’t have to curb everything we say so that we’re posting nothing but St. Francis of Assisi quotes on Thomas Kinkade paintings. The strong tone I’m taking in this blog post should be proof of that.
We can and should make strong, even bold statements. But we must do it without being disrespectful, arrogant jerks about it. Or mean. Or downright un-Christlike.
It is possible to respect the truth and respect people who disagree with you at the same time.
But when we say cruel or untrue things online, there’s no taking it back. Online is forever.
People are watching. The world is watching. More than that, Jesus is watching. He said we’d be held to account for every careless word. Careless keystrokes are no exception.
We are his representatives with every word we utter, every video and meme we upload and every keystroke we hit.
Let’s make them count.
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