Social Media and the Believer

Posted by: Jeff Carson

In 1974, our family table was the place where all the big things on the planet were discussed. In a vibrant Evangelical home, we talked about doctrine and Biblical preaching, about the war in Vietnam, about the aftermath of Watergate, even about whether Billy Graham ought to be a guest on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. When the discussions would get heated, then my dad would lay down his house rule: don’t talk politics at the table. I can remember him saying: “We’re looking to share those things that unite us, not divide us, when we sit down to eat.”    

We certainly didn’t agree on everything. As Christians, we didn’t even agree on whether we should be giving money to the panhandler walking up to us at a traffic light. Our individual convictions were passionate, prayed over, and applied to godly living as we sensed the Lord leading us.

It is true that opinions are like belly-buttons: everyone’s got one. Someone has said that it’s okay for Christians to differ in their opinions, that it’s much like having fences. Fences are fine; the problem begins when you start throwing rocks over them at your neighbor.

A lot has changed in our homes since 1974. In the last 25 years, how our planet communicates has changed significantly. Many Christians are discovering that a large virtual microphone has been installed into their home, connected like a megaphone into a million speakers listening at the other end. Type five words . . . hit send . . . and a million people can see them without delay.

Social Media platforms can be a powerful and wonderful tool for the gospel of Christ, connecting us with friends and family like never before. Similar to the Apostle Paul before King Agrippa, we can lean into the microphone and share our stories of how Christ brought us from darkness into light: “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:15–18).  

Last week a brother in the Lord posted a link on his Facebook page pointing me, and hundreds of others, to a sermon clip. Privately, he penned me saying: “Praying for you, my brother. Hope this blesses you.”   And it did. I ended up sharing that video with about 20 other people in 20 different cities. The transfer of that sermon link took place in seconds on Facebook, at no charge, with a few bounces of my thumb and finger on my iPhone.   

Frankly, I need those posts. I don’t care if they come in an email or if they were just sent out in a general broadcast over the air waves to the masses using some platform. It is hard to think of a better way to evangelize and to encourage each other about our Christian faith.

Social Media:  Satan’s Most Effective Tool in Damaging the Church

One of the serious problems with Facebook and Twitter is that there is no license, much less any lessons, required prior to its use. No speed limits exist. No rules of etiquette come with a membership. If you hurt someone with a careless remark, the damage is almost unseen—sinfully and safely anonymous.

Many Christians (and sadly, many pastors) have not yet connected the New Testament’s teachings on unity and the dangers of causing divisions with the remarks they launch on social media. The Lordship of Christ has not yet reached their fingertips. Ironically, the Bible has a lot to say about our conduct when given the virtual microphone.

Causing divisions within the Body of Christ    

There are two kinds of division cited in the New Testament. The first type is doctrinal. Scripture brings a stern warning against those who inject false teachings to lead people from the faith. A serious mandate against those who would attack orthodoxy is given. Satan’s scheme of leading the flock awry through heresy is exposed in many Epistles (See Romans 16:17–18; Titus 3:9–11; Jude 1:16–19). Biblical instructions call for immediate and deliberate discipline.  

The second type of division is more subtle but damaging nevertheless. In Corinth, Paul had to plead for God’s people to seek unity and to avoid creating divisions among the “brothers”. It was not doctrine that was dividing them. In 1 Cor 1:10–12, the Apostle explains church unity was suffering at the hands of those who were promoting their own causes. Petty arguments and disagreements over non-doctrinal issues had risen to the point where people were promoting themselves and their particular opinions. Paul received reports of how the congregation was being split into factions: “I follow Paul.” “I follow Apollos.” “I follow Cephas.“ It was more than embarrassing; it was harmful. Frivolous views and political threads were getting woven into the fabric of faith among the Corinthian Believers. This made them immature in their spiritual growth (1 Cor 3:1–6).

Learning what not to share on Social Media

Among God’s people, it is okay to have differing views on which political party you support. Or on whether you think we are handling the poverty or education crisis correctly as a nation. There will always be disagreements on these matters. Today’s controversial topic will be replaced by a different one in tomorrow’s headline. We can have opinions. But believers must learn that social media is not the forum to air your political views, your thoughts on controversial issues, or expound on your personal convictions. We are no longer at the kitchen table. Digital blasts are to a wide audience beyond our control—including the weak and the strong, the right and the left, to mature and to baby Christians, to the wise and to fools. One is bound to hit conflict with such a large audience. Posting opinions can sow division and destroy entire ministries. Here’s why:

It divides the audience immediately

There are two pastors that I follow closely on social media. I will not use their real names. Pastor Tim is always posting devotionals and articles on his Facebook page. Reposts of recent answers to prayer. Even photos of his new puppy are plastered online for all to see. His posts are 100% focused on reinforcing his ministry for Christ in that city. He never uses his social media account for anything that has a political barb or posture—not a word. He seems to have taken the words of Solomon quite seriously: “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues” (Prov. 17:28).

Pastor Dan is also active online. In a different church and a different city, he regularly posts great clips of challenging sermons and testimonies of people finding Christ. However, Pastor Dan’s posts don’t stop there. Regularly, he drops small comments that reveal his political leanings. “His take on things” as he calls them. His opinions are frequently scrawled on the digital wall.

We know both of their congregations and hear from many of them on a regular basis. Pastor Dan’s loyal flock are deeply disappointed that he would make his comments public. They struggle to understand why a loving pastor, who would not knowingly hurt his ministry for a second, would lose up to 50% of his audience over topics on which they should know their congregation is split. Not only does he lose the 50% of those who disagree with his views, he loses arguably another 20% with those who happen to agree with his opinions but don’t appreciate him posting comments on those needlessly divisive views. Many have told us they are praying that Pastor Dan dismantles his social media account as he is single-handedly destroying his own ministry within their community.

Compare the two: Pastor Tim has lost none of his listeners. Pastor Dan has lost 70 to 80% of his audience by posting his private opinions on a public network. His metrics alone would demonstrate this.

If the years 2020–2022 have done anything for us, they have shown how quickly a room of believers can be divided amongst themselves over either politics or personal opinions. Don’t believe me? Try tossing the words “Vaccine Mandate” into the room and it could divide a group of devout Christians so fast it would make your head spin. I know believers who cannot understand why Christians wouldn’t be the first to voluntarily get a vaccine to protect themselves or others. I know believers who would get a vaccine but not an mRNA vaccine. I know believers who wouldn’t want any vaccine. I know believers who want public health initiatives but not mandatory ones. And I know believers who don’t think the authorities have gone far enough to protect the public’s health. It can be a highly volatile matter.

As followers of Christ, we cannot use social media platforms to expound our differing views. It doesn’t matter what side you take on these issues. To those watching and reading our posts and tweets, the optics are that God’s people are busy hurling rocks over the fence at each other. Satan must clap his hands in delight when some of us sit at our keyboards. He must be thrilled with pastors who voluntarily destroy 50–80% of their audience over seemingly innocent commentaries. The Evil One relishes the sight of dirty laundry pinned to the clothesline of Christendom for the world to see. 

It lacks wisdom

Proverbs 11:12 says “Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.” To decide not to broadcast your thoughts on social media takes self-control. Again in Proverbs 17:27:  “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.” Satan often tempts us when we read something we consider to be so naïve, so ill-informed, so full of misinformation. The Deceiver lures us into the ring of public grappling on topics meant to be discussed respectfully and prayerfully, but, most of all, privately. He whispers softly into our ear, “You’re not going to let that post go unchallenged, are you? It’s completely false!” Like C.S. Lewis’s senior demon, Screwtape, he knows the Christian’s weakness to be drawn to the microphone to set the record straight. To right the ship. To defend the truth. To stand for justice. For Jesus’s sake, of course. 

The wisdom grown through social media is in learning to use time spent on it for His Glory. For His Gospel, not my political convictions or personal cause. Showing the Lordship of Jesus over my lips and my keystrokes. Showing self-control and Spirit-filled restraint.

It tarnishes your witness and brings reproach on the name of Christ

I remember back during the 2020 US Presidential election, I listened to a godly pastor in the northeast describe how Satan was tearing his congregation apart at the seams. Brothers were fighting against brothers; sisters were arguing against sisters. Everyone was consumed with promoting their cause; Democrats, Republicans, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, masks, no masks, and the list goes on. During all of it, the name of Jesus was being tarnished in their community.

Finally, one Sunday morning, he preached on Christ as the unifying power of the Church. He said “Beloved, we find our identity in Jesus. Only Jesus. Not Jesus and a political party. Not Jesus and a personality. Not Jesus and a movement. Just Jesus. We identify in Him alone.”

Have we brought reproach on the name of Christ by what we nail up on the global billboard? Do people hear arguments from us over masks or vaccines or political groups on our social media accounts instead of the message of the Cross? Have we hoisted our particular flag of justice over a united flag of our Savior?

A concluding word

Many Christians and their pastors are playing into Satan’s hand when they feel drawn to publicly broadcast their politics, advertise their personal convictions with small comments, subtle remarks and pointed articles which can serve to divide the Body of Christ. Worship and loose lips are not compatible (Jas 3:8–9).

The world is listening. They read our tweets and our posts. The self-indulgent practice of sowing division through the portals offered by social platforms is not just unfortunate, but borders on the most sinister of Satanic schemes ever hatched. The platforms too often serve to deflate our witness, to divide the Church against itself, and to distract us from the true mission of sharing the Gospel and making disciples. Our keystrokes must reflect the Lordship of Christ in every way. That digital microphone must be surrendered to the One who paid to redeem us. We must reserve our public declarations to be about Jesus, about sin, forgiveness, his love, judgment, and saving grace. Our words must be his words. His cause must be our cause. May the world sit up and take notice of our love, of our unity, and our singular identity in Jesus

Should we feel the need to respond to a Facebook post or someone’s tweet, we would do well to begin by praying to the One who hears and answers our prayers. If we feel led to engage with a post, we can do so privately. Not on social media. Remember that cryptic messages don’t solve much. Take the time to drop a private email or send a personal letter. Invite the person to coffee and take the time to share your heart with them face to face.

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Cor. 1:10).

The kitchen table may have grown since 1974, but our conduct and our public words to a listening world and to the Fold of Christ have never been more important.

Share this post