1 Peter 5:2 commands pastors to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you.” Not only do your pastors take this command seriously, but we recognize that as culture and society change, so do the various ways we must shepherd you.
Social media is a prime example of this. Over the last decade, social media has become an extremely significant part of our culture. The vast majority of Christians, including those within MacArthur Blvd, spend a significant amount of time on Facebook and Twitter. It has become the primary way to communicate for many people. Because of the social media phenomenon, your pastors have recognized the need to intentionally shepherd you to approach and utilize social media in a distinctively Christian way.
The purpose of this document is NOT to demonize technology. Social media is not inherently evil. Let me repeat that: Social media is not inherently evil. Like many things within our culture, social media can be used for good, kingdom-advancing, Christ-exalting purposes, or it can be used for great evil. Motivated by a desire to protect our people, the reputation of our church, and most importantly, the name of Jesus Christ, the purpose of this document is intended to provide a loving warning to you concerning your use of social media. We believe there are at least five dangers you must constantly be aware of as you utilize social media.
1. Be careful of critical speech and gossip.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29
God’s prohibition against “corrupting talk” applies to Facebook posts and tweets. Social media communicates through sound-bites. Unfortunately, brevity of speech lacks nuance and thus is especially prone to misunderstanding. Before you hit enter, ask yourself: Is there any way the post I’m about to submit could be interpreted as being critical toward others? If the answer is even maybe, then do not hit enter. It’s not worth it. This applies to your speech concerning the church, pastors, church members, and family members (especially your spouse). Does your post “give grace to those who hear”? If not, you probably shouldn’t be posting it.
2. Be careful when addressing controversial issues.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:18
Social media is the arena for social, religious, and political debate in modern society. Christians must engage in these debates. However, as ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18), we must do so in a way that has Gospel reconciliation as our end and not merely blowing off steam or winning an argument. Social media posts rarely allow you the opportunity to engage in peaceable, loving, thoughtful, and nuanced discussion in a way that would lead others to see the world through the lens of the Gospel. Therefore, generally speaking, debating and discussing controversial issues on social media is rarely a good idea. It’s not only important that you believe the right things; how you communicate truth is equally important. So, before you “go there,” ask yourself: Does this opinion point people toward the Gospel? What is my motivation for this post? Is this the post of a “minister of reconciliation”?
3. Be careful to remain above reproach.
“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” 1 Peter 2:12
The danger of being misunderstood through social media has already been mentioned. This applies not only to your speech, but also your lifestyle. Be aware that when you mention things happening in your life—your marriage, relationships, entertainment, and social life—people will make assumptions about your actions. The potential for somebody to draw wrong conclusions about your life choices based upon a social media post is high. It’s tempting to respond to this reality, “Well, that’s their problem. People shouldn’t make assumptions.” However, because we represent the name of Christ, it is our responsibility to remain above reproach. So, before you hit enter, ask yourself: Could somebody misunderstand this post and assume I am doing something sinful, even if I am not? If the answer is yes, don’t hit enter. Again, it’s not worth it.
4. Be careful not to let social media replace your small group.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” Hebrews 10:24-25a (emphasis added)
The Bible is clear that as Christians, we do not have the right to privacy. In other words, we must be willing to allow other Christians into our lives, being transparent about our struggles in life (cf. James 5:16; Gal. 6:2; Rom. 12:15). However, this type of transparency is intended to occur within the context of the local church. It is only in that context that you can be confident that you will receive biblical encouragement, admonishment, and counsel. Being able to open up and vent about what’s going on in your life, knowing that you will receive numerous “likes” and sympathetic comments, is appealing. The problem with this is that God intends for this type of transparency to occur within the church, not on the web. What is appealing about opening up on social media is that it provides you with a comfortable amount of distance between you and your peers while at the same time providing you the sympathy you are looking for. People will rarely speak “tough love” into your life through Facebook. The negative result of this is that it increases the possibility of you receiving bad counsel, not being told what you need to hear, and not actually allowing other believers to participate in your spiritual life on an intimate level. So, be transparent but in the right venue. Social media is not that venue.
5. Be careful not to become addicted.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
Let’s face it, social media is addicting. It can consume our thoughts and time. It is often the first thing we look at when we wake up and the last thing we look at when we go to sleep. Exercise self-control. You should be meditating on God’s word when you wake up and when you go to sleep (Ps. 1; Josh. 1:8). Have you ever wished that you had more time to pray? How much time do you spend on social media? Allow me to rephrase Jesus’ words in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live on social media alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” We’re not saying never to look at social media, but as in all things, exercise self-control.
So, enjoy social media. Use it to proclaim truth, cultivate relationships, and extend the love of Christ. However, be careful. Grave danger is only a few keystrokes away. We love you all and love being your pastors!