Social media has changed our world. There are currently more than one billion active users on Facebook alone with other networks such as Pinterest, Instagram, WhatsApp, SnapChat and Twitter representing hundreds of millions more. For the first time in history, we have tools to reach the world that are literally at our fingertips.
We live in an exciting time, but it can also be a confusing time. Technology is reshaping life and ministry, and it all seems to be moving forward at a crazy pace. It can be difficult to know how to leverage these tools for the Kingdom. The Great Commission compels us to engage our world and make disciples, but with all the noise and potentially harmful things online, it’s hard to know where to begin.
As a Christian, I believe it begins with the simple question, “How would Jesus use Social Media?”
Starting with that question, apply the following seven principles to your own context. Whether you’re representing the social media for a church or ministry or you’re one of the billions of people who use these tools to just to stay connected with friends and family, I believe these basic truths can help you maximize your influence online:
How should a Christian use social media?
- Don’t use social media just to inform people; use it to impact people.
“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8
Whether you’re an individual posting updates about your family or a church* posting information about your ministries, remember that people aren’t just looking for information; they’re looking for inspiration! Instead of just sharing facts, figures and service times, share Scriptures, links to inspirational stories, beautiful pictures, updates on answered prayers and anything else that will honor God and inspire people. As an example
- Remember that social media is an aspect of meaningful community, not a replacement for meaningful community.
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25
Social media is a wonderful tool for connecting with people, but if all your interactions are happening online, then you’re missing out. Meaningful community can be enhanced online, but it can’t exist entirely online. Be face-to-face with people whenever possible. You can’t give someone a hug on Facebook
- Show respect even to those who don’t deserve it; not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.“ Romans 12:18
A lot of people will use their social media platform to create “drama” and public forums for arguments. Fight the temptation to be pulled into the negativity. Rise above it by refusing to engage in online shouting matches or by publicly criticizing others (even if they may deserve it). People will come to respect you more and the influence of your life and ministry will be stronger if you display dignity and restraint with what you post online.
- Don’t be discouraged by critics. Criticism is the price of influence.
“Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” Luke 6:26
Anytime you share anything online, there’s a good chance someone will misunderstand your intentions or completely disagree with your perspective. If your words and actions are consistent with your faith in Christ, then you should have peace whether you’re receiving praise or criticism from people. Pleasing God is always more important than being popular with the crowd.
If you’re consistently sharing content online, criticism will probably come, but don’t be discouraged by it! It means people are paying attention. If nobody’s criticizing, it’s probably because nobody’s paying attention. Remember that criticism is just the price of influence. And for your part, choose to be an encourager; the world has plenty of critics already
- Don’t be online all the time. Find balance and protect boundaries.
“…have the wisdom to show restraint.” Proverbs 23:4
I have a confession…I’m a social media junkee. If I have thirty seconds to kill sitting in traffic at a red light, I’m tempted to pull out my phone and post something on Twitter. I have to fight the urge to share every thought that comes into my head with all my Facebook friends. I “Cyber Stalk” my friends and even some people I’ve never met in person by watching their newsfeeds. In fact, I’m tempted to take breaks after writing each sentence of this article just to see if my latest Facebook status has any new comments or likes!
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but there’s some truth here. I’ve had to work to put boundaries in place, and I’ve often failed to have healthy balance in this area. I try to observe a “Sabbath” from Social Media one day per week and I also like to have all electronics shut off during family time. It’s a struggle to find balance, but it’s so important. I don’t want my kids’ memories of me to be my constantly glued to a screen. I want to use these tools effectively, but I don’t want to let them lock me in a “digital prison.”
- Don’t be an “Undercover Christian” online.
“Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:16
I’m quick to rave about a good restaurant or a new movie, because if something good, I want to share it! For some reason, I can find myself being quick to share good news about sports or entertainment on Social Media, and yet I’ll be reluctant to share the best news the world has ever heard, because I’m afraid of offending someone.
I’m convinced that we can’t live Christ-centered, Spirit-led lives if we’re afraid to share our faith online (or in person, for that matter). Don’t be afraid to share your faith on Social Media. You don’t have to beat people over the head with your Bible or cast judgment on all your friends’ sins. Simply look for opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus and be willing to engage in conversations (either online or in person) about your faith.
- Remember the goal isn’t to gain more followers for yourself; it’s to gain more followers for Jesus.
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” 1 Peter 3:15
It’s okay to have healthy ambition, but the destructive sin of pride can tempt us to worship the idols of fame and popularity instead of leveraging our influence to point people to Christ. The world has only one Savior and I’m not Him (and neither are you)! Use your influence to point people to Jesus.
In the end, it’s not going to matter how many friends or followers we had. All that will matter is that we were faithful friends and followers of Jesus. Use social media (and every other resource at your disposal) to grow in your relationship with God and to encourage others to do the same.
The piece was written by Dave Willis. He is an American voice actor, writer, producer and musician who is widely known for his work in animation.