Welcome to Season 2 of the Your Church Matters podcast. In this episode (79), I am sharing some thoughts on how we can disciple church members on their Facebook usage.
In a previous episode (45 – November 12, 2015), I shared some ideas on Why your church needs a social media policy. I read something yesterday that prompted me to revisit the idea, particularly related to Facebook. A pastor had just accepted a call to another church and planned to announce it publicly to his current church on Sunday. Some overzealous person who knew about the coming change posted it on Facebook without the pastor’s permission. The post resulted in rumors about problems in the church, staff conflicts, etc. I did not see the original Facebook post, but I read the letter from the pastor and staff that was posted on the church website to slow the rumor mill and ease the tensions.
I’m sure the person who posted did not do so with malicious intent, but the unintended consequences created havoc.
This morning, I read Nick Pitts’ Daily Briefing from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture. (I highly recommend that you subscribe to this, by the way). In it, he linked to an article that said,
“A staggering 94% of Republicans, 92% of Democrats, and 85% of independents on Facebook say they have never been swayed by a political post, according to Rantic, a firm that sells social media followers. The firm surveyed 10,000 Facebook users who self-identified as Republicans, Democrats, or independents, Wired reported.
“The only thing those opinionated election posts are doing are damaging your friendships. Nearly one-third of Facebook users surveyed said social media is not an appropriate forum for political discussions. And respondents from each political affiliation admitted they’ve un-friended people on Facebook because of their political posts.”
So, why do so many Christ-followers seem to have no filters when it comes to Facebook posting? I have actually seen Facebook posts from Christ-followers (people I actually know) that essentially said, “If you are offended by my opinions, tough! Unfriend me if you can’t handle it! I’m exercising my rights!”
I am convinced that this is not a “rights” issue; it is a discipleship issue. Mature followers of Jesus are less concerned about personal rights and more concerned about Kingdom influence.
So, what can pastors and leaders do to disciple people on their Facebook usage?
- Model appropriate Facebook usage. It is unfortunate that many of the posts that I would consider counterproductive actually come FROM PASTORS. This may sound harsh, but the fact that you have the position of pastor does not necessarily guarantee that you are spiritually mature.
- Talk publicly about appropriate Facebook usage. It should be mentioned from the pulpit. Yes, I’m serious about that! I’m not suggesting a sermon on Facebook usage; I’m suggesting Facebook as specific and practical application when preaching from Biblical texts referring to how we speak, how we influence, how we love, how we obey.
- Remind people of unintended consequences. If you are unfriended because of your posts, you have actually lost opportunities to influence your community. It also reflects poorly on your church and family.
- Teach people the difference between offending with truth spoken in love and being offensive in the way we speak. If someone is offended by the truth I have spoken, it could be their problem. If I am offensive in the way I speak the truth, it is almost always my problem.
- Teach people the definition of gossip. The dictionary defines gossip as “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.” I want to suggest that gossip is sharing anything publicly about another person without their permission, even if you know all the details. Facebook is public. The church prayer meeting is also public. It is always better to err on the side of caution when sharing details that you have not been given specific permission to share.
- Teach people to have really high standards when it comes to using certain words. The fact that someone doesn’t disagree with you doesn’t make them a heretic or false teacher. The fact that you have not been allowed to do something doesn’t mean that you have been persecuted for your faith.
- Teach people the difference between rights and right. The fact that you have the right to say something doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to say.
- Teach people how to look at their Facebook targets through the eyes of Jesus. One of my Facebook friends posted this quote this morning: “The way you treat people reveals your attitude toward their Creator.” – Pastor John Onwuchekwa. James 3:9-10 – With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
Question of the day: What would it be like if we only used Facebook to bless people and highlight things that are praiseworthy? Just a thought.
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