FIRST-PERSON: Warnings for church leaders who use social media

by Thom S. Rainer, posted Monday, August 11, 2014 (3 months ago)

NASHVILLE (BP) -- Those of you who read my blog or listen to my podcasts know I am a strong proponent of social media. I have seen many good things take place on the various platforms available. I have seen the Gospel clearly shared and embraced on social media.

But this social media is a two-edged sword. It can be used for good or great harm. And it can harm the ministries of those in Christian leadership. So, whether your platform is a blog, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google Plus, or many others, please note these seven warnings.

1. Consider anything you say on social media to be permanent. Yes, you can delete or scrub regretful things you have said on social media but, more times than not, the information can still be retrieved. And countless people take screen shots the moment they see something unwisely posted.

2. You can be misunderstood often on social media. The readers or viewers usually cannot see your body language. They don't know your humor or sarcasm. If you have any question about something you will post, don't post it.

3. Emoticons are not sufficient to soften what you have posted. In fact, emoticons are so ubiquitous now that many readers ignore them.

4. Attacks on other people's character or positions are considered cowardly by many. The reader or the viewer typically sees the person writing the information as one who hides behind a keyboard or microphone. They wonder if the writer would have the courage to say the same things in person.

5. Too many Christian leaders are posting on social media in the heat of emotional moments. If you are angry or otherwise agitated, take a 24-hour break from social media. If not, you may regret it later.

6. Churches and other Christian organizations are checking social media of Christian leaders. It has become more commonplace for churches and Christian organizations to do a social media background check of potential candidates. And I recently conversed with a pastor who was fired from his church because of something he posted on Facebook. And remember, at the risk of being redundant, most of the words or photos or videos you have posted are permanently recorded.

7. The non-Christian world is watching Christians attack each other on social media. Our Christian witness is compromised again and again by our social media actions. When we say or write scathing attacks on others, non-believers see us as hypocritical, inconsistent, and unworthy of emulating.

You might be surprised how many people are watching you on social media.

And you might be surprised how many people have been hurt and angered by Christian leaders on social media. You might also be surprised how many gospel-sharing opportunities have been forfeited by unwise things posted on social media.

Be wise. Be gracious. Be kind. And be Christ-like.


Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources. This column first appeared on his website, www.ThomRainer.com. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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