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There is an echo of omnipresence in technology in that you can wrap the globe with gospel encouragement while never leaving your home. Technology has given us one of the most powerful tools we have ever known for making the gospel accessible and understandable for so many people. Of course, sin can stain any good thing, and Facebook is not impervious to sin’s encroachments. Its ubiquitous use by so many Christians requires God-centered stewardship, which is our call to be an example by putting Christ on display to the world.
Facebook is—in a virtual way—what any live community setting is where hundreds and even thousands of people congregate. Thinking of Facebook like any other communal context where diverse people groups gather helps me to think responsibly about how I use (and permit others to use) our platform. A few years ago I put an opinion blurb on my Facebook page about a tertiary matter. It was not that big of a deal to me, but a tongue-in-cheek opinion about a communication quirk that I have observed in our culture.
Initially, there were a few likes and comments that understood the intent behind the post. Several of these commenters were just as tongue-in-cheek as I was. As the day rolled along and the blurb continued to spread across Facebook, the comments began to take a turn, even to the point where one lady said I needed to repent of sin.
At that point, I deleted the post and all the comments attached to it. All-in-all I spent nearly three hours responding to comments. I then waited a long while before writing this article about that event because I wanted the post and comments to become a faint background in our collective memories.
My goal here is not to draw attention to the critical commenters, but to highlight something that is far more significant to me, which is how Christians engage each other in public settings.
I am not writing this article as though I have figured out all the contours of public discourse or as though I’m above the fray. No, not at all. My temptations and yours are similar. I have made many mistakes on social media and, sadly, I will make more. And, of course, that’s the key idea behind this article: I need help in how I use social media and perhaps a few others do, too.
As of this article, there are over 12,000+ people who have “liked” our Facebook business page, some of whom do not know the Lord. This numerical blessing is humbling and sobering while motivating in that I want to think about how I steward this opportunity the Lord has provided.
I consider my Facebook page like a large auditorium where as many as 12,000 people (Matthew 14:21) are always moving in and out of the building. What a fantastic thing the Lord has done! Now imagine being part of a large group of people where someone in the group stood and rebuked, criticized, or “went off” on someone in the room, even the speaker at the podium. Further, imagine:
All of these things are possibilities on Facebook: the largest multi-cultural community in the world. It is for these reasons that I have deleted some comments and even blocked a few individuals from our page, those who are angry, critical, or combative in our public space.
Our Facebook page is not like some organizations that are more interested in drawing people into their system, even though they are ill-equipped to take care of those already there. I hope that each person who is part of our community wants to be part of our community and they are served well by our community.
This worldview is why I treat each person on our social media platforms with respect, which means I want to provide care, insight, direction, and help. Social media platforms should not be opportunities to run up the numbers, but a place to care for people, which means it is not a place for people to be mean, unkind, critical, divisive, or angry.
It is more important to me to care for the people who are on our social media platforms than to give space and time to people who have no qualms about arguing in a public setting.
It does not bother me when folks disagree with me. I do mean that. It would be foolish and immature to think that every person who reads my content will wholeheartedly agree with it. It would be arrogant and delusional to think everyone should agree with me. Disagreement is not the issue that I have in view here. How we disagree with each other in a public setting is what is in sight.
Through the years a few people have sent me messages about things they disagree with me over or something they have a question about regarding a Facebook post. These people respect me and our medium, which is evidenced by how they approach a topic in which they struggled.
Similar to any kind of public setting, if you disagree with the speaker of the meeting, the humblest and wisest thing to do is approach the speaker privately about your query rather than standing in the middle of the community to make your points, especially if your question or statement is argumentative, time-consuming, or takes the group off subject.
Matthew 18:15-17 provides a template that you can loosely follow—a reasonable protocol on how to talk about differences with another person. If you disagree with the person, please disagree, but first, speak to them in a more private setting rather than standing in a public “meeting” to rebuke or critique the person. If there is no sin involved, but just a difference of opinion, you can share your perspective on your platform rather than hijacking someone’s space and time to put forth your opinion on preferential matters.
Some marketers say it’s a good thing to have argumentation and controversy on Facebook because it generates more traffic—with the expectation you will have more conversions. It is true. It’s how talking heads on sport’s shows make a living; they are always trolling the sport’s sphere to see what tidbit of non-essential information they can exploit for the sake of ratings.
I’m not interested in a platform that condones and perpetuates argumentation for the sake of high volume and more sales. I’m interested in shepherding the few visitors that come to our space, with the hope they will be encouraged and served through this ministry. Having a loving, encouraging, and critical-free space is more important to me than stirring up controversy for the sake of sales. God will sustain our ministry if He wants to, and I will not sell my soul to sensationalism.
Because there are so few Facebook pages like mine, some people wrongly assume they can blow in, blow up, and blow out, and it’s okay. It’s not okay. I call these people drive-by-shooters. I refuse to allow any of my pages to be a non-edifying community where cynical and sarcastic Christians can come to spew their frustration all over those who come for encouragement and care.
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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:29-32).
To be critical-free does not mean lock-stepping or always saluting the flag of the leader. It merely means that our community will practice Paul’s appeal in Ephesians 4:29-32, especially about how our words are to build up each other. With that in mind, here are seven tips on how to love God and others more than yourself while in our community (Matthew 22:36-40; Philippians 2:3-4):
I realize Facebook can be a combative space. I can’t do anything about what other people do on other pages, but I can do something about what happens on our page. And so can you. Now that you know what we do not permit in our public space and how to disagree with others who are part of our Facebook page, here are two things that I would love for you to embrace and perpetuate.
Encouragement is a big deal because this is one of the primary means that Paul taught us to employ to help others change. Paul said that it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). Facebook is a beautiful place to drop words of encouragement in the hearts of others.
Humor works similarly to encouragement in that it is soul medicine (Proverbs 17:22). In my multi-decade Christian experience, one of the things I have observed is that too many of us who name the name of Christ as our Savior are not happy. Many of us are downright miserable, which is part of the reason why Facebook is such a combative community.
This reality is why humor is a significant element in how we do ministry. One of my all-time favorite quotes about humor comes from Terry Lindvall’s book on C. S. Lewis. These words are also the quote that I read at my almost-99-year-old grandmother’s funeral. She was one of the laughing-est, happiest, jovial Christians that I have ever met. And after you put her in the context of the great depression, which she was as a teenager, it makes her humor all the more amazing. Here is the quote that I read at her funeral.
Laughter is a divine gift to the human who is humble. A proud man cannot laugh because he must watch his dignity; he cannot give himself over to the rocking and rolling of his belly. But a poor and happy man laughs heartily because he gives no serious attention to his ego….
Only the truly humble belong to this kingdom of divine laughter…Humor and humility should keep good company. Self-deprecating humor can be a healthy reminder that we are not the center of the universe, that humility is our proper posture before our fellow humans as well as before almighty God. -Terry Lindvall (Surprised by Laughter: The Comic World of C. S. Lewis)
Rick Thomas leads a training network for Christians to assist them in becoming more effective soul care providers. RickThomas.Net reaches people around the world through consulting, training, podcasting, writing, counseling, and speaking.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and in 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).