As most of us are well aware, we live in a day when few secrets stay buried. The explosion of social media sites has resulted in “laundry” of all shapes, sizes and states being hung out for everyone to see. This development is hardly a good thing, at least from my vantage point.
But let me be the last person to disparage these platforms that so many persons are employing to stay connected with others (me included). Like most other things in life, having a social media presence is inherently neutral; it’s how we use it that makes it good or bad (or even evil).
This topic came to my attention through recent online correspondence with ministerial colleagues in a peer group in which I participate. One of the group members shared some horror stories about how members of his church had used their social media networks to raise complaints about certain situations in his church, which eventually drove a wedge into one of the key Sunday School classes in that congregation. Then other members began weighing in with similar stories, which got us all to thinking about the possibilities of creating some type of “social media covenant” in our churches that might model the same sort of healthy relationships we yearn for in every other area of life and might ultimately honor our witness to Christ. It’s a good question because of how in the age of “Internet trolls,” digital behavior can be less Christian than ever.
So, how might we at MBBC take a step in that direction? Here are some pastoral suggestions:
- Exercise Good Judgment: Ask yourself if your post promotes goodwill, or does it inflame anger or resentment. Does it bless others or does it seek to injure them? Is it factual information or merely your opinion? If at any time you feel a tinge of hesitation about a post, don’t send it. The chances are good that your hesitation is the Spirit’s admonition that you’re headed down the wrong digital path.
- Consider Your Reputation and the Reputation of MBBC: Just as with any other conversation, your online conversations always reflect your place in our fellowship. It may be easy for us to think that this reality only relates to the paid staff in our church, but our Baptist principle of the priesthood of the believer ought to apply to how the words and actions of each of us have bearing upon the witness of our church.
- Honor Others: I can’t remember a time when there was as much diversity in belief, thought, and opinions as there is today. We are a different bunch of human beings. We don’t see everything eye to eye, especially in a Baptist church. While I have strong opinions (and think them to be the correct ones), I have to pay attention to how others see things differently; so that even when I disagree with them, I do well to disagree as respectfully as possible. “Living with grace and generosity” applies to these digital interactions as with all others.
- Remember Internet Permanency: I call this consideration the “Vegas rule” of social media interactions. What happens on the “Net,” stays there. It never goes away. Wise users will keep this fact in mind before posting something that they will regret not only the next day or next week, but also the next decade (and beyond).
- Be a Connector: Social media sites are great places to make connections with people that can be leveraged for ministry purposes. Your encouraging word may be just the salve that someone needs for his wounded soul. Your story of how your faith has helped you overcome some challenge may support someone else who’s facing a similar challenge. Your counsel may enable someone to get back on the path to life in all its fullness.
We do our best at the church to utilize various social media platforms to keep people informed about how God is at work at MBBC. On a personal note, I have an active Twitter account (@DougDortch) where I try to offer regular faith-based tweets to encourage the faith journeys of others. I know many of you do the same.
So, let’s work together to put not only our “best face” forward. Let’s also work together in this way to advance the cause of Christ. As with all technologies, this one has the potential to enable us to do so much more in reaching our community and even our world with the good news of Jesus Christ, which everyone so desperately needs to hear.
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6).