What Social Media Can Teach Us About Sharing Our Faith
In September of last year I attended a conference on young adult spirituality where one of the break-out sessions was entitled “How do I share my faith on Social Media Without Being A D****?” (Except that the word wasn't censored.)
There were many other sessions scheduled during the same time period, but the overwhelming majority of participants found our way to that discussion. Are you surprised?
A lot of folks may be shocked to learn that young adults are worried about how to effectively share their faith with others. And as for the rated R Titles, like many people, young adults take their social media etiquette very seriously.
We covered all the topics you might expect. Things like how much everyone hates those “'Like' if you believe Jesus died for your sins!” “Share if you're a Christian and proud!” chain messages. (Seriously though, those are annoying. Quit making those show up on your friend's newsfeeds.)
We mentioned the folks who post inappropriate religious platitudes in response to someone sharing sad news. (Commenting that “God doesn't give us more than we can handle” or “It's all just part of God's plan” is not appropriate, people!) We also talked about folks who offer what should be meaningful statements about how God is active and appreciated in their lives, but how the frequency of such updates, or the larger context of their profiles (like racist or sexist jokes), can quickly get them “unfriended.”
As Brent pointed out last week, these are issues that affect us outside the digital world as well. It is hard to discern the right time to talk about our faith. We all agree that we should be doing it; sharing God's love is an important part of the faith. And I think most of our hesitation comes from a wish to be accepting and respectful of other people's religious journeys.
With that, I offer you the following: What Social Media Can Teach Us About Sharing Our Faith.
SHARE: Now evangelism is more than just inviting people to church. Again, it's more than just inviting people to church!
BUT when your church is doing something that you're proud of, share it. Invite friends and acquaintances to come along. Bonus points if you invite a stranger. And it certainly doesn't just have to be your personal house of worship. Whenever Christians are doing something worth mentioning, talk to other people about it.
From the radically inclusive new pope, to the church members who pile in a bus to help with tornado clean-up, I'm sure you've got thoughts. Open your mouth and let them out.
LIKE: From time to time you may, in a strange twist of fate, find yourself in a conversation about someone else's faith.
Affirm them when they share. Tell them what you find meaningful about their journey and how it relates to yours. And if that person is of a different faith, then by all means, ask questions and learn something!
Religious education is good for the soul, even if it's not yours. When a topic of conversation is not inherently spiritual, but does relate to your relationship with God (treatment of the poor in America, human rights, immigration, biomedical ethics, etc.) tell people how Christ's message has colored your opinion.
COMMENT: This one is the hardest, but it's quite possibly the most important.
What do the KKK, Westboro Baptist Church, The Presbyterian Church (USA), and NorthPark all have in common? They all call themselves Christian communities.
Forgive me for injecting some opinion here, but all Christian communities are NOT created equal. Christianity, or perceived Christianity, has hurt a lot of people. How many of us know of people in our own lives who have done or said horrible things and still consider themselves devout Christians? Sometimes, to spread the Gospel, you might have to contradict the Gospel according to someone else.
It's tricky, and it takes a lot of discernment. But to talk about your faith sometimes you have to share what you do not believe. From time to time you might have to make a declaration against something, because by saying nothing, you endorse something terrible.
Along those same lines, don't be that person who makes sexist comments and then tries to talk about equality in Christ, because no one will listen. And you can't say hateful things about a public figure, then preach acceptance and open doors, people won't believe you.
I'm not going to lie, it is rarely easy to talk about your faith, whether in person, via text, or using social media. But like it or not, disciples have a message they are called to share… even the frozen chosen.