Ahhh, social media. That double-edged sword of a world where “success” teeters between seemingly effortless posts and well-curated content.
Do I post everything with the same filter and color composition? I know posting photos of what I eat is so passé and basic, but if I’m truly a foodie aren’t I denying who I am if I don’t post a beautiful photo of avocado toast?! Or, do I only post content that showcases what a fabulous life I’m living with the occasional offbeat pic and funny quips about my cat? Major decisions. What to post. What not to post. The frequency of posts. The balance of the Instagram grid.
However, as believers we are called to be salt and light in everything we do. What a gift social media is in that regard! Now, we each have a platform that gives us the potential to reach far more widely and deeply than we could otherwise. The most important questions we should be asking ourselves, then, are not about the filter or composition of the pictures, but the quality of the content we are sending out into the world. We are potential fire starters, and our social media accounts can be torches of blazing glory and hope to others.
As 1 Corinthians 10:31 reminds us, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
We can do that with social media, too. The rules are simple:
Know the difference between being genuine and oversharing. We all go through seasons of darkness and trials. Authenticity is key to “successful” social media accounts: There are algorithms ensuring that accounts without real engagement and genuine content get flagged or pulled. However, no one in your audience wants to have a birds-eye view of someone in a downward spiral.
Jesus’ kindness and miracle mindset drew thousands upon thousands to Him. That was done by being fully tapped into the Father’s heart and mind. He even saw his impending death (albeit unwanted) as a necessary act of love for humanity and obedience to a Father He trusted with the process and ultimate outcome. May we have the same narrative during our most confusing and painful seasons: If your social media narrative is one of panic and hopelessness, you are not tapped into the heart of the Father. However, sharing your vulnerability through the lens of hope, peace and encouragement in the midst of your heartbreak (no matter what form it takes) will infuse the social world and magnetize more of the same your way. We all want to know that we aren’t alone and that we’re all real; let’s just check the filter we put on our captions as well as on our images. “Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks”—and the fingers type.
Share the Truth in LOVE. Yes, there are the times for a call to arms where we (lovingly) call others to stand up for what Jesus did, where we wax poetic and share the fire in our souls for whatever the Holy Spirit has encouraged us to champion. Jesus made many gentle (but strong!) statements even to religious leaders on behalf of the lost, the broken, the wayward and the marginalized. We are asked to speak truth with love; a bitter diatribe will never meet a good end. (Keep in mind Proverbs 15:1, “a harsh word stirs up anger.”)
When in doubt, love it out. The Word of God is first alive and active, which means although it’s never changing, it is growing and breathing as it shapes us, and it is moving. Moving forward, moving upward, moving inward. We should make sure we are allowing it to do that first in us, before we insist it do something specific for others or that others should do something specific in light of it. Remember, what you win them with is what you win them to.
You don’t want to be winning people to controversy and divisiveness (using Scripture as the whip you crack); you want to win people to the life-giving, life-changing grace and love of a good, healthy Father. It tastes like salt, and it has no way of being interpreted as anything other than light.
KEEP YOUR I’S ON THE PRIZE
Inspiration – Evoke it, invoke it and pass it on. Let your goal be to post images that inspire (rather than impress) and captions to match. Also, spread that inspiration and kindness around! Try leaving at least five inspiring, uplifting and encouraging comments on content that you know to be changing the world and people’s hearts for the positive, at least weekly! Engage what you want to encompass.
Invitation – Invite people into something greater than themselves. Invite them into risk with reward, freedom, humor—a great adventure. Show them the beautiful, hard (but hopeful!), wild, exciting, romantic, passionate, wisdom seeking pilgrimage that is life with Christ! It doesn’t have to look like shots of your Bible lying open with your journal, and it doesn’t have to look like the worship set at church. But maybe it looks like you spending time with at-risk youth. Maybe it looks like holding the hand of the elderly. Whatever it depicts, though, make it untamed and full of the juicy goodness of seeing God show up; people want a life like that. When they wake up and scroll through their feed and see your life, let them say, “I want that kind of adventure!”
People want real: dirty diapers, grubby faces, undone hair and messy hearts. It’s all so beautiful, living out the Gospel in real time.
Only two in 10 Americans under 30 think going to church is important. Is it possible that’s because they find nothing in the churches they’ve attended that they can’t find in the world? Is it possible they’re not finding the true spirit and heart of Jesus there? He was inclusive, introspective and insatiable about seeking and loving the lost, which rescued people.
Our churches need to be places where people of all ages see Christians doing that. Let our personal “brand” on social media do the same.
Originally published in the December 2017 issue of Citizen magazine.