Last night I experienced a first on social media. A person claiming to follow Jesus Christ questioned my salvation.
This individual did not know me nor anything about my beliefs — other than the fact that I differed with him regarding a political issue. A third person who also commented on the Facebook thread said they left evangelical Christianity because of the type of comments my critic used in the exchange.
It doesn’t bother me that someone who doesn’t know me would make such a ridiculous claim regarding my faith. The incident, however, did make me think of how many times Christians have hurt the cause of Christ on social media. Rather than advancing the Gospel through this effective medium for communication, they hinder it.
Allow me to suggest a few tips that might be helpful for ministering effectively online:
1. Season your words online with the grace of the Gospel (Colossians 4:6).
Sometimes it is not easy to communicate gracefully with some of the people you encounter online; however, your words go beyond the individual with whom you are interacting.
2. Hold out the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
It is not loving to withhold the truth regarding a particular issue. It is also not loving to communicate a truth in an unloving manner. We must marry truth and love together in our online conversations.
3. Don’t use social media as a debate forum (2 Timothy 2:23).
It is fruitless to try to Twitter-debate a deep theological truth in 140 characters or less. Invite individuals to engage you regarding theological matters on a deeper level by way of email or a phone call, and even in a conversation over coffee.
4. Don’t abuse social media conversations in order to share the Gospel (1 Peter 3:15).
Peter wrote that we should always be ready to give a defense or reason for the hope we have in Christ, but to do so “with gentleness and respect.” It’s not respectful to push or prod people with the Gospel. Go with them as far as the Holy Spirit is taking them, then allow them time to process the truths you’ve communicated.
5. Shine the light of Christ into people’s lives as they deal with this world (Matthew 5:16).
When you communicate words of grace, hope and peace related to the Gospel, you shine the light of Christ into the lives of your readers. In doing so, you will present a Gospel witness for non-believers and an encouragement for believers.
6. Be authentic in your presence on social media (Matthew 5:37).
Do not portray yourself as someone you are not. One thing that social media provides is the temptation to create an alternate identity or reality. Be yourself online. Be who you are in Christ.
7. Seek to advance the kingdom of Christ rather than your own kingdom (Matthew 6:33).
While the nature of building a ministry on social media involves establishing a base of followers, friends and “likes,” avoid the temptation for those dynamics to point to you rather than Christ. Don’t make yourself the end goal of your social media efforts.
If we apply these tips consistently, we will more effectively shine the light of Christ in the darkness that is often present on social media.
(This article first appeared here. For more from Tim McKnight, visit his web site.)