We’ve been talking a lot about different ideas for using social media as a tool for evangelism. As more people are taking the opportunity to share Christ online, however, we’ve also picked up a few evangelism No-Nos. Here are 7 things to avoid on Facebook and other social media platforms:
- Viewing an individual as a ‘project’ rather than a person
When we become zealous about sharing our faith to bring someone to Christ, it’s easy to view an individual as a thing rather than a human being with interests, thoughts, feelings, etc. When you see a person as a project or a goal, your primary objective is to “fix” or convert them within a set time frame. For example, “I want 10 of my Facebook friends to be baptized members in 10 months.”Even though your friend online is not a believer, treating them like a project minimizes their humanity. Ultimately, they will detect that you are trying to convert them, and this may end your interaction. Treat them as you would a friend—love them, care for their needs, share your testimony, and don’t put a time frame on your relationship.
- Speaking “Christianese”
Have you ever said something to someone and they responded in a language you didn’t understand? That’s a sure way to end a conversation. Using “Christianese” creates a barrier in communicating the Gospel. This refers to jargon, theological expressions, slang, puns, and catchphrases understood solely within the context of a Christian or denominational setting. These sayings cause confusion if someone doesn’t have a Christian background.This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about Christ or your faith. It does mean meeting people where they are, considering how they might understand the world, and most importantly, asking the Holy Spirit to guide your online conversations so you can dialogue in a relatable way.
- Doctrine-dousing instead of dialoguing
Regardless of religious beliefs, no one likes being aggressively told what they should or should not believe. Social media is considered “social” for one main reason—it’s meant to build connections and facilitate dialogue. You can promote the Gospel if you are willing to engage, rather than douse a person with doctrines. People enjoyed talking with Jesus because “he taught with authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matt.7:29). He did not speak in a tyrannical way; he communed with people in love and compassion.
- Give an un-Christlike response under a post
There are countless examples of people who got in hot water because of a post online. One of the surest ways to lose your credibility as a Christian is to let a tense or heated moment get the best of you and respond in an un-Christlike manner under a post. Even if you don’t agree with a post, or if someone writes a rude comment under your post, it never merits a bad-mannered response. Responding with sarcasm or anger casts a negative light on the command to “love your enemies.” While no one intends to response in an un-Christlike manner, do make a point to be clear-headed when you post or share anything. A response given in love, wisdom, and grace invites people to explore the transformative power of the Gospel.
- Condemning people, rather than their actions, online
While speaking to a Pharisee, Jesus explained why He was sent; “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). In Romans 8:3, Paul said that God condemned sin in the flesh by sending His Son. Jesus died to condemn sin, not people. When we keep this in mind, this will guide what we post on social media. If we attack and condemn a person instead of sin—even if we have good intentions—it displays an act of judgment and appears to place the other person on a lower level. Your posts should give hope to someone who is struggling with sin.
- Living a double life online
Whether positively or negatively, the way we live our lives online (and offline) is a witness to the Gospel. You can’t turn on and off your role as an online missionary. Pictures, videos, and articles are tools to express who we are and what we believe. Posting a scripture as your status, then later sharing content laced with profanity or inappropriate behaviors is a sure way to distort the beauty of the Christian life. Posts that promote questionable actions—or posts in which actions or motives are ambiguous—can easily become a stumbling block to others. If you want to be positive a witness for Christ, live life online according to the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, post, like, share, pin, tweet, snap, text these things (Phil. 4:8).
- Chain Letters
Scroll long enough on Facebook and you’ll see a meme that reads, “Share if you love Jesus. Keep scrolling if you love Satan.” This is not an effective way to share God’s love. First, it uses manipulation and guilt to get someone to act. Jesus calls us to be His witnesses out of love, encouraging the use of our free will and personal relationship with Him. Second, these posts cause the Gospel to seem distasteful and cheap to non-believers. Third, it gives the idea that we can use God’s name as a good luck charm: “Share this post with 15 people and your prayers will be granted.” God’s blessings are given because He loves us, not because we did anything (e.g. shared a post) to deserve them.
It’s important to keep these things in mind when sharing the Gospel on social media. By keeping our eyes on Jesus and posting prayerfully, we can be His ambassadors online (2 cor. 5:20).
Have you witnessed some online evangelism no-nos in your own social media experience?