How do we tweet to the glory of God? Surely we all have a lot to learn in stewarding our new media for eternal purposes. Here’s the question as it arrives from Lisa, a regular listener: “Pastor John, hello and thank you for this podcast and thank you for your presence on social media. I want to reach the people in my online sphere with the gospel. What are simple things average Christians like me can keep in mind to use social media with eternal purpose, evangelism, and edification?”
The last twenty years have created a whole new world of possibilities for good and for ill in broadcasting our thoughts to the world.
“He will call us to account for every careless word we utter. This includes careless words on Twitter or Facebook.”
Before the Internet, we could distribute tracts, use billboards, or rent newspaper ads. We could write letters to the editor, try to publish an article in a magazine or a book, or write a book. We could distribute doorknob hangers, hire a writer, or put on a bumper sticker. But today we can go to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, etc. Now the possibility exists that something you say might reach thousands, even millions besides the little cluster of friends you have.
Now, that’s a new situation, and for Christians it’s another stewardship that God has given us to manage, to steward. He will call us to account for every careless word we utter (Matthew 12:36). This includes careless words on Twitter or Facebook or in blogs.
The best way to know how to manage or steward God’s gift is, as always, to go to God’s word and listen to his counsel. So what I’m going to do for the next few minutes is just prime the pump for Lisa, who asked this question, and for others who are listening.
Two Good Goals
I want to prime the pump so you can carry on what I start here. My guess is that someone could easily write up something like Jonathan Edwards’s seventy resolutions for the Internet. I’m waiting for that. Tony, maybe you should do that — seventy resolutions for the Internet, and all of them should be biblically warranted, biblically grounded. Here’s a start for those of you who want to make this your goal.
Lisa specifically asked at the end of her question for guidance about evangelism and edification. I was so glad to hear those traditional words. They’re very good words. That’s a great pair of goals to have when you’re on the Internet. Evangelism is speaking words that display the good news about Christ and his way for unbelievers. Edification means building up in faith, hope, and love — that is, you try to build up believers into wiser, stronger disciples of Jesus.
Here are a few texts from the Bible that I think give good guidance for using social media — not only about what we say, but how we say it.
First, we see the mandate for evangelism locally and globally. We read, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession” — why? — “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). There we go. Here we have the mandate to proclaim through social media the excellencies of Jesus.
“We should fill our Twitter and Facebook feed with Scripture accurately cited and wisely interpreted.”
Psalm 40:10 says, “I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.” This says that I don’t keep things to myself that I see in God’s word that he’s done for me. I broadcast to the great congregation.
Proverbs 15:7 puts it like this, “The lips of the wise spread knowledge.” I looked up the Hebrew word that the ESV translates spread. It’s the word for scattering seed. It’s almost always used for scattering seed. So the lips of the wise scatter, like taking a handful of seed and throwing it out there on the ground: “The lips of the wise spread knowledge, not so the heart of fools.” We should just scatter in the winds of social media — the winds of Twitter and Facebook — scatter seed like knowledge in this wind of the Internet.
In Acts 5:28, the leaders in Israel charge the disciples like this: “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching.” I love that phrase “fill your city.” Do that. Fill your city. Fill your nation. Fill your Twitter feed and your Facebook with the teaching of Christianity, laying things down with truth.
Psalm 96:3 reads, “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” If God wills, you have a chance to touch somebody anywhere in the world with what you say. The Bible says, “Declare his glory among the nations.” What a possibility exists for touching someone ten thousand miles away supposedly outside our reach. So pray over your tweets, pray over your blogging and your Facebook. Pray over it that God would breathe on it, and send it by his appointed means to somebody who has exactly a need for what you have said.
That’s the way I do it. I put tweets in my scheduler almost every day, and they come from the Bible — almost ninety percent of them. I’m saying, “God, do something extraordinary with this verse. Make it be timed perfect for somebody’s need.”
Use social media both as a proclamation (as we’ve been talking up about), but also to defend the gospel. It says in 1 Peter 3:15, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). There’s a place for answering objections and responding to people gently and respectfully so that you can show error where you see it in defense of the gospel. There’s a place for exposing sin.
Ephesians 5:11 says, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness” — don’t join in the darkness of the web — “but instead expose them.” I don’t think the dominant tone of your life on the Internet should be exposing darkness. You’re going to get your hands and your heart dirty that way. But periodically, God’s going to burden you with something you saw that needs to be set right, and you’re going to expose some sin.
All of that has to do mainly with evangelism and outreach.
Minimize Self, Maximize God
What about edification?
Romans 14:19 says, “Let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” What a great mandate for your Internet interaction. Paul says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 8:32 says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
“Minimize yourself. Maximize God in his word.”
So we fill our mouths, our Twitter feed, our Facebook page with Scripture accurately cited and wisely interpreted. This is the safest way to do good. Minimize yourself. Maximize God in his word.
I’m going to say that one again because broadcasting is so much self, and we have to work at checking our hearts again and again. Ask, “Am I just wanting to be seen? Am I just wanting to be known like the Pharisees standing on the street corner blowing their trumpet?” Do we want everybody to see what we say, or are we minimizing ourselves by maximizing what God says? What does God like?
Be vigilant over your tongue. Matthew 12:34 reminds us that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Oh my. You may not know it, but you are revealing yourself all day long.
What kind of person are you based on your use of social media? Is this a feisty person, an angry person, a cynical person, a mean person, a gentle person, a kind person, a loving person, a whole person, a broken person? What comes out of your mouth shows what’s inside. That’s the way the world is going to read it.
“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life” (Proverbs 10:11). Our aim is life, not self-exaltation. We want other people enjoying life in Christ.
What kind of guidelines are out there for how you talk — not just what, but how? Here are just a few examples.
- Ephesians 4:15: “Speaking the truth in love, we grow up in every way into him [Christ].” So speak truth and love.
- Proverbs 16:24: “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”
- Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt.”
- Proverbs 16:21: “The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.”
- Proverbs 15:4: “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”
- Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” What I would ask is, Do people detect that you are a brimming person who is thankful — thankful for God, thankful for eyes, thankful for ears, thankful for mind, thankful for heart, thankful for the gospel, thankful for church, thankful for country, thankful for friends, just brimming with thankfulness? Or are you a sick heart that is always giving evidence that you’re angry about something?
- Proverbs 25:11: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in the setting of silver.” Which simply means timing, tone, content are crucial.
- 1 Corinthians 16:14: “Let everything be done in love.”
Thousands of Tweets
When I think about my Twitter presence for example, I think not only about the content and the tone of each tweet, which vary a lot, but also the cumulative effect all of my tweets throughout the years.
Sometimes they’re very severe in pointing out the judgment of God. Sometimes they’re very tender in reaching out to the brokenhearted. What I do is look not only at each tweet, but at the overall effect of thousands of tweets over years. I think I’ve maybe sent 17,000 tweets so far (something like that).
Any given word from the Bible can be misused by anyone at anytime. You can’t avoid that. My hope is that the overall impact will be for the magnifying of Christ, the winning of the lost, the everlasting holy joy of God’s people, and the glory of God. That’s the overall impact of my presence that I hope God will do.