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Using Social Media

I recently read an article, Pastors and Social Media by Jonathan Leeman that I found helpful. Leeman's target audience is pastors, but the application is undoubtedly beyond those who are pastors.

I will summarize it in this post, but I encourage you to read the entire article for yourself.

Leeman begins by discussing five unique dynamics of social media:

  1. It puts a printing press into everyone’s hands.

  2. It promotes self-expression

  3. It removes pre-publication accountability

  4. It merges publishing with town-hall meetings, but with no accountability for the crowd.

  5. It cultivates comparisons, legalism, and tribalism.

Leeman says,

Add these five dynamics together, and the big picture is this: social media offers a rival community to the local church. It's not the only community or space that does so. Teams, friend groups, CrossFit gyms, and workplaces do the same. Yet social media is a particularly powerful rival because it's self-selected and curated. It offers the voices of authority who tell us what we want to hear and the friends who like what we like. It caters to our natural predilections. It empowers us, giving us a platform for whatever we want. And because it shows up on our phone, it follows us to work, to the grocery store, and into bed.

One might think that Leeman would conclude that pastors should not use social media. But his conclusion is a caution, not abstinence. He says that the vast majority of pastors should “probably lower their expectations of what they can accomplish on social media” and remember that “biblically faithful week-in, week-out preaching can change the world for the members of your church.”

Before concluding the article, Leeman shared his boundaries for his use of social media. He doesn’t say that everyone should follow his rules, but he offers them as a way to think through setting personal boundaries for social media.

Leeman’s personal social media boundaries (again, I encourage you to read the article to see how he qualifies each of his boundaries):

  1. Stay within my areas of competence.

  2. Avoid controversial topics.

  3. Avoid moment-by-moment commentary on news events.

  4. Speak positively, not critically.

  5. Speak to edify, not promote myself.

  6. Review resources before retweeting.

  7. Always remember the members of my church might be watching.

  8. Resist the temptation to tweet regularly, build a presence, and form a community.

Finally, Leeman shares two things about social media that he thinks are simultaneously true:

  1. social media has wonderfully helped bring more of the nation’s attention to the abuse of women, discrimination against minorities, and other injustices;

  2. and the generally denunciatory and toxic nature of so much social media conversation has damaged the social fabric and unity of the United States and many of its churches, potentially sowing seeds for even more rancor and injustice in the future.

As stated earlier, Leeman was specifically targeting pastors in his article, but much of what he says is easily transferrable to non-pastors.

The take away for me is that we should be careful and intentional with our use of social media.

  • What boundaries have you set up to help govern your use of social media?

  • What challenges / pressures do you face with social media?

  • Where did Leeman help you?

  • What would you add / subtract from Leeman's article?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

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William Mattox
William Mattox

it is a double-edged sword ... be careful you don't stab yourself!!


Mark Brooks
Mark Brooks

An especially important topic for the times we are living in! I'm grateful for the platform to livestream services, but I've seen so much bad happening among the saints because of their involvement with social media during this time. Just spent time on the phone with a senior saint this morning all worked up about stuff she was sent on social media. I personally post almost nothing of an opinion nature any more. I broke my rule a couple years ago and briefly posted an opinion about a political/social issue and realized from the responses of people to whom I've tried to be a witness that my post was actually just going to be a distraction and a barrier…

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