Should Christians Engage in Religious Debate on Social Media?
I often hear people say that social media isn’t the place for proclaiming Jesus, or debating God’s Word. Even well-meaning Christians will overlook the potential mission field known as social media, and reject it is a viable platform for evangelism. The problem is, though, the world belongs to social media. Can we ignore this reality? Is it a prodigious waste of time and resources? I’ll address some common objections to social media evangelism.
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. – Mark 16:15
Social media is for keeping up with family and friends, not for debating about religion. Says who? Many people view social media as a great platform to reach out to those who need to hear the truth. Jesus didn’t say “go out into all the world, except Facebook, and proclaim the gospel.” Of course, electronic social media wasn’t available during the days Jesus walked the Earth. But interestingly, God’s word has been preserved by some pretty amazing social media technology that was available during that time–a pen and paper. And it’s been “liked” and “shared,” … “copied and pasted,” more times than we can truly know for nearly two thousand years.
Social media makes lazy evangelists who feel they don’t need to leave the comfort of their screen. Not necessarily. While it’s true that social media can’t and shouldn’t replace face to face evangelism, it has, however, opened the doors to evangelize many who would otherwise not have the opportunity to hear. Think family and friends who live far away. In years past, before social media, you may not even be able to have a relationship with these people at all, let alone ever see them for an opportunity to share the gospel with them.
Further, social media allows for the interaction of people of many differing worldviews, who would otherwise not regularly have the opportunity to interact. You don’t generally see atheists and Christians mixing up for mutual conversations at the supermarket. Sure, it happens, and it should, but conversation opportunities are immeasurable on social media. In many cases, a conversation is more likely to progress on social media where many would choose to walk away in a face to face conversation.
People say things on social media that they wouldn’t otherwise say to someone face to face. Okay, this one could be a problem, but most of the time it isn’t. True, sometimes people will get a little carried away with their language on social media. As a general rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, you shouldn’t say it to them on social media. But, most of the people making this argument are making an unreasonable argument. In reality, social media gives you the opportunity to say things to people that you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to say to someone face to face…but generally, that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t if you could. Further, just because you can’t say something to someone face to face doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Paul didn’t have the opportunity to say what he wanted to say to the Ephesians, the Colossians, or Philippians face to face, because of his incarceration. Yet he used whatever means available to him to get his written message to them. I’d be willing to bet he would have been an amazing blogger.
People might mistake your tone, and be pushed further away from God because of social media. This is the big one, and this is the argument that most opponents of social media evangelism stand on. But I would argue that it’s the most ridiculous. Essentially, those who stand on this argument must either deny the capability of the Holy Spirit to work through social media, or deny the sufficiency of God’s Word to do the work. Romans 10:17 says “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” The reality is that most people making this argument just simply don’t like what it is you’re saying and want you to stop.
While we should certainly be respectful and loving towards those we engage with (Ephesians 4:15), we have to remember that God’s Word is always offensive (1 Peter 2:8), and foolish (1 Corinthians 1:18) to unbelievers. There is no possible way you could sugar-coat God’s truth enough to make it palatable to those who reject it, regardless of your method of communication. They will be offended on social media, or face to face–it’s immaterial.
The fact is if you are proclaiming the full counsel of God truthfully and completely, your method of communication is largely irrelevant. God has chosen his people to spread his Gospel, and to spread it to the ends of the earth. If you are proclaiming something false, perhaps you shouldn’t be evangelizing at all–not just social media. There is a lot of false Gospel being spread on social media that should be rebuked in the presence of all (1 Tim 5:20).
We have an incredible opportunity to reach many who may otherwise never be reached through social media. Sure, it can be used for evil, and more often than not, it is. But that is not a good reason to reject it as a viable means to evangelize. If you find yourself engaging in unfruitful activity on social media, repent, and move forward, 1 Peter 3:15 says,
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, 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.
It is not up to us to draw people to God, it is wholly a work of the God. The Great Commission is our duty as believers, and that includes every avenue of communication available to us including social media. If you’re willing to proclaim Jesus to one group of people, but not another, then are you really fulfilling the Great Commission?
So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 10:32-33
[Contributed by Pulpit & Pen]