Jamie Jean Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist, Social Media + Big Data, North American Division
He who is careless and heedless in uttering words or in writing words for
Long before audio-visual equipment was invented, Ellen White knew how to do the figurative mic drop better than anyone.
This quote is a powerful and relevant reminder of the solemn task we have been charged with. I encourage everyone who is on social media, especially digital missionaries, to read her Counsels to Writers and Editors.
Social media is the ultimate equalizer. It gives a voice and a platform to anyone willing to engage. – Amy Jo Martin
Social media has eased entry into the world of telling stories, sharing ideas, and expressing thoughts to a wide audience. It used to be that if you wanted to tell your story to a broad audience, you had to buy your way in through costly traditional media. Times have changed; we are all writers and publishers now. But with this ability comes responsibility.
Social media, in its essence, is people connecting with people to create a collective human story. We all want to be heard, and we all now have a platform for public speaking. You can have hundreds, thousands, even millions of people viewing your messages. But, as so often is the case, the person we need to set boundaries with is ourselves.
Your personal social media is a great opportunity to share your story and contribute to the collective conversation. It can serve as a powerful witnessing tool, revealing what God is accomplishing through you and your work. But…
Would someone know you are a Christian based on your social media?
I once listened to a powerful sermon in which the speaker asked, “If you were pulled into court today, is there enough evidence in your life to convict you of being a Christian?” Well, what evidence does your social media provide? Is your use of social media driving people away from the Church or toward Christ? Think about it.
Social media is public by nature and has blurred the lines between your work for the Church and your personal life. This can be a good thing. Follow principles of responsible use and be a living testimony to others. Be a light among the quagmire of negativity online.
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16
Every opportunity to share is an opportunity to either advance or hinder the kingdom of God. People should use social media; it is a powerful tool. After all, the appeal of social media is that it reflects a basic human need, and that need is to connect and share. As digital disciples, that means connecting with each other and God as well as sharing the gospel.
It is likely that you have friends or followers on social media who are not Christians or who are questioning and struggling with their faith. As a member of the Church, you are always representing the Church even if you are not actively engaged in digital evangelism. This is especially true for pastors and others in leaderships roles. It is of vital importance that we maintain a high standard of ethics, striving to always be honest, professional, and kind. This means always verifying questionable content with credible sources before sharing, honoring the privacy of others, respecting intellectual property rights, and never releasing confidential information. However, you may share official statements from Church leadership.
Your posts can have a much greater impact and reach than you imagine. We recognize and value diversity of opinion within our community, but as an employee or member, your followers may confuse your opinion with the official position of the Church. While this is most likely not your intention, be mindful to:
How many people are you willing to drive out of the Church to make a point or to “win” your argument?
Public figures have the potential to magnify division and take thousands out of the Church. As individuals, we may discourage someone from even considering Christianity. We talk about a life lived as a reflection of Christ but turn into devils on social media. People say things online that they would never dare to say in person, and then wonder why their ministry efforts are not bearing fruit. We were all taught in primary school to T.H.I.N.K. before we speak. It is not enough for something to be True; it must also be Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, and Kind. This is especially true in online communication.
Because of the power social media can have, it’s crucial that we consider the effects our content will have on our audience. Both our negativity and our positivity grow exponentially as they are spread by our audience and friends online. When it comes to church, we can create a community of people that attack or a community of people that heal. – Kaleb Eisele, Humans of Adventism
We absolutely respect and value different perspectives among our members and ministry leaders. But as representatives of the Church, we must not use our public speaking platforms as a sounding board for the problems we see in the Church, in leadership, and in our country. We are a family; let’s resolve our internal issues privately. It would be considered obscene to go knocking on doors and to begin your evangelistic effort by lambasting the very Church you are asking people to join. So why do it online? We must protect our Church family and frame all of our digital communications with the salvation of others in mind. Social media is a powerful tool for sharing the gospel; let’s use it wisely and err on the side of caution.
The power and efficiency of our work depend largely on the character of the literature [message] that comes from our presses [social media profiles]. Therefore, great care should be exercised in the choice and preparation of the matter that is to go to the world. The greatest caution and discrimination are needed. Our energies should be devoted to the publication of literature [posts] of the purest quality and the most elevating character. Our periodicals [blogs, videos, and updates] must go forth laden with truth that has a vital, spiritual interest for the people.
Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences. Carelessness in speech can and will inhibit our ability to accomplish our mission. When we turn people away from the Church, we are not only working against ourselves, we are working against God. You can also get your ministry or self in legal trouble. If you work for the Church, you may endanger your job and reputation. This can be avoided by using discretion and focusing on the positive, such as what God is accomplishing through your church or ministry. Let’s not fall into the trap of using the negative and sensational to get attention online when God calls us to focus on what is good and holy.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable―if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. – Philippians 4:8
We all have the same goal. I truly believe that social media is a vital tool for accomplishing our mission in the 21st century. Young people are leaving the Church at a startling rate. They spend up to 18 hours a day behind a screen, and nine hours of that time is spent on social media. What messages are you sending them? We must take the gospel where they are, and not where we want them to be. But when our actions and our speech contradict each other, we only have ourselves to blame for the rising egression. Let’s work together to get the job done and go home.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. – Matthew 24:14