The Dangers of Social Media for Christians & What is the Value of Digital Discipleship?

In today’s blog post I wanted to share my thoughts on the pro’s and con’s of being a Christian on Social Media and why Digital Discipleship can be helpful to those around the world who may not have access to a physical church home or family, but is online ministry a replacement for in-person ministry? And is being a Christian on social media dangerous?

Let’s find out!

Online ministries have been experiencing a steady growth throughout the years, but especially since the rise of the Coronavirus and its effects on society, many people have had the time to really slow down and dwell on the serious matters of their lives without having the distractions that would otherwise steal their attention. Digital Ministries have seen an unprecedented rise in interest concerning faith, God, and the bible due to increasing anxiety and fear of the unknown. Here is where the Christian on social media steps in to meet that need. Being a Christian You tuber I can say from personal experience that the amount of influence a person has on social media is both a blessing and a curse…and to be honest a little overwhelming. With the sudden surge of individuals willing to step up and help meet this need there are also some who probably shouldn’t. This may seem insensitive but the reality is social media influencers have a great sway on societal opinions and values due to being so readily available on the internet and mobile devices. This is why Christians who are thinking about being on social media should really examine themselves and prepare their hearts for the weight of responsibility that will inevitably be on their shoulders.

I have seen my fair share of individuals who get on the internet and start a “ministry” but are clearly immature in both their content and conduct. The temptation to grow and develop a following is dangerous and is very desirable amongst those on social media. In a sense, it is the purpose of every influencer and content creator who gets online to develop a growing audience; especially Christians. Gaining a following isn’t evil in and of itself. I mean, I would love my ministry to reach billions with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but there are also those who are willing to compromise the purity of God’s message for the sake of gaining followers, and that is where the danger lies. At the click of a button a person can have access to thousands of people. People who are in pain, hurting, and vulnerable are now at the mercy and feet of Youtuber’s, Instagram moguls, and Twitter aficionados’. We have seen what false teachers can do to a physical church. Now imagine what false teachers can do when they have access to millions worldwide without even having to leave their home.

Some of the challenges that face Christian’s on social media are the constant temptations to stay relevant and the allure to compromise the message of Jesus to appease a greater audience. It is already difficult to get people to listen to biblical topics, and the allure to be sensational is always lurking around the corner. This is not to say that Christians shouldn’t give a biblical response or perspective that addresses current topics of interest, but many have gone over the cliff and have sacrificed their consciences on the altar of social media for the sake of popularity. Characters on social media are not usually the people you will meet in person. Social media has this way of emboldening people who would otherwise be timid. It is easy to spew hatred and evil from behind a screen without any immediate consequences; as well as saturate the world with false information with the confidence that no one will actually conduct the research necessary to verify your claims. This is why Christians need to be mentally and spiritually prepared for the social onslaught to come as many will be quick to speak and slow to listen anytime an opposite position is presented, and all that online debating can really break down your mental fortitude which can lead to watered down messages for the sake of staying relevant and not wanting to deal with the stress. Also, if you are a new believer I would warn against stepping into a “teaching or leadership” role online due to the fact that your roots in Christ may be chopped off before they really get a chance to develop and get set into a good foundation.

There are many pitfalls and false teachings online that can sway your already vulnerable state in Christ. You are simply not prepared or mature enough to have the weight of responsibility that comes with ministering and leading others to Christ in an authoritative role. This is not to say that you can’t share your faith online because that is your responsibility as a Christian, but to take a leadership or teaching role is a different monster entirely. In 1 Timothy 3:6 it states, “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.” This single verse reflects what is currently being witnessed online. Individuals who are new to the faith are taking on too much responsibility without first developing a solid character in Christ. This leads them to being susceptible to temptations, to pride, and the desire for notoriety. Thus, compromising their witness and giving others a bad example of what it means to be a Christian. In Titus 2:7-8 it states, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” Again, social media can be a valuable asset… but it can also be a hindrance if you are not spiritually mature. Remember, you have souls in your hand every time you open your mouth to teach. Be a good example, by being willing to wait until you are spiritually mature enough to take on the role of leader and teacher in any sense. The rules don’t change just because it’s the internet, whether on social media or in an in-person capacity you must follow the word of God concerning this matter.

With all of those warnings you may be wondering, “Is there any value to Digital discipleship? And can Christians replace in-person discipleship for online discipleship? The quick answers are yes, there is a value to digital discipleship…and No, you cannot replace in-person discipleship for online discipleship, and here is why. I think when people use the term digital discipleship they really mean online teaching. Is there any value to online teaching and education? Absolutely! Although the internet is available to the majority of people in the world today, that doesn’t mean that people have access to solid biblical churches that teach sound doctrine. This is where the benefit of being able to turn on a cell phone, laptop, or computer can be a real blessing to many people. For example, my online ministry has reached places like Brazil, India, and England and I have received messages from people through e-mail who have thanked me for my online videos and have shared my material to help in their churches and communities. This is very encouraging, and it does motivate me to keep running this race, but this in no way means that I am really discipling those individuals from across the world.

Discipleship in the Christian sense of the word doesn’t mean video maker and content creator. Disciples in the ancient world are known as followers and adherents to a specific teacher. It’s not like being a student today in how we think. Being a disciple in the ancient world meant they imitated intimately the life and teaching of their master; so much so that they would be a copy of their master. This leads me to my original question, “Can we replace in-person discipleship?” Absolutely not! Although my character and personality is consistent between my online and personal life there is no way that you would be able to verify that unless you come to where I am and witness it for yourself, and true discipleship cannot be practiced without getting into the personal life of a teacher and a teacher getting into the personal life of his student. Discipleship is not online tutoring. It is much more intimate than that and should be treated as such. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul states, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” A person cannot truly do that if all they have is a video on a screen. You should be able to verify that the person you are imitating is truly imitating Christ.

I hope and pray that you have found value in this lesson.

Author & Minister: Jourdan Ortiz

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