You’re scrolling through Facebook, looking at photos from a friend’s wedding, bookmarking a new cookie recipe, and commenting, “Congrats!” on a cousin’s new place of employment when you come across a text post. As you read through it, you start to get a little angry, confused, and maybe even upset. The post is nothing short of hateful, pointing fingers, blaming all kinds of evil on someone else. The post makes bold stances on who Christ is and who can be a Christian. The comments are full of “friends” throwing insults at one another, typing, but not reading what was said to them. Honestly, the post leaves you speechless. And as you look to see who started the whole thing, who wrote the initial post, your feelings of anger melt into sorrow and maybe even hopelessness. The author is a prominent Christian in your community. They are a mentor, a leader, a friend, a family member. They are a fellow believer in Christ. Why are they doing this online? You look away, log off Facebook, and try your best to ignore or forget what you saw.
Maybe this has not happened to you, and I’m thankful if this isn’t part of your life. But I have to be transparent and let you know that it has been part of my reality for a long time. Long before COVID-19 or the current political state, before I went on the mission field, even before I graduated high school, I have seen people I know and respect put things on social media that push people away from Christ. I have seen people gate-keeping the Kingdom of God, people saying that you have to look, act, believe a certain way to find Christ. Things beyond what Christ himself saw as essential. And this breaks my heart, because I know I am not the only person seeing this. I know that Christ meets people where they are, as sinners, and He gives all of us an opportunity to know him. But I know there are people who do not have that knowledge of who God truly is.
I have friends who are not Christians, and their view of Christ has been permanently altered because of Christians. In college, a friend told me that there is no way that I could be a Christian because I was “too kind.” I could have wept at the fact that this person had never experienced the love of Christ because the believers in their life were not doing the simple act of being kind.
For Millennials and Gen Z, one of the most prominent places that they come in contact with Christians is online. This is where people can write freely, post without a care, or air their grievances. This is part of the issue. I think everyone (myself included) should really be mindful when we post on social media. We have to remember that social media is a mission field too.
I know that humans are fallible. We make mistakes and cannot be the perfect reflection of Christ, but I also believe that we can do better. We are ambassadors for the Living God! I may be the only Christian influence in someone’s life, in person or online. That changes how I treat my online presence. Surely, I can take a step back and not post or comment from a reactionary perspective or out of anger at another. If I can be led in the Spirit in my day-to-day life, working in ministry and cross-culturally, I know I am able to follow the Spirit’s leading on social media as well. This also means apologizing when I get it wrong or having a conversation offline if that is what is needed.
So, Friend, I urge you to join me in viewing social media as an extension of your physical mission field or ministry, because I believe we are all called to be a light on the hill that shines God’s love. I believe that when people feel that love, they are changed. And I believe that every area of our life can shine that light.
– By Sadie Sprankle, OMS Hungary Team Member