Musings and Ramblings about Preaching, Pastoral Ministry, Sports and Life in General

Month: February 2022

Think Before You Tweet: 5 Biblical Considerations Before You Post on Social Media

Social media is here to stay. People of all walks of life use various platforms to stay connected, find out about news, or express themselves to the world. I am active on several social media services myself. As much fun as I have had at times, I have also seen that, despite the benefits, the social media world brings great potential to cause harm and damage the witness of believers to the world around us. I can’t help but shake my head before I open Twitter and ask myself what is the trumped-up, out-of-context, controversy of the day. Some people even tune in for the train wreck. The question for a believer is: how should we conduct ourselves in a social media world? I want to propose five considerations for you before you get involved in social media.

Consideration # 1: Start with a commitment to God to glorify him with your posts.

Psalm 19:14 says, “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Social media engagement is an extension of the words that we speak. Therefore, a commitment to honor God with what you say applies wholly to our online interactions. Before clicking send, post, or tweet, ask yourself if God would be pleased or disappointed in the words you are publishing for all the world to see.

Consideration # 2: Before you engage someone or in some debate on social media, discern the likely outcome of your engagement.

One of the most perplexing verses in the Bible is found in Proverbs 26:4-5, yet they are most instructive when it comes to social media involvement: “Don’t answer a fool according to his foolishness, or you will become like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his foolishness, or he’ll become wise in his own eyes.”  Starting with a presupposition that the scripture does not contradict itself and recognizing that Proverbs are general principles about life suggests that both of these statements are true. A complete exposition of these verses is beyond the scope of this article. Still, these two verses have helped me discern whether I should engage in a social media debate of controversy at a basic level. Typically you know who you follow or are friends with on social media platforms. As such, it should not be tough to discern where to engage. If you know that an individual is unlikely to change or be moved by your input, resist the urge to wade into the discussion.

On the other hand, if your input is likely to be well-received, feel free to enter the exchange. Admittedly, I have discovered that a personal call or text to someone I know about something they have posted is more effective than conveying concern or understanding the heart behind a post than a simple social media engagement. Consider the type of individual you are dealing with before you engage.

Consideration # 3: Consider the state of your heart

If you are consistently drawn to social media debates, arguments , or controversies, I suggest you check your own heart. The Bible tells us in Luke6:45, “A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil in his heart for his mouth speaks from the overflow of his heart.” What flows from our fingertips onto the World Wide Web reflects what we are inside. If Christ dwells in us, we must be careful to reflect that reality in our social media presence.

Consideration # 4: Find someone to hold you accountable.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.”  I have found it exceedingly helpful to give someone permission to speak into my life whenever I need to consider something or whenever I need correction on my thoughts and attitudes on social media platforms. For me, this is my spouse. My wife is the voice in my head that I hear as I reread a post before publishing. I’m a bit of a night owl, and she is an early riser, so as I am up late getting ready to engage on social media, I ask myself what she will say to me when she wakes up and sees my latest update. The fact that we have been married nearly 20 years helps with this inner dialogue. The longer you use an accountability partner, you can anticipate their input into your internal debate about whether you should post what you are thinking or not. I’ll admit that this consideration has kept me from writing something I would later regret.

Consideration #5: Don’t be afraid to walk away.

Matthew 5:19  says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” These words, taken from the Sermon on the Mount, underscore the seriousness with which Jesus views sin. If social media is causing sinful thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes, then it has no place in your life. There are two ways that one can act on this consideration. First, one can walk away from social media for a short prescribed time. I try annually to take at least a week, sometimes a month, away from my social media platforms. It is amazing how refreshing and beneficial for self-reflection and focus this time unplugged can be. The second way one can walk away from the social media world is permanently. If it consistently drags you into a world wherein you fall short of God’s mark, then perhaps you should consider walking away forever.

Final thoughts

We have a responsibility to represent our Lord with how we behave and engage others online. We would do well to remember the words of Jesus from Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”  Brothers and sisters, think before you tweet.

Pastor to Pastor: Encouragement from Philippians 1

Weary. Discouraged. Broken-hearted. Ready to throw in the towel. Burned out. Feeling like a failure. These are words I’ve heard, and in truth, felt during my ministry. American pastors are so indoctrinated in our western world instant gratification culture that despair and discouragement are tangible whenever results are delayed or unseen. The Covid pandemic did not help soothe these feelings. Congregations scattered. Some didn’t feel safe returning, while others, especially young families, disengaged and do not appear to be coming back. Churches saw mission trips and evangelistic programs derailed. For a church leader, this accentuates the feelings of failure.

How do we combat this? As cliché as it sounds, pastors must cling more closely than ever to the Word of God. We all know we should do this, but often we fail in this regard. One of the ways God has ministered to me over the last several months has been through my study of Philippians, first devotionally and then as preparation for my current sermon series. The truths contained there have been a balm for my wounded pastoral soul. The apostle Paul knew what it was like to face difficulty in his ministry. As quill hit parchment, he languished in prison, uncertain about his future. Yet the tone of this letter is both positive and joyful. In the first chapter, I discovered several truths that comforted my soul. These principles will hopefully minister to your soul as well.

Lesson # 1–God is not finished with you

This lesson applies both to your ministry and your sanctification. Countless times during my 20 years in ministry I have felt like a ministry or service was a failure, only to find that God was working below the surface beyond what the naked eye could see. Furthermore, often the Father uses difficulties and hardships to refine his ministers. This reminder came from Paul’s words in Philippians 1:6. Paul writes, “I am sure of this:  that he who started a good work in you will carry  it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Pastor, God’s not finished with you or your church.

Lesson #2–God wants you to love and pray for your flock more. 

Your church members are His people, and you are charged to shepherd them. As the initial church reopenings started, some members returned to churches while others did not. Paul could not see the church there at Philippi because he was imprisoned, yet the depth of his love was on display for them as he wrote in Philippians 1:8, “For God is my witness how deeply I miss all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Verse 9 also expresses that their absence has kindled a fire of prayer from his heart for his people. Pastor, love and pray for your flock.

Lesson # 3–Rejoice as the gospel advances in other places.

Christianity is, properly understood, a team game. Yet this is often not how it is viewed. Fleshly feelings of jealousy and envy are often the results of our hearing about successes in other churches in our city or our county. We rationalize their success rather than simply celebrating the work that God is doing there. Paul’s imprisonment had caused an influx of brothers proclaiming the Gospel. The motives ran the spectrum of pure to false, yet Paul knew that what was most important was the proclamation of Christ and the advancement of the Gospel. In 1:18, he writes, “What does it matter, only that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed and in this, I rejoice.”  It doesn’t matter if the success occurs at your place or the place a mile down the road. Pastor, rejoice in gospel successes around you.

Lesson # 4–Your continued presence is intended to produce fruitful work.

We may not be able to see tangible successes in our ministries. Our church and our people may appear to be struggling immensely. Just because we may not see sanctification happening doesn’t mean it is not taking place. Paul had no way of knowing whether his imprisonment would lead to his freedom or martyrdom. Yet he knows that if he continued to live, that meant fruitful ministry ahead. In that encouraging paragraph about living and dying, Paul makes the awe-inspiring statement found in 1:22, “Now to live on in the flesh means fruitful work for me.”  Pastor, be faithful where you are, knowing that as long as God keeps you serving, He will use your faithfulness and turn it into fruitfulness.

DIY Sharing Your Testimony

Materials Needed

A Notebook

A Pen

A Personal Relationship with Jesus

When it comes to sharing Jesus with people, the methods are legion. It can become quite overwhelming if one looks at it on a macro level. Fear can paralyze someone anxious that they will share something wrong. One of the easiest ways to share the gospel with someone is via sharing your testimony. This series has sought to take away some of the mystery with other spiritual disciplines, so too my goal is to make you more comfortable engaging in a conversation about your faith.

The first thing one needs when sharing their testimony is a relationship with Jesus Christ. They must have repented of their sins and placed their faith in Jesus Christ, the son of God. I cannot share a hundred-dollar bill from my wallet with you because there is no hundred-dollar bill in my wallet at this juncture. What I mean is that one cannot share what they do not have. At this point, you must ask yourself if you know Jesus as your savior. If you are unsure, spend some time with your Bible and read through the following verses (Romans 3:10, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, Romans 10:9-10, and Romans 10:13).   Once you are confident of this, then you can begin.

Using your notebook and a pen, write these three statements at the top of your page: “My life before Christ,” “How I came to know Christ,” and “My life after Christ.” These sentences form the basis for your testimony. In the first paragraph, describe your life before Christ. You may be someone who became a believer at an early age and didn’t live a wild and wicked life before you were saved, or you may have lived a life filled with all sorts of bad choices before you met Jesus. Either of these scenarios testifies to a beautiful trophy of Grace, and you should not be ashamed of whatever category you are in. 

Once you have described your life before Christ, you are ready to move to the second paragraph. Here you will explain how you came to know Christ. For me, it was flipping through a list of verses in my Bible and being convicted that I was lost and in need of a Savior. Someone may have heard the gospel from a pastor or teacher, or perhaps a friend from college. Describe it in as much detail as you can. 

Finally, you are ready to share how your life has changed since you met Jesus. Perhaps you have a desire to read your Bible, or maybe God delivered you from a desire to engage in a particular sin. Either way, if you are in Christ, you are a new Creation, and your story is worthy to be shared. 

Once these three paragraphs are written, practice sharing your story in the mirror. I know you may feel silly, but it does help if you practice. I have a close friend who is one of the best evangelists I know, and he taught himself to share the gospel by standing in the bathroom and practicing repeatedly. 

You may be wondering how to find opportunities. I would invite you to pray a prayer I once heard an evangelist share at a denominational evangelism rally:  Dear Lord, put someone in my life who needs to hear the gospel, open my eyes to see the opportunities, and give me boldness to take them.  If you pray these words with faith, God will honor your desire to share your faith.

DIY Prayer Journal

A Pen

A Bible

A Notebook

A Consistent Time of Prayer

Prayer is one of the easiest personal disciplines to do, but many would consider it one of the hardest to maintain. It is simple in that it can take place anywhere, at any time, yet people treat it as if it were an ancient stone containing a foreign language that they have to decipher. Prayer is simply a conversation with God. It’s incredible to consider. The sovereign God of the universe, the One who spoke the world into existence out of nothing, is always willing to take your call. You’ll never get his voicemail or hear a busy signal. In fact, Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call unto me, and I will show you great and unsearchable things that you do not know.”

I am convinced that one of the reasons we fail to pray is because we fail to recognize or remember when God has answered our prayers. Therefore, I would like to introduce you to the concept of a prayer journal. You can keep this notebook with your Bible, where you can keep track of God’s answers to your petitions. If organized simply, the journal can serve as a prompt when you don’t know what to pray about, as well as a springboard to prayers of gratitude for what God has done in your life and in the lives of those around you.

The first step in your prayer journal journey is to divide the first four pages into eight sections. These sections will correspond with the seven days of the week, with the final section coinciding with the year. (These section heads are not original to me. I have used them for as long as I can remember, and I do not know where they originated.). Label the first section this way: “Monday—Missionaries.” Underneath the heading, write out the words to Matthew 9:36-38. Below that heading, make a list of missionaries you either know or who are sent via your church or denomination. These can be international missionaries or domestic missionaries/church planters.

Once you have finished section 1, label section 2 as “Tuesday—Tasks.” Underneath this section heading, write Colossians 3:17. On this page make a list of significant tasks you need to accomplish for the upcoming week, month or year.

The third section should be labeled “Wednesday—Workers.” Write the words of Philippians 3:10. In this section, write the names of your pastor, your church’s ministerial staff, support staff, and your Sunday school or small group leaders.

The fourth category is “Thursday—Government Officials.” (I realized that my nice alliterative headings break down here, but I am hard-pressed to think of a category that works besides the one I used.) Underneath the title, write the words to 1 Timothy 2:1-2. In this section, write the names of the elected officials in your city, state, and federal levels. Pray that God would raise godly men and women to serve, that He would give them fortitude and courage to serve while living according to the principles that align with the Bible.

In the fifth division, write Friday—Friends and Family. Under this section, pray for those who are closest to you. Pray for their faith, health, and other pressing needs in their lives of which you are aware.  

Label the sixth box with the heading “Saturday—The Lost.” The scripture that I encourage you to write underneath this title is Luke 19:10. A disclaimer here: this should not be the only day that you pray for those who are lost and need to know Jesus as Savior; nevertheless, it is essential to focus your prayer for them on this particular day.

The seventh section of the journal should be labeled “Sunday—Services.” A verse to coincide with this section is Hebrews 10:24-25. Commit to praying for the worship services at your church and those happening at other churches around you.

In the eighth section, make a list of specific long-term prayer needs for the upcoming year.  In the pages that follow these divisions, take the opportunity to jot down what you are praying for when you pray. Write the date beside them. For example, if a neighbor is interviewing for a new job, you can pray that God would provide for that. Then once you hear from them, you can go back and write the date God answered it and how He answered it. These pages will serve as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to hear our prayers. When you look over these answers, it will spur you to continue to seek the Lord’s face. Lastly, I would encourage you to share how God is answering you. I’m certainly always ready to hear your report!

© 2022 Clint Ellis

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