Mailbag

The Mailbag: Why no COVID weigh-in?

 

Just out of curiosity, is there a reason you (like many other leaders/public figures) are choosing not to take a stand [on churches not gathering during this time, when the “right time” to open the doors again would be, etc.] one way or another, publicly? I feel as though now more than ever, we are looking to our leaders, pastors, etc for guidance on navigating this current situation and there is hardly any to be had. Why are so many choosing not to discuss it? I know that you have a large following, which is why I was wondering why you weren’t being more vocal.

This question was posed by one of my dear Facebook followers last week, and I thought it would be a good question to answer in The Mailbag. 

She is quite right. Other than this episode (Church Was Never Meant to be Remote: Reuniting After COVID-19) of A Word Fitly Spoken, I haven’t really addressed any of the specific issues surrounding COVID-19 nor taken sides on things like wearing masks, opening up the economy, when is the “right time” for churches to start meeting in person again, etc.

I cannot speak to why other people with platforms have or haven’t addressed any or all of these issues. I can only speak for myself. Others may have some of the same reasons I’m about to share, or they may have different reasons. If you want to know what someone else’s reasons are, you’ll have to ask him or her. Here are the reasons I haven’t publicly addressed these issues:

😷¹ I am not your leader. (I know the lady who asked the question knows that, but I think it’s important to clarify this point in case it might be fuzzy to others.) I am a content creator. My job is to provide you with doctrinally sound leisure time reading and listening material to bolster what you should already be receiving at church². Think of this ministry as an optional, nutritious, between-meals snack, and your local church as your essential three square meals a day. You should not be looking to me or any other online personality for leadership or shepherding. That’s your pastor’s and elders’ job at the church level, your parents’ job if you’re a minor living in their home, or your husband’s job if you’re married. As I often say, it is my joy to serve you in Christ. That’s what I am to you – a servant, not a leader.

😷 I’m global. For reasons He hasn’t disclosed to me, God has chosen to make my content available on every continent on this planet except Antarctica (although I actually have one follower who has been to Antarctica – does that count? :0) That means, if I “took a stand” on various issues surrounding COVID, it would go out to all kinds of different countries and areas with all kinds of different cultures, laws, and governmental leaders. All I know is America, Louisiana, Baton Rouge. That’s what molds the way I think and form opinions about these issues, and that’s not only not necessarily applicable to someone in Pakistan, or Venezuela, or Eritrea, it could be discouraging to people in those countries, or even dangerous for them to act on my America-centric pronouncements. I mean, my goodness, my Louisiana viewpoint and advice on these issues probably aren’t even applicable to people in New York or Nebraska or Oregon.

😷 It’s political. COVID-related issues are saturated with politics. You can’t divorce one from the other. And if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you may have noticed that I don’t get involved in political or legal issues unless they intersect directly with Scripture. I’m a “stay in my lane” kind of gal, and politics and policies are not my lane. For me, personally, for this particular ministry and what I’m trying to accomplish here, politics is an unnecessary distraction. My focus (and I realize it’s a narrow focus, and I’m OK with that) is helping to build spiritually strong, biblically literate Christian women who can strengthen their local churches and evangelize and disciple other women and children at the local church level. We’re all different body parts here, ladies. I’m going to focus on being an ear and let somebody else focus on being an eye. (If you’d like to listen to a solid Christian content creator whose focus is politics, I highly recommend Allie Beth Stuckey’s podcast, Relatable.) 

😷 It’s a local church issue. When to start meeting again, whether or not to go to multiple services to spread everybody out, whether or not masks and hand sanitizer will be required, even whether or not to accept a loan from the government…these are all things (and more) that the pastor and elders of each local church will have to decide for that particular church. Every church is different. Every pastor is different. Different decisions will need to be made for different churches because these types of things are not mentioned in Scripture, they’re issues of adiaphora (Christian liberty). What difference does it make what I think if that’s not what your pastor has decided for your church? All that does is set me up in opposition to your pastor forcing you to choose between him and me. You don’t need that kind of tension in your life, and your pastor certainly doesn’t need it in his church. I’d rather say this: Whatever your pastor decides for your church, as long as it’s in keeping with Scripture, I support him, and I encourage you to joyfully submit to his leadership. That’s way more constructive and biblical than offering you my personal opinion.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. Hebrews 13:17-19

😷 I’m not the bandwagon type. Usually. Every once in a while, I’ll weigh in on whatever the hot topic du jour is, but when I do, I normally try to address an aspect of it that hasn’t been addressed by others. If I have nothing to say except the same thing everybody else is saying, I figure, “What’s the point?”. At that point, I’m just adding noise to the clamor and it’s boring. And that’s the case here- I have nothing new to add to the conversation about masks, when to go back to church, etc.

Also, I figure if I’m sick of hearing about a particular topic, you’re probably sick of hearing about it too. Several weeks ago, I posted a question on Facebook asking whether y’all wanted me to write something about COVID or write about something else. I didn’t do the math, but I got dozens of responses and it looked to me like about 98% of y’all were begging me to, “please write about something else, anything else!”. So I figured y’all are just as sick of hearing about COVID-related issues as I am.

😷 I hate dumpster fires. There aren’t words in the English language to express to you how deeply I detest social media fights (especially over non-scriptural issues) between professing Christians. Honestly, some of y’all are worse than my kids when it comes to arguing. You can’t just politely state your position, let others state theirs, and move on. No, you’ve got to argue the issue to death even when it was clear 20 comments ago that the other person wasn’t going to change her mind. If you want to do that on your social media page, have at it. But remember, when you do it on my social media page, I’m the one who has to read through all the ugly comments, feel all the angst and anger, and end up blocking people who can’t behave like godly adults. And I know that if I took sides on some of these COVID issues that’s exactly what my social media, blog comments, and e-mail would turn into- one great big dumpster fire of arguing. I know this because I’ve posted far more innocuous things and people have started arguments over those issues and even issues completely unrelated to the original topic. By refraining from offering my opinion on COVID-related issues, I prevent the distraction from and derailing of my ministry, and I keep strife, arguing, and unnecessary division off my platforms. 

😷 Because…the Bible. As I was writing this article, a few passages of Scripture came to mind:

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. Proverbs 18:2

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome… 2 Timothy 2:23-24a

…and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 2 Timothy 2:14b

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. Proverbs 10:19

Now, not all of these verses apply directly to the issue at hand. But I think they do enlighten us to some general biblical principles:

  • God don’t like ugly.
  • God doesn’t want us arguing. Yes, sometimes we have to contend for the faith, but that’s completely different from quarreling over opinions and issues the Bible doesn’t address.
  • Sometimes the wisest thing a Believer can do is keep her mouth shut.

 

These are the reasons I have chosen not to share my position on the various controversial issues surrounding COVID-19 (as well as several other issues over the years). If you want to know what do do about a particular issue, read up on it from a reliable source, compare what you read to rightly handled Scripture and reject anything that contradicts it, ask your pastor, and follow his leadership.


¹The masked emojis are not my way of subtly “taking a stand” one way or the other on masks. I just find basic bullet points boring, and that was the most relevant emoji I could find for this subject.😆
²I am assuming, for the purposes of this article, that you are in a doctrinally sound church, with a solid, trustworthy pastor. If you’re not, you have bigger problems than not hearing my opinions on COVID issues. Please see the “Searching for a new church?” tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Social Media

Throwback Thursday ~ 9 Ways Social Media Is a Blessing to Believers

Originally published May 5, 2017

Porn. Foul language. Arguments. Hacking. Cyber bullying. Affairs. Frittering away your time. Coveting others’ seemingly idyllic lives. Living and dying by how many “likes” your post got.

I get it. There are a lot of ways social media can go wrong.

But there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with Facebook or Twitter, Instagram or Google+ (Does anybody even use G+ anymore? Am I over there all by myself? Update: Apparently I was. G+ has been shut down.), or social media platforms in general. They’re tools. Like a steak knife. You can cut up your supper with it so you can eat- good – or you can puncture somebody’s tire with it – bad. It’s all in how you use it.

There have been lots of articles which have, rightly, discussed the problems with social media and the need to take a break from it every now and then. (Ironically, I’ve seen these articles posted on Facebook and Twitter.) And if social media tempts you to sin or the problems it brings into your life outweigh the benefits, then, by all means, you should disconnect. For thousands of years, people have been living very fulfilling and godly lives without sharing pictures of every meal they eat and watching videos of their third cousin’s cat.

But if you use the tools available to you to customize your news feed, your list of followers, and other aspects of your account, there are many ways social media can be beneficial to believers.

1. Close contact with your church family during the week
How is Susannah, in your Sunday School class, doing with that problem at work? Is Mrs. Bunyan still in the hospital? The water main is busted and we won’t be able to have midweek services? Social media makes it easy to keep up with your brothers and sisters from church- to serve their needs, pray for them, rejoice with them, and encourage them outside of worship service. We’re meant to share our lives with one another, and social media is just one way we can do that. It’s also a great way for churches to send out announcements, reminders, and prayer requests as they come up to keep members informed.

2. You don’t have to miss church when you miss church
Once, when I’d had to miss church for a couple of weeks in a row due to having sick babies at home, I had my husband call me from the worship service right before the pastor started preaching and hold up the phone so I could hear the sermon. It was difficult to hear, we got disconnected a couple of times, and I had to keep things really quiet on my end. Now, lots of churches stream “Facebook Live” videos of their services. If you’re sick, out of town, or otherwise providentially hindered (video coverage is not an excuse to skip church for frivolous reasons) from being at church, you don’t have to miss worship. And, as a bonus, you can watch other churches’ services, too!

3. Supplementary preaching and teaching
Your pastor, elders, Sunday School, and Bible study teachers at your home church should always be your primary source of instruction in the Scriptures. Some churches make good use of social media by setting up a private group for church members to discuss Sunday’s sermon or what they’re learning in Bible study, and there are many excellent independent theology and Christian issues discussion groups on social media as well. Here, here, and here are a few I’m familiar with.

If you want to listen to additional good teaching during the week, social media is a great place to find it. Ask your doctrinally sound Facebook friends whose sermons they’d recommend. Follow good pastors, teachers, and podcasters on Twitter. You’ll soon have more good teaching queued up than you have time to listen to. And there are scads of excellent godly authors and bloggers to follow and learn from, too.

4. Evangelism
Social media is a great place for sharing the gospel! Write out a post of your own, share an evangelistic video (like this one or this one), or retweet an online tract. There may come a time when Christians or the Bible are banned from social media, but until that day comes, let’s get busy sharing the gospel online.

5. Fellowship
Online friendships are no substitute for face to face fellowship with your church family. But sometimes you’re in a church situation in which there are few sisters who understand a unique life circumstance you’re going through, who share an interest in the branch of theology you’re currently studying, and so on. On social media, you can “meet” like-minded brothers and sisters from all over the world and form sweet friendships with them- sometimes you can even experience the joy of meeting them in person!


Jayson, Lindsay, and DebbieLynn,
social media friends I’ve been blessed to meet in person.

6. Prayer and Encouragement
Need prayer or encouragement? In addition to asking your church family to pray for you or getting together with a Christian friend for lunch, your godly social media friends are always around to lift you up and intercede for you. And you can be a blessing to others by praying for them or offering a word of encouragement.

7. Thinktanking
“Does anybody know whether ______ is a doctrinally sound teacher?” “I’m researching Bible Topic X- what are some good resources?” “What’s that verse that says ____? I can’t remember the reference.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked questions like this on social media and my friends have come through for me. There are a lot of godly people out there who have read a lot of books, listened to a lot of teachers, know a lot of Scripture, and been through a lot of experiences. Harness their knowledge and share your own.

8. Looking for a new church?
One of the things about social media that has brought me the most joy is helping people who are moving or who have to leave an apostate church to find a new, doctrinally sound church to join. Not only are there some great church search engines out there, but because of social media friendships and connections across the world, I’m able to get personal recommendations for good, solid churches. Not only can social media help you find a good church if you’re looking for one, you can help others by suggesting good churches you’re familiar with when they’re looking.

9. Current events in Christendom
What is the president of your denomination up to? Who’s the latest celebrity Christian to publicly support the homosexual lifestyle? Are there any good conferences coming up that would be helpful to your church members? Which sister churches in your state need some assistance?

Even more vital than being an informed citizen by following the local and international news, Christians need to be aware of what’s going on in the church- locally, nationally, and globally. Follow the pages of your denominational leadership, local churches, Christian news services, and so on, to keep abreast of current events. Outside of social media, you’ll probably never find out about the latest happenings until they happen in your own church and take you by surprise.

 

There’s no doubt that social media has the potential to cause a lot of problems, even the temptation to sin. But if you’re able to put it in its correct place so that it doesn’t steal time from God, your family, your church, or other vital relationships and ministries- using it, instead, as just one more tool to encourage yourself, and others, towards greater Christlikeness – social media can be a fantastic blessing.

Click above, and let’s be friends!

Mailbag, Social Media

The Mailbag: Contending for the Faith on Social Media

Originally published December 5, 2016

mailbag

 

I was wondering what your opinion is about using Facebook to correct false doctrine. Mostly what I do is post Scriptures, but every once in a while I may comment on something that is blatantly contrary to the Bible and I try to point to the appropriate Scriptures to show the truth. This mostly happens when a popular preacher or teacher that does not hold to sound doctrine posts something, or when a friend posts something that is clearly unbiblical.

This is such a great question that so many of us (including me!) struggle with. We love our friends and don’t want to see them believing something unbiblical (and spreading it around on social media) and it’s hard to just scroll past the blasphemy false teachers so often post without taking a stand for God’s word.

I readily admit I don’t have a perfect answer for this question. On the one hand, you want to protect your friends from error. On the other hand, there aren’t enough hours in the day to correct every single false teaching out there. And, if you try, people stop listening and you become ignorable background noise. Here are some of the principles I personally try to operate from on my personal (personal friends and family) social media pages. (I try to be consistent, but it doesn’t always work out that way):

  • Do keep in mind that – if it’s a matter of someone simply following a false teacher/ministry, not re-posting – people don’t always follow these accounts because they agree with them. Sometimes it’s to keep an eye on what the false teacher is teaching, to find out more about her doctrine because her materials are being introduced at church, etc. I follow two or three accounts on Twitter for reasons like that.
  • By and large, I don’t follow false teachers/ministries on social media. It just raises my blood pressure too much. So, for the most part, I don’t comment directly on false teachers’ posts because I don’t see them in my feed. If you do decide to comment, be sure you provide ample, in context Scripture passages to support what you’re saying, and comment in a patient, kind tone, not with histrionics, keeping in mind that most of the people who follow that false teacher are baby Christians, Christians who simply aren’t aware they’re being fed false doctrine, or false converts. Be aware that you’re almost certainly not going to change anyone’s mind, that people will verbally eviscerate you, and that the admin of the page will probably block and/or report you.
  • My main way of sharing biblical truth and discernment is to post about it on my own timeline. That way, the information is out there, yet direct confrontation is avoided.
  • When it comes to posting things on your own news feed, make sure you’re posting about good resources and teachers as well as warning about the bad. It’s not enough to get people away from bad teaching. They need somewhere to go for good teaching.
  • I have something of a “Golden Rule” policy about commenting on other people’s posts. I’ve had people comment on my discernment-type posts rebuking me and arguing with me for posting such things, as though they have some sort of right to dictate what I can and can’t post on my own page. That’s not right. People have the right to post what they want to post on their own page, and, while I’m not always perfect at it, I try to remember to respect that fact with others as I would want them to respect it with me. If what the person has posted concerns me for her soul, I will send her a private message. I operate on the assumption that people who claim to be Christians would want to know they’re posting something that’s in conflict with God’s word.
  • If someone’s post or comment makes me biblically angry, I try to remember to wait 24 hours before responding. I’ve found that helps me to calm down and respond more patiently and kindly. I’ve also found that sometimes my anger clouds my understanding of what the person actually meant. I have greater clarity the next day and can respond (or even refrain from responding) more appropriately.
  • There are two passages of Scripture I try to keep in mind when responding to people on social media about false teaching. The first is 2 Timothy 2:24-26. It reminds me of where that person might be coming from and how I am to comport myself:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

The second is Matthew 7:6:

Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

The Bible is the final word of the holy God of the universe. What He says, goes, whether people believe it or not. It is stake in the ground, unalterable truth that needs no defense from us to pigs and dogs (not that everyone who posts false doctrine is a pig or dog- sometimes they’re just unaware). Sometimes the best response you can give on social media is to patiently lay down simple biblical truth in one comment and walk away, refusing to engage in debate, and trusting God to work on people’s hearts through His word.

  • Above all, pray. Pray for the false teacher/ministry you’re concerned about. Pray for the friend or loved one who’s re-posting false doctrine, that God will open her eyes to the truth. Pray about whether you should approach someone on social media, in which venue (comment, private message, etc.), and for wisdom to use the right words, tone, and Scriptures.

If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Home churches, Non-Calvinist authors, Memes from false teachers, Contrarian commenter?)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher] for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections


What is your view of home/house churches?

My approach to home churches – small groups of Christians who meet in someone’s home to have a worship service together rather than attending an established local church- is:

  • I urge extreme caution when considering a home church
  • Start/attend a home church only as a last resort when you can’t find an established, doctrinally sound church within achievable driving distance of your home.
  • View the home church as a church plant (the home church will grow into an official, established church, rather than staying a home church)
  • Have a proper, biblical ecclesial structure (a biblically qualified pastor/elders/deacons, conduct worship gatherings according to biblical parameters, etc.)

I elaborated on this issue a little more in my article Six Ways Not to Forsake the Assembly:

I want to be clear that I advise [starting a home church] only as a last resort after exhausting every possibility of joining a biblical established church. I have known of people who withdrew from established churches because of doctrinal problems, and instead of searching for a sound, established church, decided to form a house church, which then fell into other doctrinal problems of its own. House churches can be very vulnerable to doctrinal error.

If you must meet with other believers outside of an established church, make sure whoever is pastoring the group is biblically qualified to do so, and that your home church carries out all of the components of a biblical church: Bible teaching, worship, prayer, care for members, the Lord’s Supper, baptism, and church discipline. There are many wonderful, trustworthy resources such as sermons, Bible teaching, and Bible study lessons available on line for free. Take advantage of them. You may also wish to contact your denomination’s headquarters, a reputable missions organization, or a doctrinally sound church planting organization and ask about the possibility of a missionary or church planter coming to plant a new church in your area.

In countries with governments which outlaw Christianity, underground home churches are the only option. That is not the case in America and most Westernized countries yet, though we are headed down that road. Until that time, I would strongly urge Western Christians to join with an established, doctrinally sound local church (keeping in mind that no church is perfect, and most won’t meet all your preferences), and if there isn’t one in your area, either contact a church planting organization or move to an area where there is an established, doctrinally sound church.

Basic Training: 7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians


Are there any non-Calvinist/Reformed authors you would consider solid?

There are probably scads of them, but – and it might surprise you to hear this – I don’t check to see whether or not someone is Calvinist/Reformed before deciding whether or not to read or listen to his materials, and consequently, I often don’t even know which soteriological label he wears. All I care about is whether or not he rightly handles Scripture and behaves in submission to Scripture.

I’m frequently on the receiving end of the accusation, “You just think anybody who’s not a Calvinist is a false teacher!”. It’s simply not true. That’s not something I consider an automatic litmus test of someone’s doctrinal soundness. The vast majority of the churches I have personally been a member of have not even had a Calvinist/Reformed pastor.

I’m sorry I can’t provide you with any specific names. Read people who handle Scripture correctly. That’s the best counsel I can give.

(Just a reminder, readers, I don’t allow Calvinism vs. Arminianism arguments in the comments sections of my articles. Comments like this won’t be posted.)


Just wondering how you respond to quotes/memes, etc from unbiblical teachers when it appears there’s nothing wrong with the quote/meme? A family member of mine often posts memes like this on Facebook. Most of them deal with being kind to each other, or continuing to trust God and rather simplistic things. I don’t disagree with that particular message but don’t want her to get caught up in false teaching.

I’m taking this to mean something like Lysa TerKeurst sharing a Bible verse meme or Beth Moore sharing a meme that says, “Prayer is a vital part of the Christian life,” or something like that. In other words, the content of the meme itself is in line with Scripture, but it has the name of a false teacher attached to it, and that’s what makes it problematic.

There could be a couple of different things happening here. It could be that your family member follows and is a fan of the false teacher she’s reposting. Or it could be that a Facebook friend of hers or some sort of “inspirational quotes” page she follows shared the meme and she is just re-sharing it having no idea who the false teacher is or what she teaches.

I would suggest contacting her privately in an e-mail or private message on Facebook (even if this is someone you see face to face regularly, because an e-mail or message is less confrontational and emotional, and also allows you to provide information more easily) and very lovingly, gently, and briefly say something like this:

Hi Laurel-

Hope you’re having a great day.

I just wanted to drop you a quick note to let you know how much I appreciate your heart for encouraging people on Facebook with the memes you post. So many people are hurting these days and are in need of a kind word.

I’m sure you didn’t realize it, but you’ve posted a couple of memes from Priscilla Shirer and Christine Caine, both of whom teach and do some very unbiblical things. As a Christian, I know you would never want to lead anyone astray from Scripture, even accidentally, so I thought I’d pass along this information on them to fill you in on where they’re coming from. If you have any questions or want to chat about it, just let me know.

Priscilla Shirer: https://michellelesley.com/2015/09/18/going-beyond-scripture-why-its-time-to-say-good-bye-to-priscilla-shirer-and-going-beyond-ministries/

Christine Caine: https://michellelesley.com/2016/03/04/chhave-no-regard-for-the-offerings-of-caine/

Love,
Kristy

And then I would leave it at that unless she brings it up and wants to talk. You can lead a horse to Living Water, but only the Holy Spirit can make him drink. :0)

Four Reasons Why It Matters Who We Share, Pin, and Re-Tweet

Words with Friends by Amy Spreeman

Words with Friends at A Word Fitly Spoken (several great resources in the show notes)


Several years ago I had a falling out with a friend when I warned her about a false teacher and she vehemently disagreed. Since that time, she has begun following more and more false teachers, and has started a blog which centers around extra-biblical revelation. Recently, she asked me to subscribe to her blog. Is it proper for me to get involved with a blog with which I will be in total disagreement and arguing theology probably constantly? Should I join and be the only voice of Biblical reason?

It’s interesting, knowing your disagreement with the false teacher you initially warned her about, that she would ask you to subscribe to her blog. Is it possible she just sent out a blanket invitation to everyone on her e-mail list or to all her Facebook friends, forgetting that you were on that list? If you think that’s the case, and she wasn’t really inviting you personally, I would just ignore the invitation and go on my merry way.

If, however, this really was a personal invitation to you, my counsel would be to drop her a note (similar in tone to the one in the section above) saying that you really appreciate the invitation to subscribe to her blog, but that you find much of the subject matter of her blog to be unbiblical. So if you do subscribe, you will feel compelled – fairly often – to comment with biblical arguments against what she has written. And because of that constant state of argument, you don’t think it would be a good idea for you to subscribe to her blog.

As a blogger, I can tell you that I don’t like it when a person takes it upon herself to constantly argue against or attempt to correct my theology, and if that person keeps it up after being warned, she usually gets blocked or banned. My thought is, “If you’re so diametrically opposed to what I write, why in the world are you following me? Go find a blogger to follow whom you agree with and enjoy, or start your own blog for sharing your opinions.” So, since I know what that feels like, I try to extend that same courtesy to others. I don’t generally* follow blogs, social media accounts, etc., that I strongly disagree with and constantly argue with them. It rarely does any good or changes anyone’s mind. Better to hang on to your pearls and stay out of the pig pen.

You may find some of my thoughts in my article The Mailbag: Should I attend the “Bible” study to correct false doctrine? to be helpful since this is a similar situation, but I would still lean toward encouraging you not to follow your friend’s blog and argue constantly.

*(In the interest of full disclosure there is one Twitter account I follow – LifeWay Women – which I strongly disagree with most of the time because they promote false teachers. This is an agency of my denomination, not an individual, and I occasionally tweet refutations to/about them in order to make my fellow Southern Baptists on Twitter aware of the false teachers/doctrine their own denomination is promoting, and because my previous attempts to contact LifeWay privately have either been ignored or rebuffed. Still, I try not to constantly barrage them with argumentative tweets.)

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Social Media

Memeology 101

I post a lot of memes on my social media pages, mostly Facebook and Instagram. I usually post four Bible verse memes every weekday morning on Facebook and other miscellaneous memes (usually a theological quote or Christian humor) at various times on all my social media platforms. Over the course of the last couple of years, I’ve gotten some critical comments about a few of these memes, which, I think, stem mostly from misconceptions people have about what a meme is and the general understanding of the function of memes on social media. I’d like to try to clear up some of those misconceptions today.

Memes- Definition and Function

A meme is simply a picture with words superimposed on it (usually a couple of sentences, max), like the ones in the collage above, that you see on social media. The function of a meme is to convey a brief thought, quote, or joke. Memes are not books, articles, theses, or even long Facebook posts. They are not meant to exhaustively cover every aspect of the thought they present. Reading a meme is kind of like eating one grape (or even reading one verse of Proverbs!). The grape is good and nutritious in and of itself, but it is not: a bunch of grapes, a full meal, a well-balanced diet, or the buffet at Golden Corral. It is simply a grape. Appreciate it for what it is and don’t criticize it for not being something it isn’t.

Bible Verse Memes (BVMs)

The criticism I most often receive about Bible verse memes (a picture with a Bible verse on it) is that the verse is not in context. Of course it’s not in context. That’s the nature of a meme- it contains only a brief thought or quote (which is why you don’t usually see an extraordinarily long verse {like Esther 8:9} on a meme, either).

BVMs are not meant to be a Bible study, sermon, or exegesis of a passage of Scripture. The daily BVMs I post are to jog your memory about passages you’ve already studied or to pique your interest in studying the passage surrounding the verse on the meme. When I post a BVM, I do my best to make sure of three things: a) the meme contains a whole, not partial, verse, b) the meme contains the reference so you can look up the context for yourself, c) the picture that goes with the verse does not suggest a misleading meaning to the verse.

Interestingly, the only verses I seem to receive the “out of context” criticism about are Jeremiah 29:11 and Philippians 4:13. (Shouldn’t we want all Bible verses to be in context?) I’m fully aware that many Christians out there, and even false teachers, use these verses out of context. The fact that many people misunderstand or twist these verses to fit their own agendas does not negate the fact that these are still Holy Spirit-breathed portions of the Bible. I refuse to surrender these verses to those who abuse them by declining to post them. God’s Word is God’s Word, and even one verse can stand on its own, qualitatively, as the Word of God. The reader is the one who has the responsibility to look up those verses and understand and use them in context.

Christian Quote Memes

Going back to the grape illustration, the thing to remember is that a meme is not meant to exhaustively cover every aspect of the thought it presents. If I post a meme that says, “The grass is green,” that does not mean:

Only grass is green
–Everything in the world is green
–There aren’t other things in the world that are other colors
–I hate things that aren’t green
–Grass should never be mowed, fertilized, watered, etc.
–Grass can’t be other colors because you could dye it or set it on fire

Also, simply stating that the grass is green does not obligate me to explain photosynthesis, suggest landscaping techniques, or debate zoysia versus Kentucky bluegrass. There’s certainly a time and a place to go into detail about issues (which I do every day on the blog), but it is also okay to make simple, true, stand alone statements without having to comment on every intricate aspect of the topic.

People Pictured in Memes

This is something you kind of have to get a feel for through exposure to memes, but I’ll do my best to explain.

Sometimes a meme uses a picture of a person because the words on the meme are a direct quote from that person. Other times, the words on the meme poke fun at or allude to the person pictured. Still other times, the words on a meme have nothing to do with the beliefs, personality, or actions of person pictured in the meme, rather, that picture was selected because of the look on the person’s face, the way he is posed, etc.

If you’re confused as to whether or not the person in the picture is being quoted, you can always Google the quote to find out. If you’re familiar with the person in the picture and know he would never say the words on the meme, it’s fair to assume the words are either poking fun at/alluding to the person in the picture, or that the picture was chosen for the visible appearance of the person, not for his beliefs, personality, actions, etc.

I can’t speak for everyone who shares memes, but the rule of thumb for my social media pages is that you will never see me positively quoting or promoting the beliefs of someone who’s well known to be a false teacher or otherwise theologically aberrant by biblical standards. So if you see a meme on my page that contains a picture of a famous false teacher, a non-Christian actor, politician, etc., it should be a given that I am not promoting his or her false beliefs. The meme is making another point, which you will need to glean from context or ask politely about.

Attribution

Most of the memes I share were not made by me. I see them – shared by a friend or a page I follow – in my social media timeline and I share them, just like you do. Most of the time I don’t share them immediately. They sit in my file for days, weeks, or even months before I get around to sharing them.

At that point, I can’t remember where I found them, so I can‘t type out a caption crediting the person who made it (if I even know). (If you design memes and you want credit for them, my advice is to watermark the meme with your name or website.) So, if you see me share a meme with no attribution, I’m not in any way trying to plagiarize it or claim that I made it any more than you would be if you shared a meme like that. All of the memes I create are watermarked with my website address (see collage above). If you see me share one that doesn’t have my website on it, you can safely assume I did not create it.

I hope this helps clear up any misunderstandings you may have about any of the memes I post on social media. Memes are just little nuggets that are meant to be humorous or thought provoking. Let’s let them be what they are, not expect them to be what they’re not.