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.

Book

The Twitter Book Challenge: 7 Books I Love

 

If you’re on Twitter, maybe you’ve seen this little challenge making the rounds:

I’ve accepted a challenge from Joe Blow to post covers of 7 books I love — no explanations or reviews, just the cover. Each time I post a cover, I’ll ask someone else to take the challenge. 1/Day for a week. My day 1 nomination goes to Jane Doe. #books

Yesterday, I got tagged into in the challenge by a sweet and lovely follower, and I wanted to participate.

But I didn’t like the rules.

You see, there are some “books I love” that I love just because they tell a good tale. Gone with the Wind. Biographies of the Reformers. Animal Farm. Pretty much every legal thriller John Grisham has ever written.

But there are other books I love for other reasons. Reasons that have less to do with what’s between the covers and more to do with the story that explains those reasons.

So today I’d like to take the challenge…but I’m breaking all the rules. I’m sharing photos of all seven books (and more) today. I’m sharing them here instead of on Twitter. I’m sharing the story behind why I chose each book. And, I’m not tagging anyone in particular – but I do invite you to share the name of a book you love, and why, in the comments section (or on Twitter) if you’d like.

 

1.

I have had this little red New Testament since I was a child. I’m not sure how old I was when I got it, but I remember carrying it to Sunday School and church from a very young age. It must be an antique by now!

 

2.

These books (and several others) were written by my maternal great grandfather, Dr. John Caylor, who was a pastor and also served in various capacities with the SBC, including on the Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board). A Path of Light is a compilation of missionary biographies. The Great “I Am’s” of Jesus examines twelve of Jesus’ “I am” statements. This particular copy of the book was one he autographed to my paternal grandparents.

 

3.

This was the textbook for the first theological class I ever took, New Testament Survey, when I was a freshman in college. I don’t know if it was the professor, the book, my lame brain, or some combination of the three, but it was the most boring class on the Bible – in church, school, or anywhere else – that I’ve ever taken in my life. I hated that class. It made a big impression on me:
The Bible is the most interesting book ever written.
No book or class about the Bible should ever be boring.

 

4.

This is my favorite Bible ever. My husband gave it to me the Christmas after we started dating. When he gave it to me, it only had my first name imprinted on it. The following Christmas, just days before our wedding, he sneaked it away and then gave it to me again – this time with my new last name imprinted on the cover. (It’s a NASB if you’re wondering.)

 

5.

When my husband and I got married, we weren’t really close to any little girls who were the right age to be a flower girl. But we were close to two special little boys – Joshua and Caleb – my husband’s sons. So instead of a flower girl, we had a ring bearer (Joshua, below right) and a Bible bearer.
This is the Bible Caleb (below left) carried in our wedding.

 

6.

 This is the book that made me a published author. It was a joy to write. It taught me about the publishing business, marketing, public relations, promotion, and Christian retailing. It introduced me to a lot of wonderful people, and it stretched me in ways it would take far too long to describe. I love this book for everything except its hermeneutics. (Jacob is no longer in print, and, because of those unlovely hermeneutics, I would not recommend it to you if it were.)

 

7.

 

Technically, this is a booklet, not a book. It’s the leader guide for the Fall 2016 edition of one of the SBC’s Sunday School curricula for young adults: Bible Studies for Life. I wrote the discussion questions for one of the units. It was my first paid contract writing project, and it was a really interesting and informative experience.


 

How about you? What’s a book you love, and why do you love it?

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (NBCS, Homeschool resources, Piper…)

 

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 potpourrri 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 can be a helpful tool!


I see many people on my Facebook news feed that are sharing innocuous or biblical sounding content (memes, Facebook posts, blog posts, etc.) from false teachers/ministries. I didn’t find an article on your web site and was wondering if you have already written one. I thinking it would be helpful to help share with others that it’s now necessary to understand the ramifications of sharing (boosting the author’s credibility, clicks, $, inadvertently sharing false doctrine or non-biblical philosophy, etc.)

I see the same thing in my Facebook feed, and it worries me for the people who, with the best of intentions, I’m sure, are following false teachers themselves and pointing others to false teachers by sharing those posts.

I have, indeed, written an article about this (it does pop up if you use the search bar, but you have to scroll down a ways to get to it since I wrote it a few years ago- sorry about that):

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


What do you think of National Back to Church Sunday (NBCS)?

The concept is OK at the surface level, I guess. If all it is is a particular Sunday on the calendar when unchurched people are encouraged to go back to church, and churched people are encouraged to invite unchurched people to church, and churches are encouraged to find out why their supposedly churched members haven’t shown up for weeks, months, or years, I see no problem with the concept itself.

The problem comes when you move from the “on paper” concept to the actual churches that are participating and how those churches are attempting to get unchurched people in the door. If it’s a doctrinally sound church and the pastor says, “Hey- everybody invite an unchurched friend to come with you next week,” great. But we do not want unchurched people putting one toe over the threshold of an apostate or heretical church, and sadly, it appears as though at least some of the participating churches that have registered with the NBCS “Find a Church” page may fall into those categories. And if these “churches” are using unbiblical means and enticements to get lost people in the doors, that’s an additional problem.

The reader also included a link to encounter.com in her question. It’s clear encounter.com is in some way connected to NBCS, but I’m unclear as to how. The material on the “Invited to Belong” page is nauseatingly and blatantly seeker driven and man-centered. It’s all about how worthy you are rather than how worthy Christ is. There is no gospel presentation. Of the four people quoted, none are doctrinally sound Christians. One of the final sentences is a good summary of the whole page: “No church will be perfect, because no person is perfect, but we invite you to find a local church where you will belong.” Not a doctrinally sound church. Not a church that proclaims the biblical gospel. Not a church that preaches Christ and Him crucified. Not a church that teaches the Bible. It’s all about you, baby. If this encounter.com page is in some way NBCS’s mission statement or statement of faith, then I would certainly not recommend the NBCS organization.


I am looking for a solid but very simple Bible study for a loved one who struggles with understanding complicated concepts and words. Maybe even a kids study that is rich in theology. I was wondering if you had any ideas or advice on this?

It’s wonderful that your dear one loves the Lord and wants to study her Bible. Thank you so much for trying to help her!

Since you are a long time reader, you’ve probably heard me say that I don’t recommend “canned” studies, but that people should pick up the actual Bible and study it for themselves. In this case, may I suggest that might even be more important for someone like your loved one? I imagine that her poor reading skills may have made her more dependent on others in many areas of her life than she would like to be, and that studying the Bible for herself would not only be the best way to learn it, but would also give her a greater sense of confidence and independence. An “ownership” of her study of the Bible, if you will.

There are several good children’s and “easy reader” Bibles out there. I’ve suggested a few here: Children’s Bible Recommendations. You might wish to sit down with her and come up with a list of simple questions she can answer as she finishes reading a chapter, such as:

📖 Who is this passage about?
📖 What is the main idea of this passage?
📖 Why did God – the author of the author of the Bible Who says all Scripture is useful – put this passage in the Bible? 

📖 What can I learn about God from this passage?
📖 Is this passage telling me to do/not to do something? How can I obey it?
📖 Is there something in this passage I need to pray about?

Or, if you like, you could suggest that she read one of the books of the Bible I’ve written a study on (out of her own, new, easy to read Bible), take some of the questions I’ve written and send her a simplified version of the ones you think she can handle.

And, perhaps you could be “on call” via phone or e-mail to answer any questions she might have about what she’s studying. What a great opportunity to do one on one discipleship with someone who’s dear to your heart!


Do you know of any good Christian homeschooling blogs?

I homeschool, so I’m asked from time to time about homeschooling resources, but to be honest, it’s just not something I really read about. I recently asked my readers to recommend some good, doctrinally sound online homeschool blogs and resources, and here’s what they suggested (Please note, I have not vetted any of these. You will need to do the research yourself to discover whether or not they’re doctrinally sound.)

Family Renewal
✏ Reformed Homeschoolin’ Mamas
✏ Durenda Wilson
(author of The Unhurried Homeschooler)
✏ Half-A-Hundred Acre Wood
✏ The Kingdom Driven Family
✏ Annie & Everything


I really enjoyed reading A Few Good Men and A Few MORE Good Men, but how come John Piper (or another pastor) isn’t included? Is he a false teacher? 

Please understand that these two lists of godly male teachers aren’t exhaustive. Praise God, there are scores of preachers and teachers out there who faithfully teach and rightly handle God’s Word. I couldn’t list all of them if I tried, though I plan to add more articles like this in the future. These were just the teachers I was most familiar with at the time I wrote the articles. The mere fact that your favorite teacher doesn’t appear on these lists does not make him a false teacher, and I hope the articles don’t imply that (I don’t think they do).

John Piper’s books, sermons, and blog are mostly fine, and while I disagree with him on several points of theology, I certainly do not consider him to be a false teacher. But he’s not somebody I’m going to proactively recommend, either. Here’s how I’ve answered readers in the past who have asked me about John Piper:

While I consider Dr. Piper to be a generally doctrinally sound Christian brother and agree with him in many aspects of theology, he is not someone I proactively recommend for a few reasons:

1. Dr. Piper is a continuationist. I usually limit my endorsements to cessationists  because I believe this is the biblical view of the gifts. (I do not consider otherwise doctrinally sound continuationists to be false teachers, however.)

2. I’m concerned about Dr. Piper’s associations and partnerships with false teachers (which violates 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Romans 16:17-18, and 2 John 9-11). First he appeared to embrace Rick Warren when he interviewed him and invited him to speak at the Desiring God conference in 2010. More recently, he has been a featured speaker at events like the Passion conferences where he has shared the stage with Christine Caine, Priscilla Shirer, Beth Moore, and Judah Smith.

3. Dr. Piper’s complementarianism seems muddled at best. On the one hand he will go so far as to say that Christian women should not be drill sergeants (the Bible mentions nothing of the sort), yet on the other hand he joins in ministry with the aforementioned Caine, Shirer, and Moore who – in addition the the false doctrine they preach – all actively and unrepentantly violate clear Scripture by preaching to men. It’s quite confusing.

I’m not going to warn people away from John Piper as a false teacher, but I can’t, in good conscience, recommend him either.


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.