I post a lot of stuff on social media – scriptures, photos of my kids, updates on the church and funny things I see. None of that bothers most people. When I post about theology or complex social issues like immigration, things can change quickly. That’s probably why most people avoid these two topics, right?
Some pastors, including myself, post random theological and ecclesiological viewpoints on social media. Some of these posts are considered complex ideas which can confuse or concern people. Before social media, these ideas were presented in long-form books, magazine articles or in classrooms. Today, we have 140 characters as an option to explain soteriology or the differing viewpoints on eschatology.
First, pastors have the right to post about theology as much as plumbers can post about pipes. We work with theology every day and it’s our trade language. Naturally, these meanderings and musings will spill out to social media, primarily for conversations with other pastors and theologians. Social media reaches everyone, though. That’s where the problems arise because pastors who bring up thorny issues can confuse or aggravate people in their congregations.
So, should pastors stay off social media except to post cat videos? Of course not! We should, though, be careful that our posts are wisely crafted and carefully explained so that our theological contemplations are not tripping hazards for the people who look to us for spiritual formation. At the same time, most pastors are hungry for conversations with other pastors who are learners and thinkers. Social media sometimes feels like overhearing a conversation that was not meant for you.
What about disagreeing online with your pastor? What are the boundaries? Obviously, honest questions and respectful disagreements are the strengths of social media. I have had thousands of conversations on social media that would have never happened in the limited spaces of my daily life. That is a good thing.
My friend asked a good question about the boundaries of such disagreements. We should not accuse our pastors online of wrong motives or even hint about heresy. If that is a concern, call them and make an appointment. Talk to them and express your feelings. Do not attack on social media. Social media is a poor platform for serious dissents. Looking someone in the eye, being present, is always best when discussing hot button issues. There are a lot of brave souls on a keyboard who are as tame as ducklings when present with you. Keyboard cowards, I call them.
Most pastors I know love Jesus and are trying valiantly to make disciples in a world that cares less and less about discipleship. Certainly, we can post unwise thoughts like the rest of the populace, but rarely is it because of a motive to harm or confuse. Let’s assume the best from one another and have the courage for a personal conversation. That will clear up most of our misunderstandings and build unity in the church.