In spite of negative news about Russian influence, possible destruction of our brains, or harm brought to personal relationships, social media continues to have an outsized influence in cultures around the world. While some Americans fret over Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, China has its own popular social media platforms since the major ones from outside are restricted.

The space occupied by social media is too big for pastors to blithely ignore and too influential for pastors to mindlessly condemn. If we compare the users of social media platforms with countries, we get a better idea of the vastness of scale. Currently, the top countries by population are China (1.384B), India (1.296B), the US (329M), Indonesia (262.7M), Brazil (208.8M). By contrast, the most “populous” social media “countries” are Facebook (1.871B), WhatsApp (1B), Facebook Messenger (1B), QQ (877B), and WeChat (846M).

If pastors look at social media platforms as people groups—which arguably they are—we quickly see the necessity to engage.

As with almost everything humanly considered, though, some pastors do some things better than other pastors. This is true in preaching, organizing, counseling, consoling, and leadership. It is also true of social media.

Here are four mistakes pastors make most often on social media.

Commenting Only to Condemn

It does not take long for the inner-Pharisee to erupt from some pastors on social media. In soil fertile for mercy, grace, conversation, and learning, too many opt for heavy-handedness and rushes to judgment.

If your social media comments look like something Jesus condemned in Matthew 23, you need a better strategy.

Taking Strident Political Positions

Social media has taken the place of the water cooler for much public conversation. So-called “keyboard commandos” fire-off harsh, critical missives with little thought to the damage done to their intended target or to innocent bystanders. Unfortunately, too many pastors do the same thing re: politics.

We should remember that not all Christians are members of the same political party. When we are politically strident, too quickly condemning people with differing political views, we run the risk of alienating not only fellow believers, but unbelievers who are “on the other side.”

Political commentary on social media should provide more light than heat.

Sharing Bogus News Stories

Thankfully, the prevalence of “fake news” has been exposed over the last several months. Sadly, for several years, many pastors shared “news” that was completely bogus, seemingly because the stories supported their already-formed beliefs. This is a tragedy.

Christians purport to be people of truth. Why should we expect people to believe we have the truth about God in Christ if we regularly share patently false content on Facebook?

Not Being on Social Media

Not being on social media is like being a hermit: it is a willful disengagement with a population who needs Christ. In this age it could be viewed as bad missiology.

No pastor has to go head-long into social media like a cat-down-a-well, but to refuse to participate is to miss a great opportunity. Social media is the modern-day public square. We should use it wisely, of course, but use it we must.

Marty Duren

Marty Duren is the Executive Editor and Marketing Manager of LifeWay Pastors and host of the Pastor Talk podcast at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He also serves as the Groups Pastor with Green Hill Church in Mt Juliet, TN.