by Krish Kandiah
This article might get a little controversial, but stick with me until the end. Last week, there were a couple of very public Christian stories circulating in the UK social media scene.
Does the Bible have anything to say about parenting, dinosaurs, and sex? Of course it does, but in the public space that is our social media soaked culture, is it worth Christians leading with the secondaries? The world watches our internal Christian debates on twitter and facebook and often they are confirmed in their suspicions that we are a strange ghetto community with exotic and baffling views.
These conversations make it harder for evangelism to take place.
Do you have to believe that smacking is one of the central marks of a successful father in order to become a Christian? I am not sure it has appeared in any of the historic creeds of our faith, nor that I can think of a single sermon delivered by Jesus or the early Church that majored on it. I can think of circumstances where smacking children would be completely inappropriate; for example, my wife and I are foster carers and for children who have experienced neglect or physical abuse, smacking is the last way you would want to discipline them. Grabbing a single text from proverbs and making it the litmus test of parenting is also terrible exegesis and models an unhelpful way of handling the Bible.
Launching a tirade on a social media site for mums which argues that Dinosaurs never existed, indeed that dinosaurs have a “lack of family values” and that her family has “disowned” her sister because she gave her children dinosaur toys for Christmas. Again, what image does that portray of Christians and the gospel message? This is a secondary issue at best and yet to choose to make a fuss about it in front of people who don’t claim to follow Jesus seems a distraction from the gospel.
The pastor who took to youtube to explain that the missionary position is the only acceptable form of sexual intercourse in marriage is on a very tenuous biblical footing, but as you can imagine has received a lot of media attention.
So what can we learn about evangelism and social media?
First, don’t major on the minors. In order to commend the gospel, surely we don’t want to put unnecessary cultural or intellectual stumbling blocks in front of those who do not believe. There is an offense that comes to people when presented with the Christian message – but that is the offense of the cross (Gal. 5:10-12). We don’t need to add to it. There are warnings in scripture against putting unnecessary stumbling blocks in the way of people coming to faith and we must surely heed these before we launch a tirade on twitter.
Second, if you are going to engage in an internal conversation about points of doctrine or Christian practice online, then do so in a gracious manner. The way we speak to each other about secondary issues can be an opportunity for the gospel. Rather than put across your position as if there couldn’t possibly be any other view, graciously recognize that Christians disagree on these things and that although you hold your views with conviction, there are others that disagree and that adopting your view is not essential for Christian belief.
Krish Kandiah (@krishk) is president of London School of Theology and founder and director of Home for Good, a charity that seeks to find loving homes for all the vulnerable children in the U.K. Krish’s doctoral research was on Leslie Newbigin’s theology of evangelism and he lectures widely on theology, missiology, apologetics and evangelism. He is a vice president of Tearfund. Krish is married to Miriam and together they care for their birth, adopted, and foster children. Learn more at www.krishk.com.