David Lindell - Christians and Social Media - Leaders.Church


David Lindell – Christians and Social Media

What’s in this Episode?

We are sitting down with David Lindell, Executive Pastor at James River Church, to discuss Christians and Social Media.

Read the Transcript

Dick Hardy 0:06
Hey, friends, thanks for hanging out on this Church Tips Podcast, and I am here today with my good friend, David Lindell, who’s the Executive ministry pastor at James River Church, which is the church I’ve been a part of now for 23 years. Can you believe this David? 23 years.

David Lindell 0:19
That’s awesome.

Dick Hardy 0:22
David and I have had conversation of late on the subject of Christians and social media. Social media is a great gift to our world and at the same time, it produces some challenges for the local church. And so I just want David to talk to us as a pastor, and what he sees that can go sideways on social media. And then, the solutions he thinks that we as believers need to focus in on. So David, the Christian social media, what in the world should we be doing with this?

David Lindell 0:52
Well, first off, it’s amazing to be a part of this podcast, and I’m so thankful for you and Jonathan and your team, and what you do to strengthen the Body of Christ, not just nationally, but internationally. I know your influence carries around the world. And so the way you’re resourcing pastors and ministries and prompting them through avenues like this podcast to think seriously about their influence, and how to steward that well, it makes an incredible difference.

David Lindell 1:20
I know it’s personally benefited me and James River Church. And so thank you for all that you do. And yes, the Christian and social media, what a landscape we are facing right now. There’s just, in my opinion, a lot of pitfalls, but also a lot of opportunity. And usually, that’s the way opportunity works, where there’s opportunity, there will be opportunity for misstep.

David Lindell 1:20
And so my concern, honestly, as a pastor, is that post pandemic, we came out of this time where there was so much division, and really, leaders were in a season of trying to navigate everything well, trying to help people navigate their life well. And honestly, seeing the church of the Lord Jesus Christ accelerate online, which is such an exciting time in the life of the church.

David Lindell 2:13
Never before, have we seen so many ministries, making an impact and touching parts of the world that they were never touching before. How cool is that? There’s so many benefits that God, you know, God turned the pandemic on its head, He used it for the good of the Church, which we knew He would. And so watching that happen has been so cool, but what I think has accelerated as well is a culture online, among Christians in particular, are those who would associate with the Body of Christ.

David Lindell 2:44
Because I don’t know anybody’s heart, but those who would name the name of Jesus, and in that name or in the name of Christian discernment, they would then pontificate about a ministry that they’re not a part of, where they have no leadership over, and maybe they’re not leading anything at all, but they all of a sudden have taken on the mantle of the God squad, or they feel like they’re a deputy to Jesus. And their goal, it feels like online, is to go around and police other ministries or to point out all of the errors, either methodologically or theologically, that they see in various ministries, and they do it publicly.

David Lindell 3:23
And so this is done through influencers on YouTube. In fact, if you type in, and I think this is to our shame, honestly, if you type in on the internet, false teachers, it will populate with hundreds, if not 1000s and 1000s of hours of videos from Christian influencers, critiquing ministries that they’ve never been a part of. Ministries that maybe they’ve never read a book by the prominent teacher or pastor, they may have listened to a handful of clips from sermons, but never a whole sermon. And even if they had, that wouldn’t give them license to do what they do.

David Lindell 3:59
But, I think there’s a lot of platform building, honestly, in the name of helping Christians think wisely, but when it comes down to it, what I see as a pastor is a lot of gossip. It’s a lot of name calling. It’s a lot of things that honestly I think are unhelpful. And I just would be curious, even kind of what your perspective is on that.

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Dick Hardy 4:20
Well, that’s exactly what it is. When you’re, I mean, I’ve made these similar kinds of observations, even before the social media snowball began to go. I mean, if you are in leadership of your church, then critique inside the walls of your church or inside the leadership of your church, the things going on in your church. But to make an observation of someone elsewhere, even though you’ve heard them say something that, you know is theologically wrong or whatever, I mean that is not my role. I’m not there. I’m not a leader there. I’m not an influencer there. I can observe. And I’m gonna stay focused where I am planted. And that’s the same kind of principle. I’m just affirming what you’re saying.

David Lindell 5:12
Yeah. Well, and I would say, you know, kind of on this whole thing like, to me what’s sad about it is there are open handed theological issues. Those are things that not every Christian believes and that’s okay. When we get to heaven, Jesus will sort it out for us, okay, and so that’s a wonderful thing. Like, there’s diversity in the Body of Christ on a bunch of open-handed issues. So, that could be you know, small groups or Sunday School. Completely open handed. We don’t have a Bible verse that tells us one is spiritually superior to the other, or one is errant, doctrinally.

David Lindell 5:17
Then there are the close-handed issues. These are things that Christians believe universally and if you don’t believe it, you’re not a Christian. So think, the Apostles Creed. You know, this is the core of Christian doctrine and theology, but most of what you’re seeing online is pontificating about open-handed issues, or issues that Christians should be flexible on, but we’ve become very inflexible. And I don’t think the inflexibility is without a reason. I think the inflexibility feeds the beast, honestly, because there is a mob mentality that social media feeds on, as just an entity.

David Lindell 6:22
And so there’s a lot of dogpiling. And what’s unfortunate is the facts don’t really matter. Often, it’s not an issue of what is actually being taught on the whole, it’s an issue of that one clip taken out of context, that now somebody pontificates on or posts about. And now everybody jumps on that. And what’s so sad to me about that is you actually see this happen in the pages of Scripture to the church’s detriment. Acts, chapter 21.

David Lindell 6:49
We’ve been preaching through the book of Acts at James River. And in Acts chapter 21, the apostle Paul comes into to Jerusalem, he knows that God has called him there, ultimately, to get to Rome. But as he gets there, he meets with the Jerusalem elders, namely James, the brother of Jesus. And he’s sharing all of the amazing things that God has done among the Gentiles.

David Lindell 7:10
And they’re like, well hold up. There’s a little narrative that’s been perpetuated about you and it’s not good. And we know, because we know the historical context that the instigators of this narrative are not believers, the instigators of the narrative are the Judaizers. They’re people who said, Hey, you can follow Jesus, but you also have to follow the law. And so unbelievers have perpetuated a narrative about the Apostle Paul because they don’t like him, but believers bought into it.

David Lindell 7:38
And in the social media of the day, ie just plain old gossip, they had spread this word about Paul, that he was anti-Jewish, he was an anti-Semite, that he was anti-Moses, none of it was true, but James, as the pastor of the Jerusalem church, comes to Paul and says, Hey, we got to do a little PR campaign here to let the believers know that what has been told to them is actually not accurate, which is just so sad. You know, the apostle Paul, this guy who has laid down his life for the sake of the Gospel, who has been fiery in his presentation, now has to do some PR work in the Temple Mount, to try to get the church to buy into him in Jerusalem.

David Lindell 8:23
And it’s all because of a false narrative that’s been perpetuated from the outside. And I think that’s where believers have to be really careful. That online what is so easy, is to feed a narrative that was actually started by enemies of the gospel. So people who are not pro-Jesus, they’re not pro-church, they would like nothing more than the Christian narrative and the Christian message to recede, to die, and they’re perpetuating. You know, whether it’s a false claim about a ministry or a pastor or teacher, and then believers dogpile on that unwittingly, and feed that false narrative.

David Lindell 9:00
And so I think you’d be really wise, before you tweet something, before you post something on your Instagram story, or put up a tik tock about it, to discover the origins of where that claim came from and even if it’s actually true. What if it’s not true? What if it’s not true and you’re shocked, you’re appalled that this is happening.

David Lindell 9:20
But to me, what’s happening there is nothing more than the rage machine. It’s like, oh, I can’t believe that they would say that. I’ve always felt like they were a little bit off. You know, it’s like, but are they? Is that actually happening? And now are we buying into really a gossip line of reasoning. And the scary part to me is, we’re doing something in the name of, well, Christians need to be discerning, Christians need to be wise. I absolutely believe that. Christians do need to be discerning and need to be wise.

David Lindell 9:49
But, there are people that are building a platform on this whole, Christians need to be discerning and need to be wise, and the way that they’re building that platform is by identifying all the people that Christians need to be on the lookout for. They’re identifying the theological boogeyman. And they’re doing it and they’re trashing other people’s ministry. And yet, God never gave them license to do that.

David Lindell 10:13
Jesus appointed disciples, not heresy hunters. Jesus appointed disciples, not little sheriff’s deputies. And we don’t ever have record, in the New Testament, we don’t have record of the church in Ephesus, writing a letter to the church in Corinth criticizing their theology, or their practice of the Spirit, even though there were things to criticize. We know that because the Apostle Paul calls them out. But Paul has spiritual authority. He planted that church, he knows that church. So we were like, Well, Paul did it. Well, Paul’s their pastor.

Dick Hardy 10:45

David Lindell 10:46
That’s different, Paul’s their pastor. You’re not their pastor. Like we don’t have record of the church, in Thessalonica, writing a letter to another New Testament church going, Hey, you know, you need to know that what you’re doing here is wrong. And this event is not wrong. And you’re signaling this and you’re doing that. They’re not doing that. Why? Who’s calling them out? Who’s encouraging them? Who’s correcting false doctrine or false teaching? It’s the apostle Paul, it’s their pastor.

Dick Hardy 11:11

David Lindell 11:11
That’s different. And so in the name of, Well Paul did it, so I can do it. That doesn’t work, it doesn’t pass the smell test. And instead, what we’re doing is we’re perpetuating a false narrative, or an incomplete narrative about ministries. And honestly, when it comes down to it, it’s gossip. I mean, what does James say? He says, the tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Dick Hardy 11:34

David Lindell 11:36
And we’re saying, Well, I didn’t say anything. No, no, no, if you typed it out, if you if you punched it in on your iPhone, and you sent out a video, now, that’s the same thing. And here’s the thing, you can unwittingly become a mouthpiece for hell. Because Satan wants to create division, he wants to create disunity. I mean, you go back to Acts 21. Paul is having to do damage control for a narrative that was started by unbelievers. Who do you think that was behind that narrative?

Dick Hardy 11:36
Yeah, right.

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David Lindell 11:42
The enemy, the father of lies, is behind the lie. But if Christians aren’t careful, what we can do is we can give our backing, we can give our voice, to a lie that the enemy started, which is tragic. And then we invite the world in to be part of the peanut gallery, and eat their popcorn, and watch the Church duke it out in front of everybody. What are we doing?

David Lindell 12:30
So, that is a huge concern to me. Because, you know, going back to the book of James, he says, We who teach will be judged more strictly. That’s a huge weight of responsibility on any pastor, teacher, evangelist, on any writer, on whatever sphere of leadership you’re in. If you’re teaching biblical content, you know that one day you’re gonna stand before God and He’s gonna weigh that out. You’re gonna be judged more strictly.

David Lindell 13:02
And who’s the judge there? Is it the guy down the road? Is it the guy in Wisconsin on his computer, in his mom’s basement? No. Is it the influencer who’s building his YouTube channel? No. The person who’s judging is Jesus, ultimately. So Jesus is the ultimate judge. And then He’s placed spiritual leaders over those ministries that they’re to yield to. And those voices have the opportunity and the authority to speak into areas where they have concerns, or they want to call them back to a certain level of standard of teaching.

David Lindell 13:39
But it’s not the job of Christians to pontificate online about the errors, or an adequacies, or the methodological, you know, frustrations they have, I can’t believe they did that at their event, you know? Like, that’s not your job. In fact, our job Jesus said, By this people will know you’re my disciples. If you do what? If you love one another. Not if you correct one another. Not if you call out your doctrinal pet peeve online, in front of one another. No, no, no. He said, If you love one another.

David Lindell 14:15
And so much of our posting is missing that element. It’s missing that First Corinthians 13 love one another element, where we press the pause button and say, Does this conform to what the Apostle Paul called us to do, in First Corinthians 13? Does it demonstrate to the world that we love one another? I love sound doctrine. But it’s not sound doctrine to gossip about other believers online. Now, you’ve missed the whole point.

David Lindell 14:44
And so, that’s my concern when I see believers posting online. They’ve self-deputized in a way that really, at the bottom, at the base of it, is just gossip, and it’s shameful because it’s in front of people who don’t know Jesus. And our calling is the Great Commission, to go into all the world and preach the gospel. My question is, are we doing that, first and foremost? Is that what your presence online is about? Because it should be. It should be if that’s true for all of us.

Dick Hardy 15:14
You know, we’ve got a boatload of people that are listening to what we’re talking about today. And we pray for this to happen, that there’ll be a sense of conviction or maybe self examination.

David Lindell 15:28
Sure, hopefully for all of us.

Dick Hardy 15:30
Yeah. So maybe we should move forward differently. So David, how would you advise us now, going forward? How can we really use social media well?

David Lindell 15:43

Dick Hardy 15:44
Share the right things and do it all in the spirit of Christian love.

David Lindell 15:48
Yeah. Well, I one time heard a leader, a very prominent Christian leader, say this, and I think it’s true. Eat it before you tweet it. So let it digest. And I think a lot of times, we’re not pressing the pause button. We are worked up about something, we saw a video online, and now we’re like, oh this is, this is big. This is important. If I don’t add my voice to the conversation, how will the world know? And we’ve, I think overinflated our self importance, which is really sad. And we haven’t thought of ourselves in accordance with sound and sober judgment, or thought of our words, in terms of the megaphone that they are going to be shouted through, namely, the internet or social media.

David Lindell 16:31
And Rick Warren famously said that when you post something, it is instant, constant, global and permanent. It never goes away. So it will be part of your legacy, not your online legacy, because we live so much of our life online, it’ll be part of your life’s legacy. So maybe it would be wise to stop, to maybe sit on the video, sit on the post, sit on the comment and go, Lord, I’m gonna pray about that. I’m gonna pray for that person.

David Lindell 17:00
I think it was Oswald Sanders, who said, When God gives us insight into another person’s deficiencies, He does it so that we can pray for them. So I guess my question, and this is a question to me, it’d be a question for anybody listening to this is, how much time have you invested in interceding for that person that you’re so concerned about their ministry? Because concern will yield, honestly, the response that is most powerful, if you’re really concerned.

David Lindell 17:31
And the response that is most powerful, to any concern that you have about any ministry, is to pray for them. To get on your knees and go, God, would you help them? God, would you give them wisdom? God, would you? Here’s what I’m thinking. Okay, talk about the president. You might not agree with the person that’s in office, but how often have you criticized them? And how often have you prayed for them?

David Lindell 17:53
Because maybe, just maybe, things would be different in Washington if Christians got off their phones and on their knees, and had a conversation with God asking Him to do a work in the heart of President Biden, to do a work in the heart of the Senate Democrats you don’t like, to do a work in the heart of your governor that you disagree with?

David Lindell 18:12
Maybe just maybe our world would look different if we were called to intercession instead of criticism. And here’s the newsflash, we are called to intercession. And so I think, pausing and going, God, have I done what is most powerful, and what I’m actually commanded to do? And that’s to pray and intercede for and to call on God, because I believe it’s the most powerful. Prayer should be our first response, not our last resort. We all know that.

Dick Hardy 18:37

David Lindell 18:37
But we too seldom do that. And so that’s, I think, for me, I just go back to, Okay, what do we do? We need to be praying for our leaders. Especially we need to be praying for pastors. They are trying to lead well. They’re getting up on Sundays, and most of them are trying to teach the Bible and encourage people to believe God.

David Lindell 19:02
It may not be your theological stream, it may not be your preaching preference, it may not be your style, you might not do it that way. Here’s the good news. It’s fine. God’s got it and He’s using a variety of differences. Look at all the denominations in the world. Some people are like, Oh, what a shame we have all these denominations. Maybe it’s just an expression of the diversity, the beautiful diversity, that is found within the Body of Christ. And if we could celebrate one another, instead of criticizing one another, how much more could we do for the cause of Christ and the building of what Jesus is building, namely the Church?

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David Lindell 19:37
And so I just, you know, I’m concerned. But I’m also hopeful because just because we’re seeing this now doesn’t mean we have to always see this, doesn’t mean that has to be what next year looks like, doesn’t mean that we can’t turn the tide. Because I think honestly, if Christians would just celebrate. Whenever you see criticism, what do I do with it? If I see somebody who’s worked up about it, man, just say, Hey, I’m praying for them. I love them. I’m so thankful for all that God has done through their ministry and I’m praying that their best days are ahead of them. That could change things, you know?

David Lindell 20:08
So I just, I would encourage Christians to think about maybe having a conversation in person, maybe sending a heartfelt email that says, Hey, you know what? I don’t know you, I’ve never been to your church. I’ve benefited from so much of your teaching, but I do have a question about what you said, you know, when you talked about this passage, it seems a little off to me. I’m not trying to throw rocks at you, or I’m not posting this online. I’m just curious, I want to grow. Like, help me understand where you’re coming from.

David Lindell 20:41
Here’s the thing, that takes more time, it takes more mental process, and a lot of times, that’s why we skip it. Because it’s easier to throw out a comment, it’s easier to record a video and get a bunch of people to dogpile on that one thing with us, than it is to say, You know what, I’m just gonna have a conversation with one person. Because you know what, in Matthew 18 Jesus said, If your brother offends you, go to them. Go to them. Just go and have a conversation with them, say, Hey, I’m a little concerned about this.

David Lindell 21:10
And before you let it rise to the level of a public offense, and invite the whole world in on it, maybe just say, Let’s have coffee. Maybe go encourage. Buy that pastor in your city lunch, send them a gift card and say I’m praying for you. Wow, what would that do? You know, and I’m not asking for gift cards. So don’t, that’s not for me, that’s for your town. You know? But ask the Lord, how could I encourage them? And I’m praying that you would speak to them. What would move that forward?

David Lindell 21:41
Imagine what would happen if the church in Jerusalem had rejected the narrative that the Judaizers had perpetuated about the apostle Paul. I think maybe those days would have looked a lot different and a lot more fruitful. Now, God works all things together for the good. Thank God for His providence. And he moved Paul forward. God did exactly what he saw fit to do according to the knowledge of His perfect, pleasing, and good will. Like He did that. And He worked through the mess that was in Jerusalem in that moment.

David Lindell 22:13
And God can work through the mess today, so I’m encouraged by that. But we have a responsibility to speak life. And so that’s where I’m at.

Dick Hardy 22:20
Well, and I’m telling you, I mean, I could be accused to be old school on this, but when you pick up the phone, it’s I get it, it’s hard to do, it’s easier to type and hit send. But I’m telling you, get voice to voice, face to face.

David Lindell 22:33
Yeah, conversation.

Dick Hardy 22:38
And things just tend to calm down.

David Lindell 22:42
They do.

Dick Hardy 22:43
Just don’t get the, you used the term earlier, the rage mentality.

David Lindell 22:48

Dick Hardy 22:49
So true. So, good. Give us a parting shot. What would it be, if people didn’t hear anything you had to say?

David Lindell 23:03
Oh, I’m sure there’ll be a comment or two on this. And I’m not here to cause you problems.

Dick Hardy 23:09
But a parting shot for us.

David Lindell 23:11
Yeah, I mean, I would take people back to First Corinthians 13. And just say, you know that chapter on love, you know, if I do it without love, I’m just a clanging cymbal. And I think we have a lot of clanging cymbals online. And you know, we’re just adding to the noise, and it’s not productive. It’s not helpful. It’s not encouraging.

David Lindell 23:32
And here’s what I would say. What does the person who knows nothing about God, do with the conversation on your, you know, the posts that you put out? What do they do if they join your Facebook group and they see all the chatter? Does that cause them to go, Oh, I want to be a part of this? I wish I was just part of the community that does this.

David Lindell 23:55
If it doesn’t, there’s something wrong because we should have an attractive spirituality. Our walk with God, our love for God, our love for one another, should beckon people to want to be a part of the most dynamic, most powerful, most beautiful organization on the planet, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The good news is Jesus is building his Church.

David Lindell 24:19
The bad news is that sometimes we’re working against what He’s building. And we’re doing it with a rationale that says, we’re actually on the team and we’re wearing the jersey and that’s why we’re posting this, but we’re not inhabiting the values of the kingdom in what we’re posting or how we’re saying what we’re saying.

David Lindell 24:40
And kingdom values have to come through in what we post and what we comment and how we carry ourselves. If it’s in your workplace, or if it’s on your Twitter account. If it’s on Tik Tok, or if it’s, you know, in the church parking lot. Kingdom values are what needs to guide our conversation because that is what the world is looking for. The Kingdom is attractive. People want to be part of the Kingdom of God. If they see it for what it is in you, they want to be a part of it.

Dick Hardy 25:08
That’s so good.

David Lindell 25:08
And God wants to use that to do Matthew chapter 28, verse 19. Jesus called us to, Go and make disciples. That’s what we should be doing wherever we find ourself, even online.

Dick Hardy 25:20
That’s good. David, I can’t thank you enough for taking time to be with us on the Church Tips Podcast. This has been very, very helpful.

Dick Hardy 25:28
Loved it.

Dick Hardy 25:28
For those of you who are watching and haven’t subscribed yet, be sure to subscribe to the podcast, and certainly it helps us if you rate and review it. And we’ll be back next time with another what we hope to be high value church tip for you that will help the church grow and advance. Again, David, thanks so much. Make it a great one today, and be blessed.

David Lindell 25:52
So good.

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