Should Christian Ministries Use Liberal Social Media Platforms to Get Their Message out?
I remember hearing a story when I was taking geometry in 8th grade. Our teacher told us that his brother was taking his final exam in a college philosophy class. The test consisted of an essay answering a one word question: Why?
While everyone else wrote feverishly, our teacher’s brother sat and reflected, finally writing down two words: “Why not?”
For this bold move, he was given an A.
But I tell that story to make another point. My answer to whether Christian ministries should use liberal, even antagonistic social media platforms to get their message out consists of those same two words: Why not?
A Massive Door
It would be one thing if we sold our souls to these platforms, compromising our message to maintain our good standing. That’s what Jesus was talking about when He warned us that by saving our lives we would lose our lives.
And it would be one thing if we became dependent on social media, failing to rely on the Lord and the many other doors of communication that are available to us.
But it would be folly to ignore a massive door that is still open to us — a door to reach several billion people with the gospel and biblical truth. Why not?
Some have responded to our latest battle with YouTube by urging us to abandon this platform, suggesting we create something new, something less antagonistic.
To be sure, there are Christian organizations working hard to create less hostile platforms, and if we can work with them, we certainly will.
But the goal of our ministry — and of many other ministries — is to reach the maximum possible audience with the maximum possible message. Why not reach that audience where it is — by the billions (literally) on liberal social media platforms?
Jesus Came for the Sick
Jesus said that He didn’t come for the healthy but for the sick, and there are plenty of spiritually sick and needy people on these platforms. Shouldn’t we take advantage of this amazing opportunity to reach them? Isn’t light supposed to shine in the darkness? Isn’t that the very purpose of light?
To remind you of Jesus’ words, “No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matt 5:15, NLT).
I’m very happy to preach to the choir, meaning, I’m very happy to strengthen and equip and edify and challenge and support my fellow-believers. I spend a tremendous amount of time doing that in many different forms and settings, as do many other ministries and leaders.
But I’m not happy to preach only to the choir. I want to reach those who differ. I want to cross into hostile territory. I want my views to be challenged. I want to go fishing in new lakes.
What better place to do that than on social media?
Social Media Platforms and Ad Revenue
Every week, on our various platforms, including especially Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter (less so, on Instagram), we receive thousands of comments from people who disagree with us, many of them quite negative. And unless those comments violate our guidelines (using profanity or engaging in personal attacks), we are quite glad to have them.
First, it means we’re reaching people outside of our fold. Second, it means that others can interact with them, which is often a healthy, stretching experience.
Again I ask: Why not?
What about a ministry making money through these social media platforms?
That’s a real possibility through YouTube, where tens of millions of video views can bring in hundreds or thousands of dollars in ad revenue. Some claim it’s a compromise for a gospel ministry to receive these funds, and, in particular, to use them to do more ministry. Should we receive and use these funds for the gospel?
I guess you can anticipate my answer by now: Why not?
Fellow-believers also benefit from this, since we use revenue from YouTube to help produce more videos, which in turn we make available free of charge to the maximum audience. And that includes many fellow-believers. They (or, should I say, you?) are the first ones to benefit.
To be sure, if we became dependent on these funds and watered down our message to keep the money coming, that would be sinful. But it would not be any more sinful than a pastor avoiding controversial issues so as not to offend some of his wealthy donors. That trap has been here for millennia.
But if a non-offensive, 5-second ad can play at the beginning of our videos, potentially yielding funds we can then use for the gospel, why not take it as a blessing? After all, money in itself is neutral. It’s how we relate to it and how we use it that’s important.
That being said, when I believe YouTube acts unfairly or violates its own guidelines (see here for another example), I will certainly call them to account and do my best to get them to do the right thing. And if they wrongly block any flow of income we were receiving (again, as just happened a few days ago), I will speak up and speak out.
But here’s what I find ironic.
When we recently made an appeal for funds (to help us push back against YouTube for demonetizing our entire channel and to help make up for lost revenue), some believers were critical. They asked, “Why should you be dependent on a hostile platform like YouTube? Why not create your own platform? And why not just rely on God?”
Again, we’re not dependent on the platform, but it still is a great platform, and we’ll use it until the door closes. As for creating a new, better platform, it would take a massive effort by some incredibly well-funded organizations to create something as ubiquitous as YouTube. And even then, there’s no guarantee it would draw the same kind of audience.
But this is the real rub: If the critics put their money where their mouth is, our ministries would have all the funding they need.
Seriously. It’s often those who criticize ministries that ask for money publicly who give little or nothing in private.
Our Ultimate Source
The bottom line is that God is our ultimate source and we depend wholly on Him. And as good stewards, we’ll do our best to use wisely the funds we receive (from all kinds of sources) and to use every open door set before us. Doesn’t this make spiritual and common sense?
And that leads me to a final question for you.
Let’s say you led a ministry that fed the poor and housed the homeless. You needed two million dollars for a new facility but were one million dollars short and were praying for the Lord’s help and supply.
You are approached by a non-religious Buddhist who just won the lottery and heard about your work. He wanted to donate one million dollars to your ministry, no strings attached.
Would you take it?
Do I hear you answer me with those same two words, “Why not?”
I think you get my point.