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« Confession of a Gossiper | Main | House Rules »

Defacing Facebook

As a district superintendent, it is a rare occasion that calls me to address specific concerns of the church.  Yet, social networking, namely Facebook, has ballooned to such a huge phenomenon that it cannot be ignored.  Irresponsible conversation, damaging comments, unfair characterizations, breaches of confidentiality, racy pictures, vicious gossip, wild rumors and every sordid type of communication gets pumped into cyberspace hour by hour through this medium.  The fact that it can also be used for positive purposes compounds the problem.  The evil side of man seems to always find ways to deface the good.

Don’t use Facebook?  Not interested?  You ought to be.  Chances are great that your name has already been mentioned on someone’s page.  Your picture may even be orbiting in cyberspace.  From Facebook’s own statistics log, there are more than 400 million active users, 50% of active users log on to Facebook in any given day, the average user has 130 friends, and people spend over 500 billion minutes per month on Facebook!  What is the significance of this?  People form opinions about pictures they see, or about people, events and things they read of on social networking sites.  You have little or no control over this information, regardless of how personal you consider it to be.  It is a wild, wooly, barely regulated and volatile realm where almost anything goes. 

It is ironic that the non-religious sectors of society rather than the church first noted the dangers of Facebook.  From a computer security standpoint, a major news source (CBS) says that Facebook information is being shared with third parties, that privacy settings revert to a less safe default mode after each redesign, that Facebook ads may contain malware, that real friends unknowingly make you vulnerable, and that scammers are creating fake profiles.

Admittedly, these are big problems, but it gets worse.  Employees have lost jobs, students have been kicked out of school, friendships have been ruined, marriages have ended in divorce, leaders have lost credibility and homes have been burglarized because of information on Facebook.  Numbers of people have been stabbed, shot or murdered over Facebook postings.  Relentless harassment, name-calling, stalking, intimidation, and threatened physical abuse, all on Facebook over multiple months, reportedly caused one teen girl to commit suicide and the same is suspected in other cases as well.  In a worst case scenario, a seventeen year old girl was raped and murdered by a 33-year-old man she met on Facebook who was posing as a teenager.  Law enforcement agencies have stepped up warnings about Facebook, and many colleges and high schools caution students about its use.  Employers now routinely ask for a prospective worker’s Facebook account as part of the hiring process. 

In church circles, I am increasingly hearing stories about questionable entries on Facebook pages of church members and ministers alike.  Most use it for good, or at least for harmless banter and discussion.  A minority, however, post statements rooted in sarcasm, disrespect, a desire to foment division or to broadcast personal opinions that contradict the position of a church, a pastor or an organization.  Some comments may simply be unwise or thoughtless mental musings.  Others may not be so innocent. 

Whatever the motive, it is time for the church to address the problem.  While we have no illusions about ending or even curbing the use of social networking, we can make sure that people understand its potential for disaster.  Most users know about common caveats:  “Once you post, it’s permanent,” “unknown posters may be imposters,” “all pictures are public property on Facebook,” and, “there are no secrets on Facebook.”  But, for those in the church, more subtle guidelines come into play.  Here are a few:

  1. Gossip and innuendo is always bad, but on Facebook, it multiplies by the power of ten. 
  2. Questioning or criticizing spiritual authority on Facebook equals rebellion.
  3. Faith-undermining and conviction-bashing are transparently wrong.
  4. Soliciting membership to another congregation via Facebook is still sheep-stealing.
  5. Don’t play with people by mocking or provoking them into dangerous discussions.
  6. Playing the devil’s advocate through “what if” scenarios nearly always backfires.
  7. Pastoring is largely private.  Ministers should not pastor over Facebook pages.
  8. Barbed statements and/or sharing embarrassing stories can crush people.
  9. It is always wrong to malign someone’s character, spread rumors or tell lies.
  10. Confessions on Facebook lead to derision, not forgiveness.
  11. Murphy’s Law applies:  Anything that can be taken wrong will be taken wrong. 
  12. When in doubt, leave it out.

You can probably come up with even more examples of abusive and dangerous ways that Facebook can be used.  The point is that Facebook is a stage, not a closet.  The intimate interaction between a person and his or her computer has global publication potential.  Some organizations, the Washington Post for example, simply say:  “If you don’t want it online, don’t put it there.” 

For Christians, social networking does not exist outside the parameters of scripture, as though people can get away with things on Facebook that would be anathema in any other venue.  Evil communication still corrupts good manners.  Proverbs 18:8 says The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.”  Facebook is never the proper place to rant, vent or share sensitive information.  If you want to use Facebook, weigh your words carefully, post wholesome and helpful thoughts, exemplify Christ in everything you say, and use it to promote unity and strength.  It is your solemn obligation to the body of Christ.

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Reader Comments (25)

THANK YOU for this blog! I truly appreciate your words! And...I found the link for this on FB! :-)

June 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristy

This was an amazing post. I clicked by way of, yes, Facebook. You raise valid concerns and posts, and I am reevaluating my Facebook AND Twitter posts at this very moment.

Basically, we need to be careful for nothing.

June 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChandra

Awesome article! I wish everyone using Facebook would read this!

June 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLorren Godwin

Thank you Bro. Jordan. You've hit the nail on the head. This is a timely admonition and I pray it will take root and bear much good fruit.

June 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarjorie Kinnee

Amen. I agree. I'm afraid Facebook is revealing character defects and putting it on display for everyone to see. God forgives but facebook makes it hard to forget. I might at some point get back on facebook but my life is more peaceful without it.

God bless you for caring enough to give the church wise advice.

June 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAaron Cirilo

Thank you, Brother Jordan, for this needful article. Well said. I have been warning people for some time about real problems and potential pitfalls of social networking software/sites. Jesus did *not* say, 'if thy brother shall trespass against thee, text him,' or 'if thy brother shall trespass against thee, blab about it on Facebook.'

June 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Joseph

Awesome! Very insightful and I am printing it off tomorrow!

June 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElaina

Thank you for this post, Bro. Jordan. As a facebook user, I am constantly evaluating and re-evaluating my place and purpose there. On the one hand, I see it as a complete time-waster. I can always think of 10 more useful things to do with my time than rummage through status updates of nearly 500 "friends."

On the other hand, facebook has afforded me the opportunity to connect with friends I would have never seen again otherwise and family I only see annually, if that. I've even found cousins I didn't know existed!

As a writer, I'm learning that I need to go where the readers are in order to minister to people. And as you stated, millions of them are on facebook. This medium gives me a platform to post articles and opinions that draw people to Christ. Since I started posting my blog entries on facebook, I've ministered to dozens of people privately over e-mail...mostly high school friends I had lost contact with, but who are interested in beginning a deeper relationship with God.

Finally, as a mother of a middle-school-aged child (and two more right behind her), it's necessary that I remain on facebook so I can monitor and take part in my daughter's discussions. I don't want to be ignorant of what is going on in the on-line community. I want her to always know that I am there, present and active in her life.

Insightful post. I appreciate your wisdom, as always.

Sandy Cooper
Louisville, KY

June 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSandy Cooper

Great article. Very informative and needful for the body of Christ.. I love the ending.. closed well and leaves no room for wiggling out. We are responsible because we belong to the body of Jesus Christ.. "Ye are not your own, you were bought with a price.. Therefore glorify God in your body".. I believe the Face(book)is still apart of the body..

I found this by clicking on a link from Twitter.

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJR Meyer

"2.Questioning or criticizing spiritual authority on Facebook equals rebellion."

Since when is rebellion a negative thing? If I recall, Christians were rebels once upon a time. Perhaps certain spiritual authorities need to be questioned. Christians are not always correct-and their self-righteousness needs to be curbed as well.

Just a thought.

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlexander S.


"Since when is rebellion a negative thing?" Maybe since the Garden of Eden. The prophet Samuel didn't think much of rebellion. "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry." I Samuel 15:23 KJV. I can't find a place in the Bible where rebellion is ever considered good. Your observation that "Christians were rebels once upon a time" needs to be carefully qualified. It could also be stated that New Testament Christians were under obedience and their enemies were actually the ones in rebellion. Nearly the entire Gospel of John makes that case. And, if a Christian's self-righteousness needs to be curbed, there are much better ways to handle it than Facebook.

Specifically, however, I was referring to using Facebook to express rebellion, i.e. to criticize or question one's spiritual authority. Certainly there may be times when a Christian has a differing viewpoint than those in authority. He or she should use Biblical directives to resolve the problem and not air it on Facebook for all the world to see.

Thank you for reading and responding.

Jonathan Jordan

June 15, 2010 | Registered CommenterJ. Mark Jordan

One should be prudent regarding anything that they publish anywhere, especially on the internet. It is world wide publishing. I have been active in internet ministry since the 1980s and have seen much.

Bro Steve Winter
For Bible doctrine
For Christian music
Real Acts 2:38 Christians and ministers on Facebook

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBro. Steve Winter

Facebook is like any other media. it can be used for good or bad. Be careful of who your friend are on facebook. I only allow people I know and referrials from friends I trust. I have 165 friends on facebook and I know them all. Be aware of who your children talk too and invite on facebook. we need to protect our children from people that would prey on them.

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commentershirley whitten

That was great! thanks for addressing the issue. Gods so good! why wouldnt we want to share it to everyone with everything!? :]

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMiranda

i soo agre...because you don't know who my see what you put on fb and what they can't always hide always gets be safe just don't put anything you are gonna regret or think you're gonna regret on fb...if you get that wierd feeling in ur stumach don't do it that always meens somethings gonna your intincs...

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterINDIA

I'm just curious; I do not see any proper resource credits given for any of the statements made in paragraph 4. Was this information gathered from specific sources or did you just happen to know all of the people that this has happened to. It always concerns me to read an article and there is no real referal to where the information came from.

June 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJames Smith


The incidents I refer to in paragraph four come from dozens of news outlets that a researcher can easily Google. Most items will come up on the first page. Had I attempted to make a case out of obscure incidents, it would have been necessary to include documentation. Should one write about the Gulf oil spill, for example, no particular source needs to be cited since it is in the realm of common knowledge. Moreover, the purpose of my piece is not necessarily scholarly nor informative. It is more like an editorial on the pages of opinion. Anyone who disputes the validity of my points is welcome to write a paper to challenge my facts and/or conclusions.

Jonathan Jordan

June 16, 2010 | Registered CommenterJ. Mark Jordan

in reference to paragraph four...military service members have been discharged for some things being posted on fb, ive seen it first hand, whether it be pictures or postings. if it gets into right hands ppl can be reprimanded for their actions. i ve known couples to split for trust issues that have been brought up through fb, i think in order to have a page and remain a couple their have to be roots and solid trust. so these statements are true in paragraph 4 at least to some extent from what i have seen. fb does not have enough security settings to be protecting our best interests for ourselves, or kids. there are too many creeps in society. and some overlook the information they post on their pages. your friends need to have your address or phone number pasted on your page, no they should have these if true friends or be able to email you if need be, to personally ask for this info.

June 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjust me

It seems as though the institutional church is scared of the truth that places like FB bring to people.
The truth is life's not about religion, but about Jesus and love.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaul


I can't believe you really mean what you say. So Facebook should be totally unregulated where any kind of hateful, destructive or crude speech is condoned? Am I just scared of the truth that FB brings to people? Is private conversation between a church member and pastor truth? Should it then be plastered all over Facebook?

Obviously, you have never had to clean up a FB mess. You have never had to be accountable for someone's spiritual welfare. (Hebrews 13:7). A pastor is a watchman, a sentry and a shepherd who has a duty to guard the sheep.

I view your last comment "The truth is life's not about religion, but about Jesus and love," as irresponsible sloganeering. It rolls off the tongue so easily, but has no practical value. Instead, you should try this statement made by Jesus himself: "If you love me, keep my commandments." A preponderance of scriptures, both OT and NT show us how to live our lives. You would be wise to follow them. Facebook, my friend, is a thornbush. Be very careful with it because the the "truth" that gouges you may be something you put up there yourself!

Jonathan Jordan

June 17, 2010 | Registered CommenterJ. Mark Jordan

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