Ethics: Pastor Threatens to Call Out Facebook Posts from Pulpit

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What would you do Wednesday!

The following situation is based on a true story. Though I don’t always note when an ethics post is based on a true story, but I thought this one a bit odd so I mention it in case anyone wonders if I just made it up.

The concern stems from Facebook posts and made its way to the pulpit.

Your teenage son is on Facebook. Like all good teenaged Facebook users he updates his wall often. Your son shares his feelings on his wall about various issues in life. If he is struggling, frustrated or depressed he might use Facebook as an outlet.

Your son is a member of your church. He is like many of the other church members who also use Facebook. Several other church members share their feelings about various things on their walls.

Well, your pastor also uses Facebook. He is friends with most of the church members. He uses Facebook to see what people are up to and to discern possible spiritual struggles.

Your pastor also has a particular view of how Christians should use Facebook. He expressed that view from the pulpit one Sunday morning saying:

I have read many of your Facebook walls and I am disappointed. So many of you simple write your feelings about things on Facebook when you should be using that venue to share the gospel and other biblical teachings. If you all don’t start using Facebook as a platform to share the gospel and a Christian worldview, then I am going to expose you from this pulpit. I will share with everyone your names and what you are writing….

What would you do?

  • Agree and warn your son about shutting down his Facebook.
  • Agree and start monitoring Facebook and chastising all church members.
  • Agree and offer to collect names for the pastor.
  • Disagree and leave the church.
  • Disagree, post about your pastor on Facebook and leave the church.
  • Disagree somewhat, talk to the pastor to understand further and check what your son is writing on his wall.
  • Or…
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tagged as , , in Christianity,Church Issues,Culture

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 rhology December 12, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Give the pastor a huzzah and remind my son that Facebook is real people, and in fact it reaches far more people than regular conversation.

2 Karen J Murphy-Linden December 12, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Very simple. I’d block the Pastor and encourage other members to do the same. I get what he’s saying but that’s an invasion no pastor is entitled to.

3 rhology December 12, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Karen J Murphy-Linden:
It’s not invasion to look at public posts on a public Facebook profile.
Is a pastor supposed to shepherd his church or not?
Are members supposed to submit to the Word of God in all things (including their precious Facebook walls) or not?

4 Brian Thornton December 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm

I’d post a bunch of fake stuff and see if the pastor repeats the fake stuff from the pulpit. Seriously, though, it sounds as if there may just a little too much heavy handedness from this pastor. I don’t much hear grace in his remarks concerning his people, and Scripture does not directly address exactly how something like FB posts should be used. I would probably try to meet with him to get a better handle on his position, but if he’s already threatening stuff like this from the pulpit, something tells me there may be leadership issues in other areas as well.

5 David (NAS) Rogers December 12, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I have read many of your T-shirt sayings and I am disappointed. So many of you simply support sports teams on your T-shirts when you should be using that venue to share the gospel and other biblical teachings. If you all don’t start wearing Christian T-shirts as a platform to share the gospel and a Christian worldview, then I am going to expose you from this pulpit. I will share with everyone your names and what you are wearing….

6 Debbie Kaufman December 12, 2012 at 1:37 pm

rhology: Christianity is not a cult. I think you have a distorted view of both the Bible and the role of a pastor. I would disagree, block him, and leave the church, running as I went.

7 rhology December 12, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Well, hold on, that’s not even close to the qualification of cult.
Maybe you haven’t seen what I’ve seen on Facebook, Debbie.

It’s not invasion to look at public posts on a public Facebook profile.
Is a pastor supposed to shepherd his church or not?
Are members supposed to submit to the Word of God in all things (including their precious Facebook walls) or not?

But it may be that announcing it and naming names from the pulpit is taking it significantly too far, especially at first. He shouldn’t do that but should rather proactively seek members out for one on one discussions and reproof. Facebook is not fantasyland. What you say on Facebook you say.

8 mburatov December 12, 2012 at 1:45 pm

If the pastor thinks that members of his flock are misusing Facebook then he has a biblical obligation to deal with people PRIVATELY first before he does anything publicly. Furthermore there are disagreements about how Christians should use Facebook or even how we should share the Gospel on Facebook. I have discovered that by posting encouraging things about my students and my kids, I have actually witnessed to unbelievers on Facebook. This pastor seems to think that there is only one way to do evangelism on line and he is making a mountain out of a molehill.

I think I agree with Ms. Kaufman – block the bloke and run for the hills.

9 Bridget December 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm

If it’s on Facebook or Twitter, it’s public knowledge. Now if the pastor is “friend’s” with the kid & the kid is posting inappropriate material, the pastor, or others for that matter, should go to the parents. (Deut. 6, Matthew 18, Gal.6) If the pastor reads posts aloud from the pulpit, then don’t say the names, but if it’s public knowledge, then it’s church knowledge… or should be.

10 John Clark December 12, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Why the focus on facebook? It’s not the only avenue for sharing the gospel, and probably isn’t the best primary method (more of a supplement to the conversations you have in person). “I have heard many of your daily conversations and I am disappointed. So many of you simply talk about your feelings about things in your daily conversations when you should be using that venue to share the gospel and other biblical teachings.” And, it’s okay to talk about other things and write about other things! Encouraging people to have gospel-centered conversations is good and right from the pulpit, but repeating what other people said (on Facebook or otherwise) in public to show how un-spiritual they are is wrong. I would go to the pastor *privately* and discuss the issue with him.

11 Chris Roberts December 12, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Block the pastor, continue on as usual.

12 Robert I Masters December 12, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Everyone knows Facebook is a tool of the devil.All Gods people use Google Plus…right.!!!!!!!

13 Mark December 12, 2012 at 8:38 pm

I like David (NAS) Rogers’ comparison. I suppose Facebook was singled out due to its popularity. Yet, people post so many things on Facebook other than their feelings about stuff. I wonder why the pastor did not threaten to call out the FB sports idolatry posts. 🙂
I would definately talk to the pastor and ask for specifics. In the real situation the teen was not charged with posting inappropriate items. I would also ask if the pastor’s curiosity goes beyond FB.

I do like the idea of blocking the guy. I am not convinced that this church is a cult, but depending on how much further the guy would go I may label it cult-like.

FB can be used to get an idea of how people are doing spiritually, but a threat from the pulpit is not the way to go. That wreaks of a power play rather than a shepherd’s care.

14 Mark December 12, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Robert, LOL! Twitter is my preferred social media. I just haven’t been able to get into G+.

15 Mark S December 12, 2012 at 11:01 pm

I would ask the pastor how he determined that non-evangelism use of FB is even sin — while using FB and other social media to share our Faith may be a good thing to do, it’s not all that we can use it for. To say that FB may only be used by Christians to share the Gospel is overreaching. If that is the pastor’s conviction for his use of FB — obviously it’s not, since he uses it to check on his flock in addition to sharing the Gospel — then to use it otherwise is for him Sin (see James 4:17). Even assuming that it’s sin for anyone in his church to use FB for social networking and sharing experiences and gripes, his proposed approach fails to square with Matthew 18:15ff; telling a person’s sin to the church is the last stage after confronting him directly and with additional witnesses. Of course, in keeping with Matthew 18, I would share my concerns privately (at first) with the pastor.

16 Jenny December 13, 2012 at 9:08 am

Mark, Mark S. and John….I agree. Also, rhology, despite the role of a Pastor to shepherd, it is not to control. It would never be to control. It is very near ‘cultish’ when a leader tries to do that. It doesn’t matter as much what is being said on FB, as it is in how it is handled with this young person. If it is taken publically it is anti-biblical and shame inducing….and, this is a teen, still learning. Take him aside one-on-one and speak to him with gentleness helping him to understand the concerns. Another good question to ask may be, what could this Pastor do in this situation that would be Christ-like.

Mark, how have you been?? Is it me, or have you not been posting as much recently? Hope you and your family are well!! I also enjoy it when you visit mine….Blessings!!!

17 Josh Dear December 14, 2012 at 2:22 am

It certainly would be overly manipulative of a pastor to do this (I’m speaking as a pastor myself.). However, if a particular pastor has a special gift for inserting occasional spots of humor throughout his message without detracting from the substance of the message, then it MIGHT be permissible (though extremely daring!) to say something like this in a teasing manner, in hopes of helping to convict a few folks regarding their less-than-perfect on-line behavior, and reminding them that EVERYBODY (including their pastor and church family) sees what they post on Facebook.

From the perspective of a church member, though, I certainly don’t agree with the suggestion that we should “block the pastor” on Facebook and continue on as before! That’s rebellion – not spiritual maturity! God has blessed us with called, anointed, and trained ministers who serve as shepherds in the congregation for some very specific reasons, and we should not be nearly so quick to dismiss their leadership decisions – even when we feel that they might be handling something in a poor manner. As long as the pastor is consistently submitting himself to the authority of God’s Word and the governance of his church elders (or pastoral overseers), we should do our best to respect his position in our church family, and to heed his Christ-honoring exhortations to us. After all, if the pastor sincerely knows and loves his church members (as he’s called to), then we – as church members – should recognize that, and permit him to speak biblical truth into our lives, even if it infringes upon our personal “rights” to engage in gossip, slander, or whatever other

Paul was known and respected by most of the Christians to whom he ministered, and they were (typically!) willing to receive his rebukes because they knew that he spoke the truth, and that he spoke it to them in love and humility. We should all hope and pray for the Lord to bless our churches with “under-shepherds” who do love us in this way, and who speak God’s truths to us accurately, even (and perhaps especially?) when it’s difficult for us to hear. That being the case in our churches, we should then continue to submit to God first, and those whom God has appointed to serve as our pastors second.

18 Josh Dear December 14, 2012 at 2:28 am

Woops! It doesn’t give me an option to edit my post above, but the end of paragraph 2 should read, “….or whatever other sinful behavior we might be in the habit of practicing.”

19 Mark December 14, 2012 at 8:47 am

Thanks for stopping by, Josh. One of the people who said to block the pastor is also a pastor. 🙂

Is there any situation, like the one above, which you would advise the person not to submit to the pastor?

20 jennyelaine December 18, 2012 at 6:30 am

Josh, Can you please tell me what you meant by “overly manipulative”? I don’t mean to hassle over words, but I am just curious. In my way of thinking, and what I know of God, there is no room for any manipulation at all. Manipulation is all about self-interest…even a little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have been in situations where the Pastor was in sin….and then I’ve been in situations where the Pastor was kind of like Peter and was rough around the edges and had some faults, but he didn’t at all mean to hurt anyone. The first Pastor was headed in the direction of himself, and the 2nd always humble and had his eyes on God, and if he did hurt anyone then he would try and make it right with that person. Do you know what I mean?

If a Pastor is going one way and the truth the other…then I follow truth. I’ve seen Pastors hurt too many people as they do hold a place of power, whether they know it or not. Altho those that are abusing their position usually do know it.

Thanks!! 🙂

21 Heather February 6, 2013 at 9:24 am

I have “been here and done that.” My pastor didn’t like my own personal fictional stories I would narrate on facebook. I am a creative writer and write moral tales. For some reason the pastor fixated on me and behaved inappropriately with me, and then began saying things from the pulpit such as, “You know those people who write stories on facebook, we shouldn’t listen to them.” One of my stories was about “lighthouse keepers” and how they should keep the light of Christ in their hearts and not be fake or facetious. The pastor’s wife is a banker and braggart, and she puts people down constantly in the church, claiming how wonderful she is because she makes so much money, and talking about how horrible everyone else is for stealing time away from her and her husband and being so needy. Needless to say, I loved many of the people at my church, and suffered there for 5 years before making the decision to leave. Sometimes “whacked out nutjobs” wind up in the clergy, just like they do in every other profession. He’s no longer my facebook friend and he chose to block me after I confronted him on his behavior (as it says to do in the bible) and he lied to me and told me I was a “weirdo artist he didn’t understand,” and that he “didn’t like weirdo’s.” Yeah, buddy–you aren’t weird/whacked at all, are you? …. i.e. get out now, run as fast as you can in the other direction, and don’t be Lot’s wife–don’t look back. 😉

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