“It’s not fair I lost my job,” the pastor told me.
“My church members post a lot worse things than I do on social media. It’s a double standard.”
He’s right. It is a double standard. But it’s reality. And, with greater frequency, more pastors and church staff are losing their jobs because of what they post, particularly on Facebook and Twitter and, to some extent, their blogs.
By the way, churches will not always tell the pastor the specific reason for the firing. But, once we begin to infuriate our church members with our posts, many will find a myriad of reasons to give us the boot.
I recently recommended a pastor to another church. I think very highly of him. Indeed, the search committee chairman seemed genuinely enthused when I recommended him. He contacted me a couple of weeks later with this comment: “We can’t consider him. He’s just too snarky and sarcastic on social media.”
Of course, this pastor was not fired. But he never had a chance to be considered by another church.
So what are pastors posting on social media that is raising the ire of church members? It typically falls into one or more of these five categories:
- Generally combative and sarcastic comments. Do you know someone that seems always to be in debate on social media? They always want to prove their points, and they will take you on personally if you disagree with them. There are now a number of former pastors in this category.
- Political comments. If you make a political comment in today’s incendiary environment, you will offend someone. The persons you offend may just be the ones who push you out the church.
- Taking on church members. I cringe when I see church members posting critical comments against a pastor or church staff member. I cringe even more when the pastor decides to take them on in a public forum. Most readers have no idea the context of the conflict. They just see their pastor acting like a jerk.
- Criticizing other people. I have a friend who served as pastor of four churches. He loved criticizing well-known pastors, celebrities, Christian leaders, and others on social media. He was fired from his last church without a stated cause. I believe I know why. And he has gone three years without finding another place in ministry.
- Unsavory comments. A pastor or church staff member making lewd or suggestive comments on social media gains nothing, even if it’s a quote from a movie or someone else. The consequences are always negative.
This post is not about pastors losing their prophetic voices. It’s about pastors and church staff losing their ministries because of their failure to control their digital tongues.
“If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself . . . (The tongue) pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.” (James 1:26, 3:6)
Social media is not the place to vent or to wage petty battles.
The consequences are simply too great.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on March 6, 2017. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.