Your life-on-life discipleship of those in your charge is the more compelling witness the Spirit will use to save and grow and keep them. You don’t need a social media presence. You don’t need a clever strategy. You just need to be around them. That will be your greatest and most Spirit-laden apologetic against which no question can stand.
Last week, a young adult I pastor came into my office to ask about something he’d seen. It was a video of a deconstructionist influencer on TikTok “proving” that the Gospels are unreliable. He wanted to know what I thought. The video had shaken his faith. Videos on social media like these have millions to hundreds of millions of views. If you pastor younger generations, you’re likely already aware of this new reality. If you’re not, welcome.
The thought of those in our ministries being drawn away by a stranger through a screen is gut-wrenching. As I’ve talked with friends who pastor junior high through college-age students, many feel daunted by this new trend. “We’re only with them a few hours a week, these accounts are available to them all day every day!” “Should we start accounts where we combat these videos?”
What is a pastor to do? How do we who’ve been charged with shepherding younger generations respond to this new reality and the threat it poses to those in our care? Before I try to answer that, let me first tell you what the answer is not.
As much as we might feel the need to, the response is not to go on TikTok or Instagram and watch every video we can find to know all the gauntlets being thrown. One reason is because the sheer amount of content out there is just too much for any pastor to try and get a hand on. To try to do so will only exhaust and discourage us. While some familiarity with the posts is wise, too much focus on them will distract us from who truly needs it—our students and young adults. Rather than the trend, they must command our attention.
Moreover, focusing on the content isn’t the right response because the questions being asked aren’t new. Sure, there are new angles and implications because of the new realities of our day–like LGBTQ+ issues; but the foundational questions underneath every point being raised by Exvangelical, deconstructionist, or atheist influencers are ones the Church has been asked and answered for nearly 2,000 years. It’s the medium that’s new, not the questions. The Church has a treasure trove of answers in its attic. We just need to open it up and familiarize ourselves with them.
At the same time, while old answers are what we have, new ways of putting them are what we need. Pastors should seek fresh presentations of old answers to fresh spins on old questions. Thankfully, we have contemporary resources just for that. There are plenty out there that you can find via YouTube or TikTok. These resources are a great help to both pastors and students because they answer the questions being raised in ways that most resonate with our context.
All of that being said, I strongly believe that familiarizing ourselves with the available resources is only secondary work. Worth a measured dose of our time? Absolutely! The most vital response we should have? Not by a long shot.
A Tried and True Response
So, what should we do? I want to propose the blueprint Paul gives in 1 Thessalonians 2:8:
“We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.”
This latest Christian-adverse social media trend is tricky to deal with, but I am convinced that the primary response must be life-on-life discipleship. What this moment demands of pastors of younger generations is that we keep doing what pastors have done since the dawn of the church. In our teaching, across coffee tables, at In-N-Out, by hospital beds, on drives home from youth group, we give the gospel and we give our own selves. The “answer,” as it has always been, is life-on-life discipleship.
Why is this the particular solution to deconstructionist social media? Because we have something the influencer on a device doesn’t: physical proximity.