This is part six in a series of blog posts I’m calling Seven Plagues of the Evangelical American Church. These “plagues” are actually traits that I’ve identified and believe are causing more harm than good to churches in America. You can read the first post here.
The sixth trait that I’ve identified is what I’m calling “HYPE!!!!” What type of behavior does this this plague concern? To best illustrate, I have mined social media and found a sampling of posts from actual churches. Here is what they said:
“We are blown away by what GOD did last night!”
“Tomorrow is the big day!”
“The best is yet to come!
“Share a picture and tag us on social media!”
“We can’t wait to worship with you this weekend!”
“This past weekend at #examplechurch was incredible.”
“The future is bright at #examplechurch!”
“Thank you for joining us this weekend at #examplechurch. We can’t wait to see you again next weekend!”
“You’re always welcome here! We can’t wait to see you this morning at #examplechurch!”
“It’s a great weekend to be in the house!”
(Note: I changed the name of churches to “Example Church.”)
On the surface, these posts may seem harmless. One may ask, “What is wrong with these posts? They are simply positive and encouraging. Should these posts be negative instead?” I would answer that, of course, churches should be positive and encouraging. And no, churches should not be overtly negative. But there is a danger in these “HYPE!!!” posts of communicating the wrong message.”. I want to give you three primary concerns with “HYPE!!!!” posts:
(1) These posts give the impression that everything at Example Church is great all the time.
Posts like these are great for public relations. They convey that Example Church is the happy and blessed place. Example Church doesn’t seem to have any problems. Example Church seems like a church where nothing ever goes wrong. God seems to be blessing Example Church more than other churches in the region. Example Church seems to never have anything bad happen… ever.
Most people intuitively know that there is no perfect church. But a consistent amount of “HYPE!!!!” posts seek to shade Example Church as special, unique, pure and undefiled. Example Church is a place where everything is great all the time. Why aren’t you coming to Example Church yet?
At the very best, this is false advertising. No church is perfect. No church is Utopian. People know this. Therefore, churches like Example Church are advertising to the coveted seeker that their church is better than the church the person currently is a member of or the church that they have left. Simply come to Example Church and everything will be okay.
(2) These posts give the unrealistic expectation that Christians should always be happy and excited all the time.
“HYPE!!!!” posts are attractive to people looking for a positive church experience because they seem to promise a positive church experience. But what happens when the experience is not so positive? What happens if the church experience itself does not actually help the person looking for help?
Real people who attend real churches have real problems. Situations will not always be positive and encouraging. Sometimes people search for a church where they can be real with their problems and emotions. A person who is mourning a loss or going through problematic emotions will probably not be helped by mere shallow hype.
(3) These posts are boastful and church-glorifying.
I didn’t share any examples, but many times churches will, for lack of a better word, brag about attendance or baptism numbers. I’ve even seen posts from churches that make statements such as, “This is not normal!” What’s not normal? God working in this church in this way. These type of posts are inherently self-glorifying. No matter how one shades what’s being communicated, a boastful post or advertisement glorifies the church, which indirectly glorifies the church leadership.
(1) Tone down the “HYPE!!!!” and get real.
Before every post, whoever is posting on social media for a church needs to ask themselves, “What exactly am I trying to convey?” This is a heart issue. And if there is someone directing these posts, then that person needs to check his or her heart as well. It’s fine to encourage people to come to worship, but if that’s pretty much all one is doing on social media, there may be a problem with pride. Season your posts with more than just marketing and PR techniques.
(2) Realize that it’s perfectly normal and Christ-dependent to not always be excited and positive.
People are going to struggle. They are going to have problematic emotions that they are working through with God’s grace. I’m not advocating posting negative or depressing posts. But I am advocating posting realistic and helpful posts. “HYPE!!!!” posts are not always helpful. Sometimes people need to know they have permission to seek Christ and the Bride of Christ for help. Perhaps ask for prayer requests in posts. Perhaps encourage others to share their pain in an appropriate manner.
(3) Give God the glory for big baptism days – and not in a false humble sort of way.
Bad Example: “We had 74 people baptized today! God is blessing our church in an unordinary way. This is not normal!”
First, how does one know it’s not normal? It seems pretty normal in that many churches all across the country report baptism numbers like this. Therefore, this type of post attempts to set up Example Church as a recipient of God’s special blessing that He seems to be withholding to other churches. This is quite possibly a prideful post; pride from the leadership and pride in one’s own church.
Better Example: “It was an especially blessed day to be at worship today. We saw many people baptized. God is so good!”
Detractors will say “numbers are important” as they seek to justify their use of being specific on how many people were baptized. Instead, simply comment on how great the day was to let people know what happened who may have missed it. But to use your great day to advertise your church brand can be prideful and even narcissistic.
In conclusion, church leaders should rethink “HYPE!!!!” posts. They should ask themselves, “What am I really trying to communicate with these posts? Am I being prideful? Am I being competitive? Are they necessary? How can these posts truly glorify Christ and His Kingdom without setting my church a part as “special” and unique? There’s a fine line between celebration of Christ and celebration of self. Of all organizations that exist, the Bride of Christ should be above reproach in this area.