The change of scenery is nice, I’ll admit, but going on “vacation” with four kids under 7 is not really a vacation per se.
When most people imagine vacations, they think of relaxing on the beach, going to Disney World, or camping. What we experienced recently was more like an elongated school field trip, but with fewer chaperones and more spankings.
It’s pure madness. Mayhem, I tell you. God has graciously gifted us these four precious, crazed, sleep-deprived, sugar-imbibing, sun-burnt children. I love them dearly, but, like clockwork, just as my wife and I sit down for some R&R, a short, snot-nosed-figure enters the room walking like a zombie fresh out of whatever zombies eat.
This kind of reminds me of the Christian media crisis we’re all in. All of these self-proclaimed Know-Somethings on the web, those handsomely-logoed networks that sell us books, demand our eyes, and host big, fancy conferences; they really, really want our attention
There are so many “Christian” authors, blogs, websites, YouTube channels, vlogs, and podcasts to choose from. The evangelical market is completely saturated with opinions and self-proclaimed discernment experts, and, like my children on our little family field-trip, it can be challenging to make sense of it all.
Everyone has a voice, and everyone claims to be a Know-Something.
Spongebob Squarepants Syndrome
When they tug on our shirts with peanut butter on their hands, or when they throw all of our toothbrushes into the toilet just so they can get our attention, what should we do? Can we trust them to tell us scriptural truth and glorify Christ (Col. 3:17)? How do you know when it’s time to stop reading their stuff, going to their conferences, supporting their network?
There’s a danger out there for Christian media consumers like you and I that I like to call the “Spongebob Squarepants Syndrome.” When my son and daughter sit down to watch Spongebob, they laugh during the entire first episode. They think Patrick is hilarious!
After the first episode, however, they turn into mindless blobs. They’re not even thinking about what they’re watching. They aren’t laughing anymore. They’ve accepted the basic realities of Spongebob, so whatever happens is kind of normal.
That’s what constant exposure to Christian media can do. We can turn off our brains and become mindless blobs, victims of the Spongebob Syndrome. We stop discerning, even though we’re commanded to (2 Cor. 10:5; Rom. 12:2).
I’m painfully aware that this post seems a bit, well, meta in its content. I’m blogging on the internet to help you know which blogs to read on the internet. I assure you that, if thingsabove.us ever meets one of these criteria, it will be time to tune us out as well. When a blog, vlog, podcast, website, or Christian organization does one of these things, it’s time to ditch them.
When Enough Is Enough
If they invite influencers, despite questionable beliefs, onto their platform because they need clicks to meet advertiser demands, it’s time to turn them off. By choosing clicks over our spiritual well-being, the blog, site, network, or podcast has broken our trust. True disciples of Christ (obviously) want to know Jesus better (John 17:3). We are dying-to-ourselves disciples, so shouldn’t being a disciple affect the way we view Christian media as a whole? We should strive to be edified in the faith, challenged to greater precision in our doctrine, and introduced to books that will strengthen our walk with God.
Therefore, by bringing “Christian” influencers who deny key tenets of the faith or have never shared the Gospel publicly, they are proving that they only want us for our clicks. They’re pulling a fast one on us. They’re using us. They aren’t seeking our best, because they’re introducing questionable beliefs into our lives. They are yoking themselves with unbelievers. “For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14).
If they use the Gospel as a token, and not as the only means through which God redeems and sanctifies, delete them. When feeding the poor, welfare, reparations, and gender “equality” get squished into the Gospel, it only serves as a token — a means to an end. The Gospel is Christ and Christ is the Gospel, so pushing the Gospel to the fringes is pushing your only hope for eternal satisfaction and joy to the fringes.
In fact, they likely have another agenda in mind, and it’s usually politically motivated, not for our spiritual growth. They are distracting us with a worldly view of righteousness, rather than the glorious righteousness that we have in Jesus. They may pay lip-service to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, but to them, it’s only a way to get you in the door.
This becomes incredibly clear in the amount of space the Gospel is given on their platform compared to whatever social ill they want to fix. While they may use the “Gospel” to strong-arm you to participate in their pet cause, the Bible calls the Good News “the power of God unto salvation for all who believe” (Rom. 1:16). The root issue of all true social ills — be it abuse, racism, or abortion — is sin. “Social action” is merely putting a band-aid on a corpse (Matt. 8:22). It can’t raise spiritually dead people.
The only thing that can truly deliver abortionists, racists, or abusers from a life of unspeakable wickedness is the pure, unvarnished Gospel. This is why Christian organizations, to truly be Christian, must give the Gospel the greatest space on their platform. After their audience has been regenerated by the Spirit — the Spirit, the Word, and the local church will teach them what they’ve been freely given in Christ, providing the freedom sin they so desperately need (Rom. 6:5–7; Gal. 6:14).
The Gospel transforms sinners into saints and brings a dead heart to life because Christ — the resurrection and the life — is found in it. An organization that moves the Gospel to the fringes is powerless and feckless, having a “form of godliness, but denying its power.”
If they spend more time talking about popular movies or music than the nature of God, God’s wrath against sin, or the glory and foolishness of the cross, say goodbye. The popular ministry principle, “What you win them with is what you win them to,” applies here. If a Christian blogger wins readers through entertainment, they’re going to get entertainment-hungry people rather than Christ-hungry, people. Since they have entertainment-hungry people, in order to keep them, this strategy will inform everything they do.
Anyone that claims to be a “Christian organization” but distracts their people from, you know, Christ, is failing at being a “Christian” organization. It’s obvious that their demographic isn’t growing Christians like you and I are.
They want a larger audience that spends an inordinate amount of time dwelling on things in the world. You and I aren’t of this world; we’re different (1 John 2:15). In fact, I’m uncomfortable in this world and need to learn more about the Kingdom that’s coming. Those who follow Christ closely are destined to suffer, and popular TV shows and movies don’t help me face it. We need Christ.
If a Christian podcast or website claims to be a beacon of light but spends entire episodes talking about movies, TV, or music, quit wasting your time. You don’t need movies to help you understand the Bible. You need the Bible to understand the Bible (Acts 8:30–31).
When they constantly apologize for or have obvious disdain for the church for which Christ shed his blood, run away. There are legitimate issues within the church as a whole, including abuse, cover-ups, and sundry evils. When you get a bunch of sinners together, though most are trying to be godly, bad things will happen. Church discipline will need to take place. Elders will need to step down. Pastors will need to give up the pulpit.
The problem comes when we forget the church’s glorious identity as the Bride of Christ. When we fall apart in our Christian walks, we have to remember that our identity is in Christ and not our “goodness.” The same is true of the church. Her identity is beloved, blood-bought, the Body of Christ Himself, sustained by the Father from century to century. The church is God’s means to train His people (Eph. 4:11–15).
When survival blogs, discernment sites, or podcasts thrash the church, speak lowly of her, show irreverence towards her function and practice, these people don’t love her as God does. This disdain is revealed through sarcastic hit pieces, constant fear-mongering, and an overall ignorance of Biblical ecclesiology. Christ is the Head, and He is responsible for removing her lampstand when she is no longer an effective witness (Rev. 2:5).
Our flesh loves to be entertained by revenge. Don’t go there. Revenge is the Lord’s (Deut. 32:25). Run away from organizations that obscure or seek to replace the church. Revere the church, and trust the Lord to deal with unfaithfulness within it.
When they emphasize hot takes over wisdom-filled content, stop clicking their links. We love big personalities, don’t we? The brasher the better. The more gregarious one is, the more clicks we give it. Hot takes are all the rage right now, but a steady diet of them, particularly within a Christian ethos, rots the soul. We become unbalanced and uncharitable, and ultimately unhelpful (Col. 4:6). I’ve fallen into this trap myself; anything less than the most extreme position possible feels like the music ended without a resolving chord. Any interaction without a Twitter burn is vanilla. Uninteresting.
There always has to be an enemy, always an opposing side. Someone high up in the ranks needs to get canned. A revolution has to start before it’s too late!
As Pastor Allen Nelson IV has written: methodology reveals theology.
These YouTube channels or podcasts have bought into the lie that big, brash, extreme personalities and hot takes must move content, rather than the providence of God. A big audience to them means big blessing, rather than big compromises (Matt. 7:13–14). In their eyes, Content is King, not the Sovereign Maker of Heaven and Earth. We need discernment blogs, but this win-at-all-costs attitude will rot the organization inside and out, as every fact, everything, will be molded carefully to fit into whatever narrative they want to create. They aren’t pursuing truth; they’re looking for more followers. Truth always wins, even without their help (Is. 46:10; 55:11).
If a content creator tells you that unless you support them, Christianity will be lost forever in whatever field they defend, they are wickedly proud and have made themselves like God. They are not. Christ sustains His people.
Last, if they ignore critics and questions, or paint question-makers as the opposition, click that red “X.” Organizational size is no excuse here. If an organization or content-creator is so proud that they don’t need to answer questions or change what they’re doing because they’ve enjoyed a bit of success, they are operating like a Fortune-500 company and not brothers and sisters in Christ (Prov. 27:6; Jas. 1:19).
Proverbs has lots to say about ignoring counsel or the rebuke of the wise — it shows you’re actually a proud fool (Prov. 12:15). How many times has a Christian content creator invited someone onto their platform known for questionable or outright heretical beliefs, or written something clearly unbiblical, and has painted us, “the mob,” as needlessly concerned? A Christian organization reveals its foolishness, shortsightedness, and lack of usefulness when it partners with heretics or writes imprecisely, while claiming their critics are the real problem. Stop listening to them.