Thursday, December 1, 2016

Fake news, spam and sermons

There is a lot of useless information out there. Fake news sites have been blamed by some, including President Obama, for the defeat of Hillary Clinton in our recent election. These sites publish fake stories and place them on social media where many of them quickly go viral. Because they confirm what people on both political sides want to be true, they share them with others, and these stories take on a life of their own. Many of these fake stories are spread through Facebook which has promised to clamp down on them.

It's a shame that many of these fake stories are spread by Christian people. In the recent election my Facebook was filled with such stories being shared by Christians on both side of the political spectrum. While some of these stories sounded plausible, many of them were so far out there that one would think no discerning person would spread them without confirming whether or not they were true. I'm concerned that some of these stories are written just to see if gullible Christians will believe them.

And then there is spam. Every day my computer is filled with spam emails. I've been able to block many of these on my computer, but because Apple doesn't care about spam these emails still make it to my I-Phone and I-Pad. Every evening I have to spend several minutes deleting all the spam messages on these two devices. I see many complaints on the Internet about Apple's refusal to correct this issue. Since they've not addressed it I can only assume they don't care about the inconvenience. It's about time to get a new phone so this will be one of my considerations when I start looking.

This post isn't really a rant about fake news sites and spam. It is meant to be a caution to those of us who speak to our congregations each week. People are inundated everyday with false and misleading information. When they come to church they need to hear a message that is filled with truth and hope. After listening to bad news all week from the various news channels they want to hear something positive, something that will inspire them and fill them with hope in something eternal.

Yes, sometimes we have to speak on difficult subjects. Sometimes we are going to step on toes, but even these messages do not have to be negative or delivered in a mean-spirited manner.

Several years ago I realized that my sermons had become rather negative in recent months. As I reviewed my sermons during that time I was convicted about my negativity. The next Sunday I apologized to the congregation for this and promised that I would be diligent in making sure that did not happen again. Even when I need to speak on difficult subjects I can do so in a positive way and not come across as beating up the people.

We also need to ensure that we use reliable resources as we prepare our messages. It's very easy in this time of social media to grab information from one of these fake news sites to use in an illustration. If we do that it will eventually undermine our credibility, and people will begin to question everything we say.

If God has entrusted you to preach to His people He has given you a tremendous privilege and an even greater responsibility. Those who teach are under greater judgment. This is not a call that should be taken lightly. Speak the truth in love. Do so with authority and only after careful study and much prayer.

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