There is a lot of useless information out there.
Fake news sites publish fake stories and place them on social media where many of them quickly go viral.
Because they confirm what people want to be true (or affirm what they already think), they share them with others, and these stories take on lives 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.
While some of the stories I’ve seen in recent months 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 spam emails still make it to my iPhone and iPad. Every evening I have to spend several minutes deleting all the spam messages on these two devices.
This post isn’t primarily 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, misleading and often negative 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 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.
With the growing number of fake news sites and the prevalence of fake news on social media, it is imperative that ministers ensure that they do not cite information from questionable sources or fake news sites.
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.
Dennis Bickers is a church consultant and author. He served previously as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Indiana, for 20 years followed by a 14-year ministry as a resource minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky. He blogs at Bivocational Ministry, where a version of this article first appeared. It is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @DennisBickers.