The Social Internet Threatens The People You Lead | Chris Martin

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Our returning guest Chris Martin shares from his new book “The Wolf In Their Pockets” and how the social internet threatens the people you lead

Podcast Transcription


Jason Hamrock: Well, hey Chris, welcome back to the podcast. How are you doing, man?

Chris Martin: I’m well. How are you guys?

Jason Hamrock: I’m doing great. I think this is your fourth time being back on our show if I remember correctly.

Jason Hamrock: I think you might be right, I’m not sure. It’s been a handful of times. Is that a record?

Jason Hamrock: You have a lot of space on our website, so we may have to charge you. I don’t know.

Bart Blair: You’ve got to check your frequent flier miles here on the Missional Marketing podcast. Yeah, it’s true.

Jason Hamrock: No, every time we have you on, we’re just super excited because you come with a wealth of knowledge and this show is no different, I’m really pumped about what we’re going to talk about. And you got some news on a new release on a book, and that’s what we’re going to dig into. So everybody, if you’re you’re listening to this, this is going to be incredibly important for you to hear this message that we’re going to talk about. But before we get there, Chris, let’s give our audience, for those who are new, a little bit about you and a little bit about your background and and just give us some insight into your bio.

Chris Martin: Sure. My name is Chris, I live just outside Nashville, Tennessee, with my wife and my daughter, and our dog. And I spent seven years working in various digital marketing capacities at Lifeway Christian Resources here in the Nashville area. I ran some blogs and helped some VPs like Ed Stetzer and Eric Geiger run their blogs. I helped organize and shepherd the dozen or so blogs that all the different ministries of Lifeway have, and then eventually led social media strategy at Lifeway and did that for a bunch of years, I was there for seven years. And then I kind of started getting sick of working specifically in social media all the time and playing, you know, PR defense and all of that. It was like fighting fires every day. And so it was fun in some respect, but also just super draining because it kind of became, you know, like, who’s mad at us online today and what do we do about it kind of a thing.

Chris Martin: So I, in September 2020, changed jobs and went to Moody Publishers, which is the publishing arm of Moody Bible Institute. You may have heard of the school in downtown Chicago, they have Moody Radio as well, and Moody publishers. And I work there as, I think my official title is a content marketing editor, which it’s like it’s kind of right, but it also doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know the context. I help run, we created a website when I got there because, you know, we’re a Christian publisher. But Moody Publishers was not doing a lot on the Internet at the time. And other than just having basic social media and they said, well, what if we just saw ourselves as a publisher as having a bit broader of a responsibility? We’re not going to stop publishing books, but what if we started making some more long-form articles available online for people to help not only introduce them to our books? And yeah, we hope that happens, but also there are people Googling faith and life questions every day who are coming across some answers that are probably less than trustworthy or definitely less than trustworthy, and the internet is full of helpful content, but it could always use a little bit more, especially when it comes to matters of life and faith from a Christian perspective. And so I run a website called Bible for Life at Moody Publishers, that’s really purposed to help anybody, Christian or not, who are looking for answers to their faith questions on the Internet.

Chris Martin: And so that’s what I do with like my day job. But I also, for fun, study social media, and not only how it affects us, though certainly that, but also just like what’s happening on the Internet. Like what are some Internet cultural things? What does that say about us more broadly, like sociologically, or spiritually? I love studying that kind of stuff, kind of as a call it an armchair sociologist, but it’s a blast and super fascinating about just what the Internet says about us.

Chris Martin: And wrote a book last year called Terms of Service, which I think one of my four interviews is about. And that one I’ve always described that one as that’s like kind of like a mirror, like, hey, what’s social media doing to me and what should I do about it? That was kind of the purpose of that book. And this one we’re talking about today is a little bit more for leaders, and parents even so, whether a church leader or a parent, to help answer the question of like, okay, what is social media doing to the people I love, I lead, I care about, and how can I better love and disciple and lead them even as I see social media discipling them more than just about anything. And so that’s kind of the hope of this, and that’s borne out of a lot of writing and ministry and other speaking things I do. And I heard, quite frankly, I heard from a lot of pastors after this last book, hey, this is a really helpful tool. We’d love it if you would write one specifically for pastors and leaders and parents. And I said, done, I’ll give it a shot. And so that’s kind of what this book was born out of, more of like a need than anything.

Jason Hamrock: Okay. So the title of the book for everybody, you haven’t said it yet, is The Wolf In Their Pockets. The Wolf In Their Pockets. And like you said, it is more of a leadership book because your subtitle is, 13 Ways The Social Internet Threatens the People You Lead. We’re all leading somebody, if you’re alive, you are leading somebody if you’re somewhat of an adult. Right. That could be people at work, and that’s probably the main target audience, but I want you to speak into that. But it also could be, you know, our kids, right, our spouse. It’s not that we’re leading our spouse, but this would speak into that as well. And so I guess, so you kind of stated that pastors were one of the main reasons why you wrote this book, which is really important because there’s not a lot of content out there that should inform you. And I’m really excited for you to kind of like, explain these 13 different chapters basically, on how you structured this. So explain a little bit of that and then, you use the term stage to describe the entertainment media and mobile devices, explain that term.

Chris Martin: Yeah. Yeah. So the book, like I said, Terms of Service, the first one was a book that was really, if I was ever going to write anything on social media, I felt like it was the thing I needed to write first. Like it was sort of a manifesto on social media, like, here’s what social media is, and here’s what it’s doing to us, and here’s what we can do about that. And it was like, yeah, it was something I felt that I needed to do.

Chris Martin: This one, The Wolf in Their Pockets, was much more of, in my view, a response to a need that I continued to hear about. I continued, you know, there there are books on like how to engage technology wisely. You have Tony Rankine’s 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You. You have Andy Crouch’s Tech-Wise Family. Those things are more specific to the technology of phones and other forms of technology. But I frankly haven’t seen a ton of leadership books around social media, specifically, like phones and social media are different, believe it or not, like those conversations are different. And so that’s where, you know, when I was hearing so much feedback to the first book on, hey, this is helpful, would you do something specifically for pastors and lay leaders, and it could even apply to parents. So I think a parenting social media book would have its own flavor, and this is not that. And so I said, yeah, I was always in dialog with a dozen or so pastors as I was writing this book and even in the preparation stages who were like, yeah, this is a big need, we could really use something.

Chris Martin: And so man, I even sent out a form to a bunch of pastors before I even started writing it. Like, if I were to write a book like this, what topics and themes do you think would be necessary? And it was fascinating to get some feedback on that because not if it was like, oh wow, I hadn’t thought of that. But it was like, okay, definitely need to include that chapter because it was in my mind and six people said that it should be included. And so the table of contents, which is 13 general areas of life that social media may kind of be threatening and poisoning in the lives of people, was really born out of a lot of conversations with pastors and lay church leaders who see social media changing and discipling, frankly, the people that they love and want to disciple. And so that’s how it kind of came about. And who’s it for very plainly is if you are influencing or leading people in any capacity. Naturally, pastors fall into that category, community group leaders, and you know, lay church leaders. But then also like I think parents can benefit from this, there are a couple of parenting-specific examples, but while I think it would be appropriate perhaps for another book to be written on parenting and social media, this isn’t that. I do think it’s probably 70% helpful in that regard. So, yeah, that’s, that’s a bit of that, and we can get to the stage… Unless you want to have a follow-up question.

Jason Hamrock: Well yeah, then I want you to explain, like break down how you actually structured each chapter because I think that’s, that’s really insightful.

Chris Martin: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So Bart noticed this, and he said it in our kind of pre-show discussion. And it’s not, you know, I think a lot of authors do this, but they don’t really talk about it, and so it’s always fun when a reader picks up on it. I consider myself a pretty efficient writer, I shouldn’t say that, I know that I’m a pretty efficient writer, I don’t have some sort of false humility. Like I have other friends who are professional writers, like authors, who say that I’m one of the most efficient writers that they know. So like, I can write a 5000-word book chapter in like three hours, no problem. So like, I’m a pretty efficient author, and the reason I’m able, like, one of the ingredients of my efficiency is I don’t like to mess with the structure of a chapter. So we’re getting a little bit like inside baseball in writing here for a second. But for a book that isn’t meant to be hyper-creative or artsy or something, you know, like the stuff I’m doing, that’s just practical, get the information out there and let people use it however they see fit, Is I want to find a skeleton, I want to find a formula that’s kind of the same for every chapter, and then just use that same formula the whole time. Because I think the reader appreciates that because there’s a rhythm, and if there’s a part that they don’t find helpful in each chapter, they can just skip it, that’s fine, I’m not offended. And so if the reader can identify the rhythm, then they can sort of skim around and bounce around to what’s most helpful. And as a writer, it’s helpful to me because I’m not going into each chapter thinking, oh man, how am I going to structure this chapter? It’s like, no, I’m going to say, problem, what does Scripture say, and what do we do about that?

Chris Martin: So to get into the specifics, virtually every chapter except, actually we could talk about this if you want, but we don’t have to the first one does not follow this formula, and there’s a reason for that. But all 12 other chapters, not including the intro and epilog, follow the same formula of, hey, here’s a little illustration of what social media is doing to us in this realm and why that’s a problem. Here’s what Scripture says about why that’s not good. And then, the third part, if you will, is here’s what we as leaders and parents and pastors can do to push back against this sort of malformation that social media is bringing upon the people that we love. So problem, scripture, practical response. The first chapter isn’t that way because it was part of my proposal, and I hadn’t settled on a formula yet. And so the first chapter was good enough and we all liked it, that I was like, well, I’m not going to go back and shoehorn it into my formula because it’s already written for the proposal. So the first one diverges, but then the rest of it hops right into that format

Jason Hamrock: There you go, you’ve got the inside scoop now of the mind of Chris.

Bart Blair: Hey, Chris, let’s talk a little bit about some of the problems that you cite, some of the things that people are being discipled in a less than helpful way. One of the things that I noted is, is that you did some research in preparing to write the book and you asked pastors how they believe social media has affected their church members. Share a little bit about what you learned and some of the key things that came from that information and what kind of stuff made it into the book based on that information.

Chris Martin: Yeah, good question. So I’m not going to be able to remember all of the responses, obviously, because like I said, I was talking to pastors throughout. At the beginning, it almost went down over time, like the number. Like I sent out a big old survey at the beginning, I forget how many to kind of gauge general topics. And then as I moved on, you know, just because of time and such, I kind of whittled down to about a dozen or so pastors that I was emailing. Like I emailed the first draft of the book to, and stuff like that. Counselors as well, like Christian counselors, because dealing with some anxiety, like the chapter on anxiety, I wanted to have like counselors eyes on and stuff like that.

Chris Martin: So, without oversimplifying, but without also listing everything, the most common…So I’ll say this first, every single person who responded to my survey, whichever one it was, about topics that should be included. I think it was all of them, 100%, said that conspiracy theories need to be talked about in this book, they may merit their own chapter or just a significant portion of a chapter. But like everyone I asked, and then I asked them to kind of elaborate or tell a story that was anonymous. You know, I wouldn’t use the details, but I may use generally their story in the book. And there are a few of those in the book, of like why this issue is important to you. And for the topic of conspiracy theories, just story after story, if I could make like a mesh image of all of them, like fuze them all together, it’s, hey, I’m a pastor, I’ve been pastoring for a long time, maybe have 1 or 2 people a year come up to me after a sermon and bring up some wild, either theological or current event conspiracy theory/wacky theory to me whether theological or world event, you know, usually surrounding the end of the earth or the Antichrist or something like that. They said, you know, I used to have 1 or 2 people a year or so come up to me and do that kind of thing, but they said in the last 3 or 4 years they were having multiple a week come up to them. With like, did you hear about that? Why didn’t you mention this? Are you afraid to talk about this? Are they going to come to get you if you talk about this? And pastors feel, I kind of had a sense that this was the case, because, again, I pay attention to Internet culture and I know how prevalent conspiracy theories are, which that’s a loaded term. And let me say that I’m not trying to, like, poke fun at conspiracy theories or stuff like that. Conspiracy theories plainly are just theories of conspiracy, whether or not they’re true, some of them may end up panning out to be true. The point is their theories about people who are, creating and you know, sowing discord and that sort of thing. So there are plenty of those around any number of world events that have come up in the last few years. And whether or not you find yourself agreeing with them, we should all maybe agree that pastors probably shouldn’t be, harangued at the end of sermons to like, hey, why didn’t you bring up my pet thing, whatever that is? And the general consensus I was getting from well over a dozen pastors was this is happening exponentially more than it ever has. And yeah, it’s A, kind of annoying, but B, it also really troubles me for like the people in my congregation. Where are they getting this stuff? Clearly like they’re being discipled by social media. So that was the most common by far.

Chris Martin: And then after that, matters of anxiety, especially among youth ministers that I spoke with, the stats reflect that regarding teenagers and anxiety and social media use, especially among teenage girls, which we may have talked about before.

Chris Martin: And authority was another big one. I’m just looking at the table of contents, like this kind of goes hand in hand with the conspiracy theories thing, but pastors reported to me of just like getting challenged by church members in some really antagonistic ways that they had never really had to deal with before. Basically their theory, and I agree with their theory, is that social media has made it such that like, authority doesn’t matter and anybody can make noise about anything. And, you know, like whether that’s like cancel culture or whatever, like if you make enough noise that we’re angry about situation A, and you should suffer because of that, pastors are feeling that too. Basically, they feel, the ones that I spoke with, that maybe their people are being emboldened by social media that if you just get angry enough, or get enough people with their torches and pitchforks, you can run somebody out. I mean, look, this isn’t new to the church. this kind of thing has happened for a while. But what the pastors were saying was, they feel like the volume’s just been turned up on it, right? The intensity and the frequency are being turned up, like, they’re having to deal with problem church members that had never shown any sign of being that way before. And so a lot of it was just generally, conflict, and there’s not a conflict-specific chapter, there is like a live peaceably chapter. But generally speaking, all of them were falling into that sort of realm.

Bart Blair: One of the things that stood out to me in one of the chapters, and I can’t remember which one when you talked about pastors citing people, and this kind of goes to the conspiracy theories, people buying into misinformation and disinformation. And we know, we’ve seen, you know, the whole fake news thing on the Internet. Christians are not the only people who fall for fake news, so let’s be clear on that. But pastors have a direct responsibility to shepherd the people in their congregation and help them discover truth, right? I heard somebody say this, maybe this is in your book, or maybe heard somebody else say this, that truth is stubborn and some way, somehow the truth will always somehow come out. But sometimes there’s a whole lot of mud that you have to weed through in order to get to that truth.

Bart Blair: And, you know, just to give a practical example, for those that are listening who might be pastors or church leaders, you know, one of the things in that section of the book that you talked about, misinformation and disinformation, you know, you focus on the fact that as believers, we are to focus in on truth and how does a pastor shepherd their congregation to focus on that? Well, your advice, very simply put, is to actually model and encourage more reading of the Bible and other sound books that fuel truth versus that misinformation or disinformation. Right? Creating a culture in your church where people actually value spending time in God’s word and in things that support God’s word versus spending more time on the social Internet and the things that are actually fueling just the opposite of that. That’s at least, that was my takeaway, did I interpret your chapter properly?

Chris Martin: Yeah. Yeah. And I think I maybe say this once or twice in the book, but I think I only did it once or twice, but you could say this throughout is like none of these things are silver bullets. So if you’re looking for a silver bullet to any of these things, you found the wrong book and I apologize. Good luck finding one that has that. But like, yeah, I think I’ve been a part of a couple of churches now that have a really robust reading culture, is maybe what I call it, and if not what I call it, what I should have called it. Like a culture that values being well-read, and I mean like what that looks like is I’ve been a part of churches that literally have like book clubs, these aren’t Bible studies. Sometimes they could take place in like a Sunday school setting or whatever, and they don’t even always need to be Christian books. Like maybe you just read a really helpful book that has like good cultural analysis. Or helps you, you know, has some good research in it about, you know, like how…I think I forget, I was just thinking of a title. There’s like a good study, a book that has a ton of studies in it about how boyhood is kind of going away. I remember reading that with some friends from church and, like, how helpful and interesting that was. It’s like, what do we think about boys becoming men and how is that changing? And so like I’ve always found that if you can create a reading culture in your church, where like, hey, we’re going to commit to each other to spend maybe a little bit more time in slower media like books, rather than just going with the flow and always be scrolling, then I think that can go a long way toward becoming more wise consumers of media.

Chris Martin: Because that’s like, look, I use TikTok. Some people might immediately turn off this podcast because they heard I use TikTok, but like it’s my favorite social media app since Vine because it embodies the spirit of Vine so well. And Vine is my favorite social media app ever but I like short-form videos, and I especially like the kinds of comedy that you can do in a 30-second video on the Internet is just, it’s my favorite, I love it so much. But if you aren’t careful, if you just go with the flow and that’s what so much of this book and my other one was about, is like if you just aren’t intentional and you just go with the flow, you can end up scrolling past either Instagram reels or Tiktoks or YouTube videos that start bending toward a sort of ideological bent that can go quickly into mis-or-disinformation. And if you aren’t thinking, and you’re just riding the waves, you can end up in a really bad place really quickly. And this is part of what makes social media so inherently insidious. Now, I do think it can be used for good, and I think we’ve talked about that before and we certainly can again here if anybody’s concerned. I do think social media can be used for good, but I do think it is inherently bent toward bad because it’s part of a sinful world, everything is. Is we have to try, and part of the problem with how we consume social media is we are not we are simply not designed to consume information as quickly as we do.

Chris Martin: And I talk about that a bit, I think in that same chapter where part of the reason we fall for mis-and-disinformation isn’t because we’re bad people that want to be led astray, part of it could be that. But part of it is we’re consuming content far faster than we can validate it. And so we scroll past the 15-second TikTok about something that’s going on in the world that’s maybe like sort of conspiracy theory in nature. And then we come across a link on Twitter that kind of reinforces that same thing, and we read it like, oh, that’s interesting. But we never, we’re consuming content so quickly that we’re just like going to Golden Corral Buffet and just stuffing ourselves with food, but we’re never taking the time to think about if what we’re consuming is actually right. And so that’s, I think a lot of us become unintentionally, sort of misdirected by mis-and-disinformation rather than being willfully misdirected. Though eventually, what then compounds, this is how it can get so nasty, is it compounds that we don’t want to be wrong, we’re so prideful that we don’t want to admit that we’re wrong in our thinking, and so we just keep kind of spiraling into this mindset. So yeah.

Jason Hamrock: It seems like, in my mind, when hearing you talk about that, it’s also an issue of relevancy. Like when you are seeing some school board in some other state and there is something wrong there, you automatically go, well I wonder if my school board is doing that? And all of a sudden you go down a trail that you wouldn’t ever go down if you didn’t have social media. And so you allow yourself to get sucked into that, where now that’s like how does that even how is that relevant to my life? And I’ll tell you, the Bible is 100% relevant to your life, so get sucked into that rather than what’s going on in some school board or any kind of issue you want to talk about. I’m sure you’ve you addressed that as well.

Chris Martin: Yeah, it’s really easy for us to get caught up in things that simply don’t matter, but we think they do because everybody’s talking about them online, right? When really the best thing for us to do would be to just like keep our head down and like, yeah, by all means, like invest in your community and pay attention. But just because there’s some wacky thing happening at some school board in Florida doesn’t mean it’s going to be happening in yours, and you’ve got to get all, like, vigilant. No, you’re just caring about something that, like, you just like feeling something. In this case, it’s feeling mad, and it’s more interesting than the boring faithfulness of reading scripture or even just reading a book that causes you to slow down a little bit.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, and I think if I’m leading somebody and I catch on to that, it’s an opportunity to, you know, to have some nuggets to share with them. To say, hey, don’t get sucked up into that, that’s a dead end and it’s darkness. Instead, what you’re saying is get sucked up into light and into truth, that’s actually going to be fuel for your body, your mind, your soul, and not this.

Bart Blair: Yeah. Chris, I’m going to backtrack to something that you said earlier. You talked a little bit about authority and what social media, the social Internet, does in relation to the way people view authority. A couple of things that sort of stuck out to me in the book, and I’ll let you comment on them. One of them was, a story that you tell early in the book about a lady who shared something on social media, and then when her pastor reached out to her to talk to her about it, thinking that maybe she needed some encouragement or maybe she needed some help, I can’t remember the specific details of the story, she was offended because her Internet world crossed over into her church world and she had never really intended for that to happen, these two different personas. And I’m bringing that up in this particular context because I think that that also plays into the psyche that people have as it relates to authority and the way that they view authority. I’m going to quote you from the book you wrote, “Social media gives everyone a voice and creates an illusion that all voices are equal.” And I think that that’s true, everybody gets online and everybody believes that the faster they type or the more caps that they use, the more they’ll stand out. Why don’t you talk a little bit about what you see as the fallout of this mindset, the way that people view authority, whether that’s church authority or any authority, and what some of the downfalls are, and maybe what some of the antidotes might be?

Chris Martin: Man, this could be, frankly, the thing that undermines the health of local churches far longer than even a specific issue like conspiracy theories. I think all of these things are like, woven together, and they kind of can’t be untangled. Because, you know, like somebody going down some rabbit hole of conspiratorial thinking can end up, you know, undermining the authority. And so they all kind of weave together, so it’s hard to separate them. But yeah, I think like we have an authority crisis in culture, in general, today, and in some cases, that’s kind of good. Because there’s probably been a lot of wrongly unchecked authority for a long time. You know, I think we’ve seen that play out not only in the church space but beyond. Of like, hey, maybe we should be checking people’s authority a little bit more, not necessarily like in a disrespectful way, but in a like, hey, let’s hold like leaders accountable more. I think that’s good and healthy, we shouldn’t shy away from that. However, what can happen is we can very quickly start to see authority problems everywhere and or like, we can start to accuse people of being bad leaders, abusive leaders, when really we just, like don’t like their style or something like that. And I think that’s where like this can get really bad really quickly.

Chris Martin: So like a perfect example, I mentioned this in the book and I’m not going to go too deep into it because it may even make some people upset listening. But like, when CT did the whole Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast, which is a very well done podcast, and as one who is influenced by Pastor Mark Driscoll, a lot. Like I resounded with so much of what was going on, and the stuff that was talked about there. However, what I saw on the Internet, just like anecdotally, what I saw, was I saw a lot of people like listening to that podcast, which was like a helpful sort of like, hey, let’s try to avoid problems of authority moving forward. Whether or not you liked it or disliked it, it was helpful, at least on a baseline in that regard. However, I saw some people kind of like, who would listen to that, and then wrongfully start to like question their leaders as though they were guilty of the crimes they were listening to. Like the crime, the leadership crimes that they were listening to on this podcast. And I think it’s kind of like the people who get obsessed with murder mystery podcasts and then start trying to become detectives in their town or whatever. Like, I think we can take this train a little too far. Where, hey, yeah, let’s like, check authority, let’s keep things in check. Like, let’s make sure that people aren’t just running rampant and abusing their positions of leadership. However, like, there are more faithful leaders than not I think, maybe I’m wrong, but I think like, we should probably not be holding like every leader in our local church’s feet to the fire just because they do like one thing we don’t like or one thing they do rubs us the wrong way. It’s like, hey, oh, like if you just go to them and say, hey, the way you said that really hurt me, I thought that was hurtful. They’ll probably like apologize for it and say, I’ll try not to do it again. But if you’re like, oh, how could they do this? They’re an abusive leader. I just think it’s very easy to become very accusatorial today because nobody likes authority because the Internet has really flattened everything. And I think there’s tremendous power in that, and we should be very careful about how we wield it. So those are some general thoughts, I think I only partially answered your question.

Bart Blair: No, that’s good.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. I was just going to, I mean, when you’re saying that’s a perfect example of why we let stuff come in and that we think, how do we apply this to our own situation? And maybe you shouldn’t, and you should always lean to the Holy Spirit to guide you in some of that thinking, right, always because you’re not going to be led astray. But to your point, you can’t just turn a blind eye.

Chris Martin: Yeah. And I think you asked about maybe, Bart, like solutions. Again, these, I don’t see as, as silver bullets, but one of the things I say right away as a practical solution for pastors and church leaders is to assume no one trusts you. Now, I don’t say that, I think I say this in the book like I don’t mean to advise you to be paranoid. Like, don’t be like, no one trusts me, like, I have to be defensive all the time. Not like that, but I think I say this again, I say these things and write these things so many times I forget what I say where. But like, imagine if I think of things a lot on a scale of like zero, like negative three to positive three, just like in life, you know. Like if zero is neutral, positive three is awesome, and negative three is awful. Imagine, I think a lot of pastors and church leaders today assume that when it comes to how people in their congregation and or their communities view them regarding like trust in their position, like, they’re at least a positive two. Like people in our community like me, or in our church, they trust me, that’s why they’re here. They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t, and that may be true, but that was certainly more true, I would say like 30 years ago, like when churches and Christians were in a lot less scrutiny than maybe they are today.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah.

Chris Martin: I think it would be more effective if pastors and church leaders operated as though their trust score was more like a zero or a negative one or a negative two, and assume that you have to build trust with people all the time. Like, you should always be filling the trust bank, if you will, rather than assuming that it’s already full to the brim. I think that way if you just assume people don’t trust you, again, not to a point of paranoia where like, oh, I got to watch my back, but more of a like I need to actively build trust that can go a long way toward getting people to trust you. Because a lot of people, even if they grew up in the church, might be coming to your church because the last church they were at had an awful leadership situation. So I think a lot of pastors would serve themselves, and ultimately their congregation, better if they just didn’t presume trust and went in with more of an I’m going to always be trying to build trust with people rather than acting like I have it all the time. So, I list a couple of other solutions, but that that’s just one possible solution that I think would be effective.

Bart Blair: Okay. I’m going to ask you one last question, and then we’re going to land the plane. And you alluded to this earlier because we have talked about, in our previous conversations, how churches can and should be using the Internet and social media in particular. In this book, you highlight so many things that are disruptive to the health and the growth of a follower of Jesus. Other than reading the book and following everything that you prescribe pastors to do over 13 chapters, you know, are we as a church, are we doing more damage than good by continuing to use social media, or do you see that there are constructive and productive ways that we can use social platforms to better disciple people? Is the Internet, like, is it something we should be fighting against? Should we be advocating for?

Bart Blair: Let me give you a little example. I remember in 2020 when the whole world shut down, I actually had a moment, several months into the pandemic where I got a little bit irritated because every single time I went on social media, all I was seeing was really bad church stuff being put out online, whether it was videos, live streams, social media content. Like, my social media feed blew up with church-related stuff because I’m in the church world, I have lots and lots of friends who are pastors or in ministry, and that’s just kind of the stuff that I get in my feed. And I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who’s a pastor in Florida, and I said, you know, I’m just sick and tired of going on social media and seeing all of this church stuff all the time. I don’t know what it was about my spirit that day. And he looked at me, he goes, I think it’s awesome. It’s like Jesus is on the Internet more than he’s ever been on the Internet. Okay, so I walked away from that conversation somewhat convicted because he was right, there was more Jesus and my social media feed than I’d ever really seen. But what are we as church leaders, as pastors mean, Jason and I, you know, we’re working with churches every day on how to leverage their digital presence and their social media for more effective reach in their community, evangelism, discipleship. Just give us some thoughts that you have that might be general encouragement, or maybe even some guidelines for churches that are trying to navigate this space.

Chris Martin: Yeah, that’s a great question. And so what I would say is, it’s not doing more damage by trying to use social media to help people. Again, I’ve said this when I was on with you guys in the past, and I’ll say it here again, just so I’m crystal clear. I’m not anti-social media, I’ve written now two books about the problems with social media and our relationship with it, not because I think it’s all bad, but because I think we’re all pretty well aware of the goods or the things that we like. And nobody needs to write about here’s why social media is great. It’s like, yeah, no, we’re all pretty aware, that’s why we’re on it 2.5 hours a day on average. But I wrote two books about the ills because I think we often ignore them. So a lot of folks will just assume that like, I think social media is all bad, they think I’m a hypocrite because I use it. And I’m like, no, listen, I’ve said all the time, I don’t think it’s all bad, I just think it requires us to use it much more intentionally than we do. We often just let social media happen to us rather than grabbing our relationship with it by the horns and using it in an intentional way. And so let me say that I’m not anti at all either individually or for churches and ministries to be using it. I do think it just takes a lot of work to push back against the wrong ways it can be used, and we have to just be vigilant is the best way I know how to describe that. Just like always be ready to be pushing back against the darkness and injecting the light. So I think it can be done, I think it’s very good.

Chris Martin: The caution/guardrail I would give for a church, I can think of only one off the top of my head, but it’s an important one to me. And you guys may disagree, and that’s fine because different people have different ways of going about it, this is not a make-or-break issue for me, but it’s something that I kind of care about. I don’t think anything a church does on the Internet, period, especially on social media should require someone…How do I phrase this? I don’t think a church should do anything on social media that causes a congregant to feel like they need to be on social media to participate in the life of the local church. So, like, I can’t think of an example of what that is, there might be some, but like I believe social media should always be a supplemental part of a church’s ministry, never like a cornerstone of a church’s ministry. I don’t know if that makes sense, but like, I don’t want a church to be, like, only offering certain things online, and specifically on social media, that someone may feel like they’re not being adequately ministered to because they don’t have and use social media out of a conviction or just because they don’t feel like it or whatever. Because I truly do think at its core, social media is a great trivialization machine. Neil Postman used to say this about the TV, and I do think social media makes very deep things, very trivial, often. And so that’s something we need to be careful of as Christians creating content online, is that we don’t trivialize the Good News and all the implications of the Good News because that’s sort of like the medium almost inherently makes it feel trivial to a lot of people. It just makes it feel like content because they swipe from an encouraging clip from a sermon on TikTok, to a goofy bit from a stand-up comedian in like a 15-second time span, and it’s just like should those two things be living right next to each other and be consumed? Right> Like it can sometimes feel like you wiped the shiny reverence off of the sermon clip when you watch the Chris Rock clip right after or whatever. So I do think we should be aware of those things and be cautious about these things and always, just churches, please, always make anything you do on social media be supplemental to your incarnational, work with people rather than don’t like gatekeep any part of your ministry behind some sort of social media or even broadly internet usage. That would be the thing, like, hey, people have online campuses or whatever, and hey look, that’s fine, I’m not going to tell people how to do church. But I would just say like, be very careful about any time you’re replacing an incarnational experience with a virtual experience, you may be unintentionally trivializing something that you don’t want to be trivializing.

Jason Hamrock: Very well said. When you’re talking about that, I’m like, don’t put your small group curriculum on Facebook.

Chris Martin: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I would avoid that.

Jason Hamrock: That would be a bad idea.

Chris Martin: I would avoid that. Yeah. Now you want to email like a PDF or something? I’m not saying that all, again, technology and social media are very different, but making it so like, hey, make sure you open a Facebook account so you can join us for Small Group on Thursday. It’s like, oh, hold on, hold on, don’t do that. Again, like if you’re doing that during Covid and you’re feeling convicted. Look, Covid was a unique circumstance for everybody, like, whatever. But like now that we’re able to largely gather together in such, at least for the time being, I would say like, yeah, don’t gatekeep that stuff behind these platforms. Right?

Jason Hamrock: I think what you’re saying is that you know, as you consume social media, be on your guard.

Chris Martin: Yeah, don’t let it consume you.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. And as you pour into social media, okay do more of that, that’s great because if there’s an absence of light, there’s darkness, so that’s good. You need to have a balance of the two, I think that is what you’re saying.

Chris Martin: And I think I think local churches using social media to like keep up with people, and like like for fellowship as much as teaching is really great. Like again, because, I’m not saying posting sermon clips, I keep saying this, like, I’m not saying posting sermon clips on social media is bad. I’ve encouraged churches to do it in my consultations with them. But I think like social media is even more effective as a means of getting people together in a Facebook group to keep up with each other or to like, we have a like a young moms Facebook group at my church. That kind of thing is, is great, I think that’s very helpful. I think that’s an even better use than just posting content of your pastor randomly, I think that’s great, but it’s like I think the other thing where you’re like helping people make and keep connections is even an even more effective use of it.

Jason Hamrock: I think so too. Yeah.

Bart Blair: Yeah. The whole point, I mean, we see this on Twitter. I know Chris, you’re pretty active on Twitter. That’s probably your social channel of choice, yes? I would assume.

Chris Martin: For posting, yeah, yeah.

Bart Blair: Yeah, and so you know, I spent a little bit of time on Twitter. We know that Twitter really doesn’t work for like organizations and businesses, it’s really intended to be for personal use. And churches have really tried to leverage the business side of Facebook and Instagram to promote corporate stuff, but think that if we really think about social media and what it is really intended to do is to be a social platform where it’s people engaging with people. I remember during the pandemic, I can’t remember which church it was, I think it was somebody that Jason and I had on a podcast at some point two and a half years ago, where they talked about the fact that one of the practices that they got into during the pandemic, was once a week having all of their staff get on their social media platforms and go and comment and like the posts and the content that was being shared by people in their congregation. As an encouragement to basically say, we see you, we see that you’re there, we see what you’re posting, you just posted pictures of your kid’s soccer game or, you know, the meal that you ate at the local diner or whatever. Just, you know, comment on it, share it, and like it. And I think the idea of using social media more on that personal level is more impactful than the corporate posture. Not that churches can’t and shouldn’t be using it from a corporate standpoint. I mean, that’s you know, it’s a big part of their front door or the presence that they create online where people who are not part of their church are going to check them out. You know, somebody who doesn’t go to your church, they’re going to check out your Facebook page, and your Instagram, if you’ve got a TikTok, they’re going to check out your TikTok, and it’s important that you have an active and whole presence there. But not to put all the eggs in that basket, I think is important.

Chris Martin: Yeah, totally. I think that’s great.

Bart Blair: Okay, let’s wrap this up. We are recording this podcast episode on March 6th, 2023, and the date that the book launches is what, Chris?

Chris Martin: March 7th, tomorrow.

Bart Blair: March 7th, tomorrow. Tomorrow, so we’re going to push this episode out on Friday of this week. So two days, three days before this podcast comes out, the book will be available. So if you’re listening to this live and in real-time, or at least on the week that it comes out, you can go and buy the book. Chris, where can people find the book?

Chris Martin: Yeah, Amazon, really anywhere you like to buy books, you should be able to find it. Amazon,, I’ve been told, may have the best price, you’re probably going to have to pay shipping. However, if you’re listening and you’re pasture you’re like hey, I want to buy ten of these for my church leaders or whatever. You probably will get a better deal at publishers than Amazon. So I’ve been told that, that bulk sales are maybe better at the Moody Publishers website than on Amazon, there’s a little pro tip for you. But yeah, anywhere, it doesn’t matter to me where you get them. And yeah, I would love to help as many people as possible. You know, I’m under no illusion I’m ever going to be a bestselling author. But I’m just, about this one, especially, like I said, the first one was one that I felt like I needed to write, this one really does feel like a response to a need that was communicated to me. So my hope is that for any pastors and parents, leaders of other kinds, who recognize that social media is the chief discipler of the people that they care about, the chief worldview shaper in the people that they love lives, that they would take this and maybe be helped by it. So that’s kind of the hope.

Bart Blair: Okay, so it’s available in print and digitally. And you mentioned earlier when Jason asked about audio. Audio, soon?

Chris Martin: Yeah, in the next week or two. Often audiobooks, if you’re not like, you know, a New York Times best-seller, your audiobook will sometimes lag a week or two after the pub date. So my understanding is in the next couple of weeks, the audiobook will be available.

Bart Blair: Okay, and that’s read by Matthew McConaughey?

Chris Martin: Yeah, no, no. I almost wanted to try out for it, but they required you to, like edit it and stuff yourself so they…No, I listened, I got to give input on who read it and I think we picked a good one, so he should be good.

Bart Blair: Okay, but it’s not Matthew McConaughey.

Chris Martin: Unfortunately not

Bart Blair: Alright, you might have sold more copies if you could have gotten him to read it. But, you know, I think you are going to sell a lot.

Chris Martin: That would have cost me more money than I have. But yeah.

Bart Blair: Chris, I think it’s a great book, I’m about 60, 70% of the way through and I’m looking forward to finishing it up and recommending it to pastors and church leaders that I know. And we really appreciate you being on our show once again.

Chris Martin: Yeah, thanks. Hey, you know, whenever you guys just need your reigning champion to come in, you just give me a call. I’m on the leaderboard. You need to make a leaderboard right now. I’m basically a part-owner of this podcast at this point, so I get a voting share. I think we need a leaderboard of appearances, not necessarily the quality of appearances, but numbers.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. Thanks, Chris.

Chris Martin: Sure.

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