Five Reasons Why Pastors Are Getting Fired Because of Their Social Media Posts

March 6, 2017

“It’s not fair I lost my job,” the pastor told me.

“My church members post a lot worse things than I do on social media. It’s a double standard.”

He’s right. It is a double standard. But it’s reality. And, with greater frequency, more pastors and church staff are losing their jobs because of what they post, particularly on Facebook and Twitter and, to some extent, their blogs.

By the way, churches will not always tell the pastor the specific reason for the firing. But, once we begin to infuriate our church members with our posts, many will find a myriad of reasons to give us the boot.

I recently recommended a pastor to another church. I think very highly of him. Indeed, the search committee chairman seemed genuinely enthused when I recommended him. He contacted me a couple of weeks later with this comment: “We can’t consider him. He’s just too snarky and sarcastic on social media.”

Of course, this pastor was not fired. But he never had a chance to be considered by another church.

So what are pastors posting on social media that is raising the ire of church members? It typically falls into one or more of these five categories:

  1. Generally combative and sarcastic comments. Do you know someone that seems always to be in debate on social media? They always want to prove their points, and they will take you on personally if you disagree with them. There are now a number of former pastors in this category.
  2. Political comments. If you make a political comment in today’s incendiary environment, you will offend someone. The persons you offend may just be the ones who push you out the church.
  3. Taking on church members. I cringe when I see church members posting critical comments against a pastor or church staff member. I cringe even more when the pastor decides to take them on in a public forum. Most readers have no idea the context of the conflict. They just see their pastor acting like a jerk.
  4. Criticizing other people. I have a friend who served as pastor of four churches. He loved criticizing well-known pastors, celebrities, Christian leaders, and others on social media. He was fired from his last church without a stated cause. I believe I know why. And he has gone three years without finding another place in ministry.
  5. Unsavory comments. A pastor or church staff member making lewd or suggestive comments on social media gains nothing, even if it’s a quote from a movie or someone else. The consequences are always negative.

This post is not about pastors losing their prophetic voices. It’s about pastors and church staff losing their ministries because of their failure to control their digital tongues.

“If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself . . . (The tongue) pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.” (James 1:26, 3:6)

Social media is not the place to vent or to wage petty battles.

The consequences are simply too great.

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67 Comments

  • Dr. Rainer,

    This is an important blog post! I agree fully and I might even add to it.

    This is nothing to do with “standing for the truth.” It’s everything to do with being wise about which forms of communication are appropriate for which types of discussions.

    The biggest problems I see are the sarcastic and snarky comments.

    Sarcasm is a passive aggressive attack and always has a victim. Sarcasm says to anyone reading: I’m convinced I’m smarter than the person I’m responding to. If you get my super-smart passive attack against this person, then you might be smart like me too.

    Social media turns the light on even for some introverts who seem quiet and kind, but then come across with razor sharp and biting keyboard strokes.

    I think social media is a GREAT tool to learn about people.

    To increase influence on social media: be kind, be considerate, be positive.

    Save harsh conversations for other contexts.

    Thanks for your writing and podcast! I appreciate you.

    Steven Earp

    • You’re right about that. I teach teenagers all the time that we must be more careful with what we type than what we say. This is because of some psychological phenomenon that prevents us from filtering our thoughts online. For some reason, we forget that we are taking to people, and start typing angrily at the internet. Ive seen it too many types that otherwise cautious and considerate people are hateful and abrasive on social media. This has nothing to with standing up for truth. We should be able to do that without looking like a jerk, but for some reason, its difficult online.

  • It is so strange to me that this isn’t common sense. Although I have seen these attacks or wars waged from the pulpit so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. As a Christian we have to be careful what we post because we all have a ministry to reach others and the wrong thing posted on FB or other social media outlets are open for ALL to see, not just the person you were addressing. You can make things right with one person hopefully, but you cannot change that one reflection of you to the world. Many times your first impression to someone is the only impression you get and as a leader you reflect the group you lead. Pastors, church staff, parishioners, employers, employees, and teenagers all need to remember these things. It is all out there forever and you will be surprised when and where it will show up.

  • The idea that you should keep religion and politics separate is a utopian myth – especially these days when so many moral issues have become politicized. How can we be silent about the killing of the unborn or the redefinition of marriage? I agree we have to choose our battles wisely, but show me a pastor who avoids controversy at all costs, and I’ll show you someone who is in desperate need of a backbone.

  • I know a number of Pastors who have literally alienated themselves from the faith community and their fellow co-laborers based on political views. These posts are mostly based on option and political choices and alliances. Such posts that are so divisive really serve no purpose in the kingdom of God.

  • I agree with this article. However, I find a bit of a conundrum. I am an apologist as well as a pastor. Being an apologist, I must stand for the truth. The truth sometimes offends. While I completely and wholeheartedly agree that we should filter our comments and never seek to offend, it seems to me that when we lose the capacity to stand against those things that are wrong theologically and/or politically, we have lost our prophetic voice. I recall articles on bullies in the church. Could it be that bullies are behind the ousting of some of the pastors mentioned? And could it be that because we are so afraid of being politically correct, we have lost the power to proclaim and defend the truth? I don’t know. It seems like there should be a balance struck.

    • John McElhaney Th. D says on

      Thank you for that, I agree we have come to the place where you have to make sure you don’t offend anyone and to do that you have to stop preaching the word, the word is always offensive to those who don’t know or don’t want to know God. Jesus was offensive, Paul and every true man of God down through history has been offensive. And in today’s church the way we have changed the Gospel to be inoffensive we have churches full of members who know nothing about being born again or regenerated, and to keep them happy you can’t preach the word. We need to follow 2 Timothy 4

      • Amen and Amen!

      • Rodrigo Lima says on

        Amem. Now we have congregations full of consumers instead of Christ followers, and they want baby toys instead of God’s transformation into their lives.

      • I think there is a difference between posting something that is biblically sound doctrine (in context) that informs or educates the reader, and a pastor posting a personal rant or opinion. If you would not say it from the pulpit, don’t post it on social media.

    • Lawrence Russell says on

      yes

  • Before we post anything on social media we do well to ask ourselves a few questions; is this necessary? is it helpful? Does it encourage? Does it build up the Body of Christ? if the answer is no, then don’t post it because it isn’t worth the potential fallout.

    For our personal Facebook pages, stick to family friendly photos, encouraging quotes, and Bible verses. For church Facebook pages, stick to church information, upcoming sermons, church events, and photos of church events,

    Also, leave politics out of it. Anything political or any kind of political rant I meet be tempted to post has already been said – by countless people.

  • I have shared some things that I agreed with and was surprised at the response of some people, including church members. So I have backed off sharing anything that can be construed as political or argumentative.

  • I enjoy reading Thom Rainer’s blogs and so I posted the one about bullies in the church and the chair of deacons said I should not post anything like that again, because it upset some people.

  • I realize the usefulness of social media, but sometimes the answer is to either not be on any type of social media, or have someone with a strong personal filter review any post before you hit the button. I have a retired pastor friend and we have critiqued each other’s proposed posts. It has been very helpful.

  • Social media is different for every pastor and every congregation. Being a national leader in pharmacy and an advocate for health care, I have seen how my post have helped others. As I transitioned more into the pastorate, starting teaching Christian Ethics and doing post graduate work in theology, I started sharing more of my ideas on Christianity, the Church and religion. The discussions generally have been great however there are some people that don’t want a discussion. They want an argument. Avoid them. Sometimes things will start as a discussion and change to an attack. In those cases I leave what I thought was a discussion, delete my post and remove my contact with that person. We must always keep in mind what we say and post reflects on ourselves, our congregation and God.

  • “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” James 3:1

  • There are some other reasons. Sometimes church members want the pastor to take a hard line and he/she doesn’t want to. Sometimes church leaders want the official (hard-line) answers repeated on social media which typically leads to younger people leaving. Sometimes people don’t understand that a pastor’s social media posts aren’t just that particular congregation’s ideas, but are going world wide and represent Christianity.

    It takes a very good pastor to not have one persona for the pulpit and another for social media. It takes a very mature congregation to not have a fit over blog topics making their way into the pulpit, such as sex trafficking, recent martyrs, God not hating women, the Jesus who upset the status quo, and many others.

    • Helen Hunt says on

      Christ was not a timid Christian. I f we do not take a stand against the wrongs that are happening then what is our witness, just be timid and keep our mouth;s shut????????

      • Nope. As I said in the post, we must not lose our prophetic voice. We simply must be wise and a good witness when we speak digitally.

      • Jeff Chalakani says on

        Amen Thom

      • Well said, Dr. Rainer. I think trying to find that balance, the “sweet spot” If you will, is most difficult in this easy-to-offend culture.

      • The problem with that statement is that in today’s world, especially for younger people, social media is one huge avenue for expressing the prophetic voice. If pastors are not allowed to do it there, I think it is a sign that they are not really allowed to do it anywhere.

      • What did they say exactly that cost them their jobs?

      • Kevin Morgan says on

        I think the problem is we are so known for what we are against more than what we are for. We put sin in its place and just expect people to come to know Christ instead of trying to show Christ or win a brother if they are a brother already.

      • John Adair says on

        I can relate to that. When I present the gospel in personal soul winning, I start off with my salvation story, then take them through the Romans road, and when I get to Rom 5:8. I take the time to explain the crucifixion story. It’s only after that, that I take them to Rom 10:9-10 & ask them to trust Jesus Christ as their Saviour. In other words, before I ask them to trust in what Jesus did at Calvary to save them, I explain to them how guilty we all are (deserve hell), what Jesus actually did (went through for us), and why he did it (his great love for them). And dozens of times I’ve sat at the kitchen table of lifelong church goers and after I told them the gospel, they’ve said, “I’ve heard it like that before.”

    • Lawrence Russell says on

      thankyou

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