The Pain of Internet Trolling —  February 2, 2015

Maybe I am naïve. Maybe I have not been living in the real world, but it seems to me that the level of vitriol, accusations and slander INSIDE the church has risen in recent years. I average a conversation a week with a pastor or church leader that is recovering from deep wounds inflicted by another Christian. One pastor shared with me how the level of attacks got so bad his wife stated taking anxiety meds and every time the phone rang she would jump. Where is Jesus in that?

It’s common. It’s painful. It must stop.

When we seek to engage others in a destructive manner, it serves three painful purposes:

  1. Distracting

I call it chasing “the devils rabbits”. Most of the time that is spent arguing and debating personal viewpoints that are secondary issues (and believe me, most are) is time that could be better spent in sharing positive messages, connecting people with Christ, and loving and serving our neighbors. At the end of the day, no one changes their mind and you don’t lose your old opinion, only a friend. I personally commit to spend less time responding and more time doing. Will you join me?

  1. Discouraging

Do you ever wonder what people outside the church think about our petty fights? Do you think that by reading some of our “Adventist” websites and blogs they would see the church they would like to join or divisiveness they would like to avoid? Do you think our present conversation on Women in Ministry for example encourages or discourages unbelievers? Are you taking into consideration that your words against a fellow believer can be read by non-members? Is your tone helpful? Are your words building bridges or walls? At the end of the day, any conversation that keeps people from the kingdom is not productive, no matter how holy the author proposes to be.

  1. Destructive

If there is anything that breaks my heart more is hearing about good leaders that want to stop, quit or leave as a result of internet attacks. Some call it relentless. Some have shared with me that it took them into depression. I had a friend of mine that shared some worship principles in a conference, and when she got home, there were messages in her answering machine from other Christians telling her she was going to hell. All this over a worship style! Her mom heard it before she did and started crying.  Words matter. They hurt real people with real lives.

My call to all of us, is to please stop. Please reconsider posting inflammatory videos. Don’t resort to personal attacks. Let’s be the church where unbelievers are critical of what we believed but amazed about how we loved each other.

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7 responses to The Pain of Internet Trolling

  1. Thank you! I have often wondered when did being rift become more important that anything else. When we, as Christians, became so… mean.

    I am so thankful to read articles like this.

  2. It may have not been from the net, but Distraction, Discouragement, and Destructive influences is why my husband, son, and myself, have chosen to stay home and worship on Sabbath. It was being badgered, criticized, diminished, devalued, being fear flogged (face to face in a ‘LOVING” way), that drove us to leave. We spent 5 years in a tiny group, trying to avoid the pressure from the others to join into heated paranoid debates about government, Catholics, Homosexuality, food, remnant arrogance, EW worship…

    We tried to start Bible study, outreach, or fellowship nights, only to find that the 3 of us were the only ones that would show up. When other people visited they wouldn’t return. These debates would over power any Bible topic, and a couple of the people would literally have spittle in the corner of their mouths, and glints of glee in their eye when others were driven out. They took pride in believing that all that should be done was to sit there and ‘worship correctly’ and God would bring people in the doors. My family were so anxiety ridden from the influence, that we would take all week praying so that we could even go back to church, only to ‘uphold our end’ again. Toward the last we had to take a look at ourselves, and realize that we were so busy trying to defend scripture against the rhetoric that went beyond SDA fundamentals, that we had become angry and hostile. Our own witness was ruined while trying to defend God! We looked at ourselves, sick at our own lack of love that had swallowed us.

    We realized that God will defend Himself. We should have been vehicles, not drivers. It was imperative that we step away from that group, and listen to what God might have to tell us, and not in what we had to tell God. We are still listening, worshiping and wondering, but we are at peace while worshiping Sabbath at home. We find ways that we can serve God, as a family, in the community, and with our friends. It doesn’t have to be big service, but sometimes we have to address the seed inside ourselves, before we can plant any in other soil. I pray that God will speak to the rest in the group the way they need to hear. I am not master of that, and never was.

    I have been SDA my whole life, and had to realize that a true relationship with Christ isn’t about what title of Church you attend, or how you flog it out with others, but instead it is the acceptance of Jesus grace, and the heart of servitude that communicates love to others! After all, Faith without fruits is dead! James 2:17-18

  3. I have often said that we are very good at dispensing Adventism vaccines by the way we treat each other. We are actually inoculating others against Adventism. One couple I was visiting during an evangelistic campaign told me outright… “you have a great message, but your membership is sick. Why should we join you when our church is far more loving and grace-filled?” Ouch. Don’t be an Adventist Vaccine Dispenser (AVD)! Keep bring the truth brother!

  4. As you consider trolling, chew on this:

    Acts 15:35-40 KJV

    Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.

    All those discussed above are righteous men, yet about the ministry, they had SHARP disagreement. Iron sharpens iron!

    • Paul and Barnabas had a face to face disagreement. One of the challenges of online debates, in my opinion, is that people feel empowered to type things they would NEVER say to someone in person. Especially if you are able to comment anonymously, online debates give the impression of dialogue but that’s rarely ever the case. Acts 15 may have played out differently if it was through social media. 🙂

    • They were also told to wipe the dust off their feet and move on, when a group or area were not receptive to the word.