4 Practices to Combat Misinformation | By Jason Thacker
Church leadership can be challenging in a digital world with political and cultural divisions. But pastors can foster healthy trust as they grow churches.
One of the symptoms of a post-truth, tech-dependent society is misinformation. But what is misinformation, exactly?
Simply put, misinformation refers to a very broad category of false or misleading information that is often spread unintentionally or sometimes without awareness of the false claims.
“Misinformation” is often a term that political enemies throw at one another when certain pieces of information don’t fit with one side’s understanding of the world or public affairs.
It is what Team 1 employs to accuse Team 2, especially whenever Team 2 presents data that Team 1 doesn’t like. “That’s not true! That’s just more fake news!”
We know the Source of Truth.
Here’s the thing: While certain terms can be easy to read through a partisan or political lens, Christians are a people of truth. We believe in transcendent truth, meaning we believe God — not humans, nor political parties, nor any country or king — gets to decide what’s right and wrong, or true and false.
We believe in telling the truth no matter the cost, which means that we won’t say something is true when it is actually false, and we won’t say something is false when it’s actually true.
This is because we believe our God is truthful at his core, that all truth corresponds with the reality of who he is and what he has done.
As the God of truth, all lies and falsehoods are abhorrent to him (Psalm 25:10, John 14:6, Ephesians 4:25). Thus, we are required by God to deal honestly with the facts, even if they are not beneficial to our “cause” in the short term because truth will always be rewarded in the long term.
We can rest in the Truth.
Proverbs 19:9 warns us that “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.” There is coming judgment when we twist truth to serve ourselves rather than God.
Christians are a people of truth, not only because we know the source of all truth in Christ, but also because we already know how the story of this world ends — in everlasting communion with our Savior.
Our present and our future are secure; thus, we need not bend the truth or accommodate those who do in order to secure some type of earthly success or position.
Four Practices for Church Leaders to Adopt
Pastors and other church leaders have a responsibility to lead and protect the flock. How can we do that? By standing on the Truth, period. Here’s how.
Search for the truth; then, stand by the truth, no matter what.
When we’re presented with a piece of information that we don’t like, we must search for the truth. Always. We may feel familiar, culturally trained, knee-jerk reactions and want to simply dismiss the information because it doesn’t align with what we want, but we must persevere. We must align ourselves with truth, every time.
Remember, we have the power in Christ to restrain our reactions and instead do the work of figuring out if the information is really, actually, true.
Trust God with the outcomes.
We are not guided by the same fears that our culture is. We do not have to fear that “if this information is indeed true, things won’t turn out my way.”
Things do turn out God’s way in the long view of eternity.
We are secure. We have hope. No matter what the circumstances tell us.
Remember that reality flows from God’s truth.
All truth is in line with God himself since he is the author of all reality, and it is in him that we truly understand truth itself.
Just imagine the witness of the church if we were to become a people willing to live as if truth is not something alterable or to be manipulated. Imagine the power this kind of witness would have against something like misinformation.
Stop making room for mistrust and division.
What divisive issues fill your conversations online and in-person? What divisive issues pepper your sermons?
Pastors and church leaders can approach divisive issues with a confident openness, clarity, and wisdom.
Right now, misinformation is running wild in our digital society. As a result, people tend to envision countless dangers, which they discuss ad nauseum in the digital public square. After a while, people lose the ability to discern reality from fiction.
We can redirect people who are fearful and angry. We can help them focus on God’s Word, rather than temporary or imagined troubles. We can remind them that God is in charge, and he is working all things together for his glory (Romans 8:28).
A Call to (Truthful) Action
Christians have a unique opportunity to side with reality, no matter the cost. We can be open when others are defensive. We can be clear. We can respond with confidence when others muddy the waters out of fear.
We can be wise when others foolishly use information for their own advantage.
Above all, we can do the work of seeking the truth when everyone else is working an angle.
Excerpted with permission from Following Jesus in a Digital Age by Jason Thacker. Copyright 2022, B&H Publishing.