We live in an age of modern technology that we cannot and will not get away from anytime soon. Students have access to information and entertainment at their fingertips with the use of technology. This situation raises an important question: What do students have access to?
Throughout my undergraduate education at Shorter University, my professors have consistently challenged me to think critically about modern entertainment that is labeled as Christian. Anything can be written, produced, and labeled as Christian content, but it can lead our students to believe in false information.
Social media makes a tremendous impact on our lives and this demands a special focus on social media content. Many churches and parents have integrated well into the social media life of their Gen Z students by starting accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and even YouTube. Often, however, they do not consider the impact of the social media platform TikTok.
TikTok is “a video-sharing social networking service (formerly known as musical.ly) where people can create, share, and discover short videos as an outlet to express oneself through song, dance, or comedy” (Webwise.ie). This app also allows users to produce “Christian content.”
Some content that our students watch is biblically based and scripturally sound, but as our students continue to binge videos from this app, many “wolves in sheep’s clothing” are being discovered.
Our students search for information that makes sense and aligns with their cultural worldview. False teachers take full advantage of this behavior. False teachers look inviting when they present ideas to our students, and our students assume them to be truthful. These false teachers corrupt the gospel and undermine the authority of God to promote a different and false agenda, that, unfortunately, many do not fully recognize.
An example of this is a recently viewed video of a queer, female pastor of the Progressive Christianity clergy. She explains her belief that being a part of the LGBT+ community is not a sin because the verse that says men shall not lie with other men is incorrect and mistranslated. (She does not reference a specific passage of scripture) This woman claims this verse refers to the sin of grown men lying with children, not other men. Thus, homosexuality between grown men is not a sin and is not a reference to being LGBT+.
Progressive Christianity seems enticing to students because it sounds a lot like biblical Christianity. It focuses around God, Jesus, and the Bible, but the root of the false teaching is to engage in the social climate in which we live. Progressive Christianity is defined as, “a lower view of the Bible that emphasizes feelings over facts, opens Christian doctrine up for reinterpretation, redefines historical terms, and shifts the heart of the gospel message from sin and redemption to social justice.” (NAMB)
The pastor in the aforementioned video emphasizes her feeling of the text instead of facts. This is probably why she does not give a Scripture reference. Instead, as a part of the LGBT+ community, she tries to state why she does not live in sin. She opens biblical doctrine up for reinterpretation when she questions the translation of the text. Above all, she moves the meaning of this verse to fit the agenda of social justice.
This is only one example of what our students encounter on social media. Because of the bombardment of false teaching our students are exposed to on TikTok and other internet sites, they need guidance to discern between what is real and what is false. Here are some ways our professors, youth leaders, and parents can come alongside their students to encourage critical thinking and to strengthen their biblical worldview so they will not be deceived as they view apps like TikTok.
We all have a biblical mandate to make Scripture a priority in our students’ lives. Teaching biblical truth is very important as a youth leader, a parent, or even a professor because the Bible commands us to do so in Deuteronomy 6:6-7.
Mankind desperately needs and seeks the truth. Thus, many are influenced to believe these false teachers on TikTok. These influencers set misleading examples for our students, luring them away from the real truth. By making Scripture a priority, Christian adults can discern the false claims students see and help guide them to biblical truth.
If we teach the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, our students will know the difference, too. Students need to know from the beginning that the Bible is holistically consistent in its truth and that it will never mislead them.
Become a moderator and do your research
Parents and youth leaders can come alongside their students by gaining insight into what engages our students. For parents, it might come as a shock to your teen, but ask to watch TikTok with them. More than likely, they will agree because you show interest. For youth leaders, incorporate biblical TikTok videos into your lessons. Use the video as an illustration to help prove a point and keep students engaged.
You can also find much of the content your students are watching on other social media sites like Instagram and YouTube. You don’t even have to download the app now to screen the content.
While technology changes, the need to come alongside of students in the years of spiritual formation does not change. Teaching our students to think critically and to develop a biblical worldview is of utmost importance, which will help them discern what truth is.