How Not To Use a Bible Verse on Social Media

As Christians, we’re called to share the Gospel with the people around us. One great way of doing that is through social media. But is there a wrong way to do that?

One of the most common ways people share the gospel online is by sharing Bible verses on their social media accounts. The problem is that doing so is often ineffective.

We all want to bear fruit and make an impact for Jesus. With that in mind, though we always appreciate and encourage those who share the gospel online, we’d like to talk about how not to use a Bible verse on social media. For each “wrong” way, we will also share an alternative.

Don’t post a Bible verse without context.

Whenever I see my Christian friends share something gospel-related online, it’s usually a Bible verse shared without any context. You’ve seen these. There will be a photo of a sunset, a serene mountain setting, or a wheat field. Overlaid on the image is a Bible verse that has nothing to do with the photo and has no context. Why did they share that verse? What does it mean to them? What is the scriptural context of the verse? It doesn’t say.

“In the same way that you wouldn’t stand up in church to give a message and then simply read a Bible verse and then close in prayer, you shouldn’t just post a Bible verse graphic to Instagram without providing context,” says Dave Adamson, social media pastor for Northpoint Ministries. 

I read the Bible daily and love to learn from and be inspired by the Word of God. Even so, you know what I do when I see those Bible verse graphics? I skip them. I don’t even read them. You can bet your non-Christian friends do the same.

“In the same way that you wouldn’t stand up in church to give a message and then simply read a Bible verse and then close in prayer, you shouldn’t just post a Bible verse graphic to Instagram without providing context,” says Dave Adamson, social media pastor for Northpoint Ministries.

For anything you share, explain the context from which it comes: Who wrote the verse? Who is the audience? What is happening in the broader story of that book?

In addition to the Biblical and historical context, you should provide your personal context: What does the verse mean to you? Why did you decide to share it? What does it make you think of? How do you apply that verse in your life?

Don’t use a Bible verse to judge others.

We know that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). But be careful how you use it for rebuking and correcting. Though we should support what is good and right and stand against sin and injustice, we shouldn’t use Bible verses to judge others.

Let’s say your friend is excited about his new tattoo and shares a photo of it on Instagram. You want to correct him, so you comment with 1 Corinthians 6:19, telling him, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”

It’s debatable whether tattoos are sinful in the first place, but even if they are, you just hurt your friend’s openness to a gospel conversation by being judgmental. The only thing that comment accomplished is making your friend mad and making Christians seem like judgmental killjoys.

Or let’s say your friend posts a photo wearing a dress that you think is too low-cut. You could always comment that “women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel” (2 Timothy 2:9). Again, it’s debatable whether your friend has done anything sinful—her attitude and intent matter—but that’s not even the point. Posting a Bible verse to be judgmental will do nothing but anger your friend and anyone else who sees your comment.

Don’t use a Bible verse to win an argument.

Some Christians like to engage in arguments on social media, though they probably call them “debates.” This is especially a problem on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) since those platforms were designed to milk those types of interactions for engagement.

There have been a lot of studies about arguing online, and two things they all agree on is that the arguments create a bad experience for those involved, and they don’t change anyone’s mind. Psychologists have noticed that when someone challenges your opinion or belief, you “dig in your heels” and defend your position. Doing so makes you less open to the perspectives of others, not more.

As is often the case, you took the Bible verse out of context. In doing so, you made it seem like Jesus doesn’t care about the suffering of the poor. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Whether the argument is about religion, politics, or something trivial, Christians will sometimes throw in a Bible verse as a sort of trump card. Let’s say your friend posts on Facebook that the He Gets Us ad during the Super Bowl was a terrible waste of money. If the organization cared about people, they would’ve spent that money on feeding the homeless instead. You argue in defense of the commercial by saying that the eternal destiny of someone’s soul is just as important as their earthly suffering. Then, to win the argument, you send this quote: “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have Me” (Matthew 26:11).

As is often the case, you took the Bible verse out of context. In doing so, you made it seem like Jesus doesn’t care about the suffering of the poor. Nothing could be further from the truth. But not only did you not win the argument, you managed to make Christians seem cold and uncaring. Your friend, and anyone else paying attention to the argument, won’t be interested in hearing about the gospel.

Instead, you should avoid online arguments of any kind. Since no one enjoys them and no one changes their mind due to arguments, avoiding them altogether is the best policy. If there’s some reason why your opposing viewpoint needs to be heard, have a private conversation with your friend, but do so with empathy. Make sure you listen to your friend and understand his viewpoint before sharing your own.

Don’t do that weird copypasta thing (“say amen” or “share, most people won’t”)

If you have any Christians of the Baby Boomer generation as Facebook friends, you’ve probably seen posts like this: “‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ Type ‘amen’ if you agree. Share on your wall if you want more people to believe in Jesus. Most people won’t!”

Don’t do that. Just don’t. Instead of copying posts like this, you should only share something that has a personal meaning. If you’re sharing a Bible verse, why are you sharing that specific verse? What does it mean to you? Give the context and use it to start a conversation.

Don’t make it a one-way conversation.

Speaking of conversations, most people won’t engage with a one-way lecture as well as with a two-way conversation. Most of the time, when people share a Bible verse on social media, there’s no way to engage with it other than to hit the like button.

One way to change that is by asking a question.“Question marks are greater than periods,” Dave Adamson says. “They help invite others into the conversation.”

Whenever Dave shares a Bible verse on Instagram, he ends it by asking a question and inviting his audience to discuss it with him. He then continues the conversation in the comments section. For anyone interested in carrying on a deeper conversation than the comments section allows, you can provide your email address, phone number, WhatsApp, or Facebook profile and move the conversation elsewhere.

Mariana Pando-Romero, a social media strategist with OneHope, likes to use social media posts to get people talking about themselves. Instead of sharing a Bible verse without context, she posts with empathy, asking people about their own lives so they can understand them better. In doing so, she’s following a strategy that Jesus modeled when talking to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). “He didn’t just come and start attacking her,” Mariana says. “He heard her, and that made her open her heart.”

Don’t try to do too much with a single post.

Trying to do too much with a single social media post is tempting. You might share a Bible verse on social media and think you must explain the gospel, start a spiritual conversation, and get someone to accept Christ. That’s a lot for a single post to do!

Instead, you should think about your posts as a way to engage with your friends, family, and followers. How can you spark an interest that will help you build a relationship where those conversations happen?

“It could just be to create some curiosity or some intrigue or get people thinking about something or open up about something in his life that he hadn’t opened up about before,” says Maddie Garcia, a social media strategist with Power to Change. “That could lead to further conversation later on.”

Don’t focus on the numbers.

Most of us aren’t influencers. We don’t get thousands of likes on each post and don’t have any companies paying us to use their products in our content. That’s okay. While businesses measure engagement with analytics and sales statistics, as Christians on social media, we need to think about relationships.

“Jesus only had twelve followers,” Mariana says, “and He made the most impact.” Instead of focusing on the number of people interacting with your posts, put effort into building relationships with those who do. “If it’s only one person that’s responding to us, I feel like we should care about that person, make sure that person is safe and being loved, and we are discipling that person.”

“Some of the friends and family members in our lives, you could be the only Christian in their life or the only Christian that is actually loving towards them,” Maddie says. “You can be a powerful witness and example no matter how many people you are interacting with in person online. God can use you in those different relationships to impact those people in big ways.”

Try this

Share a Bible verse as a conversation starter this week and use it to focus on building relationships that can lead to missional fruit later.