Pastor Bans Facebook to Stop Adultery

Pastor Bans Facebook to Stop Adultery

November 19, 2010 by

Reverend Cedric Miller of Living Word Christian Fellowship Church in New Jersey has banned Facebook. He’s ordered about 50 married church officials to delete their accounts or resign and has called on married people in his 1,100-member congregation to delete their Facebook accounts. The problem isn’t lost productivity to Farmville—it’s adultery.

I’ll let that simmer for a minute.

Miller said 20 couples from his church have had marital problems in the last six months after a spouse reconnected with an ex on Facebook. Miller previously asked couples to share Facebook logins for accountability, but is now going further.

“I’ve been in extended counseling with couples with marital problems because of Facebook for the last year and a half,” he said in an AP story. “What happens is someone from yesterday surfaces, it leads to conversations and there have been physical meet-ups. The temptation is just too great.”

According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 81% of its members have either used or been faced with evidence from social networking sites in divorce cases in the last five years, including Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. A do-it-yourself divorce site in the UK has reported that one in five petitions it handles cited Facebook.

Let’s just say it: “People are getting divorced because of Facebook.”

It’s How You Use the Tool
I say that’s ridiculous. Fun fact: Facebook is neither good nor evil. It’s just a tool. It’s all about what you do with it. Let’s not condemn the entire tool because a few people don’t know how to use it.

It’s easier to live in extremes when there is confusion, and the church is really good at condemning things because they’re too hard to control: books, movies, television, the Internet, etc. What if we had abandoned those mediums because they were occupied by darkness? I shudder to think where we would be without being able to use those tools in today’s world. The church is called “light” for a reason. There have been some courageous, Bible-believing followers of Jesus who took a stand and demanded light in the dark places, and I’m thankful because now it’s our turn.

Facebook for Good
Here are some ways a tool like Facebook can be used for good:

  • Be Real: Let your staff and team be the genuine people they are. Don’t use them as promotion robots. Release some control and let them use Facebook naturally.
  • Remove Barriers: Connections through Facebook tend to break down barriers for people. I know several folks who attended a church already knowing several members. It really helps.
  • Have Conversations: Everyone is busy, but there’s something about a Facebook conversation that most people make time for. Whether it’s four sentences back and forth or month long messages, it can all serve to shine a light in dark places.
  • Evangelism: I think this is an obvious one, but there’s another layer. If you are living a compelling, God-honoring life through Facebook, people will reach out to you with faith questions. We don’t always have to do the pushing.

Better Ways to Help Marriages
Adultery happens with or without Facebook (or any social networking site), so instead of banning Facebook, let’s find some real ways to stop adultery:

  • Teach about the value of accountability. Suggest that members share their Facebook passwords with spouses and/or a friend. If you have people who aren’t willing to step into that, you can pretty much assume there is an issue and then help from there. (Miller doesn’t explain why this wasn’t enough for his congregation.)
  • Turn Facebook into a tool. Create a Facebook group for people in your church who struggle with sins such as adultery, pornography, slander, greed, etc. Post encouraging scripture and teaching while allowing the members to have conversations and post prayer requests. And if Facebook is too public, make sure this kind of accountability is happening in small groups.
  • Offer preventative marital counseling. If a marriage is in trouble, it isn’t because of Facebook. The problem started long before friending an ex. Get on the solution side of growing successful marriages.
  • Lift up and celebrate successful marriages in your church. There is power in a story.

We cannot retreat because there is risk. We need to go where the lost people are, and right now, there are more than 500 million people who can be exposed to the gospel on Facebook.

Let’s dig in our heels for the sake of the gospel. Friend me. We’ll figure it out together.

Post By:

Danielle Hartland

Danielle Hartland is the director of communications at Grace Church in Erie, Penn., where her goal is to create and foster accessible communication strategies that cut through without cutting in. You can find her fastest on Twitter: @daniellesuzanne.
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24 Responses to “Pastor Bans Facebook to Stop Adultery”

  • Jason Bradley
    November 19, 2010

    I think Facebook, like all communication tools, are used for both good and bad. It’s the same as a bar or sports bar. You can go and have a good time with friends but others can go there to get drunk. I would hope that if a pastor of a church knows that someone in their congregation is an alcoholic or struggling with alcohol, that the pastor would tell them to stop going to the bar. If you went into the place (bar or Facebook) that you have temptation, then you have the opportunity to give into that temptation. I know of people that have been contacted by people in their past. It seems so innocent at first with just a wall post, that turns into a private message, then regular chat sessions, and eventually possibly a personal meeting. Facebook helps break down the walls of communication, making it easier for people to connect. It’s a lot easier to “run into” someone you used to know on Facebook, rather than at the grocery store.

    To ban Facebook to the married couples that are struggling with their marriage, then I say Yes, it is perfectly acceptable and necessary. For all the other married couples in the congregation, I wouldn’t see the need to ban, but to educate them about the possible temptations.

  • Cory
    November 19, 2010

    “Neither good nor evil.” The same could be said for alcohol. But we don’t ask alcoholics to keep drinking with more accountability (sorry – I know it’s not the same thing, but I needed a metaphor. Simile?).

    Believe me, I cringe at the thought of dropping online mediums, but can you really say—as a pastor—that you wouldn’t at least consider admonishing your people to put a barrier between themselves and the thing that’s making it so easy to act on their issues?

    Of course Facebook isn’t the problem. But if you don’t want your kids searching porn, you put up a filter. And if you don’t want your people having affairs with their exes they found on Facebook, then tell them to get off Facebook until they have their marriage figured out (if the issue is setting ultimatums for his people and telling them what they MUST do, then that’s a different issue and let’s talk about that).

    Fence laws don’t solve the issue, I agree. But are we not willing to make any sacrifices?

    Sorry, third cup of coffee.

  • Stephen
    November 19, 2010

    I agree. Facebook as a path to adultery is a symptom; it’s not the sickness. I would be curious what this church is doing proactively to build stronger marriages. This is a total defensive move.

    That said, I agree with @Cory above as well. For someone dealing with the temptation of adultery (or anything else for that matter) where Facebook is dragging them down, I say drop it. It just needs to be a personal, accountable decision. Dumping Facebook altogether as a community is a sign of fear.

  • Michael Buckingham
    November 19, 2010

    FB isn’t the problem. Anymore than hotels, backseats, or the phone is the problem.

    And to ban them or kick them out?

    It all feels very controlling to me, and honestly ignorant.

    We must address the real problem of these marriages falling apart, which by the way lives in both camps of the husband and the wife.

    Okay, so you’re starting to think about that ex-boyfriend and how happy you were and how miserable you are now, you start to talk to him on FB (or wherever)…sure, stop it. But that turns off FB not those feelings. And those feelings of loneliness or whatever, were there well before Facebook.

    You have to get to the root. It’s like porn blockers, okay, it’s a good start and it’ll slow you down. But the problem isn’t access, the problem is heart and soul.

  • Ashamed
    November 19, 2010

    FB is not the problem.
    Selfishness, lust, stupidity, and in general giving into sin & temptation; those are the problems. I should know. I made this exact mistake and will spend the rest of my life regretting it and trying to rebuild my marriage. I don’t blame FB. I blame myself. I’m thankful for the grace and forgiveness that come from God that my spouse has shown me. I really don’t deserve it. And yes, I’m still on FB. But I’m much more open with my spouse that I ever was before about everyone I speak to.

    I think this pastor has a good idea, by trying to save marriages, but the problem is not the tool of communication used, it’s in the person.

  • Shannon Green
    November 19, 2010

    Wow, I’m almost speechless. That pastor, although well-meaning, is trying to solve the wrong problem.

    • Clintonian
      November 23, 2010

      This is akin to the book “Every man’s battle”. The book is all about stategizing to avoid lust with your eyes, putting yourself in confrontational situations, etc. But it does not deal with the root issue – the heart. If you really want to avoid lust you could just lock yourself in a closet, but it will not stop you from lusting with your mind. Until we get our hearts right, sin will always have allure not matter what sin it is.

  • Jeff B
    November 19, 2010

    Sin can be done in many, many ways including speech & thought, so there should be no more talking or thinking. That’s the only way to eliminate lies, gossip, lust, and the other multitude of sins these actions lead to.

  • Cory
    November 19, 2010

    I am the least disciplined person I know, but I can still acknowledge the benefit of engaging some discipline. I don’t imagine we would have much of a problem with this if it was a doctor telling an overeater to stop walking by doughnut shops.

  • matt
    November 19, 2010

    100% of adulterous relationships involved at least one penis and/or one vagina. shall we take the next illogical step?

  • Mike
    November 19, 2010

    Jesus said something about plucking out eyes and cutting off arms…sometimes it’s appropriate to rid our lives of things that could lead to sin. When it comes to sin there is always deeper issues, but that doesn’t mean you can’t rid yourselves of some things that help you down the path of holiness. I have no problem with the pastor asking these things if it helps marriages. Its funny that we care more about facebook, twitter, our TVs than our marriages. I’ll take some legalism if it saves marriages. Marriages in the church are in shambles and we need to be both proactive and reactive.

    • jeremy b
      December 13, 2010

      I get where you’re coming from, Mike, but Jesus said “IF your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out”. He didn’t say “your eye might cause you to sin, so pluck it out”. He definitely didn’t say “the eye has caused a number people to sin lately, so I admonish everyone to all pluck out your eyes”. and he MOST definitely didn’t say “alright disciples, some people have been sinning with their eyes lately, so as you can see, I’ve already plucked mine out, and here is the ultimatum, pluck out yours now or you will forfeit your position as a disciple”.

      Just a thought.

  • Michael Buckingham
    November 20, 2010

    Mike you make a great point, to clarify I think it is a good idea for those that are struggling to get rid of FB (or whatever they are stumbling over) but to blame it on FB, and for this level of a control of a pastor…goes to far.

    We must deal with our core problem of sin. We blame FB, TV, movies, the girl with the short skirt…it’s OUR sin, that’s the what we need to deal with. Everything else is a good first step.

    • David Choate
      November 22, 2010

      Banning Facebook is an external solution to an internal problem. Trying to deal with sin by focusing on removing things from our lives leads to legalism and often frustration and failure.

      This is why Jesus alway focuses on the heart. When God captures the heart, good decisions flow from that foundation. Our decisions do not focus on whether Facebook is good or evil, rather they focus on God’s will for our lives and then we make decisions regarding Facebook accordingly.

      Rules do not change lives…a relationship with Christ does.

  • Anonymous
    November 21, 2010

    To say that Facebook is just a tool and that it isn’t good or evil is all well and good, but it misses the mark a little. While true, it ignores the fact that the tools we use still change us. To borrow an analogy from John Dyer, the shovel we use for good (building a church) or evil (hitting someone in the head) creates callouses on our hands no matter what we use it for. In the same way, Facebook changes us as we use it.

    While I agree with a lot of what you said, and agree that banning Facebook isn’t going to fix marriages that are already in trouble, I think that there is a lot of wisdom in recognizing that not every technological advance is entirely good for us, and in fact, may change us for the worse.

    I really recommend this article by Shane Hipps:

  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    November 22, 2010

    Wait a minute–the pastor who banned Facebook because it causes unfaithfulness has himself been unfaithful?!

    Facebook-banning NJ pastor offers to step down over threesome from the past

  • Dave
    November 22, 2010

    That is a sad ending to a sad story

  • Michael Buckingham
    November 22, 2010

    Anon…ok, so take the shovel away. Guess what the person still either builds a church or hits someone over the head. That’s a heart (sin) issue not an issue with the tool. The focus is wrong. Yes, take away FB but realize you’ve only prolonged things at best and help them (the couple) get to the cause. The problem isn’t that he/she was tempted on FB, the problem is that there marriage is falling apart.

    If you’re stumbling, get FB out of the way but focus on your marriage.

  • Barry
    November 22, 2010

    The good Reverend is making headlines in the secular press for the wrong reasons all the way down here in New Zealand.

  • Revolution
    November 22, 2010

    Agreed… Facebook is an excellent source of communication in many senses, but we must be careful to not abuse such resources. Our pastor did a pretty awesome sermon on technology/Facebook, their undeniable value and place in our lives, and the importance of maintaining real, authentic relationships in *real life*, outside of facebook. You can listen to it online on our “media” page… it’s entitled “08/08/2010 – Left to Our Own Devices: Part 1”

  • Ethan
    November 24, 2010

    The senior pastor at my church recently made all staff members get a facebook account if they didn’t already have one and encourages us to actively use it to engage with volunteers and people new to the church. It’s already become my most successful method of getting newcomers involved and our church’s facebook page is getting more hits then our actual website.

  • Zach
    December 13, 2010

    Well, I agree with the pastor’s stance on making the hired church officials delete their Facebook accounts if it’s become that kind of a problem. I mean, he has the right to request that of his paid staff, or at least to ask them not to log onto Facebook while performing work duties. But banning it altogether? Uh-uh. Bad idea. 20 couples out of 1,100 members . . . I hate to say this, but even in church, that sounds like a really low percentage of people getting caught up in Facebook in a way that could be unhealthy to their marriages.

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