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What is digital discernment? I seek to answer that question about a term that I may have come up with, I haven't googled it yet (stay tuned for irony). I wanted to write about this because the body of Christ consumes a lot of information and presentations digitally. We live in an age where technology is utilized all throughout the day in nearly everyone's lives. It's important that we know what we're viewing digitally.
So, I'll define digital discernment as this: discerning the content we view online, on apps, and in any digital way. This is obviously important for Christians. We're given all sorts of options to choose from. You may be introduced to a ministry or "ministry" via a three minute YouTube video. Similarly, you may be introduced to a song because someone sent you a link. For more on choosing solid music check out How to Choose a Solid Worship Song.
To digitally discern, there are a few common things we can do to make sure we're consuming solid content. Let's take a look at how to keep it biblical.
The irony has arrived. The first thing you can do is use a search engine and find out more information about the content creator. I'm not a Google advocate, but the term has become pretty universal for "look it up online". "Bing" it, "DuckDuckGo" it, if you're really brave and have a lot of time or your hands, "Internet Explorer" it. My point is, look into the provider of the digital content you're being asked to consume before consuming it.
The content you're consuming right now is inspired by past mistakes in this area. At a former time in my walk with Christ, my desire to ensure I was consuming solid biblical content was low. If the content I was listening to or watching mentioned Jesus and wasn't something very obviously off (Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, etc.) I would consume it. What in the world was I thinking?
Thankfully, I ended up stumbling upon solid pastors like John MacArthur, who has a long track record of keeping it biblical. It's through his ministry, and ministries such as Wretched Radio, Justin Peters, and others, that I was taught to desire solid, biblical, and God honoring content. I needed to take it seriously!
So, what should someone look for when digitally discerning? I think a good starting point is a ministry's "About" section or a church's statement of faith. You're not going to find everything you need to know there, but you can at least see if the ministry is blatantly false teaching. For example, you may have seen a video that someone shared with you that spoke of "Jesus", "the Gospel", "faith", etc., but false teachers use these terms as well. A Mormon ministry would use those exact terms, and you may have to go through 20 videos before hearing something that exposes their false teaching. They're not going to lead with Joseph Smith.
Look for what the ministry is choosing to let you know. Do they deny the Trinity? Do they believe marriage is not exclusive to being between one man and one woman? Do they deny that Jesus Christ is the Lord? These would be red flags that should tell you to move on.
See if there is a pastor on staff. Then, look up that pastor's church and content. If possible, see what music his church is using. Look into if his church uses gimmicks. See how you can dig in?
For music specifically, and we cover this thoroughly in the link above and several posts on our blog page, see who the artist or band is associated with. Does the artist perform at Lakewood? Does the artist proudly perform with Bethel Music or Jesus Culture? These are things you can look into to get a feel for what the ministry really believes.
We are creating terms left and right in this article. This method has been very fruitful for me though. What I mean by "solid pastor" it, is look up the ministry, pastor, or artist along with a solid pastor's name. One thing I often do is enter something in the search engine like "*example ministry* John MacArthur". You'd be surprised at how effective that can be.
Essentially, you're using a solid pastor's analysis to determine if a ministry is trustworthy. Often times, a solid pastor has written about the source you're looking into. Along with this line of thinking is using the website gotquestions.org. They cover a ton of topics, and there are several answers to questions about certain ministries.
I have saved the best for last. There is no replacement for knowing the Word of God. Having first-hand knowledge, straight from God's Word, is the best tool you can have when discerning. The Bible provides the knowledge you need in order to test man and test for solid Christian teaching. Does it line up with God's Word? If not, move on!
With all this being said, head over to our Why page to learn a little more about us. Like all ministries, you won't find everything you need to know there. If a ministry passes through the initial levels of the discernment process, continue to stay vigilant. Listen closely to what you're being shown in digital content. Don't take hold of a teaching that is new to you without looking into it. The last thing you want to do is pass on something that could negatively impact a brother or sister's walk.
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