Here is how Christian influencers share their faith on social media

23-01-2024

Christian Life

Joe-Lize Kruijsse-Brugge, CNE.news

A priest records Pope's weekly general audience with his mobile phone at St Peter's square in The Vatican. Photo AFP, Tiziana Fabi

There is a big need for digital Evangelists, three Christian influencers from Europe notice. But as the number of followers increases, another danger lurks in the corner. "You should be careful that you don't start seeing yourself as this special person."


Mirjana uses her personal story to help others

It is personal. And spiritual. And digital. To encourage other people. Mirjana Babloyan's goal is to support those who struggle with their mental health. “I'm trying to point to Jesus with what I do.”

The 30-year-old from the German city of Hamburg created her blog and an Instagram account around 2016. However, during the Covid pandemic, she renewed everything: her design, filter and topics. Also, she now writes in German and English.

Mirjana.jpg
Mirjana Babloyan from Hamburg, Germany. Photo Mirjana Babloyan

Her focus on mental health is very personal, Mirjana says in a Teams interview. As a child, she herself struggled with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). She remembers in particular how lonely her struggle against her compulsions was at the time. “I was ashamed of it, and it was so difficult to talk about these things”, she recalls. “I tried to be normal.”

At first, she struggled with her anxieties without knowing what it was, until her parents did some research and found out that she had OCD. That enabled her to go into therapy and learn how to deal with her anxieties.

Therefore, Mirjana wanted to help other Christians who struggle with their mental health when she restarted her social media accounts in 2020. “I thought it would help them if I would share what I went through”, she explains. Therefore, she has started to create blogs and Instagram posts in which she shares her faith, and how the Gospel and the Bible helped her in difficult times.

One of her blogs focuses on Psalm 91, a part of the Bible which was very encouraging when she struggled with OCD and anxiety a lot, Mirjana says. “I want to convey that life can be challenging, and I know how challenging it can be. I know what it feels like to be broken. But I also know that we have a Saviour, Who is bigger than every problem in the world and we can trust in Him.”

Deep story

By now, she has broadened her focus somewhat. She, for example, publishes interviews with people who try to point people to Jesus. Recently, she spoke to a Christian couple about difficulties in their pasts. Another time she talked to a pastor about depression or questioned people about being single. “I always try to find an interviewee with a deep story.”

A big challenge for Christian influencers is not to put themselves in the spotlight too much social media accounts, Mirjana acknowledges. “Especially when you gain many followers, the danger is that you focus too much on yourself, because you start seeing yourself as a special person”, she explains.

Glorifying

Therefore, Mirjana tries to keep this risk in mind when creating content for her page and blogs. “What I really like is interviewing people”, she says. “Then I can just ask the questions and other people can talk about their story.” At the same time, she continually asks herself why she wants to influence people via social media. “Is this really about God? Is it about serving Him or about serving myself? Is it about glorifying Him or about glorifying myself?”

Even though the German influencer does not spend hours on her social media every day, she wants to grow her community. Therefore, she is now looking for the possibilities of starting her own clothing brand with matching outfits for parents and children. “Its name would be “Under Your Wings”, which refers to children being under the wings of their parents, but above all, we are under God's wings”, she explains. “I would like to reach Christians and non-Christians, so I would focus more on the background story of the business.”


In Gaspard's videos, the sun is always shining on the Alps

Roman Catholic youth priest père (father) Gaspard Craplet only creates content when the weather is nice. Together with his youth group, he travels into the French mountains around his hometown Ars sur Formans. Whenever he sees a beautiful place, he stops the teenagers. “Let's make a video!”

Gaspard.jpg
Gaspard Craplet from Ars sur Formans, France. Photo Gaspard Craplet

The 49-year-old Roman Catholic priest has many questions to answer. He talks about diverse topics, varying from the Trinity to the dangers of alcohol.

His youth group is of great help to him. “They ask the questions, record my video and give feedback”, Gaspard says. The clips are only one minute long and can be watched on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Content

And many people do. On TikTok, the priest has 70.8 thousand followers, on Instagram 58.8 thousand, on Facebook 17,696, on YouTube “only 2.56k” and on LinkedIn 1820. The priest sees a large need among young French Catholics to learn more about the Christian faith. Whenever he posts a video, many of his followers comment on it and ask for more content.

The main goal of his videos, Gaspard says, is to show the “love of Jesus Christ and the love of the Triune God”. To convey that message, he uses his videos to provide catechism “in a fun way” and show that he is happy to be Christian.

As a youth priest, père Gaspard has to report to the Roman Catholic Church. However, they do not specifically check his videos as they are part of his mandate of educating the youth and he has permission to use social media for that. At the same time, the youth priest is careful. “When dealing with complex questions, for example, about the Trinity, I asked a good priest for feedback on my video.”

Subtitles

Right now, the youth priest has a stockpile of videos to post, so he puts one online every day. “I was in Rome recently, so I was able to record many videos at once”, he explains. However, this is not always the case, he adds. Père Gaspard records most videos when he organises a youth camp in the mountains. During their hikes, he can sometimes make as many as three clips a day. After recording, he does not edit the images, besides adding subtitles to them.

However, because the priest records his clips outside, he is always dependent on the weather. “When it's raining or the weather is too hot, we don't make a video”, he says. With a smile: “Some people think the weather in the Alps here is always nice, because my videos only show the sun.”


Influencer Johanna debunks myths about Jesus

Jesus is alive! That is the message TikTok influencer Johanna Exbrayat from the French town of Belfort stresses over and over again in her videos. “Many French think Christianity is dead, but I tell them that this is lie.”

In one night, her TikTok account named Princess of the King gained 5,000 followers, even though that was not Johanna's goal, the French Evangelical pastor says in an interview with CNE.news. Now, she has grown her account to almost 450,000 followers. “When I started in February 2021, I had the idea that TikTok was something for teenagers who do silly dances. I never envisioned that I would get so many followers.”

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Johanna Exbrayat from Belfort, France. Photo Johanna Exbrayat

The 37-year-old influencer started with a video with dating tips, followed by “How to be a Christian wife” and a prayer video. It shows something of the broad range of topics she covers. Johanna has no specific public or formula to which she shapes her content. “I post what is on my heart and mind”, she says.

However, her main aim is to debunk the myth that Christianity is something dusty from the past. Therefore, she retorts videos that ridicule Christianity, explains how people should pray and shares testimonies of persecuted Christians, for example. “Jesus is often represented as cold and religious in French society”, she points out. “In the churches, often, only religious rituals are left. People leave the church en masse. France is even the third atheist country in the world. I want to change that perception. Jesus can change your life today. He still does miracles. I want people to pray directly to God instead of repeating the same thing over and over. They should ask Him for a blessing over their life and read the Bible. Jesus is not the Jesus hanging on the cross only, He is risen.”

@princess.of.the.king Réponse à @__nhaeven #evangelique #tiktokchretien ♬ Emotional - Bang Nono

Johanna believes that TikTok is the means God gave her to tell others about the Gospel. Before she started, she prayed about what would be the right thing for her to do. She experienced a clear answer from heaven, under three strict conditions, says the influencer. “Do not ask people to follow you, or like your posts and do not boost your videos to get more viewers.”

Plant

The practice shows that this was not necessary either. Besides gaining 5,000 followers in one day, last November, Johanna increased her number of fans with 100,000. “Sometimes, you have to water the plant that grows”, she explains her choice for TikTok.

Also, TikTok fits her as a person, the pastor says. “It's quick, straightforward and I can say what I want. It's more real than Instagram where everything seems to be polished.”

The French influencer feels there is a strong need for an online ministry among young people. Many people respond to her video and although she gets plenty negative responses as well, there are many followers who tell her that they became a Christian after seeing her videos.

Future

At the same time, it is not always easy to be a Christian influencer. Besides the positive and thankful responses to her content, she also receives negative responses that, for example, denounce her as a female pastor or accuse her of using Jesus to earn a lot of money. Those comments hurt, she says, because they come from fellow-Christians. At the same time, she is not afraid of negative reactions. “I'm not afraid, because this is my mission.”

Johanna is convinced that there is a future for Christian influencers. “I strongly believe that God is working on a big revival. Therefore, I want to continue to equip Christians for when that time comes.”

Tips for when you want to start influencing

  • Brainstorm about what you would like to share with your public. Do you want to post content about your faith only, or do you have a specific topic that is close to your heart? What would you like other people to learn about Jesus? It is best to find your own niche that makes your content unique.

  • Consider how much time you are willing to invest. It takes a lot of time to create content. For example, if I want to share a video of an interview, I have to record it and edit it afterwards. If you want to grow bigger, you almost have to post content every day.

  • Pray about whether God wants you to start an online ministry.

  • If you want to use Instagram for your platform, think about the design of your page. There are different apps you can use to create a pretty page. And for any platform: learn about the platform; how does it work? How does its algorithms work?

  • Let someone doublecheck your posts. It is very important to get honest feedback about your content before you throw it online. Two people know more than one.

  • Know what you are talking about. If people ask you difficult and critical questions about your faith, make sure that you have a good response.

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