“Emotionally healthy people cause toxic people to make a choice. They will either leave or they will change themselves.”-Pastor Rob Shepherd
Everyone is offended these days but is anyone doing anything about it? Pastor Rob Shepherd, lead pastor at Next Level Church Next Level Church in Yorktown, VA, is. His new book, WHEN OFFENSE KNOCKS: Get offended less, to change the world more, which hit number 1 on Amazon for New Release books, and came out April 10, tackles this prickly issue plaguing the world these days.
Shepherd, son of the beloved Hearing Assist actor, Robert Shepherd, who is known nationally for the hearing aid commercials, doesn’t avoid the hard topic of social media. This influential and deeply loved pastor has over 157 thousand followers on TikTok, and uses that platform, and others, to tame the turbulent waters, and lead the lost to Jesus through the one thing our Savior said works: love (Jn 13:35).
“When Offense Knocks is an inspirational challenge to Christians to change the world without being a jerk,” per the Amazon book blurb. Pastor Rob Shepherd focuses on three ways to do this: influence, friendship and hospitality. Rather than getting offended on social media, like everyone else, Pastor Rob uses it to teach believers how to deal with “Christians who are keyboard warriors, or non-Christians who have an ax to grind.
The following is a CNJ exclusive with Pastor Rob Shepherd:
On your March interview onThe Maurice Brown Show you said that ever since the lockdown, offense is at an all-time high, and that people have even left the faith because they’ve seen howChristians treat each other on social media. What is the solution? I believe there are a few solutions, but the three I highlight in my book are having influence, friendship, and hospitality. Influence is hard to gain, but easy to lose. When Christians fight with each other we lose influence. When we put offense ahead of our relationships we lose friendships. When we focus on hospitality we become offended less. I go into greater detail in the book, but that is the quick answer.
Ultimately, though, it is going to take heart change. We cannot change other people, but we can follow Jesus so closely we become new creations. We are naturally selfish and self-serving. When we follow Jesus He invites us to die to ourselves. I believe a result of focusing on Jesus is less focus on oneself. When we focus on ourselves less we get offended less.
With the U.S. government banning TikTok on employee’s devices, is it safe for Americans to be on that platform? From everything I’ve read and seen it is very safe. Facebook and Instagram do the same things TikTok does with our information. It is used for marketing. This is why when you look at something to buy online your ads will all of a sudden feature that same product. The only difference is our government cannot control TikTok. Since I’m on TikTok a lot I’ve done as much research as I can and from what I’ve read the issue is more about control than a real threat.
How do you rid yourself of toxic individuals on social media? The best way I know of is to become healthy. Emotionally healthy people cause toxic people to make a choice. They will either leave or they will change themselves. Let’s become so secure in who Jesus calls us to be that we lose our insecurity. Let’s become so healthy that toxic people don’t drag us to their level. I’m not in charge of other people’s emotions. I’m in charge of mine. Meaning, I aim to be at a healthy emotional place so that I can respond with grace and truth to toxic people. When they see they can’t rattle you most of the time they will move on, but some of the time they will start to change themselves because of your Godly example.
You make the excellent point above: “Let’s become so secure in who Jesus calls us to be that we lose our insecurity.”With as stressed as people are right now, what is something simple believers can do, right at this moment, to become more secure in their identity? Identity is what we put our worth in. So if we put our ultimate worth in our job, family, race, politics, or even our hobbies we will find our identity there. To find our identity in Jesus it starts with puttingHim first. The very first Christians were called that because they were living for Jesus. The termChristian was given to the early believers (Acts 11:19-26) by outsiders who saw how they treated people. Christian scared for people so well that those who saw them understood that they were changed because they followed Jesus. To be a Christian is to follow Jesus. When we obey Him, serve Him, and prioritize Him we develop our identity in who He says we are. A quick place to start is by asking, “Does Jesus have my heart?” When Jesus truly has our heart we live to please Him. That is the starting point for finding our identity in Jesus.
You also stated on The Maurice Brown Show that people became over-politicalized during the lockdown, they watched nothing but the news. Three years later, is this country settling down? Or is the rising inflation so bad that Americans are even more frazzled now? Based off my interactions online and in real life I do not think people have settled down. Our country has been divided and it seems like we are being intentionally divided. I think this is a great opportunity for Christians. Jesus taught us to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us. In a world of cancel culture and outrage Christians can model for the world what it looks like to love someone you don’t agree with. Our culture has accepted that if you love someone you have to agree with them, and that is a lie! We can disagree and still be friends. It is messy and takes intentional work, but we can learn to show love to those we disagree with while we still stick to our morals and convictions.
What is the worst social media platform believers should avoid? I would say this would differ for each believer. Jesus told Christians to be wise as serpents, but innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16). Social media is like fire. It can be used to do great things, but out of control it can do a lot of harm. If any social media platform leads to temptation, compromise, or becomes a stumbling block, Christians should avoid it. I personally view social media as a place to gain influence and ultimately share about Jesus’ love. Think of it this way, in Jesus’ day people would gather around a well. Today the gathering place for people is social media. We have to be careful because not everyone who gathers there has good intentions (wise as serpents), but we also should be aware that this is a place where we can reach people.
What are some long-term things believers should do to solidify their identity in the Body of Christ? Each Christian has spiritual gifts that were given to them by God. These gifts were given to us to serve God and strengthen the Body of Christ. We so often use our gifts simply for our own benefit. That is not the way God intended it. God created us to meet needs in the Body of Christ and to have needs that only the Body of Christ can help with. No one comes with all the spiritual gifts. Paul makes this point clear when he illustrates how some are hands, feet, the mouth piece, etc. (1 Corinthians 12). So when we are not plugged into the local church the church suffers, but so do we. To see your gift come alive the first thing to do is find out what it is. There are some great spiritual gift tests out there. We give one to every person who joins our church. The sweet spot is learning what your gift is and then matching it with the passion God has put in your heart.
Jesus said, “They will know you are My disciples by your love,” and I John 4:18 says, “Perfect love casts out fear.” Can you explain how when you meditate on Jesus’ Omnipotence-and open your heart to love Him more-that casts out fear? Because you then have a clear mental picture of just who is your Protector? I used to think that in order to do something I had to eliminate fear. But now I think it’s very possible to do things scared. The perfect love of Jesus casts out fear because whether we win or fail our ultimate identity is in Jesus and not our accomplishments. The scariest thing I’ve ever done is plant a church. I had no financial backing and very little support. I was scared out of my mind, but I was also convinced that planting a church was what God was calling me to do. I didn’t know if the church would reach people or fail to reach anyone. My job wasn’t to worry about the success. It was to be obedient.Even though I was scared I trusted that God would provide what I needed because He called me. It iskind of like a little kid who wants to jump off the stairs into his dad’s arms. The fear doesn’t go away at first, but the full confidence that dad will catch him leads the child to jump. I relate to that a lot with my relationship with God.
“I think way too many kids walk away from church because they haven’t seen how God’s love changed their parents.”-Pastor Rob Shepherd
God’s Love Gets Offended Adult Children Back To Church
As a former church secretary I was once asked by a parishioner how we kept our adult son in church, to which I replied,”Jesus said, ‘They will know you are My disciples by your love,’ it’s as simple as that.” But Christians don’t like that simple answer, because they want to DO something, not rend their heart before Jesus. What is Pastor Rob’s response to those who don’t like that “love is the answer,” as the song says?“My heart does break for any parent who has seen a child walk away from the church. Love is the answer. When we love like Jesus we consistently love people. Even when someone disagrees with us we can love them as Jesus has loved us. I think way too many kids walk away from church because they haven’t seen how God’s love changed their parents. They have seen how their parents went to church, but fail to connect the dots with how that makes a difference in their life. When we love well it makes a difference. To anyone who reads this and has a child who has walked away from the faith I would encourage you to remember that it’s not the end of the story. Pray for them, love them, and know that just because they reject the church today doesn’t mean they will reject it forever. After all we serve a God who is in the business of doing miracles.
For more information about When Offense Knocks, or Pastor Rob’s other titles, follow him on social media:
Kristen Collier has a B.A. In English Literature, is co-founder and 2D animator at Collier Animation Studio Collier Animation Studio – Home , and co-founder and Roku developer of Creative Motion Network Creative Motion Online – Front Page , a free, cutting-edge indie Christian Roku channel.