Putting real faces on Christianity: 4 young adults start safe space on Instagram
“I’ve always thought Christians were very prim and proper, and their lives were smooth sailing,” began Shermaine Law, a 22-year-old marketing student at Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS).
“But I’m not like that. I have rough edges and I have many shortcomings. I struggle to see myself as part of a Christian community because I don’t see myself as very refined.”
Shermaine is one of four university students who started inhisimage.sg on Instagram in 2019. She, Hannah Chan, Caleb Choy and Thaddeus Lee first met as students at cell group in Paya Lebar Methodist Church.
Sharing a common interest in photography, they decided to channel their passion and skills into sharing the gospel online.
The page profiles Christians and features their testimonies. The idea is to show how unique an individual’s walk of faith can be.
“We wanted to interview people who didn’t fit the cookie-cutter Christian image,” shared Hannah, “For example, one of the people we interviewed was Beatrice. At first glance, you might not think she was a Christian – she has a lot of tattoos and piercings all over her body.”
The National University of Singapore (NUS) Communications student continued: “But that doesn’t mean she has no testimony to share. Just because a Christian doesn’t fit into what people expect a Christian to be or look like doesn’t mean their testimony is less valuable.”
STEREOTYPES AND STRUGGLES
“A Christian doesn’t know how to have fun.”
This is just one of the common stereotypes Caleb has heard about Christians.
“There’s nothing wrong with that,” the 22-year-old Economics student said. “But that’s not what all Christians are like. You can love God and have cool interests too. For example, Joel, the first person we interviewed, he’s interested in metal music – a genre people don’t normally think Christians would like.”
Shermaine continued: “We hope to value every individual’s personal story. Sometimes, as Christians, we judge people without realising it. If you’re not of this cut, then you’re not a Christian or not as valued as a Christian – that’s how we minister to people. We wanted to show that we value community and at the end of the day, God loves all.”
Hannah recalled her own journey growing up as a second-generation Christian. During her early years at university, she found herself growing distant from God.
“I knew about God, but I wasn’t interested in knowing Him,” she recounted. Hannah shared that she was angry and felt like she couldn’t talk to anyone in church about her spiralling mental health.
“But now I know that’s not true,” said the 22-year-old. “You shouldn’t feel like you’re alone in your struggles or that your struggles make you any less a child of God.”
Hannah revealed that her turning point came when she encountered God: “One night, when I was really at my lowest, God touched me and changed my life forever.
“I felt Him stir in my heart. I can’t explain it, because it’s not something I can physically understand. But I knew instantly that it was God.”
The team hopes that their platform can also be a safe space for non-Christians to learn more about Christ through the real-life stories of everyday young people, and also a place for Christians to see that they’re not alone, especially those who feel out of place in their own communities.
Shermaine shared about a time when she felt alone because she was so different. At that point in her life, Shermaine smoked, self-harmed and frequently struggled in her relationships. She recalled how some of her friends asked her: “Eh, you’re Christian meh?”
It was a question which only made Shermaine feel more unworthy of being in church.
“If you’re someone who is struggling or trying to find your footing in their faith, I’d like you to know that you’re not alone in your journey,” Shermaine urged.
“Your struggles don’t devalue you as a Christian. In fact, it’s only through struggles that you can be sharpened as a person and see the glory of God. That’s what I love about inhisimage.sg – it’s a platform for everyone to hear the untold stories of His people – and everyone has a story to share.”
The page aims to reveal “who Christians are” and “who Jesus really is”.
“God never abandoned me even though I was someone who didn’t seem like a ‘perfect’ Christian,” Shermaine affirmed. “The page shows that just because you go through hurdles and valleys in life, it doesn’t discount your faith. It’s a place where people will see and learn of God’s goodness.”
Your struggles don’t devalue you as a Christian
While Caleb sees his own faith journey as pretty normal, he hopes the stories on inhisimage.sg will encourage others to see that the church isn’t for ‘perfect’ people.
“If you’re struggling, the church should be the place for you to find help,” he said. “Some people think, ‘I’m not good enough for church and I should get right first before I can go to church,’ but God will always be ready and waiting for you.
“It’s not about perfection, because we’re not saved by our own works. All the testimonies come from a place of struggle and brokenness, and that’s what makes them so powerful, because they were able to go through it with Jesus.”
As full-time university students, managing an Instagram page on the side has proven to be challenging.
A few months after officially launching inhisimage.sg, Hannah shared that she began to feel burnt out and doubt the project. She asked herself: “Was it really what God wanted or was I just doing something for myself?”
But during last year’s X3 Creative Conference, she received a card that had a drawing of a laptop and the Instagram logo. Next to the drawing, the artist had written words.
- “Strength of connections”
- “Using the Word to pierce into the atmosphere of darkness”
- “As God said to Moses, do not be afraid. He is saying to you, do not doubt. Surrender your talents to God, speak the truth in love and don’t be afraid to share your story.”
“I cried so much in front of her the moment she showed this to me – and I don’t normally cry in front of people. It was great affirmation and encouragement from God that this project wasn’t something I was just doing for myself but something that God wanted us to continue.”
From that point on, God began to open a lot of doors for the team and connect them with people who had amazing testimonies to share.
While Hannah still feels different from what Christians are often perceived to be, she said: “It’s not about being an unconventional or conventional Christian. The things that I do might be seen as unconventional but I’m still a Christian, I’m still a child of God and I choose to be obedient to the things God tells me to do.
Hannah encourages young believers to be bold. “A lot of youths are scared to tell others they’re Christian because they think being Christian will be seen as uncool. But I don’t think so — being a Christian is totally cool!
“A life with Jesus is the best life, so don’t be afraid to share your own story.”
Walking with Jesus is a unique, personal journey and the team behind inhisimage.sg offers a refreshing reminder that we should be careful not to judge others too quickly.
Instead, we should be a community that is open to those who are struggling. After all, we are all made in the image of God.
Have a story to tell? The inhisimage.sg team wants to let you know that they’re here to listen! Just slide into their DMs on Instagram!
THINK + TALK
- What comes into your head when you think of the word “Christian”?
- Is your church an exclusive community that makes imperfect people feel unwelcome?
- What is one practical way we can start becoming an open community?