Until recently, Instagram was a purely happy space for me. My account is locked, and I only follow people I actually know and like. This means my feed is a respite from nonsense, not a portal into it. But I am human, and remain drawn to nonsense. And so, sometime toward the end of last year, I opened a new anonymous account to follow strangers who don’t make me happy: the Trump family, media strivers, celebrities, and so on.
Because I report on religion, and especially evangelical culture, many of my initial follows were prominent pastors, authors, and speakers. But I soon realized the more interesting follows often occupied the lower tiers of fame: the spouses and children of jet-setting pastors, or people who clearly aspire to fame but haven’t quite gotten there. Also, Tim Tebow. I had tumbled into the world of Christian influencers: Stylish types posting about their stylish lives, but with Bible verses and vaguely Jesus-y phrases peppering their captions. I knew I was hooked when I saw this post from a daughter of Trump-supporting televangelist Jentezen Franklin. She’s sporting an off-the-shoulder top and gazing into the distance through wire-frame sunglasses, a stunning view of Jerusalem behind her. The caption: “Just thinking about Jesus.”
The following is far from a comprehensive guide to Christian Instagram, but it includes representatives from many of its corners. Consider it a starter pack for the “Just thinking about Jesus” crowd.
Followers: 1.2 million
Instagram bio: Me, my sweet little family and sometimes pics of things I get to do!
Actual bio: Worship leader who started her career at the Dallas-area megachurch Gateway Church, headed by Trump evangelical advisor Robert Morris (171,000 followers). She and her husband, fellow musician Cody Carnes (126,000 followers) visited the White House in December, where they were among a small group of Christian performers invited to a “faith briefing” and prayer for President Trump.
Representative post: “A really cool back story—A few minutes before we came out to lead we prayed as a team. I prayed that the presence of God would feel so tangible that it would feel like it was touching our faces. I prayed acts 2:2 ‘suddenly there came a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting’. We started our set and right in the middle of it the roof of the arena began to open and a whirlwind of wind began rushing into the room….”
Followers: 3.6 million
Instagram bio: • wifey
• author / Live Original. Live Fearless
I love you just the way you are🎈
Actual bio: Granddaughter of Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson, Sadie is now an author, podcaster, conference headliner, and purveyor of home decor and jewelry under the brand “Live Original.” Robertson married Auburn University student Christian Huff (214,000 followers) in November, in a ceremony officiated by Georgia megachurch pastor and Passion conference founder Louie Giglio (402,000 followers).
Representative post: “2020. new year. new decade. new life. new book. do you believe that your life is worth living? do you believe that your life is worth celebrating? I believe this for EVERYONE! my new book ‘LIVE’ comes out in February…”
Followers: 1.4 million
Instagram bio: I love Jesus. My husband is my best friend. My children are my greatest teachers. I drink my water & mind my business.
Actual bio: The daughter of prominent pastor T.D. Jakes (3.9 million followers), Roberts now co-pastors a church in Los Angeles and heads a lifestyle brand called Woman Evolve, which includes conferences, a podcast, and a fashion line.
Representative post: “You can’t tell me I’m not Olivia Pope in this @shopwomanevolve cape coat.”
Instagram bio: I’m a nobody, trying to tell everybody, about somebody, who will save anybody.
Actual bio: One of 19 children in the sprawling Bates family, who star in the wholesome Duggar-esque reality show Bringing Up Bates, soon to enter its 9th season. Her Insta-savvy siblings include Josie Balka (168,000 followers) and Alyssa Webster (287,000), and she runs the Bates Sisters Boutique (140,000) with sister Erin Paine (345,000) and sister-in-law Whitney Bates (281,000).
Typical post: “He’s been my friend, my strong arm, my laughter, my help, and my hero! Thank you, Evan, for walking through this pregnancy with me hand in hand, arm in arm! Xo”
Followers: 224,000, 143,000, and 39,800, respectively.
Instagram bios: Connar’s is: “just a highlight reel.” The other two have no bios.
Actual bios: Three of the five photogenic and jet-setting children of televangelist and Trump supporter Jentezen Franklin (542,000 followers). All three women appear to be close with Selena Gomez (167 million followers), who threw an extravagant birthday party for model Connar last fall.
Representative post: “Just thinking about Jesus.” –Caroline Franklin
Age: unknown, but has found the time to have 10 biological children
Instagram bio: Wife | Mom of 10😅@yesall10rmine | Student | Encourager … Reading God’s Word, every day!
Actual bio: One of a number of popular “Bible journaling” accounts, featuring artful shots of open Bibles covered in notes, highlights, and illustrations. Doodling in Bibles has become such a phenomenon that some publishers now offer spiral-bound “illustrating Bibles” with extra-wide margins.
Representative post: “let me get this straight, when I focus on others and what I can do for them, THEN all my needs are met, THEN I am filled up!”
Followers: 2 million
Instagram bio: Tim Tebow
Actual bio: The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner is currently a minor-league baseball player and ESPN college football commentator, but has found more sustained success as an inspirational figure. Tebow married South African model Demi-Leigh Nels-Peters (now Demi-Leigh Tebow, 1.5 million followers) in December, in a ceremony officiated by Louie Giglio, the same pastor who officiated Sadie Robertson’s wedding in November.
Representative post: “Ready & excited for what God had prepared my heart for…”