Justin Stuart Interview with Conor Sweetman
A popular Youtube prankster’s perspective on the depth of Christian life in a shallow culture.
Check out Justin’s Youtube channels and Instagram profile here:
Prank Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/JStuStudios
Vlog Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/MoreJStu
Instagram Profile: https://www.instagram.com/itsjustinstuart/
CS: These days, you’re a successful YouTube personality and prankster with hundreds of millions of views and millions of followers. You’re also an outspoken Christian who desires to see young people discipled. Where did it all start?
JS: I’ve always loved being in front of the camera. Ever since I was a young kid, I was making home videos, and then when I met my friend Andrew, we started to get into YouTube for fun. We just wanted to make videos that made us laugh and share them with friends and family. So, ever since we created the YouTube channel, it was this slow progression of realizing, “Wow, we can have viewers that don’t know us,” and seeing new subscribers became intriguing. We started with skits, which led eventually to pranks—one of which went viral and allowed it all to start snowballing. God’s definitely blessed us with our endeavours on YouTube.
When did you start talking about your faith through your online venues?
The beginning of our YouTube career didn’t express much of our faith directly, it was mostly just for fun, never something we’d talk much about. But even in this year alone, we’ve seen significant growth in our own relationships with God, which then bled over into your content. Everyone in our devoted follower base knows that we take our faith seriously. I’m actually starting a new channel where I’ll be uploading weekly Bible studies, along with a podcast. God’s definitely doing some new things over here.
Your posts show a depth that are definitely not your average, everyday Christian social media influencer. What has brought you to that point?
It’s crazy, ’cause I was raised a Christian my whole life, but most of my life was lived under the title rather than in a relationship. This past year, I really started to evaluate my life. It’s hard for me to pinpoint a moment that everything that changed for me; it’s been a progression since I decided to start getting more serious and focus my life more on Christ. It’s been going from a need to a want; I want to share the life-changing love of Christ. God’s been changing my affections; things I would never think about before are now coming up all the time. I love sharing my story and struggles with people who I know are going through the very same thing as I have in the past. God is the only one who can satisfy us, seeing as He knows us even better than ourselves.
Is there a relationship between your rise in success on YouTube and your focus on the things of Christ?
Throughout our YouTube career, we’ve always been giving credit to God, but we weren’t all-in. We were saying certain things, but then, on the side, we were actively engaged in a life that wasn’t representative of lives that have been renewed by God. Once I turned my life around, He was able to use this platform that He’s given us for good.
Where do you find your growth in your community?
My YouTube partner named Andrew is a huge support to me, and we’ve started a Bible study along with a few other brothers. We set aside a day of the week to just be vulnerable with each other because we know that iron sharpens iron. Because of this, we’ve seen radical growth, just knowing that these guys will walk through any situation in life together; it’s not just surface-level relationships.
Do you ever interact with the people you may have met through YouTube endeavours?
Yeah, it’s been cool! I’m constantly getting questions or requests through Instagram, and I’ve seen God work through people’s lives through simple posts online. This one guy used to always reply with very disrespectful, rude things on our posts. But one day, I’m not sure what happened, but he messaged me with an apology saying, “Hey man, I’m sorry about all those things I’ve said in the past, I want to take this stuff seriously and start going to church.”
How do you think the average social media user can be a faithful steward to the Lord even on small platforms?
First, it’s important to ask ourselves why we’re even using social media. We have to be intentional in everything we do, rather than just going on to scroll through mindlessly. What message do you want to get across and receive through our time on social media?
The other day I heard my dad preach a message on “living a life worth following,” and I thought that was such an important thing to hear. We can so easily pick and choose what we want to publish; being an example is so important, not just posting useless things or because you’re bored. We need to think about how we can use everything for the glory of God. There’s this quote that I think is so true: “Self-promotion is easy, but character-development is valuable.”
Be bold, be humble, have persistence with faith, to love people well through social media. I used to always focus on what would bring more likes and retweets, but that doesn’t have value. Talking about God has so much value. Social media is either a big missions field, or a huge waste of time.
So much of our identity is tied to self-promotion. How do you maintain a distance while still engaging with it?
So many people find their affirmation through social media, but it’s just a dead end. I’m speaking to myself here too, but it’s so important to get into the Word more than we get into the world of online affirmation. If you are rooting yourself in the Word on a consistent basis, if you’re putting on the armour of Christ, you’ll be able to fight. You’re much more prone to the attacks of the enemy if you’re going to the world of social media more than the Word. Where are you finding your value? It’s possible to find yourself more lost than you were at the outset!
Since getting more serious in my relationship with Christ, I’ve tried to be more intentional in everything I do, even down to who I follow online. Recently I actually went through and unfollowed a lot of people, even friends, just because the content they were posting didn’t offer value or was even harmful to my walk with Christ. Even online, you can work towards surrounding yourself with more truth, more encouragement, and not just empty things.
In terms of orienting our lives towards Christ and having intentionality, my wife and I were talking the other day about how God is so gentle on us. He doesn’t just make us do a 360 every single day, He slowly reveals things to us as we walk with Him. It’s like planting a delicious garden; it doesn’t happen overnight. We have to tend to it, water the seeds, uproot the weeds, and it’s all beautiful and valuable. I see a lot of young people being hard on themselves because they feel like they have too much to work on and they’ve messed up so much. But as God cultivates you, everything is valuable. God knows what’s best for me, I just need to be faithful in walking with Him each day.
Is it possible to access the depths of the Christian life through social media platforms? If so, how?
I don’t think it’s possible to experience the depths of the Christian life, rather, social media can be used to express it. It can give you glimpses into a life with Christ, but experiencing it is completely separate—in quiet times in your room, fellowship, spending time in the Word. I have an analogy for it: Social media for the Christian life is like looking at a poster or a movie trailer. You don’t get the full depth of the movie from it, but it can attract and intrigue you. True depth is like watching the movie itself, sitting down, engaging with it, asking questions, and paying attention. Through this, we can actually get to know the characters, ourselves, the story, and who this God is that we serve.