If you subscribe to YouTube or Instagram, you (or more likely, your kids) are probably familiar with Lily Kate Cole. She is a top influencer on social media who recently updated her brand to “all Christian all the time.”
Her story is powerful, as she is doing what most of us are afraid to do: leave our comfort zone and trust 100 percent in God’s plan for us. To do it at the tender age of 18? Well, that’s even more impressive.
Anyone involved in media knows that followers are everything. You can’t get a message out if no one is listening, right? Influencers become influencers by growing a large audience based on a brand. Not everyone is a famous musician, athlete, actor, political figure, or author who comes with their own expansive fanbase. Some influencers are just regular people who have found their niche in the online arena and have used their social media savvy and hard work to grow their popularity and keep their followers following.
That’s what made Cole’s switch to an overtly Christian brand so risky – and so impressive. In her desire to do God’s work rather than fold to societal peer pressure, she took a leap of faith that yes, cost her followers, but also gained her a stronger relationship with God.
“I am making the full transition from the entertainment world,” Cole explained. “My videos never had promiscuity, bad language, or crude humor. They were always wholesome. I tried to display elevated morals. Along with my sister, Annie Rose, we promoted sisterhood, our love of Texas, laughing, and having fun.”
That worked well but then a few things happened that made Cole revisit her brand. To pursue her passion and grow followers, Cole moved to Los Angeles to live with the famous YouTube family, JoJo and Jayden Siwa. Cole never felt entirely comfortable with the LA lifestyle and belief systems, and she determined that that choice had negative consequences. She moved back to Houston, then Covid struck. For Cole, it was a time of introspection and prayer.
“In January 2020, I recommitted to my faith. I started going back to church and clicking in to how culture, Christianity, and politics are intertwined and just how messed up the LA world is. Covid gave me time for this reflection. I started exploring the Bible and how I can make an impact. After all, nothing is more important than my faith,” she said.
And just like that, she updated her persona to be overt about her Christianity. Now, all of her posts are centered on that. If someone comments and wants to talk, she DM’s them, encourages them, and talks to them about Jesus. In addition, she’s started LiveFreely Ministries, a weekly Bible study with her followers.
As can be expected, the change has also brought negative and nasty comments. Most, she said, are from people who immediately assume she is a Trump supporter and turn her religious messages into political ones. She’s been called sexist, racist, anti-feminist, and intolerant, all because she shares her faith with others. But this mature-beyond-her-years 18-year-old is undaunted.
“I lost 13,000 followers on Instagram after updating my brand. But it’s okay. I wanted no strings attached, like a break up,” she said. “So many strings come along with the LA influencer world. As I turned away from that, this whole year has been a back and forth battle questioning if I’m doing the right thing. I know the Lord has a plan for me, but it took many months to get to that point, to fully surrender to him. One of the most valuable questions I asked myself was Is my identity in Christ or in my Instagram account? It’s a humbling experience but I have an end goal of where I want to be now. I don’t get value from followers. I get it from Christ, and I live in His spirit every single day.”
Her authenticity has indeed also gained her followers, many from her previous brand who appreciate and share her beliefs. On top of that, this time has gifted Cole with an epiphany: Pursue what you have been affirmed in. Cole said, “For me, that’s public speaking, videos, editing, content. In my public speaking, I’ve been most greatly affirmed. The Lord has blessed me in this area and it’s what I share with others.” Cole says she could wake up every single day and do a speaking engagement. She’s headed in that direction, talking at churches about why Christians need to be involved in social media and how important it is for youth to be speaking up on important issues.
This has led to a new gig that particularly excites her. She will be delivering a Podcast on Daily Wire, the popular Christian conservative talk show. She sees it as an opportunity for Gen Z listeners to have important conversations and get engaged. It’s just one way she tries to get her message across that Christians need to be vocal, need to be heard, and need to have a presence on social media.
“I have faith that a revival and shaking up will happen to social media platforms through the law,” she said. “They used to be a public forum and now they are publishers, so they can choose what information is shared and what isn’t. Social media is powerful and free speech and right to privacy have to be upheld. The best thing we can do right now is post good content, watch good content, and strengthen our walk in faith. We need an overwhelming amount of Christian content out there so social media will lose over half their content if they stifle us.”
To join Lily Kate Cole on her journey, follow her on Instagram through @itslilykate