When high school special education teaching assistant Jason B. Linton wanted to learn the lingo of his fifth- and sixth-grader students in 2019, he turned to TikTok, a social media upstart site where users share dance, music, comedy, and other videos ranging from three seconds to one minute.
Jason and his wife, licensed Assemblies of God minister Patience, started posting their own videos about their family after meeting in 2006 on a mutual friend’s Myspace blog about interracial dating. They married a year later.
Jason and Patience, both preachers’ kids and former Assemblies of God U.S. missionary associates in Miami — along with their adopted children Lillian, 5; Christian, 9; and Harper, 12 — began creating positive content that resonated with global viewers craving something upbeat.
Their channel grew exponentially. Followers (or subscribers) increased by the thousands daily from just a handful to 900,000 by mid-2020, after Jason posted a video of himself holding Lillian. He sang to the girl on a “talk box,” a piece of musical technology that allowed him to sound computerized, digitizing his voice in a way. In September 2020, Jason left his teaching position as TikTok became a full-time job.
Then the 16-second video went viral, with more than 5 million views on TikTok alone. Viewers posted it to other platforms, making the Lintons social media personalities. Jason’s channel has 5.5 million subscribers, while Patience has 105,000. The family’s footprint now includes its own Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube channels.
Early in the coronavirus pandemic, responding to children’s fears, the Lintons asked viewers about prayer needs on the TikTok program “Talk Box Request Live.” The 7 p.m. Central weeknight show features dances and secular and Christian music. As many as 93,000 watch the program in which the Lintons open the chat to prayer requests.
“People express things they’re afraid of, joys like cancer remission, fears when they’re stressed out,” says Jason, 42. “The atmosphere is one where everybody encourages each other.”
“We use it as opportunity to share faith about what God is doing in our lives,” says Patience, 41. “If you feel you need God to move in your life, we’ll pray. We’re providing opportunities for people who wouldn’t otherwise know the gospel, to find it and know who Jesus is.”
Many in their audience are non-Christians.
“What God has given us as our (modus operandi) is to present to the masses God’s love, playing talk box, and praying for them,” Jason says. “We’re always pointing it back to God.” He avoids divisive talk. Some have privately shared with them how the channel brought hope to those on the brink of suicide.
“They will know we are Christians, not by our political affiliation, but by our love — not our condemnation,” he says. “Our job is to open the doors to allow people to come in to feel love. When they want to know the source of that love, I will share it with them, but I’m not here to convict them. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job.”
The Lintons don’t hold altar calls.
“We do not know how many people have come to faith, we just know people’s lives have changed,” says Patience, who has a Southeastern University bachelor of science degree in Business and Professional Leadership and is currently enrolled in the master’s program for Ministerial Leadership at the Lakeland, Florida, school. She has led a Bible study apart from TikTok for those they’ve connected with on social media who want to deepen their faith.
In February, TikTok named Jason among 14 Black TikTok Trailblazers.
“We talk about adoption, diversity in our family, kindness, how we love through all the differences in our culture,” Jason says of the content that won this honor from the platform.
The Lintons also are newly named AG South Dakota District online directors.
“What they’re doing on social media can give us a good education in how to use online media in a good, positive way,” District Superintendent Stephen R. Schaible notes. “They’re teaching us how they use media, how it can give opportunities for ministry.”
In February, the Lintons led their first district-wide Zoom call with South Dakota pastors, sharing basics of online media, empowering churches and congregants to share the love of Christ using these platforms.