What’s An Echo Chamber?

An “echo chamber” is when you surround yourself online with people who agree with you. Some years ago, a social media platform was barely doing well until the election year. Then, it blew up!  Many people joined, but it wasn’t long before they returned to Facebook. 

The reason? No sense of community. It was an echo chamber that brought no real change and became a place where people could gripe to one another. So, the platform lost its popularity. People returned back to their former social media habits. Facebook grew to 2 billion users per month.

An echo chamber is a return to being comfortable. Comfortable is not a place we’re supposed to dwell. Jesus said to “follow me,” to deny yourself, and take up your cross daily (Luke 9:23). But, some in church circles still cling to, “…this is the way we’ve always done it.” 

Don’t join an “echo chamber.” Let the Lord use you to make a difference in people’s lives by truly following Him. This will take courage, but God will give you the courage and the words. Trust Him. 

Dressing The Inner Woman

Women put a lot of effort into their outer appearance. When I try on a new outfit in the dressing room, the mirror tricks me into believing I really do look great in it, but the mirror at home will tell a different story. The right outfit gives us confidence, but it will never dispel the voices in our heads that say we’re not good enough. That’s where we need to work on our inner woman and study Scripture.

Using the right words in our heads is as important as what we write online, in our journals, or for devotional pieces like this one. We will read them again and again, the words imprinting upon our hearts, and Facebook will remind us of posts from a year or more ago.

Proverbs 18:21 ESV says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” The previous verse talks about making a living off words. This verse speaks to the power of words. Words can help another person find the confidence to serve or totally crush someone from their full potential. Likewise, the words we hear in our heads about ourselves are not valid. When I feel anxiety or put myself down, I must confront those words. Jesus loves us so much as women, and women were the first witnesses of the empty tomb.

We are creatures that crave deep connections. It’s no wonder that most women are active on social media. Our words matter to ourselves and others, whether in person, online, or in private conversation. That’s why it’s so important to pay closer attention to how we dress the inner woman. Go ahead, fix your hair, perfect your make-up, and wear an outfit that exudes confidence to people around you, but don’t forget your heart.

 Start the day reading Scripture and write something positive on your social media. Let this imprint your heart so it’s more than just surface confidence that radiates from you, but the light of our Lord instead.

Photographer

We watched “Photographer” on Disney+/NatGeo. This series has riveted me (for the most part). 

Muhammed Muheisen was one of the premiered photographers. He was an AP photographer during the Iraq war and other violent situations. He wanted to photograph the good in life, but AP needed him to serve up a series of newsworthy images. Muhammed’s images won awards. Like the soldiers he was documenting, Muhammed began to feel the wear and tear of war. He spent a lot of time in the local towns and villages when he wasn’t in the middle of a firefight and captured images of life in those villages. 

The more time Muhammed spent with refugee children, the more he wanted to capture their plight and do something about it. One day, he quit the AP after the violent death of his photographer friend in Kabul, Afghanistan, and he started using his skills to help refugee children. You can view his images on Everyday Refugees. He recognized the power of photography in how it tells stories and often says more than words can express. 

I learn from watching these shows. I often ask myself, “How can I improve my writing, photography, and graphic design?” How can I move people to do something like Muhammed? How can I tell better stories? How can I show emotion better through my photography? 

Self-Control On Social Media

“A soft answer [online] turns away wrath, but a harsh word [in reply to someone online] stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1, emphasis mine. Read James 3:3-6, too.

Tossing those words out there online that you feel in the moment without thought has consequences. In any situation, self-control is the one thing we have a choice in, but online it’s easy to just put words out there in the name of ministry, truth, or whatever we are using to justify our actions. Even as I write this, I know I have regrets in some of the words I once used online.

Grace to those who put their foot in their mouths and say the wrong thing. May we also learn forgiveness to those who hurt us deeply with words. The tongue is so hard to control, but used wisely can open doors or heal an injury.

📷 Prescott, AZ

Tell Better Stories

I like playing sports, but I don’t like watching games. Hence, each baseball game saw me reading a book in the stadium, and usually something so thick and outrageous that I would peek up at the jumbotron to see if the announcers noticed (because the Diamondbacks used to pan the camera to the audience to find something funny and unusual). I do like sports documentaries, though, and I find encouragement and lessons one can learn in them. 

Untold is a sports documentary series on Netflix. The first three I watched of the series encouraged me. Untold: The Race of The Century is about the Australian team’s determination to beat America in the America’s Cup race. The Australian team beat America by thinking outside the box. A man with no higher than a 12th-grade education redesigned their Sailing hydrofoil (completely within the rules). The team strategically kept the Sailing hydrofoil a secret until after the race was over. The New York Yacht Club elite would have dismissed this man, but the Australian team trusted each other and worked together. The man who made the Sailing hydrofoil didn’t let his lack of education fuel his insecurity, and keep him from helping his country. 

My current favorite, and one saved to my watchlist, is The Last Dance. This features Michael Jordan and the Bulls basketball team. It’s worth rewatching sometimes, and last night, the episode shared through interviews and commentary how Phil Jackson, the new coach, taught Michael Jordan to trust his team. The prior coach always put the ball into Michael Jordan’s hands. Phil Jackson wanted a more creative approach and taught Michael Jordan that his team was there to help. In one game, Michael was told to pass the ball to Paxson. Paxson made basket after basket. The opposing team kept trying to block Michael and didn’t expect him to pass the ball to Paxson. Through this, Michael learned teamwork. He put aside his own agenda for the good of the game. Michael is even known for mentoring others along the way, for example, Kobe Bryant. 

Most of the sports documentaries embrace reprehensible actions and scandals because that’s what makes ratings and money. Few good documentaries exist to show a story of overcoming something and making morally or biblically right, but difficult choices, or failing and making things right.

We need to tell better stories. The kind of stories that change lives and aren’t echo chambers. Getting comfortable is the enemy of creativity. An environment that lacks challenge means the creative can’t grow. Like in sports, the athlete has to train and listen to their coaches. The pain is momentary, but persevering through it means the results will be eternal. 

God-Sized Dreams

“Mordecai’s trust was in the faithfulness of God, not in the faithfulness of Esther. He knows that God will not let His people down, even if individuals let God down.” – Study Guide on Esther 4

What if Esther hadn’t listened to Mordicai to step into her calling to save the Jewish people? Mordecai trusted God to have a plan B. The courage of Esther is what we all need when we step into God’s role in our lives. Granted, most of us aren’t facing death in the King’s court for coming unsummoned into his presence, and we aren’t physically saving a Jewish people from annihilation. 

What we face, though, is…

  • What if we fail? 
  • What will people think of us or our dreams? 
  • The negative voices in our heads or insecurity. 
  • Family separation or division. 
  • Being judged. 

Like I said at The Outpour at Loving Life, we want to be liked as Christians. Following Jesus means we won’t always be liked. That’s never more apparent than when you serve on social media. As I told one Georgia church member, “Don’t let the negativity discourage you. Not everyone will like what you post. That’s okay.” 

God was very patient with me, teaching me to trust Him in small steps along the way, to risk more, and to stand when my instinct was to run. I failed enough in my life that, upon surrendering to Jesus, I wanted His way because my way wasn’t working and definitely wasn’t as satisfying as His way. Risk takes on a new meaning when you align with God’s will. In taking that first step, you are acknowledging complete trust that He is all-powerful and bigger than what is in the way.

Embrace those God-sized dreams but be patient. His timing isn’t always our timing. Trust Him to show up. 

When You’re Enduring A Drought

Do we see the stones or notice the drought first? To be honest, I see the lack of water before I notice the stones. This is rarely helpful to me. To face challenges, I need to see the stones first then work to find solutions to the drought. When I talk about stones, I am referring to Joshua 4. Scripture like Joshua 4 and Acts 18 have become a recent focus in my personal devotional time.


The Challenges of The Promised Land

The Israelites were crossing the Jordan to get to the Promised Land. They set up stones in the dry Jordan River. The stones were a reminder for future generations to focus on what God had done. The stones would not be seen when the Jordan flowed over its banks. During a drought, the stones would be visible. Crossing the Jordan wasn’t going to a land of rest.  

“The challenges only got bigger as the Israelites entered the Promised Land, but the task to trust God was prominent even amidst the challenges.” (David Guzik)

The Promised Land wasn’t a place of rest but of battle. When I posted on WorldVenture about the cost of following Jesus, a couple of responses disappointed me. We forget the cost of following Him, even gloss over it or choose not to serve Jesus but ourselves. We look for the Hallmark version of faith instead of the real gritty stuff most of us experience.  

Ministry is all about risk, and WorldVenture is about risking all. The most important thing to remember is how God never sends His people to Risk All without sending reinforcements.


The Gift of Deep Friendships

In Acts 18:9-11, God tells Paul in a dream He has “… many people in the city.” Because of God’s encouragement and provision, Paul stayed a year and a half in the city. Paul continued working in his role despite perhaps fear, even doubt. Corinth was a rough city to serve in. The commentary described church planting in Corinth as “… none but the tough survive.” What I love most about this chapter is how God took the time to speak to Paul, assuring him of friends in the city. In this chapter, it focuses on some of those friends:

  • Priscilla and Aquila were Paul’s deeper friendships. In reading the commentary on this chapter, Priscilla was mentioned first which is said to be unusual. It shows how much God values women, not just men. Priscilla and Aquila were true friends and true partners in life, too.
  • Apollos was enthusiastic about Jesus but knew little about Him. Instead of doing what so many of our churchy people do these days, yelling at him or nitpicking at him for not having it right, Aquila and Priscilla discipled him – a demonstration of patience in ministry and with people and of great love for each other.

God has many people in the city still. Loyal, hard-working, strong friends who, daily or weekly, inspire me to keep going even when I am at my lowest or even at my most fearful and insecure. Maybe the solution to our fears is simply obeying God like Paul and exercising faith like a muscle.

I cherish the people God has sent my way. In different seasons of life, those friends have kept me putting one foot in front of the other. These friends also help me see the stones when I only notice the drought or help me see solutions to the drought when all I want to see are the stones.  

Words Matter

Words matter online. If we genuinely care about the lost and our community, we will make every effort, as Romans 12:18 says, to “…live at peace with everyone,” as far as it depends on us. We can’t control what others put out, but we can control how we respond to people and what we post.

The illusion we face is that social media gives us this layer of anonymity, and we are usually braver behind social media than in person. Often, you don’t know who is reading or watching what you post. Knowing your audience is critical to online ministry. 

An example of care put into social media ministry comes from Toccoa, Georgia. The Outpour Church manages a Facebook page and group. Trudy posts for the church in local Facebook groups as part of her bigger strategy. Recently, she shared, “During an unanticipated emergency hospitalization, a care technician asked where I go to church and said she had seen my posts in the local group. She went home and talked to her husband. Their plan was to have bologna sandwiches and listen to Sunday’s sermon for lunch!” 

Whether or not you recognize social media as a ministry, if you are online, you are in ministry. Your words, pictures, and videos reflect your heart. And sharing the Gospel in person or online takes effort, intentionality, and sensitivity sometimes. Technology gives us the tools to reach the ends of the earth if we only learn how to communicate so people will hear. 

How do you build relationships online? It’s no different than your in-person relationships. Here are some basics: 

  • Post non-religious stuff and build something in common with others. Do you like to fish? Do you like horses? What do your friends like? What interests do you share together that you can post to attract more conversation? 
  • Post about your faith for real. What does it mean to you? What are you reading in the Bible? Be teachable. Learn together. 
  • What is praiseworthy? 
  • What are you struggling with? Let people pray for you. It’s okay. Share with discernment. 
  • Privately invite people to church. Sit with them, or watch it with them online. 
  • Use the online world to meet someone for coffee. 
  • Friend or follow new people you meet at church on their social media platforms. 
  • Don’t be too busy for people. 

How To Effectively Communicate

Content Marketing Institute published 15 Digital Content Mistakes That Can Hurt Your Brand. I work with missionaries and churches in online communication. I picked a few items from Content Marketing’s list to connect ministry and secular marketing. While we do marketing, we must always consider it ministry to establish a genuine relationship with people.

First, you are the brand. Whether it’s a church or missionary, or a Christian non-profit. It is who you are. For ministry purposes, that’s how we define our own brands. It is how we differentiate ourselves from others.

“To instantly leave a memorable impression on your target audience, so they slowly but surely become familiar with your company and ultimately buy from you.” (coschedule.com on Brands)

Promotional Content

“The 80/20 rule has been cited as the effective social media content ratio. Focus 80% of your posts on informing and entertaining your followers, while just 20% should be about your business. Similarly, the five-three-two rule says for every 10 posts published, five should be curated from others’ content, three should be original to your brand, and two should be personal and fun to humanize your brand.”

Simply put…

  • Informing and entertaining can be about your ministry, Scripture, fun photos, cultural immersion, etc. Give value back to your audience. How can you minister to them? How can you minister to your community online? Be generous with your time. Teach and inspire!
  •  20% a call to action to give or about events.
  •  Share or screenshot and share and tag other content related to your brand, your area of ministry, or something valuable to your audience. Paraphrase and sum up another person’s post, tag, or share a link. Subscribe to news events in the area of your service to paraphrase mostly positive updates to your newsfeed.
  •  Three original posts about your brand. This is content you create from scratch.
  •  Two fun things that are personal. To build friendships in person, you find something in common. Do the same online.

Ultimately, the rule is not solid, Content Marketing says. Don’t feel you need to stick fast to this rule, but it’s a good guide, especially if you need to be more creative. Study your data online to know what your audience wants to see from you. Never listen to an expert if your data says to do something different. Do what works for your audience! Do what works to grow a new audience, too.

Emailing

Following along the lines of knowing your audience, typically once a month for churches and once a week to once a month for individuals, is a good guide for email communication with your audience. Larger organizations will have different schedules.

Even if you still need to go to the field, you must keep your name in front of people. Draw on your creativity to decide what to send out to foster solid friendships, or enroll in similar newsletters to see what they write and how they frame their stories. Below is what is true of communications between missionaries and their partners:

  • 76% expect consistent interaction with a brand. Even though this is a secular market, I have found this to be true with missionary and partner relations.

Stay Away From Controversial Subjects

If you don’t wish to get boycotted, get an angry email, or want to keep relationships with people, be aware of trigger points with your audience. Content Marketing says to bring up highly polarizing and emotional topics only if it has something to do with your brand. And when you do, make sure you have researched the subject and keep a steadfast, calm, and loving tone online.

Once something becomes a debate, you’ve lost. Even if you win the battle, you’ve lost the war. You’ll get farther respecting the person as an image-bearer of God than with your self-defensiveness and anger. What is the most important thing your audience can take away from you? Is it because you care about them or your cause?

The Battle To Be Heard

My email accounts have hundreds to thousands of emails in them. The subject line is the most essential part of your email. It’s what will stand out from all your Best Buy, Hobby Lobby, and Hotel emails. It’s also an art form. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a few times to get the subject line right and to see your open rates increase.

The commercial open rate is about 30%. It reaches a different audience than your social media, website, and direct mail. In Church Communication, we always say to use everything to get your information in front of people. Be the email they want to open! 

Why It’s Not Their Fault

We make about 35K decisions a day. What words to post, actions to take, and whether to love or hate your job (among other things).

The decisions are your responsibility. Ultimately, those decisions have rewards or consequences. You can’t blame other people for the wrong decisions. Others may have influenced those decisions, but that is still your decision.

Your decisions may or may not have an impact on other people.

If you have a bad attitude, it will eventually affect the quality of your work, your relationships, etc. If you love your job, the work shows it. If you choose to honor your spouse inside and outside the home, your relationship will flourish.

Practice having a better outlook and attitude.

  • Be generous with your time.
  • Be generous with your money.
  • Do more than expected.
  • Do quality work at work no matter what.
  • Do the right thing according to the Word of God.
  • Don’t let the world crush you.
  • Prioritize what God would have you do that day.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. – Matthew 16:24

📷 Scholtz Lake