Authors are burning out. Rewrites, marketing, and heavy expectation often do that. It makes you wonder how we get from a place where writing is an art and fun to a chore?
This is what we discussed at Roots Saturday. I wanted a group that doesn’t replace a writers normal fee-based group, but gives support, prayer, and accountability to writers so they recall why they started writing. We wanted a group that would remind writers of all genres why God gifted them with writing and to never let the journey eclipse their purpose.
“As social media ramp up in the majority world especially, many in the West are finding themselves increasingly disillusioned. Some are convinced that nothing good can possibly come of social media usage based on the fracturing and division it brings, especially amid recent political differences. While Facebook has unprecedented potential to bring people, ideas and groups together, it just as equally can degenerate into a soapbox that rarely changes anyone’s opinions.” Facebooking the Unreached
As I finished reading Facebooking
the Unreached and the Media Impact
Report, I am no less convinced that social media and technology in all its
forms are capable of reaching the unreached. I could talk about the barriers I
have encountered, but instead will share what this kind of ministry needs…
A teachable spirit.
Faith to walk the unknown and face fear.
An understanding that the culture has changed and the world has changed. Time for grieving what was and for stepping out into this new frontier is now. In the words of one of my pastors (paraphrased), “The good old days are not here yet. When Jesus comes, then it will be the good days. The good days are coming.”
People willing to learn how to write emotion and show emotion. Social media is a visual story. It’s an open canvas with unlimited possibilities of expression.
Church leaders only need to make the connection of the online
world and Biblical application, adding how to reach people online via even
Facebook, in a consistent manner in spite of how the congregation may feel.
Over time, if the leader is the example online that he wants of his congregation,
the congregation will eventually follow. What we need online are people who
Exercise self-control (A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. – Proverbs 25:28).
Get to know their audience so they understand trigger words which may shut down communication. Say the same thing a different way. (Romans 14:13, “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this–not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.)
The quote above accurately portrays the West (that’s us, by the
way) and their use of social media. Some are disillusioned because they only
need our leaders in church and our missionary organizations to help us get a
better grasp on this tool and use it more intentionally.
“The way we make things better is by caring enough about those we serve to imagine the story that they need to hear. We need to be generous enough to share that story, so they can take action that they’ll be proud of.” – Page 19, Seth Godin, This is Marketing
When I first became a writer, intending to build a reputation so I can sell books, the words, “self-promotion” made me and every Christian writer cringe. Our beliefs call us to serve others, and early on, I worked at using the online world in that manner. Now, I am a Digital Engagement and Disciple-Making Coordinator with WorldVenture, and see marketing differently (which is why I was impressed with this book). This is Marketing by Seth Godin touches on the meaning of discipleship, even if his worldview isn’t like ours.
Skillfully, he uses the words we understand touching each sphere of need from non-profit to for profit. Marketing is about what the customer wants and what our product will do for them. “They want the way it will make them feel.” More than once, he hits on telling stories. “Stories that resonate and hold up over time. Stories that are true, because we made them true with our actions and our products and our services. We make connections. Humans are lonely, and they want to be seen and known. People want to be part of something. It’s safer that way, and often more fun. We create experiences.” An organization works for and with the marketer.
Use your online life to influence others—make their lives better, listen to their stories, and help them find a different path through the visual story of your faith.
Think about the hopes and dreams of the people who follow you.
If you are a missionary raising funds, invite your people on your journey with you.
To influence, start small. Don’t aim too big. When one area is influenced, move on to another area, and another, and care.
People pay for interaction. Churches and missionary organizations should train their people to intentionally engage for free.
“The people you seek to serve—what do they believe? What do they want?”
Good stories connect us to our purpose and vision. Good stories help us celebrate our strengths as we recall where we came from and look ahead to where we are going.
What I am trying to say, Seth Godin said it better, “I see a better alternative; come with me.”
Emotional labor. Do it.
“Map and understand the worldview of the culture we seek to change.”
It talks about how to build trust.
Create tension in a respectful and generous way to usher in change.
This is not a Christian book (that will become apparent), but he brings the humanity into marketing.
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10)
Someone somewhere said, “You are what you eat.” If we only eat Krispy Kremes, eventually our body would stop functioning. To stay alive, to have the energy to be the best version of ourselves, we need more than a Snickers bar, but vegetables and lean proteins. The same goes for social media.
Matthew 15:18 says, “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” Whatever comes out of our heart lands on social media. What is on social media is what we’ll see every day. Whoever we friend on Facebook, is what influences us. What we post, influences us because social media can make us focus on good or bad things. It can drain us, isolate us, or it can build us up. It is a tool and how we use that tool is up to us. Social media isn’t the problem in society. It is us.
We need to surround ourselves with people online who are allowed to speak the truth in our lives–people whose online lives are an example to follow. Their posts become the compass that points to the Bible. They are people willing to meet us for coffee or introduce us to people willing to meet us for coffee. And likewise, our posts need to reflect the visual story of our lives in truth. Good posts are the vegetables our mother told us to eat because it’s healthy, not because they tasted good.
Francis Chan is right. Sharing a meme on social media is not digital discipleship. Having a conversation online though is digital discipleship.
First, make time to engage with people. Start with, “How are you?” or ask them about the things they have posted online. Statuses and posts are conversation starters, even the ones about food.
Second, be discerning. I’ve encountered many posts where my fingers were ready to tap out a reply, but instead, I prayed and remained silent. Debates are unnecessary and mostly useless. All they do is create a divide. Invest in the relationships of the people you friend or follow. Get to know them as a friend, not a ministry leader, a pastor, or a missionary. People want authenticity. They want to see Christ in your life first.
Third, don’t be satisfied in simply sharing a meme or someone else’s post. Share your heart about why that post was worth sharing. While keeping your emotions private may be a generational thing, it doesn’t have to remain that way. Encourage questions. Be compassionate. Put the relationship and your concern for their eternal destination above a desire to be right. Reply to them promptly in private or public.
Discipleship is a long process. My goal is to help churches build digital teams that eventually become the whole church body using social media to share the Gospel in relationship to their communities and beyond.
(or why I don’t post like other social media people)
The leaves on the trees were an explosion of bright oranges, greens, and reds. Last week was peak Fall viewing, and by Monday, only a few brightly colored leaves hung from their boughs. In six months, those trees will begin to bud, and by summer, the cobblestone walkways will sit under the shade of the tree canopy again. Like the seasons, change is a normal part of social media and technology.
Take a breath, wait a day, or a week and something has already changed, or someone has already made a new, hot app that people rave about–Another opportunity for digital discipleship. My favorite social media people will have posted their tips or written their blogs (or updated and re-published their old blogs). When I started learning social media, I learned from people who called themselves “experts.” They were, and are, still my most valuable places to get new or updated information. But, if I post my strategies, if I share so openly, I realize I could be helping others who do not believe in what I believe be better at getting their beliefs in front of other people.
Already, I’ve seen this happen. People read the same blogs and they follow each other even if they do not share the same beliefs. Because it’s effective, that belief will succeed. I am also aware that what I post can be interpreted differently than what I intend. I let the “experts” share because they make a living out of it and because I’m not in competition.
One of my hard, fast rules is…I do not help businesses or nonprofits with social media unless they agree to do digital discipleship, too, as there are many great social media marketers who offer their services for a price. I can refer people to others. What I do is different, pioneering a new way where the church or non-profit can team with the missionary organization to work together to share the Gospel. Two articles pointed out that missions will come from the church and technology as we enter a new era of missions. My supported position helps all of WorldVenture–their global community, their partners, their church partners, and the community.
This is why I do not post like other social media people. I want to use what I’ve learned to help get the Gospel in front of people and the body of Christ to be the bridge that helps people cross the ravine of disbelief. The world is hurting and it is dark. Life means very little. I view my position as a support position that helps people see that marketing is also the accidental byproduct of digital discipleship. If you care, people will see that and come to you, if you are patient enough to pray and wait on the Lord for the results.
For the past month, Francis Chan’s book, Letters to the Church, weighed on my heart. His comments on social media and obscurity occupy my mind. In fact, as WorldVenture’s social media presence continues to grow, so do the conversations. Someone said social media is like someone’s personal paparazzi. In America, the temptation is to use our social media to become known as pastors and leaders, even as individuals in our communities, but what if obscurity is best?
Rick Warren and Francis Chan are celebrity pastors. Francis Chan’s Facebook fan page has 17,000 likes. Rick Warren’s Facebook post has 101 comments. According to Grand Canyon University, Francis Chan spoke to a packed stadium. That stadium seats 7,000 people.
The more well-known you become the fewer options you have in digital discipleship. Obscurity is key. People who work regular jobs (or are retired) with a couple of hundred social media friends can more successfully do digital discipleship with training and guidance than a celebrity pastor, and should; but when pastors hear about this vision God has placed on my heart, they think I am adding to their overpacked schedules. The opposite is true and more difficult.
For too long, the American church congregation has let the pastors and missionaries do discipleship. My pastor even said, “My job is to equip YOU.” A missionaries job is to equip national leaders that equip local Christians (basically working themselves out of a job). As I work with a church to develop a new way of discipleship and mentoring, I am reminded how little time pastors and missionaries have, and see the potential of an equipped church working in cooperation with their missionary agencies.
Churches focus on numbers on Sunday. Social Media marketers focus on stats, visits, likes, reactions, and comments. Each number is a face with a history. Each person we invest our time in can potentially complicate our lives. It can even be dangerous. Success isn’t a large congregation or 17,000 likes on a Facebook page.
Success is in how those numbers are being discipled, encouraged, and held accountable in their walk. My question when reading stats like 30 or even 30,000 was baptized is:
Who is walking with them?
Who is discipling them?
And who is discipling the discipler?
Someone with zero Bible knowledge mentoring someone else with zero Bible knowledge reminds me of Matthew 15:14, “Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
“Just 11 percent have read the entire Bible, and the majority (30 percent) of Americans surveyed have read no more than several passages or stories. Even more shocking is that only about a third (36 percent) would describe the Bible as true, while 56 percent describe it as “a good source of morals.” (Influence Magazine, Jan. 2018)
Pastors like Rick Warren, Francis Chan, and our own pastors provide us with knowledge, and on social media, content (or they should) that we can use to share our faith walk online and disciple others. Those pastors are in the spotlight, but you can enjoy and embrace obscurity to share the Gospel and mentor others on and offline. Embrace obscurity. Embrace courage. Follow Jesus.
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Around this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, as the days grow shorter and colder, those changes trigger a hormone in leaf-dropping trees that sends a chemical message to every leaf that says, in essence, “Time to go! Let’s part company!” – From here.
Like abscission cells that act like scissors to leaves on a deciduous tree, creating a hormone that pushes away the leaf from the tree little by little, I, too, am pushing away things in my life that get in the way of learning what God is wanting to do in and to my life. Why did it take me becoming a worker with WorldVenture for me to see God more clearly? Why doesn’t every Christian put themselves through journeys like this to push away things we cling to (no matter what our age) and grow better?
Fall is a symbol of change. Recently, I just finished reading “Peace Child” by Don Richardson. On page 273, he writes, “One of the beliefs which the Sawi had inherited from the distant past was the belief that it was unwise to attempt anything their ancestors had not previously sanctioned.” Change was difficult for the Sawi people even after they became a Christian, but their response to building a bigger meeting house was, “If we think only of ourselves, we can, of course, make do with a smaller building…” In deciding to build it, they said, “It will be a house of peace in which former enemies can sit down together at the Lord’s table, and a house of prayer for the tribes around us who are still without God’s Word.” (emphasis mine)
On page 22, it says, “So what did he (Nehemiah) do? Nothing. He did absolutely nothing. He didn’t steal away across the desert in the night. He didn’t fabricate a reason to leave Persia. He didn’t even share his burden with other concerned Jews. But neither did he allow his daily responsibilities to distract him from the burden that had gripped his heart. No, Nehemiah knew what so many of us have a hard time remembering: What could be and should be can’t be until God is ready for it to be. So he waited.” (emphasis mine)
This is a rich period of waiting and learning. The vision still needed work in 2015 when I was appointed by WorldVenture, and when I received my new job description from WorldVenture, I knew THIS was where God wanted me in the first place. Like the tree that sheds its leaves, I had to push away a beloved ministry I managed since 2012 and close another ministry to accept this one so I can take another obedient step in God’s direction just to wait again. The theme of waiting is familiar now since my appointment. Social Media is too new of a field for people to recognize it. People naturally fight change and cling to comfort and sameness. But if a tree doesn’t shed its leaves, ” …they wouldn’t grow new ones.” Growth comes from waiting, shedding, and growing.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. – John 15:1-2