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. 

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? 

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. 

Tongues on Fire

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. – Acts 2:1-4

What has this to do with social media?

Beth Moore in her James study book said, “You see, the human tongue can be lit by either source: Heaven or hell. God can draw people to the gospel by enabling us to speak in ways they understand or our tongues can cause people to hightail it like their heels are on fire. It can bring comfort or courage, or it can bring destruction and deafness. We do have a choice which fire lights our tongues. Just keep in mind the natural default settings leans south.”

God gave us this gift of social media to use for His Kingdom.

The Mexico Trip

Read the backstory of the 2K Bibles to Mexico here. This was my first writing assignment which allowed me to follow it in person all the way beyond the borders. The trip was very quick and, while mindful of everyone’s time, I attempted to get the best photos possible in the situation. There wasn’t a lot of time available to get photos by foot, and I had to think fast when photo and video opportunities came to make sure I get the story.

Be praying for the people who receive these Bibles and for future deliveries of the Bibles.

Need Your Help!

One-time donations needed for the Gospel Impact Publishing Project

You can help WorldVenture bring tidings of comfort and joy this Christmas.

In 2020, the WorldVenture family came together to produce a Christmas devotional, Simple Christmas, with encouraging, Christmas-focused writings from global workers throughout the world. We did not print the booklet; we only delivered it in digital format.

There was an amazing response to Simple Christmas:

  • 994 downloads of the computer version.
  • 932 downloads of the tablet/smartphone version.
  • 1011 visits to our Christmas page.
  • And we lost count of the responses from individuals and churches sharing gratitude for the booklet.

But there was another response that surprised us… we had numerous requests for printed versions. Some churches wanted to use it to for disciple-making in their communities by including the devotional in their outreach activities. Sadly, we couldn’t fulfill their requests at the time. But this year, we’d like to do so. And we’d like to invite you to help. We have created a new project called, Gospel Impact Publishing.

This year’s devotional, coming out ahead of the 2021 Christmas Season, is called “Every Good and Perfect Gift: Finding Joy in Our Trials” (from James 1:2-4 & 17). Like the previous devotional, it will include contributions from Global Workers all over the world. However, this year’s devotional is set up a little differently to include topic-based, longer form articles to help individuals who are walking through their own trials better connect with Jesus during Christmas. Your financial contribution to the Gospel Impact Publishing project between now and September 1st, 2021 will help cover the printing costs of that devotional for distributing to many in need. And if we receive additional funds beyond the need, those will be used as seed to help fund future development of printed resources that help share the good news of Jesus Christ.

Would you consider making a generous one-time donation to this project?

Go to www.worldventure.com/GospelImpactPublishing and click on the “give” button.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me.

Blessings,

Nikole Hahn

Digital Disciple-Making Coordinator

P.S. If you would like to be kept informed on the progress of this devotional, please sign up for my email newsletter by going to www.worldventure.com/nhahn and clicking “once-per-month email” on the page.

Balancing Life and Work

Reading a scanned article that was sent by email, I was struck, not just by the funny comic, but also by these words. I have repurposed them for me, but it feels right:

I am willing to make tough calls in ministry. I am willing to be poorly thought of by some people. I am willing to give up my house and my relationships (except my husband as that wouldn’t be biblical nor loving, and why would I leave him behind? He’s my other half) to go across the world to bring this message. I will pay the price of leadership.

I so get the part where the article talks about ministry depression. I actually experience that here and there once in a while and in the past when I worked full time and served.

Rich Nathan said in this article, “I’ve come to accept that, following a conference or weekend of ministry, I will be subject to spiritual attack and feelings of depression. I try to give myself more time to be away from people.”

In 2015, I took a deep breath and said, “I can’t burn the candles at both ends or I won’t last. I. Must. Have. Balance.”

I like the reference of Elijah in 1 Kings 19:3-5. He had enough. I can imagine himself throwing his hands in the air. All he needed was a nap and something to eat to feel better. The Angel provided it.

However, my idea of rest is very different. I love isolation in the woods. I love doing photography and having the joy of sharing my good ones and bad ones with you. I love reading. I love spending alone time with my husband. I like watching brain-numbing tv shows or movies just to not think. I like writing. I like running. I like walking.

And sometimes, I even like people.