photo of people doing handshakes

Introducing The Church on Mission

Starting November 2 through WorldVenture, I will be publishing a series of videos and blogs called The Church on Mission to help the church and Christian nonprofit make disciples online and reach the unreached.

With COVID19 and prior predictions from notable sources that the church is changing in how we worship and how we gather due to technology and globalization, those of us involved in the digital world want to help the church recognize her ability to reach the unreached, the unloved, and the unchurched.

The first video, How to Form a Digital Team, will include three videos, a PowerPoint for your use, a list of trusted resources for further digital training, and a sample report form to get your congregation and leadership excited about digital discipleship.

The videos go as follows:

  • Introduction (1 minute)
  • The Template (3 minutes)
  • Review and Strategy (3 minutes)

It is designed so the international church leader can tweak it to his or her context in teaching their church congregations to make disciples online. It is also designed for the US church.

The series will be a long one and I will announce new videos and blogs as they are created.

Please be praying for this series.

Why are You Limiting Church?

In this age of COVID-19, amid fear and panic, I am reminded of the Book of Esther. My favorite verse is,

 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:13-14)

We, too, are faced with a daunting challenge. Will our fate depend upon our own faithfulness to God? While Esther faced death for daring to approach the King without being called, we face the unknown. Many churches have stopped meeting in the face-to-face. Some have gone online. Small groups and Bible Studies are canceled. And yet, God has prepared us for this by giving us a way to talk to anyone we want around the world through social media and Virtual Reality.

So, why limit your church to a building, your group to your home, or your Bible Study to a room in the Sunday School wing of your church? Like Esther, we don’t need to stay silent. The Gospel is continuing. God is asking us to be faithful in using these tools to reach out to people online, build trust, and develop friendships. In this era where TP is being hoarded, we can shower our communities with the love of Christ.

I am available to help churches and individuals interested in making disciples and wishing to continue church even as we experience historical fear and panic as the globe begins to shut down. We don’t want our older people marginalized because technology scares them or they don’t understand or like it, and we don’t want to be on social media out of boredom, scrolling, and sharing, without any real thought or purpose. While the building shuts down, here are some tips to continue sharing the Gospel:

  • Bible Studies: Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, and Discord can be used to lead a video Bible Study like your face-to-face. This is an opportunity to invite people in your community to join. Hold them during times when the rest of your community can join you, too. Think of the working class in your planning.
  • Small Groups: Your small groups are going to need your continued support as we face the challenges of this period of history. Use Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, and Discord to continue meeting. As you meet people locally online, invite them to join you. When the church opens again, you may find them meeting you in person.
  • Church on Saturday or Sunday: Virtual Reality has church every weekend through Altspacevr. Your church may use Youtube, Facebook, or IGTV to do your worship service. Instead of treating your online service as a pulpit, treat it as a coffee shop. Ask people questions. Pray with your words for people so they can read it and pray with you. Worship with your words in the chat. Share the live feed to local Facebook groups or invite someone to join you in a “watch party”.
  • Socializing: You can use almost any video gaming system to play video games with people from across the world.

Check out WorldVenture’s Facebook page for more tech tips. I’ve been sharing there since Saturday.

How to Keep Your Focus When Raising Support

Years of raising support can make you forget to enjoy the company of people around you. Conversations point back to ministry, and you forget what normal conversation looks like. Ted Esler, president of Missio Nexus reminds me to stop making my work an identity.

“Organizations can suck the life out of a soul. The travel, meetings, concern for sustainability, mission fulfillment, and other realities of our jobs take emotional and mental resources. As we wrap our lives around confronting those challenges, we can exchange our personal identity for an organizational one.” He goes on to say how the job shouldn’t define us and warns that conversations personally become limited to work issues. He asks, “When the job is over, what happens to their identity?”

How do I break the hold of a ministry that can become all-encompassing?

  • Relationships take precedence over support. In order to maintain an example of authenticity in a marketing world, I must also model this in my life. I look beyond the support someone gives to me and pray and care about them. If someone doesn’t support me, I pray and care about them. A friend once sent an email to say she couldn’t give financial support ahead of a lunch date. I had to assure her that I was meeting her for lunch and not asking for support.
  • Get a Hobby. While I combine ministry with rest as a lot of creatives do, using my camera to practice taking shots for story postcards, social media, etc is also therapeutic. A good camera causes you to chase light and detail. You find rest in waiting for the right shot and changing your focus. Sometimes, that is in the middle of a forest and all you hear is the hollow sound of a woodpecker knocking on a tree.
  • Spiritual Care. After changing jobs from a church job to a secular job in 2017, I maintained my normal hours of rising early to get into God’s Word or just sit in His presence to wait on Him. I can’t serve others if I am burned out and empty.
  • Marriage Care. I am married to a great man. He is my prayer warrior. My life must include him in it and it’s not always easy. Making disciples on social media isn’t Monday through Friday. Boundaries are important. I break off from my work to sit with him. We hike together. He loves my photo journaling. We made a pact to grow together.
  • Physical Care. Take a walk, go for a run, and keep your physical healthy. That’s my lifeline to keeping up my energy.

Many different sources say the same thing—working long hours doesn’t improve work output. Respect the shut down to refuel for the next day. You’ll get more done. Work is not my identity, and I am practicing being more thoughtful to others in what I converse about, making sure people know I care about them.

* Inspired by Missio Nexus CEO Survey

New Article Published!

Restoration in Madagascar

Deforestation is a constant threat to the environment and the people living in it. The world loses about 8.3 million hectares per year of forest, often spurred by increasing poverty in developing countries like Madagascar. In 2015, we shared how Eden Projects doesn’t just replant the forests, but also helps Malagasy families combat poverty. Today, stories of hope continue and the forest is growing!

Eden Reforestation Projects is an organization that started in Ethiopia in 2004. Dr. Stephen Fitch understood the “third world culture” and the cycle of poverty. “Many of the villagers, who had been raised over many generations in these areas, were now being threatened with relocation to refugee camps following radical deforestation. Eden Projects was launched in order to attempt to reverse environmental devastation that negatively impacted families and local culture.”

Madagascar is the largest of the reforestation projects in Eden, but the people see the forest as a resource to use, not as one to protect. In Madagascar, charcoal is more desirable than firewood and more available than gas.

Continue reading…

The Man With The Bullhorn

A man stood on the corner, shouting into his bullhorn, “Repent, or you will go to hell!” Social Media has become the bullhorn–A place rife with opinions. What if instead, we asked questions?

Rather than tell people how to think, walk with them as they think. 1 Peter 5:2-3 talks about shepherding. The commentary by David Guzik speaks of pastors.

“Shepherds should not do their job as lords, because the sheep do not belong to them. The sheep are entrusted to them. Instead, shepherds are to serve by being examples, not dictators. (emphasis mine)” (from here)

Every person on social becomes a shepherd; an example people follow whether they want that role or not. What we post both visually and literally shares our character with others. Everything from how often we check in to a church, to what we are studying in the Bible, to how we interact with others gives a visual story of our life to others. If we become the man with the bullhorn, we will only get people who agree with us and alienate the rest of them. If we alienate others, we do not have any connection with them.

Seek to honor others and slow down in building those friendships. A former pastor friend once said, “Salvation is a supernatural miracle.” It won’t happen overnight.

  • First, get to know your friends, what they post, what they are thrilled with, and how they struggle.
  • Converse with them often.
  • Most importantly, seek to meet them for coffee where the Spirit leads. Let the online friendship complement the face-to-face one.
  • Seek friendship because you care, and remain friends with them even if they choose not to become a believer. Always be authentic in all your friendships.

As to the man with the bullhorn, I only saw him once or twice. Most people avoided him. Others, like me, stared because it was so freakish. Things could have been different had he just talked to people.

Good Reads:

Talking to People About Jesus

(picture of my dear friend who shares Jesus online every day)

Pastor Steven Roberts (Life Church) said on Facebook, “I get nervous talking to people about Jesus. This truth helps. It’s not about how clever or cool I am. God is already working in their heart and I get to be a part of the process. The only way to mess it up is to say nothing at all.”

I find a nervous pastor comforting. It’s not just me that struggles with sharing my faith. Is it safe to assume that’s why most people find it easier to share a meme about Jesus or a bit of Bible verse instead of engaging online or face-to-face with the deeper questions? Is that like tossing a handful of seeds out into a field and hoping they land in the prepared soil? Pride and fear are emotions I feel when I share my faith.

What if I don’t have all the answers? What if I fail? What if I let them down? Pride causes me to want to find the answers, to engage in debate instead of discussion, to be right. Voices From The Field: Conversations with Our Global Family by TJ Macleslie comforts me.

In the chapter titled, Sodnom—Mongolia, the story shares about a Mongolian Christian named, Sodnom. She grew up in Communist Russia as a Buddhist. In this chapter, Sodnom shares her experiences about missionaries. For me, missionaries always seemed like people who had all the answers.

Sodnom disagrees.

 “Missionaries are impatient and try to force the Gospel on us without knowing the history and context of our lives. Missionaries must understand the journey we have to make in order to truly embrace the gospel.” (Location 200)

Sodnom also shares how missionaries impacted her life.

“Wisely they (Jon and Vonnie) didn’t say anything but prayed…I think this is a very important lesson for missionaries to learn. Remember that you are guests in our country and even though you disagree with us, please do not ridicule or judge us for our beliefs. You need to respect our beliefs and traditions. (Location 213). This older couple never told us what to believe; rather they prayed, asking God’s Word to speak into our lives in a way that we could understand. (Location 236)”

She shared, “Our American friends had taken us to God’s Word and allowed it to speak to our lives. (location 247)”

Translating this chapter into my work with social media, I requoted what Sodnom said on Location 259. When you share stuff online, serve online, realize you will be living in a new world. Seek to understand the online world and the people you will interact with. Be sensitive to God and His leading; be sensitive to your new environment. Be prepared to change.

Pastor Steven Roberts words resonate with others, too and he is right when he says, “The only way to mess it up is to say nothing at all.”

Friends, you are not alone in your fear and nervousness or in your grappling with pride. The most important thing I have learned is to let the Holy Spirit do His work. Follow God’s leading.

Follow Me #Review

The film, Follow Me directed by Asri Bendacha (2018) explores the life of Social Media Influencers. Social Media influencers earn thousands of dollars per post on Instagram. Asri starts an Instagram account and documents his journey to gain as many followers as possible. Yet, building a following on Instagram is not as easy as it sounds.

In one scene, he sits on the sidewalk with a cardboard sign asking for Instagram followers. A man passing by gives him money, and Asri chases him down to return it.

“I need followers on Instagram,” he says to the man who immediately takes back his money and walks away. Many people who follow Asri do so because he asked in the face-to-face, took selfies and tagged them in the selfies. The documentary is a must-see for anyone seeking to use Instagram to influence, but as a church and missions agency, we must look at social media through the lens of authenticity and ministry. Even Social Media Influencers work to maintain the trust of their followers. In their product placements on video and photos, the products are something these influencers can support. Be real and authentic, one said. Photos do not have to be perfect, but visually engaging.

Asri shared some interesting facts:

  • Millennials share 25,000 selfies in their lifetime.
  • The average person spends two hours a day on social media.
  • Professional photographers who were interviewed rarely do a selfie unless something is interesting in the background. A couple of photographers called selfies egotistical or self-centered.
  • Children are watching less television. They are on their parents ipads and tablets watching Youtube.
  • One woman in a Burka stated that Youtube was her identity.
  • Kuwait is the number one user of Instagram per capita.
  • Youtube is used frequently in the Middle East.
  • Media is the number one tool for communication.

At $30 a week, Asri bought real followers, not fake ones, but only gained a small number of followers for the cost. He began searching on Youtube for organic ways to build the audience.

People he interviewed gave helpful tips:

  • Make your case why a person should care about your product or service you are selling.
  • What is going to move your followers to care, buy or donate?
  • Many stated social media is about offering value to others. Being generous. Serving others online (Doesn’t that sound like church?).

At VidCon, Asri encountered young teens and adults idolizing Youtube stars, wanting to have their children, and crying in pure joy when they meet a Youtuber. Two young mothers idealized a family Youtube star. Asri asked them why they followed this family’s life on Youtube. The two young moms thought the family was interesting.

“What makes them more interesting than your family?” Asri asked the young moms. The moms couldn’t answer.

As the interviews continued throughout the documentary, other interviewees shared interesting facts:

  • Instagram was rated as the most negative experience for “positive or mental well-being” while Youtube was rated as the number one most positive experience.
  • Women are more critical of their looks because they compare themselves to the digitally enhanced images on Instagram.

But what impacted me the most was this statement: What we see in the media governs how we see the world. It even governs how we see ourselves and what we choose to focus on. It’s why I became involved in social media.

The church can learn from Follow Me. As the film closed, Asri reveals the positive side of social media. It can be used for good. We know this as Christians, but like, in the face-to-face, relationships take time to develop. Time isn’t what most Americans have available. The problem is time management, realistic expectations, and new priorities.

  • If the average person spends two-hours a day on social media, we can use that time more intentionally in online conversation with the idea of moving that online interaction to a face-to-face environment.
  • If we are constantly checking our phones, are we checking because we are addicted or bored; or because we are asking the Holy Spirit to lead us to Gospel conversations?

As I prepare for Georgia and the Kingdom Focus and Kingdom Purpose workshops, Follow Me is a good reminder that what we see in the media governs how we see the world. Let’s stop the addiction and start living our online life with purpose.

Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

A Computer is a Personality

In Adobe’s blog, How do Machines Learn? The Art of Teaching MachinesAdobe writes,

“One promise of smart machines is to improve the speed and effciency at which humans can complete tasks and analyze outcomes. Increasingly, powerful machines can accomplish tasks, such as data analysis, in seconds that could take humans days, weeks, or years to complete.”

At the May 5, Grace Baptist Church’s women’s luncheon, I said, “Think of a computer as a personality.” This received giggles. Yet, it’s true.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) are mimicking the human brain. machines are being taught to think and be curious on their own. It’s like a way a child learns to speak and play and interact with others. In fact, a group from Berkley is teaching AI to be curious through games. When I read this, I thought of the 1983 classic, Wargames, where the character played by Matthew Broderick hacks into the war machine’s Artificial Intelligence and starts playing games with it.

The article ends on a positive. Experts aren’t saying we’ll evolve into a Terminator reality where machines seek to exterminate us. This will give us time to focus on world issues that really matter as AI saves us time by doing the grunt work.

Education and Going forward

Last year, I looked into a certificate program through Fuller Theological. The generosity of my home church pastor and friends gave references. I got into the acceptance part when we talked about financial and credit requirements per month that I realized the required time was more than I had at the moment.

Two classes a quarter were required. With a 40-hour a week day job and active ministries, plus raising support, that wasn’t feasible (unless I wanted to give up time with my husband). I am still looking at getting certificates in the future when I am mostly fully supported and part time or gone from the day job.

Until then, I am turning to my approved education plan which is developmental leadership courses through Western Seminary. Nothing with official transcripts, but an education that is for my own growth as a leader. The lessons are video with a quiz. You do get a certificate of completion. It is affordable, but even with the short videos and quiz, it’s been hard to keep it up.

Pray for me as I balance everything and still grow in relevance and leadership.

Thank you, friends!


Should You Send Them a Holiday Card?

Holiday Card Flow Chart Infographic1

Holiday Card Facts (Graphic and Info Courtesy of Grammarly)

  • Americans send 1.6 billion holiday cards annually [source]
  • Women purchase an estimated 80% of all greeting cards [source]
  • E-cards have become an environmentally friendly alternative to paper cards [source]
  • Christmas cards originated in London, where Sir Henry Cole commissioned the first in 1843. [Source]
    • Two batches totaling 2,050 cards were printed and sold that year for a shilling each. [Source]
  • Despite the separation of church and state, it’s customary for the President and First Lady to send White House Christmas cards each holiday season. [source]
    • Calvin Coolidge issued the first official Christmas message to the American people in 1927. [source]

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