Pipeline: A Review

At times, Pipeline: Engaging the Church in Missionary Mobilization felt like a morning devotional rich in Scripture. Other moments, the book became a how-to manual on how to engage your church in the Great Commission, ending in pages of written essays from representatives of different missionary agencies. If you are indecisive where to sign up, this book is quite helpful.

Of course, I knew where I wanted to sign up.

It wasn’t because a church mentored me into missions. God called me to WorldVenture to serve in an area very few recognized as a mission field—social media. It’s important to invite me to a committee to answer questions as most people get it wrong when they try to present what I do. Some think I mentor other missionaries. Others think I play online. Why should I support someone to play on social media, right?

Marketers understand. They’ve used social media for years to manipulate us to buy cereals we shouldn’t eat, cars we can’t afford, and books we end up not reading again. An unknown number of books exist online on how to use story, algorithms, and bots to get our product or services in front of people using social media. Churches also use these tools to market their church. Even your favorite speakers have a social media communicator on staff which is how you find their publications online.  

In Pipeline: Engaging the Church in Missionary Mobilization, they suggested the church mentor a future generation of missionaries through training, prayer, and coaching. What they left out was social media. We can use all the same tools as a marketer to get God’s story of missions into our church, through meaningful and authentic interaction, videos that come alive (like Movingworks.org), and help foster emotional involvement. Social Media allows missionaries to talk to their partners, to the people they serve in their areas, and to church congregations. For the first time, we don’t have to wait for a missionary to mail a letter. Social media can be used to coach others and build relationships through online connections.

Some notable quotes from the book include,

  • “The call to minister cross-culturally is a call to suffer for the sake of a message and the glory of Jesus’ name.” (Pg. 11)
  • “Was I going to allow God to interrupt my life with his purpose and push mine aside? Or was I going to cling to the life I had always wanted?” (Pg. 13)
  • “The warning here is that the institutional church, just like the humans who inhabit it, will always take the path of least resistance unless its leaders fully surrender to the hard work of obedience to the call of God and the Great Commission.” (Pg. 62)

After spending almost 11-years as a church secretary, I knew we needed to tell a better story of what God is doing in the world so the congregation not only gets emotionally involved, but is on fire in their own communities to share the Gospel (on and offline) with the unchurched, the unloved, and the unreached even at great sacrifice and much discomfort. Pipeline gives a thorough understanding of missionary mobilization from the perspectives of missionaries, churches, and mission organizations.

And even better, the work God has called me into involves mobilization. Social media touches nearly every ministry in WorldVenture. My work will be multi-faceted because we use social media to make disciples.

The Frankenstein Chronicles: Who Wrote This!?

*Warning: Spoilers.Image by Etienne Marais from Pixabay *

Deep themes in The Frankenstein Chronicles surprised me. We arrived home from a weekend getaway and I flipped on Netflix. Nothing appealed to me, and though I am not a Frankenstein or Dracula fan, this show attracted me. By episode six, I knew I could binge watch all two seasons. Even my husband said, “Do not continue watching without me.” Then, with a twinkle in his eye, he added, “And no cheating.”

I will never live down Blacklist.

Such an intense show caused me angst. What if they disappoint me again and create a soap opera rather than a well-written show with characters that grow and story lines that keep me returning? What I discovered on a Google search caused me to lose interest in the show. A favorite character was leaving Blacklist to start his own series. Why should I invest my emotions in the Blacklist? But I digress.

The Frankenstein Chronicles is about John Marlott, an inspector, who is tasked by Sir Robert Peel to find out why children are going missing down at the river and why a body of several different children was stitched together, listing in the marshy shores of the River Thames. Historical characters such as Frankenstein’s original author, Mary Shelley and William Blake appear, with Mary Shelley being a key figure; apparently, Charles Dickens, too, as the reporter tucked away in the crowd, busy writing shorthand and chronicling the intertwining storylines of power, greed, and insanity. Why aren’t more Christian movies carrying themes like this?

Most times, Christian movies leave me empty, and I wish more Christian movies carried the questions and agony The Frankenstein Chronicles causes you to ponder. But this series makes me wonder…who are the writers? A brief Google search brought none of the satisfaction I sought. This is probably good though. The story remains undistracted by any agenda and follows John Marlott’s sense of justice. Even though the Christian theology is off, Marlott’s justice, love, and edgy behavior are countered by his partner’s idealistic, blundering and Christian heart. Both are Christian, but one is more emotional.

The scene between Flora, a girl rescued from a human trafficking situation, and Joseph Nightingale, Marlott’s partner, really embraces the agony of the pro-life and pro-choice struggle. Flora is pregnant and never revealed this to her captors or Marlott. Flora wants an abortion. Nightingale not only encourages her to view it as life but also offers a solution (much like many of our pro-life people with our pregnancy crisis centers). He would take her in and claim the child as his to protect her from shame. We discovered as we sunk deeper into each episode that the babies being aborted were used for their parts. Other children that were homeless on the river disappeared to become part of the Frankenstein experiment. Flora does get an abortion by the evil Hervey under the reasoning it would be a miserable life for both with Hervey’s underlying evil motivation, negating Nightingale’s offer of shelter.

By episode 7, I am wrapped up in Marlott’s struggle because in episode 7, Marlott has become Frankenstein. He no longer suffers Syphilis. He is alive with parts of his body belonging to others who were murdered, including aborted babies. The anguish he feels as a Christian fills the room. You understand his desire for suicide. He is not John Marlott anymore. He believed that cutting into his body meant he was separated from God forever (also due to not seeing his deceased wife and child in his dreams or afterlife after his “resurrection”). His priest friend urges him to turn back to God.

All I could think about was: Where is revenge justified in this? Does it all boil down to motive? Hervey appears to be killing priests. Hervey has powerful friends. People believe that Marlott is dead. People in power refuse to give value to the people in prison, living in poverty, and allow for abhorrent experiments to continue. John Marlott has the potential to be a hero.

Que episode 8. That’s where I am right now. Marlott said God has abandoned him. I felt his agony. I felt the darkness that threatened to make who he was disappear forever. He shouldn’t be alive, but he is alive because others unwillingly gave their lives for science and intellectualism to bloom. The episodes ask so many ethical and spiritual questions.

If only Marlott knew the power of the printing press and how reading Jesus’ Words might have given him the hope, forgiveness, and new life he wanted. Even as I think of this tonight, words from tonight’s online Bible Study float to my mind. Gaye Austin quoted Dr. Harris from Dallas Theological Seminary, “To bear fruit, you must stay attached to the vine.”

When was the last time you read the Bible?

8 Ways to Live Better Online

From Gloom to Gratitude: 8 Skills to Cultivate Joy by Allison Aubrey inspired this post. Read it and see how you can use what she wrote. Meanwhile, their eight skills inspired me. Here are my online versions of them.

Facebook’s memories remind us of the good (and bad) of past postings. During the day, Facebook may pop up on my newsfeed to show me an old post and ask if I want to re-post it. It forces us to focus on ourselves, what we’ve posted, our thoughts and emotions. Like seeing a commercial over and over again, it drills the thoughts we’ve posted into our heart, sometimes staining it. The more we focus on it the more we become like it, act like it, feel like it, and even relive bad memories.

In Georgia, I focused a small portion of my workshop on self-focusing on the Kingdom–using social media to keep you accountable to your personal goals, spiritual growth, and at the same time, living out the Great Commission. Judith Moskowitz of Northwestern University created an eight-technique approach as discussed in this article, but I was inspired to change it towards a self-focus on Kingdom so we don’t become what we post:

  1. Use your smartphone to snap a picture of one positive thing that happened during the day. Post it on Facebook or Instagram with a lead in that uses Scripture and words from the heart. Why was that event so positive to you? Event is loosely used. My friend posted a picture of the eggs she plopped into a bowl. They formed a smiling face. It helped her give thanks to God.
  2. Be grateful. Chris Copeland (WorldVenture) did a 20-minute Facebook live devotional on the new official WorldVenture Facebook Group. In this post, he mentioned a gratitude journal. A friend of mine uses her photography skills to post pictures online of things that make her feel grateful. Start a jar and write down on sticky notes all the little things you are grateful for and drop them in the jar. Review them at the end of the year.
  3. How did you use your spiritual gifts today? How did you help someone else focus on their strengths? In a non-bragging way, share your story online with a selfie or a picture that makes you happy. Inspire generosity. Help another human discover God-given gifts and abilities.
  4. Use social media to remain accountable to your goals. Have a trusted friend be on the watch for it to encourage you to stick to your goals.
  5. On Social Media, we like to complain. How can we reframe our complaint? While the article uses being stuck in traffic as an example, I would add to use being stuck in traffic to pray (with eyes open, of course!). Share on social media how you reframed a complaint that darkened your heart.
  6. Intentionally go to your friend’s profiles. Find a status and comment on it meaningfully. Start a conversation. Give a compliment. (1 Thessalonians 5:11). If a friend checks into a restaurant, text her to see if she wants to meet.
  7. Focus your mind on Scripture when tensions rise. Take a walk, go for a run, or hike and take the time to notice what God is doing in the world. Taking a break from Social Media is good.
  8. Think of others online first. Delete posts if need be should it cause others to look bad or comments hijack your purpose for posting. Comments can take things on a different thread than what you intended. Always honor others online with your words. Your words are actions.

The online life is a visual story and less literal. As you practice a more positive experience online, perhaps the memories from Facebook will brighten your day, encourage you to keep going or show you where you need to improve. It will improve your mood.

Would you suggest any others?

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Working From Home: Adjustment

As I walked down the hallway to the kitchen this morning, I looked down at my bare feet. “When I am in full-time ministry,” I thought, “I wonder how often I’ll wear shoes?”

It’s a strange question. Dale Berning Sawa of The Guardian said in, Extreme loneliness or the perfect balance? How to work from home and stay healthy ,

“That often means getting the small things right, such as having a clearly defined workspace and a routine. Wahle starts work only once she has showered, got dressed and put her shoes on (curiously, she’s not the only remote worker who mentions the need for shoes). As she puts it: “How can you do planning applications, and still be in your pyjamas? It just doesn’t feel right.” (Emphasis mine)

Today was my day off from a 40-hour a week job. I wore jeans, a hoody, and still have yet to comb my hair. Short hair has an advantage. I can put a hat on. I live in the country where people put on their pajamas at 5 pm in the afternoon, door-to-door is taboo, and dressing up your jeans is considered semi-formal. But, walking barefoot reminded me that I need to be thinking of making adjustments to the days or hours I spend volunteering with WorldVenture (which is why Trello’s article on working from home is timely).

Trello wrote 7 Weird Ways to Stay Balanced When Working From Home. In this article, they outlined how to be a more productive person when working from home. I took this article and outlined what my work week might look like from this vantage point when I am in full-time ministry, starting now as a volunteer:

  • Get ready for work as if I was going to commute to an office. I don’t wear make-up these days unless I am speaking in front of a group or visiting a church. Mascara and eyeliner irritate my eyes. Lipstick wears off in ten minutes. Foundation doesn’t really cover up blemishes. Blush makes you look sunburned if done wrong. When I get ready for work, I plan on looking like I’m going to an office off-site. Video conferencing is a normal part of my activities so looking professional will still be important.
  • My hours won’t change in the mornings than what it is now. My morning routine will include coffee, prayer, reading the Bible, and casual and fun reading to relax the brain so it can work all day on creative projects. Writing will be included in my morning activities, maybe even by hand.
  • Going out in public. With no commute in my schedule, I can use that time to take a run or walk, but also I have arranged that I would take my office to a local coffee shop to spend a few hours working at least once per week. The only thing I can’t do remotely is video edit as that is on my desktop.
  • “Place things that need attention out of reach.” I once joked with Tony how I would love a coffee maker in my home office. I could work and refill my coffee without leaving my chair. Trello suggests we need to place these things out of reach. “Taking breaks is a key part of productivity, but it’s too easy to skip them when you’re alone. To avoid permanently bonding to your home office chair, try building regular “required” breaks into your environment.” Trello suggests leaving the phone in the other room so you have to get up every so often to answer it. Or, keeping snacks and drinks (like coffee) out of reach. At work, I would have to rise to refill my coffee. At home, I plan on doing the same thing.
  • Noise in the background makes you feel less lonely. I plan on building a good playlist of music, visit Lynda.com more often to refill the creativity, or have something playing in the background that brings noise and conversation into my quiet space.
  • Most importantly, Trello says, “Work like no one is watching.” Working from home means being diligent in making sure your work is no less than great, you must document you are working, and keep your shared calendar up to date so people are left with no doubt that you are working. Set goals each week to accomplish. You can also sing out loud in the office while you work and no one will hear you.

Yes, I will be wearing shoes when I am in full-time ministry. In the past, when I have worked on projects on the weekends after a full week of work elsewhere, I was more productive sitting in my office, fully dressed, hair combed, and spirit ready to face whatever may come of my day. But, today it’s okay to remain barefoot with hair like Einstein’s, uncombed.

Review of a Church Book

Becoming a Welcoming Church by Thom S. Rainer is a 100-page easy read to help leaders evaluate their own church. Here are some suggestions based on my reading of this book and because of my social media background:

  • Keep your website updated. Make sure your social media points to your webpage and vice-versa. If you have blank pages, empty promises of content that never appears, or outdated information, purge it from your site. People judge your church by your social media and website presence. Thom Rainer, a church expert, says people visit that first.
  • Don’t Swarm. You are not a hive of bees. If a young family walks into your older church, having every person beat a path to them sort of freaks families out. It freaked us out when we visited a small church.
  • #MeToo Movement. Many pastors and religious leaders are being taken out by accusations of sexual abuse. Thom Rainer suggests putting a child protection policy on your website to reassure families that where their kids hang out while they are in service is safe.
  • Holy Huddles. The book asks each person to honestly look at their church. We all say our church is friendly but is it really? Obviously, if a pastor from the pulpit has to tell the congregation to say hi to someone they don’t know, the leadership sees what we don’t see–our holy huddles. Do we go out to lunch with the same people every week? Do we make time in our busy schedules to transform our communities by getting involved? Are we making good, online conversations or saying “Amen” and reacting rather than conversing? This Sunday, watch your pastor. What is he doing? He is making the rounds to say hello to people.

Additionally, someone joked how the church is a century behind the rest of the world and it has a long history of looking upon suspicion of every new thing that becomes available from guitars to social media. The best days are ahead of us, not behind us. Don’t exclude technology from your belt of tools for sharing the Gospel.

Mimosa: A Commentary

Some books leave me in awe, like Mimosa by Amy Carmichael. The poetic language is peaceful, worshipful, and her story inspires patience. None of us can really imagine living the life Mimosa lived with a husband who didn’t love her nearly as much as she deserved, hardships that we won’t ever experience, and a caste that was unbending and cold.

As I flew back from Denver and reflected on Mimosa, I thought of my lack of funding. Mimosa reminded me to turn my focus on obedience. The way she put out her blanket when she lacked food and money, expecting, anticipating the Lord to provide (which He did) made me want to be more like her. Mimosa persevered though she couldn’t read. Because she couldn’t read, the Bible came to her only through verbal messages, and she drank it in, borrowing strength for another day.

The powerful words at the end of the chapter say, “For God has other Mimosas.” The other Mimosas are people of all beliefs and languages that God is pursuing. He doesn’t require our help, but eagerly, He invites us to join Him.

Other quotes hit me powerfully throughout the book like,

“Are there those for whom we have long prayed for, who seem beyond our reach now? Love will find a way. Are we discouraged because we do not see our expected signs, and the solid rocks seem to be sinking under shifting sands? It is not so. Love is mighty and must prevail. Terrible in judgments, marvelous in loving kindness, love will find a way.”

“And now she is back in her bigoted Hindu world, and she writes that some wonder, some scoff, and some are listening a little. Her husband, whom she has set her heart on winning, feels her a disgrace, but the amazing thing is that he still owns as his wife one who has so shamed his caste (which is not one of the more tolerant which allow a woman to remain within the fold even after baptism). Her life cannot be easy. But then, she has not asked for ease; she has asked for the shield of patience so that she may overcome.”

“Then with a warm glow of joy she knew what He had been to her all through the bitter years. ‘You know Him by learning,’ she later said to Star, ‘but I know Him by suffering.'”

“And gradually it returned, and his eyes became less darkened. ‘We had no help. No medicine did I know of, nor had I money to buy it. It was only our God’s healing.’ And she sent a thank offering to the Christian church which knew nothing of her.”

The second quote down, “…and now she is back in her bigoted Hindu world,” reminded me how we aren’t to flee our difficult situations. Examples like Paul remind us to walk towards difficulty, not away. It’s easier to hold a job, Monday through Friday, go to church twice a week or twice a month and not do the emotional labor of reaching out, but I am reminded of another quote from another book,

“We need to remind ourselves that the primary purpose of the church is evangelization, or in the broad sense, missions. Every other activity in the church–worship, preaching, education, music, fellowship–should result in making us better witnesses, better missionaries…The Great Commission is for all Christians, not just a few.” (Living Stones of the Himalayas by Thomas Hale).

Each day I am reminded of why God has me doing what I do for WorldVenture. So, you settle in, pray it out, and wait for God’s next move. Like Mimosa, I am putting out my blanket each day and praying, “God, you asked me to go this way. Please tell me how to get there.”

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3 Ways to Help Your Organization Online

The sheer amount of content getting shared online is one of the biggest distribution hurdles marketers face. As Perri Robinson, head of marketing at Meltwater, says, “No matter how good (your content) is, it matters how you are distributing it.”5 Ways to Get More People to Your Content

A complaint among churches could be summed up like this: It’s challenging to get content from the various ministries in the congregation for the purpose of sharing online. As WorldVenture’s Digital Engagement and Disciple-Making Coordinator, I get it. We have over 500 appointees and teammates worldwide. My job is to get content from them that engages our audience. Our mission is to make disciples of all people, including making disciples online. As a trainer of churches who are interested in doing digital discipleship, getting content is key for engagement and can be a resource for your supporters and congregation to spark conversations with the unloved, the unchurched, and the unreached.

Just throwing content up on your social media without thought or prayer is unthinkable. Instead, consider how you can strategically use content to engage with your community as a church, a missionary organization, or a ministry. In 5 Ways to Get More People to Your Content, they write,

“Developing a relationship requires more than an email that says, ‘Check out this content,’ Perri says. ‘I create a dialogue. For example, I’d say, ‘I found tip five really useful, have you thought about doing this as well?’”

Who are Your Influencers?

Most people who attend your church are online. Identify the ones who have their phones and are taking pictures. Follow and friend them on social media. Pay close attention to what they post and their privacy settings. If it’s public, share the post to your page or group with an open-ended question as suggested above. If you work for a missionary agency, ask first before you share even if it is a public post.

Use your Facebook page to tag organizations and influencers that provide useful resources for your congregation to use on their own social media to start godly conversations. In this, you join with other like-minded organizations by generously sharing their stuff on your timeline. One other suggestion in getting content for your organization’s social media is persistence.

At first, getting content will be frustrating. People will forget. Your emails will end up in spam. They will get irritated because you asked again. Most people who are not social media people will not understand the issue of timing.

Advertising on Social Media

Start a Budget Line Item for Social Media Advertising where people in your congregation can donate to help you reach your community with advertisements towards specific interests and people groups. Small churches can benefit from this.

Get to know your community, their issues, trends, and be involved in local Facebook groups. Boost or advertise your best and most well-like content to get the most out of your money. Target specific people and interests.

Bring on The Experts

My favorite example of great advertising was an article about how a toilet paper company in Turkey hired a child development expert (versus providing answers via Google search) to help parents in potty training. Overnight, they had millions of likes on the page itself. Your church, ministry, and missionary organization has experts. Bring them in on the team and assign them a topic to be an ‘expert’ in to offer advice online to those in your community or abroad around the brand of your organization.

Offering value to your readers is an old concept. Early bloggers adopted this. Give your audience something of value to apply to their own lives. We should never market our churches, organizations, or ministries. We should build relationships with our communities and help our congregations understand social media to use it to make disciples, to mentor, to share the Gospel.

Roots Met Again!

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.

Many thanks to Third Shot Coffee at Prescott Gateway Mall for allowing us to meet once a month. To learn more, click here.