Virtual Prayer: A Step-By-Step Guide

I just added a new post to WorldVenture.com for the Church on Mission posts. I hope you find this helpful. If you would like to know more about digital discipleship, please let me know.

Face-to-face prayer, phone call prayer, and virtual prayer share the same ingredients—consistency, compassion, and patience. The difference between them are the tools we use to convey the “prayer and emotional support” that practicing Christians are seeking today. In fact, on a spectrum of interaction where face-to-face prayer is most personal, virtual prayer is a step above a phone call because we can see each other on video in ways that we cannot over the phone. Continue Reading…

How to Prayer Fast and Encourage Others to Join You

According to one blogger, there are about 77 references to fasting in the Bible. My favorite is this verse,

Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16

CRU describes fasting as,

“…abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. Simply going without food because it is not available or for medical reasons is not biblical fasting. There must be a spiritual motivation to qualify a fast as biblical.” 

One of the wrong motivations is to be “…seen by others.”  Social Media can quickly become a popularity gauge or misunderstood because of its visual nature. If someone posts a good deed or that they are fasting, someone immediately assumes it’s to “…bask in their admiration” of your spirituality. Examine your motivations.

My experience with a prayer fast is not eating from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in one day, only drinking liquids. I wear a bracelet that says “Pray”, given to me by the hostess of a home I was staying at, as a physical reminder to pray and not to eat. The gnawing hunger in my gut and the discomfort remind me why I am praying and the rawness of a situation. Because social media is visual and simultaneous with face-to-face life, I live by example. I post that I will do a prayer fast and invite others to join me in the cause. My motivations are to inspire others to take the world’s brokenness seriously and give it to God.

So, post about your prayer fast…

  • Post a picture of a verse you highlighted in the Bible, and invite people to join you on a prayer fast.
  • Paint or draw, or have your kids draw, something that shows a prayer fast, and invite people to join with you when you post that picture.
  • Use your social media as a journal. After a prayer fast, maybe done in secret, post your thoughts on fasting that day with a nice photo of where you were as you were fasting.
  • A fast may not be avoiding food, but maybe it’s an electronic fast? Or a social media fast?

What other ideas can you come up with to inspire people to join you in a prayer fast? 

Fasting Resources:

The Anatomy of a Bridge

How to Cross the Divide of Polarization  

The Golden Gate Bridge was built in stages. It wasn’t expedient, and it cost more than $35 million after construction began in 1933 ($523 million in 2019 dollars). Eleven workers died constructing it. It took four years to build. It bridged an almost two-mile section of the bay. Bridges are necessary, costly, and take time to create, much like building bridges between people today.

We Start with the Foundation

All bridges need to be secure at the foundations and abutments. In the case of a typical overpass beam bridge with one support in the middle, construction begins with the casting of concrete footings for the pier and abutments. Where the soil is especially weak, wooden or steel piles are driven to support the footings. After the concrete piers and abutments have hardened sufficiently, the erection of a concrete or steel superstructure begins. – Encyclopedia Britannica on Beam Bridges

The “soil” is you and me. We must prepare ourselves, the “soil”, to construct a bridge or several bridges. It will be costly. It will hurt. Occasionally, you may make someone angry or offend another. God may ask you to do more than you are willing to do or give up more than you are willing to give up. But, the “soil” must be prepared. Bring in some wise counsel, those steeped richly in biblical wisdom.

Proverbs 19:20-21 says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Wise friends are our “supports”, “foundations”, and “abutments”. They are our concrete piers as we seek to build a steel superstructure.

The people I call friends come from many different backgrounds and their experiences help me make the decisions I need to make going forward. However, I start with God as my source of strength and joy, and in my online work, I move ahead in prayer over whom I may meet and the words I need to use at the time.

The Building of the Bridges

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, there are many different bridge types: Beam Bridges, Arch Bridges, Suspension Bridges, Cantilever Bridges, and Cable-Stayed Bridges, but each one has something in common. Besides a good foundation, the bridges are connected from one spit of land to another, crossing chasm, a canyon, an ocean, or a river. Each bridge operates differently according to how it was built and serve a purpose.

 In a Cantilever Bridge, “each new segment is supported by the previous segment…” We need each other as believers of the Jesus of the Bible. How can we build bridges that support the heavy loads life brings daily? We must love people we meet on their terms, not on how we want to be loved by them. In your online work, seek to…

  • Build something in common with others.
  • Earn their trust.
  • Withhold your opinions where necessary.
  • Listen.
  • Stop judging.
  • Let them get to know you online. Get to know other people online.
  • Be a better version of yourself. 
  • Pray.

A Bridge Often Needs Repair

Now that you have built some bridges that have fostered good conversations, there’s an aging bridge that needs new supports.

  • Apologize quickly.
  • Don’t hold grudges.
  • Forgive and ask for forgiveness.
  • Work together as believers.
  • Grace and mercy. We will all mess up.

Sometimes, bridges are dynamited. Don’t be so quick to dynamite a bridge before the new bridge is constructed and ready to use. In Genoa, Italy, 37 people died when, in 2018, a highway bridge collapsed. According to the New York Times, thousands of collapsed bridges since the early 20th century were investigated for possible poor construction.

Conclusion

Prepare the soil, build the bridge to connect across the chasms that divide, and keep that bridge repaired, so it endures through all kinds of storms and catastrophes. The Golden Gate Bridge was a historic feat that today, some say couldn’t happen in the time frame or the cost of when construction began in the ’30s. Many people online are blaming technology for the divides and dynamited bridges in their lives, but God won’t take our excuses in Heaven that “Google made me do it” or “Facebook made me do it.” We are each responsible for building and maintaining good bridges, but first, let’s prepare the soil.

Go to God today and ask Him to help you identify areas in your life that need changing.

Right Now Media: How to Use It

We spend too much energy following the news and writing angry comments on social media. If we spent that energy a different way, how could God use us to change the world? In a book I am reading by Clarence Thomas, My Grandfather’s Son, he learned that to help others, he needed to be in a position to be helpful. If our heart is sick, how can we help others be well?

Right Now Media is available on ROKU and your computer. Our church offered this to its congregation. I spent the first night going through Psalm 119, then listened to part of Francis Chan’s series on Mark. In exploring both ROKU and the site on my computer, I see so much potential for church members to make disciples.

Here are some initial suggestions: 

Whatsapp Chat Bible Study

  • Ask people to join you in a chat Bible Study on Whatsapp.
  • Create a group within Whatsapp. Whatsapp is secure.
  • All of you with an account on Right Now Media can choose a series to do together.
  • The leader posts each episode in the group each week and with reminders to watch to encourage participation.
  • The group watches one episode a week on their own time.
  • The leader opens it up for comment on WhatsApp.
  • The group leaves their thoughts and questions on it for discussion.
  • Whatsapp allows video, text, images, and even calls.
  • Don’t forget to download the study guide from your computer.

Right Now Media Video Conference Bible Study

  • If you log into Right Now Media on the computer, you can start a video conference virtual meet up to watch the same episode together and discuss it.
  • You can also do this on Zoom.
  • Don’t forget to download the study guide from your computer.

You don’t need to be a Bible scholar to lead a Bible Study. All you need is a desire to follow Jesus even into new areas of thought or to share some real hope with your neighbors. Making disciples is simply conversation. In doing this as a new habit, God will help your heart heal and refocus you during these interesting times.

I’ll be praying for you.

photo of people doing handshakes

How to Create a Digital Report

For context, go to WorldVenture to view the three-part video, How to Form a Digital Team, a video series from WorldVenture highlighting the importance of your church or ministry using your digital platforms for making disciples. You may take this post and make your own out of it. This is okay. Do whatever works for your audience, your team. This video series and this blog post are part of a larger series called, The Church on Mission.

This post goes with today’s resources available at worldventure.com (click here).

The digital report serves two purposes for your online ministry.

  • Shares with ministry leadership both the digital discipleship value and data of the online ministry as observed by the digital team and the exported data or observed data of the online platform you are using for the live feeds.
  • The report encourages the leadership, the congregation, and the digital team to continue with serving online even through what feels like unfruitful periods of ministry.

The data is important, but not as important as showing the digital discipleship value, like comments. Your team may not be techie and your leadership may find more encouragement in the digital discipleship side than the numbers side. You might be a data person, but not everyone can picture people when they look at numbers.

The report can be done in Microsoft Word, Google Doc, or Pages. For this post, I will be using Microsoft Word as an example. A pdf form is accessible here for your use, or email me for the Word format to edit.

You can also create an excel document with just the data, or simply export the data from your social media platform. Pay close attention to the data that is most important to your ministry, like views. The rest of the data is useful for knowing how to post to your ministry or church digital platforms, like days which are popular for posting. Since I encourage the use of personal social media in making disciples online in addition to any disciple-making tools your church or ministry adopts, that data is not so useful to your team.

First, create the folders and sub-folders in your computer with how you would like to organize the reports. Second, open a blank document like Microsoft Word and name it “(name of your church)” with dates of report. You can use the pdf form I have provided which lays out how the report should look.

For Grace Church, we use Monday through Sunday in our weekly reporting.

Note the line, “As read on…” because the views or other data present on Facebook can change by the hour as more people view the page.

Add a line for an update on the Digital Team. As the leader of the Digital Team, you want to encourage the leadership over you to continue to pray for the team in your ongoing efforts online. Also, let them know the dates you are meeting with the team for prayer. It’s okay if members of the congregation or leadership wish to join your weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly prayer and strategy meetings. It’s a great way to bring in new teammates or to encourage more prayer support in ministry.

For this report, my church uses Facebook primarily as their preferred digital platform. Facebook is ideally set up for ministry with groups, Facebook Lives that have a comfortable chat section with newer comments easily found, and rooms that allow for small group meetups by video conferencing. If you are a digital team, you might also include the next sub-section, “Social Media Tips” in case you are helping a church learn how to manage their own digital platform. Otherwise, you can skip that part and go on to the stats.

The rest of the report should be formatted as follows:

  • Start with the Facebook or Social Media subscribers, followers, or likes. Use symbols to show whether the count is up, down, or unchanged.
  • Set up the section for Facebook or Youtube Live Feeds.
    • Separate the services out.
    • Keep Youtube and Facebook separate.
    • If you have assigned digital team members to the service, add their names.
    • How many shares?
    • How many reactions?
    • How many views?
    • How many comments should be followed in the next bullet point of notable or meaningful comments. I normally choose comments that express thoughts of the sermon, how the pastor is connecting with the person, prayer requests or praises, etc.
  • Copy and paste the service section if you have more than one service streaming.
  • The next section should be notable Facebook posts. These are posts that have gotten a lot of reactions, shares, and/or received some notable comments. If there are meaningful comments on these posts, refer to them in the report.
  • If you have one or more Facebook groups, list them here as the pdf indicates: Name of group, purpose of group and group link.
    • List how many members are in the group and use the symbols in Word to indicate up, down, or no change.
    • List group posts, comments, reactions, and shares that are meaningful.

The purpose of the group is to show how the Saturday or Sunday service is connecting with your community and the world. The report must be laid out with a focus on connections. You can include other live streaming ministries in this report. By converting the pdf I’ve provided in Word, you can alter this report to better suit your needs in ministry. Or, again, email me for the Word document.

If you have any questions, please email me.

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.

How to Choose Better

Yesterday, I wrote a piece for WorldVenture, How Social Media Can Help You Live Deeply. In researching this article, I came across Proverbs 13:20,

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

Who do you allow in? It’s certainly not my Facebook profile that determines whom I let into my heart. That’s just my living room with my Facebook Page being the front porch. However, what you read on your friend’s posts and your own newsfeed does saturate your heart, and most times with a lot of angst. It’s like a song on repeat. This is why learning your privacy settings and tools are important.

On Facebook, you can snooze someone for 30 days or choose to unfollow them completely without cutting that connection. I wish other social media sites had similar tools. With the people who text you or with people that you regularly meet for coffee, they are harder to Snooze or unfollow.

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, says part of Proverbs 13:20, reminding us to choose the people we let into our heart carefully. Wise friends will lead us closer to Jesus, hold us accountable for our decisions, and even speak the truth when we least like to hear it. Proverbs 13:20 finishes with, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

Who are those companions of fools?

  • They are the ones who enable us to live a way that leads us farther away from the person God wants us to become;
  • who say take another drink or use that drug even to your harm;
  • or people who can’t handle you when life falls apart;
  • or people who take advantage of another’s vulnerability to get something in return.

Not everyone can be that wise friend. Some people are built with bigger shoulders than others to catch the tears.

On Facebook or social media, it’s okay to have many friends or followers, cutting the connection only if it becomes toxic. But, your close friends should be the wise ones who help you choose better and bring you closer to Jesus.

How to Fight Off Wolves

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.– Matthew 7:15 

The internet contains more than 50,000 sermons. How do we discern between the Word of God being preached and what our online Bible Study last evening called, scoffers?  

A scoffer is someone who looks after his own interests, denies Christ in words and/or actions–a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In this age of media, here is how to be a more discerning believer as per Gaye Austin’s online teachings (in her words):  

  1. ACTION 1: Verify—write down what is being said.  
  1. ACTION 2: Clarify—write down what is said from both points of view; ask if it violates one of the cardinal doctrines: virgin birth, the inerrancy of Scripture, etc.  
  1. ACTION 3: Pray for understanding and insight. In John 14:26, Jesus told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would bring to their minds what Jesus taught. If we are anointed with the indwelling Holy Spirit, can He not do the same for us?  

According to a Lifeway Study, only 32 percent who attend church regularly read the Bible every day. It’s not a church building that will bring people closer to God, but it can be the church people who make disciples starting with spending time with the Lord and learning about Him through the Bible. Then, sharing your knowledge appropriately in the face-to-face and online.  

That includes… 

  • Being active on your church’s Facebook or Youtube Lives. Not just checking in. Sharing your thoughts on the sermon. Engaging others online with love.  
  • Sharing what you are learning in your daily or weekly study of the Bible and allowing others to challenge you or ask you questions. To help you bear the challenges, come at sharing what you are learning from a position of humility. Afterall, most of us are not theologians. Our desire to learn the Bible is to draw closer to the Lord. Our pride should not get in the way.  
  • Use social media as a tool to help you get into good disciplines. It is not whether we should limit our time online, but how we use it. If you are scrolling and sharing out of habit or boredom, you are not using your time well.  
  • Allow margin in your day-to-day schedule for God-appointments (online and face-to-face).  

How do you discern out of the more than 50,000 sermons shared online what is God’s truth and what is fluff or self-promotion?  

Read your Bible and pray.

Then, be a part of God’s plan of transformation in yourselves and in other people by using your social media differently and invest time in other people’s lives online and in the face-to-face.   

How to Love Others in 5 Not-So-Easy Ways

Sitting in the coffee shop, sipping ice tea on a hundred-degree day across from a new friend, I was reminded again of Proverbs 27:17: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. We talked about love. The topic of love has been on my mind lately.

Over social media, people use the Bible to try to emotionally blackmail another person to agree with or to comply with choices the other party is not in agreement with. This isn’t love. Love is determined by the motivation of the speaker. The Bible uses many examples on what loving your neighbor looks like. Then, you learn about the different Greek words that describe the different kind of loves that are mentioned in the Bible, like Agape.

Got Questions defines Agape love as that which, “…involves faithfulness, commitment, and an act of the will.” They use 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 as an example. I have even heard Agape described as sacrificial love in other articles.

 The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman, published in 1992, on how to express love “…in your spouse’s language”, reminded me that each of us has a love language and won’t recognize love unless expressed to us in that language. It doesn’t only apply to spouses, but friends, neighbors, and even strangers. If we want to love others like Jesus, following His example is important, and understanding what the Bible says about it is necessary. It’s also important to understand who your neighbor, friend, or even the stranger is when trying to love them. Social media makes that easy (and hard) to do.

I recently read a Tweet about a man who reconciled with his friend after a four-year shut down in communication. The original argument was over politics. He wrote at the end of his tweet, “FOUR years lost.”

Loving others is not easy, and it takes sacrifice, like Jesus. When you Google “love your neighbor scripture”, this link comes up. When you read the Bible in context and you see all the love verses together, Clarity happens, and the truth confronts your spirit. Because you love the Lord, obedience is the next step. There’s nothing natural about it, either.

How do we love our neighbors, friends, and strangers when both face-to-face and online relationships are tough right now?

  1. Count Others More Significant Than Yourselves (Philippians 2:3): The relationship comes before your preferences. As a leader, I am learning John 13:1-17, when Jesus washed his disciples feet. Yes, I want to be that kind of leader, that kind of friend, and that kind of person. The word honor comes to mind. I want to honor others before myself, and this can be done without sacrificing my values or the relationship. In practical ways, some suggestions might be to ignore thoughtless online remarks, let another person know privately or publicly that you prayed for their request, be a good guest instead of a demanding one, and always give more than you receive out of the sheer joy in being generous. Look for ways online and face-to-face where you can serve a need or even a want. Everyone likes to receive that unexpected card or gift in the mail. Don’t be too proud to pick up a broom.
  2. Unity for The Gospel: In reading Philippians 4, two women had a quarrel in the church. Paul implored them to, “…be of the same mind in the Lord.” Both women needed to recall that the Gospel that they had in common was more important than the quarrel. Much work can be accomplished if our differences can be resolved. What gifts were we given to serve the Lord? How has the Lord prepared us for the work He has for us? It goes on to say in the chapter to “Show a gentle disposition to all men” (online and face-to-face).  
  3. Learn About Your Friends. Lurk on their profiles. Study your friends. Learn about how they need to be loved. For some, it is gifts. For others, acts of service. Respond accordingly. How can you use your own social media to help them rejoice? How can you practically help them? Have no agenda in the realm of friendship. Invest time in online and face-to-face conversations. Where possible, avoid phone calls, and instead use video calls so you can see each other’s facial expressions.
  4. Speak Truth if You Have the Relationship: We don’t have the right to speak into someone else’s life unless that permission is given. Build the friendship first, and you build trust. Cherish that trust. Put the Gospel first above any other “truth”. Respect the other person in your choice of words and tone. It’s advisable online to use emojis for facial expressions.
  5. Forgive. The divide and anger are so thick one could cut it and serve it on a plate. Forgiveness is essential for our souls, to be reconciled with each other, and it is also a process, depending on the sore point. But, it is worth the effort to forgive, if not for our own sakes.

This love thing is really a struggle. If we ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?”, we must know the answer to that was: the cross.

Now, what?

3 Ways to Make Room for God

“Since I cannot govern my own tongue, tho’ within my own teeth, how can I hope to govern the tongues of others?” – Benjamin Franklin

Taking a stand doesn’t mean being the loudest person in the room, especially on social media. Follow God in making a positive impact in your community and stick close to Him during this time. Trust Him.

I know it’s hard with everything going on to feel like you have no control over what is happening in the world, and that speaking out gives you a feeling of control. But, like this flower, you can bloom. We’ve been so blessed as a country to live in a prosperous nation, and maybe now we see the reason why we are here? It’s been so easy to live here versus other parts of the world (from what I read). I wonder sometimes, as we chafe against what is happening, why we still want our old habits?

Let God use this time to change you into a new creation and set aside the old. On this 4th of July may we look at ourselves and see what God wants us to do going forward (and not the God we have invented for ourselves, but the God as represented in the Bible). Maybe it’s time to start a new Bible reading and prayer habit?

Here are 3 suggestions to help you form new habits:

  • Get up earlier than your normal hour if your day is full. A story from missionary history reminded me that spending time with God means rising early for some people. When my work schedule changed after I started a new job, I continued rising at the same hour each morning to make sure my relationship with the Lord wasn’t neglected. Maybe you are an evening person? Stay up late. Perhaps your lunch hour works best for you? Bring your Bible to work.
  • Use Your social media to stay accountable to your walk with God. The first sentence in this blog was, “Taking a stand doesn’t mean being the loudest person in the room.” This followed a quote from Benjamin Franklin. What you write on social media is what you are and reflects your heart. The posts online can either make you bitter or you can start controlling your dietary intake of what you read. Keeping your heart healthy means learning how to use social media in a way that benefits both you and your readers, followers, and friends. Perhaps share what you are learning on Sunday, in Bible Study, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about the Bible online. Be discerning in whose answers you accept by comparing the answers to what you are reading. Commentaries can be helpful in this.
  • Bible apps are wonderful. You can fit them on your phone and your phone can fit in your pocket. Grab a bottle of water and take a walk with God. Find a quiet place to sit and read a chapter. Ponder that chapter. Focus on it for the rest of the day. What did you read? What did you just learn about Bible history? How can you apply it now? What did it mean then?

Take care of your heart during this time and make God a priority. Talk to Him. As Benjamin Franklin said, you can’t control what others post (or how their posts make you feel), but you can control what you post.

*Picture taken on a trail in Arizona.