Why I Don’t Talk About Politics

My husband posted this on his social media:

I think this is a great example of how the media may actually be harming the country. Joe Bastardi a meteorologist for weatherbell.com started warning media of hurricane Harvey 1 week before it hit. But because of the media’s hate and obsession with Trump 24/7, nobody mentioned it until 2 days before it hit. Its things like this is why most have lost all faith and respect for the media. By the way, after it hit, that same media slammed the local government for its response. Any thoughts?

Shortly after President Trump was voted in, many Christian and non-Christian middle to left leaning people went on a rampage. Likewise, many conservative Christians began to act like the left-leaning Democrats they complained about. In all this political soup, I wondered when the church would see we needed to put our desire for others to know Christ above our desire to talk about politics and get into debates?

In this post, my husband was making a point about how powerful our words are and how they can sway people into action. This is why Hitler had a book burning festival. He knew the power of words. He used them himself. History has shown the effects of the power of words. They can influence to peace or violence, racial equality or division, and love or hate. People are swayed by story in video or picture form with few words. Even my high school’s slogan said the pen was more powerful than the sword.

The church has a challenge: Be a part of the changes in technology or be left behind. Leadership can inspire the use of Social Media and technology by sharing more positive stories about it. They can be examples themselves on how to use Social Media well. They can lead the church congregation to representing Christ online instead of their favorite political candidate. We need to act like a Christian online as well as in the face-to-face world. The two are no longer separate.

I want to inspire the church to become involved in technology and social media. Ask me about it. I’m happy to speak to your church or ministry group on the subject. 

How to Act in Love

Even as I write this, I am reading political posts online that are the opposite of what Jesus teaches. Jesus did the hard work of showing up where people hung out. That’s half of the battle really. We can point the finger at others for their lack of truth, but they can point the fingers at us for our lack of love.

Love is…

  • Showing up when you say you’ll be there.
  • Actually praying the moment you say you are praying for something.
  • Auditing your social media. What is it NOT saying? Are you reflecting Jesus in your posts? Posting online is an action. Your actions need to reflect your biblical teachings.
  • Putting someone first above your preferences.
  • Altering your schedule for someone else.
  • Giving.
  • Being other-oriented.

We will fail at always loving others, but let’s try to succeed more than fail.

A Life Church post yesterday taught me how most people ought to act. Someone expressed their doubts about the Bible. Instead of getting defensive and angry with the person, the online congregation engaged the person in light-hearted, but deep conversation about faith and the Bible. It was refreshing.

As a mentor, my job becomes harder when Christians post against any people group. Angry political rants stir up anger and unforgiveness. That anger causes many people to not participate and connect with people who are different than them. With one worker for every one million unreached people, it’s imperative that the church engages more with people than against them. It’s not the worker that should do everything. The worker and the church work in tandem.

I know it’s hard. You feel threatened and America isn’t the same. But when has that ever stopped us from living differently than the world? Either Jesus will rule our hearts or our bitterness will…we serve only one master. Who will that be?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers,[a] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:43-48

Reaching Guatemala #Christian

V leaned toward me, her phone in the palm of her hand, showing me pictures and videos of her recent church short term missions trip to Guatemala. She shared deeply what God had done in her through the trip and how her team members were right by her side at a crisis moment. It so reminded me of Honduras.

Short term trips do as much for the people of the country as they do for the team. When you go on a short term trip, you return home different. The people leave footprints in your life that never go away. V wanted to keep in touch with some of the leadership and team, and had collected a few email addresses while in Guatemala. At this point, the conversation went from friend-to-friend to a social media class to learn how to use her seldom-used Facebook in a global way.

Privacy is an issue for V for reasons I won’t go into, and as the afternoon sunshine gave way to monsoonal wind, rain, and lightening, we nearly closed down Starbucks. V had both her tablet and phone as I taught her how to copy and paste links, create statuses, edit photos, and share her faith without revealing personal information. She even shared her story in a Facebook Live video, being okay with it being public.

The next step was walking her through inviting her Guatemalan friends to “friend” her on Facebook. She used Google translate to type out her message to them and copied and pasted the Spanish text into the body of the email. While Google translate is wonderful, it is always best to learn the language of the culture you wish to reach.

V is not just a dear friend, but an avid prayer support. You read my story about P, and now you are learning about V. Both attend the same church. Imagine if every church member shared their faith with their “Oikos” online, took the time to mentor people online, and shared statuses that reflect their face-to-face personality, inviting further conversation? The church would be powerful, indeed. This is partly what I do. I am a trainer of those who wish to be more than spectator Christians.

Would you consider supporting this work? Click here

I Cause Discomfort

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(P Created This on My Tablet)

We gather around our devices. P has both her laptop and phone, ready to learn. We drink lattes and talk about our memories and life lessons learned.

She laughs when she talks about graduating in 1968. “You weren’t even born yet!”

I listen. That’s perhaps the most important tool in a Social Media Consultant. 

As she shares about her life, I am making mental notes. How can she share her faith? How can her personality shine online? What is her learning curve? How can I help her succeed? What obstacles do we need to overcome? This is how ministry works–I meet with people and have a conversation. Sometimes, the conversations happen online via Zoom or Skype, but like today, it is face-to-face over lattes away from the craziness of downtown Prescott and the Fourth of July activities.

We cover topics such as photo editing, linking the photo to the micro-story she is telling, and teach how to do certain things on the phone and laptop.

“You’ve got to make it a habit.” I can’t say this enough. “You’ve got to work on this an hour a day until it’s like second nature.” The biggest problem with people learning how to use social media isn’t always the technology; it’s creating a new habit. When the habit is created, you can choose when to use social media and when to abstain. You have control over how much time you spend on social media; the device doesn’t control you.

My husband and I talked later and we both agreed that people find it easier to share negative stories about social media rather than get involved. The church is changing. The message isn’t changing, but can if good people do nothing to correct the misinformation online. As I sat typing this blog, scrambling for more inspiration, Seth Godin once again becomes an influence:

He wrote in Creating Discomfort that even projects you launch that should be welcoming are often missing an important point: “…this is going to make (some) people uncomfortable.”

What I do with WorldVenture is still new to a lot of people. Yet, I join with a few hundred others to pioneer a new movement. I’m determined to close the gap between young and old, to mobilize the church to get online, and to show that the Bible is good enough even if the context in which we share the message is re-framed.

My Frustration With Webinars

Some great webinars go live when I am at work. Webinars such as cross-cultural-related webinars and marketing webinars are valuable to any Christian. How can we mobilize the church to use the online world to reach people with the Gospel if the educational tools are just out of our reach? Rarely are the webinars before 7 a.m. or after 4 p.m. MST. Their audience are international workers already on the field, marketers, or pastors and ministry leaders. Overlooked is the congregation–the people who work during the day or sleep during the day.

Most webinars record their sessions and post them on Youtube or Vimeo. However, a live webinar allows the person to interact with other like-minded people. Questions can be asked and resources shared. When I am full time, I plan on doing webinars to share resources with the regular person interested in using the social media they are already on to reach the unreached and the unloved. The webinars would be designed much like Mobile Ministry Forum’s Meet and Greets (of which I miss attending!).

To make up for the lack of accessibility to resources, I have created a technology newsletter to help the serious person interested in sharing the Gospel online get tips and access to resources I find in my internet scavenging. If you are interested in receiving this newsletter, leave a comment. I’ll add you to it. Meanwhile, be praying as I build up support to go full time. I have so much I want to do to help the church be missional in their online approach to building community.

Also, if you know of any webinars related to international work and cross-cultural work or marketing that happens before or after this time or on weekends, please leave a comment with the link. I would love to hear about it.

4 Myths About #SocialMedia

Every month I send emails out to gather support. Not everyone will see the vision I have and embrace it as eagerly as my current partners and friends. It’s an art to write authentic emails that wrap my vision around the vision God has placed on a church I am contacting. Social media affects every church and ministry and every person whether they want it to or not. With 3.2 billion people on the internet out of the 7 billion worldwide, the church should jump at the thought of using a tool that is free for online evangelism, missions, and discipleship. This is not always the case for whatever reason.

Let me go over four myths:

  1. Only Church Leadership Should Do Marketing Ministry: A medium church has a staff of 5 people. Your church has 350 attendants. Typically, unless you are a mega-church, your administrator or pastor doubles as social media marketer. How many people in your congregation make up the 1.57 billion people on Facebook? Why aren’t you training them? What do you train them on? How do you create a team of missions/evangelism-focused individuals who can be mentored by experienced past or present pastors or missionaries? Merely posting announcements is not good enough. You must engage the people on your page. You must use social media to talk to people and teach your congregation to talk to people.
  2. “I Only Support (Insert Your Favorite Denomination Here).” While I do not agree with denominational prejudice, you should look for someone in the field of social media and technology to support or consider pioneering the use of technology and social media who is in your denomination whom you can support. Consider your neighborhood? Does your church have a strong presence in it? Or is it dwarfed by other belief systems? Implement a social media strategy. Consider this part of planting churches, running ministry, and doing church.
  3. “I Hate Smart Phones. No One Has Conversations Anymore.” The church is great at publishing stories that scare people away from using social media. We are experts at why we shouldn’t use social media, but most who talk against it are barely using it (if at all). The conversations are happening. They don’t look like the conversations you have; different isn’t necessarily evil. Granted, balance does need to come back into the online and face-to-face world. Who will show an example of that balance if you are not going where the conversations are happening?
  4. “I Don’t Need a Missions Course; I’m Not Going Overseas.” Social Media is global. Unfortunately, some of the missions courses aren’t packaging their courses to be applied domestically and internationally. Americans can offend another culture online and be blocked if they don’t learn about that culture first like missionaries do. Who are the people groups in your area? Have you searched that information online, taken a long drive or a walk in your community, or taken a course at a university or college to understand how many of the students come from other countries?

Support is secondary as to why I want to talk to your church. Your church’s hopes, dreams, and vision are mine, too. What I do is as important to you as it is to what God has me doing. Let me talk to you even if support is not available. Church isn’t about self-service. It isn’t about your programs. It isn’t about the music. Our passion for those things should be less than the passion to reach the lost with the truth and love of the Gospel. 

The creative possibilities are endless with how a church can use social media to put into practice the vision that God has placed there. What are the barriers and how can they be overcome? What is stopping you from being more strategic online?

Telling Stories at Your Church

Churches and missionaries share something in common: Both depend upon donations to continue. Missionaries write support letters to report back what God is doing in the field to those who have invested in them. Churches and their ministries need to emulate this.

Gather the facts and interview the people affected by your ministry.

  • How did their lives change?
  • How did it change their thought process?
  • Change their names to protect their identity or use their real names.
  • Take pictures.

You can video this or write it. A video can be shared during service and posted on a website. Please make sure you get written permission or a media release from the person interviewed.

If you video, don’t do the dreaded white wall.

  • Choose a natural setting.
  • Don’t interview with questions. Give them a question ahead of time and tell them to tell you a story.
  • Switch action scenes with person talking to give variation. Do voice over for action scenes.
  • Use music softly in the background, if it doesn’t distract.

A missionary knows people will not give to their ministries without first knowing what is happening. The same goes for the church. If you manage a ministry at a church, see if your church will give your ministry a platform to tell the stories happening in your ministry. Your efforts will help your church grow, encourage generous stewardship, and inspire volunteerism.

What stops you from telling those stories?

 

Why Do You Write?

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Sitting in the Phantom Ranch Canteena, I discovered numerous shelves of stuff all over the small room. In one of these shelves was a few worn books, published years prior. Some Christian probably stuck a Max Lucado book among them. Others, I did not recognize (except for a dictionary which never goes out of style and is probably used for Scrabble).

It reminded me that, while our projects give us a sense of accomplishment and come after months, if not years, of hard work, eventually they will end up on a shelf like this one–forgotten, languishing, and maybe read out of boredom by a few backpackers. This may be depressing, but it is a reminder to me as a writer that why I write is something I need to keep at the front of my mind.

The relationships I make online through the publication of books or articles are far more important than a name on the front cover of a book or byline on an article in a magazine. Your books and articles will make an impression and be the vehicle that forge that relationship. Let people remember the Christ you tried to reflect rather than the title of your work or that you published over hundred best sellers. Let them recall your faith. Might I even suggest writing for publications in which the Christian world would gasp in horror? 

If your work is not unbiblical, then your writing will attract those seeking Jesus to your website or social media handle. That’s where intentional engagement happens between the reader and the writer. You need to foster this relationship.

Donald Maass in one of his books often called people who sought only to have their name on the front cover of a book, “Glory Seekers.” Christians need to realize how writing is a powerful tool in the secular world. That’s why dictatorships try to control media outlets. That’s why social media is the enemy of any government. Words are what change the world. Ideas are intangible and cannot be killed by weapons.

I wonder if Christian writers groups realize they are training up future leaders to be vehicles of change in a secular world? Writers I admire include Mike Duran. If you ever friend him on Facebook, his thought-provoking statuses challenge traditional Christian writing views. They challenge us to take the mission field of writing seriously and to think outside the box. Our Christian stories shouldn’t be segregated to a Christian reading section. We should be writing towards the secular audience and our Christian writing should encourage the Christian to also serve the world in which they live.

To inspire change in the writing community, I co-lead a group called, Roots Writers and Social Media Critique Group, with author, Sherry Rossman. This group has a blank charter and logos any believer can use. If they wish to list their Roots group on our website, they need only to email Sherry to gain approval. This is also for missionaries, too. Missionaries need to realize they can harness the power of story to share what is happening in their field of ministry. They can start a Roots group, too, for their missionary letters to be critiqued.

Amazon Says No

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For all of you who blog for books, Amazon just released new community guidelines:

“Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.”

Amazon’s move follows a string of lawsuits against companies who were paid to post positive reviews on their site and cheat Amazon’s system by using reviews to make a book seem like it was one of the top rankings. Over the years, some authors have tried to manipulate the system in the name of marketing. Some secular self-publishing sites even forbid anything less than a three star rating all in the name of “helping” each other sell more books, instead of improving their writing.

Book reviewers are trying to be optimistic. However, most publishing, book reviewing companies, and blog tours require a review in exchange for a free book. This is against Amazon’s new community guidelines. Only those in their Vine program are allowed to post reviews. While book reviewers remain angry with this new move, it is Amazon’s right to protect the integrity of their review system.

I urge you as Christians to also honor this system. Here are some suggestions for posting reviews on Amazon or another retail site:

  • Free Book, But No Review Required. After you write your review, post this below the review: “I have received a free book, but the publisher has not required me to post this review. I do this on my own.” This satisfies the FCC and more than likely, Amazon. 
  • Free Book in Exchange for a Review. Post on other retail sites. Publishers aren’t usually requiring an Amazon review. 
  • Buy The Book You Want to Review. Now you are a customer. You can review the book. 
The FCC requires the following on all blog posts (use your own variation): “Free book received in exchange for a review.” 

Instead of being angry at Amazon, let’s shine as Christians. Let’s respect their guidelines and continue to use book reviewing as a way to influence and reach a lost world with the Gospel.