Where Are The Good Followers? #SocialMedia #Christian

Image result for letters to the church francis chan

According to “Cairnway,” 1,246 paperback books with leadership in the title were published in 2017. “Counting all formats, Amazon offers 57,136 books with the word leadership in the title.” In a Google search, I found only a few articles or books on being good followers. Most of the time, leadership takes precedent. It’s what you hear in church. Based on a 4-day devotional from the Youversion app on Francis Chan’s “Letters to The Church,” I bought the book, hungry for being in awe of my position as a member of the Body of Christ. And this chapter set me down on my knees.

In fact, I posted on my Facebook, “I love this book, but I am not reading it from a spirit of trying to find someone else to blame; I am learning to be in awe of being a member of the body of Christ and to help bring about a spirit of unity by supporting, leading, and doing away with my own sense of ego, pride, and competition.” Too often, we hit the share button because we want someone else to see it. The lesson is for them, not for us. I want to learn Jesus’ version of leadership. (John 13:1-17).

Francis Chan says,

“Imagine how difficult it would be to coach a team where each player refuses to follow because he or she has a better plan than the coach. Welcome to the American Church in the twenty-first century. Let’s exercise some humility.”

My biggest struggle is getting rid of my sense of competition, especially when you are raising support to only have to work one full-time job. I’ve encountered people who believe they are the only ones doing it right. That attitude is in the name of their ministries, their words, and even in their defensiveness. To maintain a sense of unity, I seek to work with what is established and help others succeed in their ministry goals. In some situations, I become a leader; in others, I become a follower. Once upon a time, I hated how teachers would force me into group work. Now, I see value in collaboration, but don’t hold too tightly to your ideas as a leader. God is such a creative God. He dreams bigger than we do.

A good follower of Christ and a good leader is aware that people are always watching. With social media, this is acutely true. The more notoriety you get (like Francis Chan), the more critical and the more encouraging the comments. Chan struggled with so much criticism and flattery. As a Digital Engagement and Disciple-Making Coordinator with WorldVenture, I can understand that pressure, but not to his level. On an individual level, a person must show their faith and life online and treat their social media as an extension of their face-to-face life. They should be one and the same. You can, with social media, be both a leader and a follower. The church needs good followers.

It became quickly clear to me in 2014 how social media will play a big role in missions, but only if we can mobilize the congregation to follow. Francis Chan pastored a megachurch before God took him out of the country. In this first chapter, he talked about wanting people to live holy lives. Too many people had no interest in applying the Bible to their lives at his megachurch. They would come to church every week and go home without appearing to show the fruit of belief in their lives. He wanted his church to become groups of people who challenged each other to action (and they did!).

In 2014, I saw more than half of the church on social media platforms like Facebook, and I asked God, “What if we trained those people to reach unbelievers, the unreached, and to learn another culture, even a language, to become digital workers? What if each church had a digital team that grew every year that supported the mission and vision of their church and likewise, supported missionary organizations? Missionary organizations that also help to provide training material to support a church’s mission goals and their own?” I also saw over-worked pastors and missionaries and communications staff that didn’t just do communications, but a hundred other jobs. Most churches and missionary organizations do not have the budget to support someone trained in communications. Sometimes, churches and missionary organizations only see their social media as a marketing tool, rather than a tool that can be used for digital discipleship. Francis Chan said, “Another issue we saw was how everything had grown to be very dependent on one person.”

Right now, I am training a non-profit on social media and digital discipleship. A ministry is only as good as the heart and drive of its people. If all leadership has to do is provide relevant content and lead, the digital teams become a powerful tool to saturate the world with the Gospel. This alleviates the pressure of having to do everything. Lastly, Francis Chan says this,

“After giving a very strong rebuke to the church of Laodicea for being lukewarm, Jesus simply asked them to open the door. Before you get overwhelmed by all tht is wrong with the Church, rememeber that He is not placing an insurmountable burden on your shoulders. He is asking you to fellowship with Him and join Him in what He is doing. We should be filled with faith and anticipation…”

You are the church.

You are also online.

How to Make Healthy Habits Online

Strategy, marketing, and all the ugly words we associate with the secular world make it difficult for the church body to embrace media. How do we turn our online habits into healthy habits and use strategy? Tony Whittaker wrote, Why Bother with Strategies for Lausanne Media Engagement Network, and he says,

“Some people might ask, “Why do we need evangelistic strategies at all? Surely we are just called on to preach the gospel, plain and straight, and leave God to do the rest?” Even the words ‘communication strategies’ may seem to imply worldly marketing methods rather than a dependence on the power of the gospel through the Holy Spirit. There are a number of answers to this very reasonable question. The Word ‘preach’ does not just mean ‘one-way verbal communication’ – as in a sermon or evangelistic address. It has a much broader sense – ‘to effectively communicate’. If the receivers have not understood the message, real communication has probably not occurred. The word ‘communicate’ also has a root meaning that helps us: that of ‘communing’ or interacting over ‘common’ ground.”

This article effectively outlines what that strategy should look like and gives ideas. All strategy employed must begin with prayer. My prayer has always come from Matthew 4:19 of the CEB when Jesus promises to show us how to reach people. Marketing or strategy are simply methods used to get information in front of people in a format they can understand so a conversation can happen. Social Media is built around relationships. How can we build relationships with people if we don’t show them some common ground? People in ministry aren’t the only ones who should pay attention to strategy. Everyone is capable of learning new things and should seek to understand the communication tools marketers and ministry partners use. Because each person has a social media profile, each person can prayerfully determine the audience they wish to reach, but don’t be a preacher.

Communicate. Talk to people. Converse. 

An article about Google search terms years ago reminds me daily that God is asking us to serve outside the walls of the church. In that article, the writer said suicide was a term searched from midnight on. Maybe some of us ought to take the night shift on social media and learn to listen, armed with resources to give when the moment calls for it?

Sometimes, I think the church needs to re-learn how to make a conversation. Like in church when someone asks in passing, “How are you?” to which “fine” is the expected answer, a reaction or like shouldn’t be the only responses online. How you converse or respond to someone is up to you, but social media allows us to have conversations at any time of day or night.

In either case, you are online whether by boredom or just to see the grandkids’ photo. You’ve developed a habit with your phone. Let’s make your online habits healthy:

  • Are you talking or preaching? Are you listening?
  • Are you preaching to the choir or are you making a difference?
  • Is your social media a pulpit for your favorite political party?
  • Are you aware of trigger words with people you are friends with? How are you using your words online? Do you know the people you friend?
  • Do you pray for a people group? Is your social media friendly to that people group or religion? Your social media can connect with them personally.

If communication shuts down because of a disagreement, your opportunity is lost. Do everything possible to keep that line open. How you post online is really determined by who you have friended, where they are from, and what they believe. Social Media is known for its dark side. Ask the Lord to show you HOW to follow Him and HOW to build good friendships online so we allow God to shine a light through it.

Why Words Matter

“People are so angry.” My husband said.

A man was blocking the milk section at the grocery store. Another man wanted to get a gallon. Instead of waiting or gently asking the man blocking the milk to move back a little, the man needing the gallon of milk said very loudly and rudely, “EXCUSE ME!”

My husband met that angry man at the checkout station where the machine wasn’t working for him because he couldn’t wait. All I could think of as my husband shared his experience at the store with me was how words matter.

Memes, politics, words that joke about wishing people would die, etc aren’t powerless. It feeds a greater movement towards violence and hate. As a Digital Engagement and Disciple-Making Coordinator with WorldVenture, I wince when I see words and posts from people that divide rather than unite, and feel like our country is like our Arizona’s forests–a tinderbox due to drought ready to ignite with one careless spark. The drought, of course, is the lack of compassion, love, and self-control online combined with bible illiteracy.

Recently, I was watching Paul Apostle of Christ movie. The group in the Christian encampment wanted to take up their swords and storm the prison to free Luke and Paul. Paul said in the movie we must love, not retaliate. No matter how we feel politically, how we grieve for the state of our country on this fourth of July, we must remember that we are citizens of Heaven first and we are charged to love our enemies, our friends, and our neighbors. But, ultimately, words matter.

The angry man at the milk display, the impatience of the driver at the mall, and the fiery posts witnessed online are examples of the power of ideas and words. The world needs more Jesus and less anger. More importantly, we need to focus on exercising self-control online and have more conversations. Foster trust, not hate one post at a time. Learn to wait. Learn to stand in line. Learn to be helpful. Those are my thoughts today on this Fourth of July.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

Morning Devotional: Serving in Bad Environments

Disclaimer: Not a Bible Teacher. Random thoughts from my morning devotions. 

Reading 1 Samuel 2

From Got Questions:

  • The author of 1 Samuel is anonymous.
  • Written from c. 1100 B.C. to c. 1000 B.C. One hundred years of history.
  • The role of Judges are removed and a unified nation under kings begins. Samuel is the last judge.
  • Two kings are anointed: Saul and David.
  • The child, Samuel first prophecy was one of judgment on the corrupt priests.

In 1 Samuel 2, I read Hannah’s prayer. As I moved to the next portion of the chapter, I learn about Eli’s Wicked Sons.

2 Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord. 13 Now it was the practice of the priests that, whenever any of the people offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand while the meat was being boiled 14 and would plunge the fork into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot. Whatever the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. 15 But even before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the person who was sacrificing, “Give the priest some meat to roast; he won’t accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.”

16 If the person said to him, “Let the fat be burned first, and then take whatever you want,” the servant would answer, “No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.”

17 This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they[b] were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt.

I wonder what it was like to serve among corrupt priests? In the Got Questions synopsis, I read this verse from 1 Samuel 15:22-23:

“But Samuel replied: ‘Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king’” (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

Were there any priests not corrupt? What temptations did they face? 

I am thinking, too, of how we serve at work or in the church. What temptations do we face to take shortcuts or make bad decisions out of pure exhaustion and low morale? If we don’t get what we want, do we say, “No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.”

What did you learn from reading this chapter? 

Meanwhile, I am praising God with this video. Sing with me.

 

 

Being Creative IS resting!

Rafter 11 is an unusual cafe in Prescott Valley, Arizona. Olive and balsamic oils line the walls. Rich dark wood, comfortable chairs, and an outdoor sitting area make this ideal for a place to meet a friend, but not a great place to bring a computer or a book to do some light work in the afternoon. On the dark counters, glass domes cover baked goods.

We ordered our coffee drinks and found a table nearby.

“My husband says I work too much.” I laughed and continued talking. “But being creative IS resting.”

I told her a story about the day I chose to experiment and do nothing. To truly rest and not have a computer in my hands. Rest according to other people’s definitions.

“I was so exhausted,” I said after I talked about lacking energy, getting a headache at the end of the day, and feeling unproductive. “When you take a rest day in relation to exercise, there’s something called active rest. You are walking, but you aren’t trying to run a tough, 3-mile uphill workout. You are active, but not pushing it.” 

People knit.

People do crafts.

People do something while on their day off.

When you enjoy what you do, how can it be called work? But this is not the first conversation I’ve had on this topic. Rest for me is creating something. Or maybe it’s mindlessly pulling words together or using a drawing program to just draw without any agenda. A study I found one day said we aren’t more productive just because we put in more hours. In fact, just the opposite was true.

People rested and were more productive during work than if they put in hours of overtime. How you spend that time you are given is up to you. You decide on the priority of a project based on the effort you put into it.

3 Ways We Are Limiting Ourselves

When someone like Bill Gates presents a list of books he is reading this summer, people pay attention. More importantly, his choices influence others towards his worldview. The church, in general, according to some sources are losing its influence on the world. This trend can change, but only if we stop limiting ourselves.

Fast Company wrote,

“One of the world’s most revered painters and thinkers was largely self-taught and didn’t let the technological restrictions of 500 years ago limit his conjectures about how the world around him might work.” Bill Gates suggested a book about Leonardo DaVinci. Recently, a pastor at a local church shared his own book suggestions.

Pastors and people like me are expected to share what they are reading, even our faith journeys through reading the Bible, but as I explore digital discipleship and talk to people about supporting WorldVenture by supporting my position within WorldVenture, I find unusual roadblocks in sharing the vision of digital discipleship.

  • People get an opportunity to share their faith and, like handling a hot potato, try to give it to someone else more qualified quickly. Maybe they doubt their own capabilities and lack some confidence? My typical response: Trust in the Holy Spirit to give you an answer in your conversations. There’s no harm in saying, “Let me get back to you on that.” Come to the conversation as a learner, too. Learn together. Friend them online. You don’t need to have all the answers right now.
  • Ageism. A recent article about Liv Tyler reported how she feels like a second-class citizen in Hollywood. The roles for top movies go to much younger actresses. 32 and 38-years of age are considered “old” according to that article. Age and how people view age affect even the church. Our Senior Adults hold a special place in my heart. We are quickly losing their wisdom as the age gap widens between them and the younger crowd. Social Media gives our Senior Adults an opportunity to remind their grandchildren and “spiritual children” about their faith journeys and that God is indeed real and alive. When the topic is brought up about social media, many back away from it. Social sites like Facebook and Instagram are not just a way to see what the others are doing, but a chance to interact, share our faith and have real conversations. Refrain from automatically hitting the share button. Share your story. Be you. Be personal. Learn how to be discerning in what you share.
  • “We’ve Always Done it This Way Before.” In the article by Fast Company, the quote that struck me the most was how Leonardo Da Vinci, “…didn’t let the technological restrictions of 500 years ago limit his conjectures about how the world around him might work.” Many digital discipleship programs are showing up on the web. The church doesn’t lack the opportunities to learn digital discipleship, but many, many ministry leaders all share the same roadblocks to mobilizing their church. Social media is polarizing. People go from anger to apathy regarding its use in missions and evangelism. I’m interested in teaching our partner churches, allies, and individuals to team up with their church and have their church team up with WorldVenture (or other missionary organization) for a massive movement of discipleship–unity in one purpose. Teaching the solid Christians within the church, mobilizing the retired missionaries to think about serving from home using that knowledge they have gained, and connecting those who know a second language. Don’t limit yourself. Continue to live with hands open to whatever and wherever God leads you.

Bill Gates shares his summer reading list. A pastor or worker may share their reading list, thus creating solid, online conversations. What about sharing your reading list this year? What about sharing what you are learning to tease out some conversation about tough topics? The world is changing. Church and missionary organization should work together for greater results. Tap into the knowledge of social media experts and start with the small stuff.

Your first step should be in prayer.

**If you feel led to support this work, please go to this link to start your financial partnership today. You can also use the contact form here to send me a message and arrange a meeting to talk more about this supported staff role. I am only at 34% support. I cannot serve this new role with WorldVenture without full funding. Help me and you help WorldVenture and its workers. Contact me for a full list of duties this new role has for me to do. 

 

Anyone Could Have Done It

In a former job, someone wrote on the white erase board a long poem from here. Here is the part that matters:

Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it,

And Anyone could have done it

But in the end Nobody always ended up with the task.

Your conversations are online, and when you get the opportunity to share your faith, don’t back away and ask a missionary or pastor to do it for you. Your fear-based response sends the wrong message to the person you love. Afterall, you spent time with this person on and/or offline. A pastor shepherds 300+ and one stat says there is one missionary for every 213,000 people. You established the relationship and they have a connection with you, not with the missionary and not with the pastor.

Do share with your pastor and/or missionary about the situation as much as you are able so they can pray and guide you, but don’t shy from the work of the Gospel. You are capable and braver than you think. Questions can be answered later. I’ve often found it good to say, “Let me get back to you,” on something I don’t have the answer to.

And sometimes, there are no answers in this life. That’s okay, too.

Somebody could do it.

Anybody could have done it.

But, really, your new friends are asking you to do it. They trust you. They love you. You love them. You are not alone as you share your faith with them. Your church and your missionaries are praying with you.

You are brave. You are strong. God is with you.

 

3 Ways to Start a Movement

Several years ago, I stood dangerously close to never walking into church again. I couldn’t pray in church. I couldn’t worship in church. I shut down the moment I walked in. The hurt was real. I kept wondering, “Are we alive? What is church supposed to be? Who am I supposed to be?” Part of my problem was being in the wrong place. God was asking me to start a movement, and that meant leaving the comfortable to become acutely uncomfortable.

So, here I am in a healthier place, loving the fellowship with other believers, and enjoying worship in church again. I’m in line with God’s will in my life and I have peace about it. But my memory of the question, “Are we alive?,” continues to drive me. How can I tap into the different talents and gifts of the church body to inspire them to serve online? How can I make these dry bones come alive? That’s when my movement (singular) became movements (plural).

Movements are ideas curated on Social Media to create online communities around a brand or hobby. The idea is to encourage conversation between people that build relationships; relationships that lead to Gospel conversations. I realized the way to begin positive change is not only through prayer and the heavy reliance on the Holy Spirit, but also to tap into the congregation–a resource rarely used by pastors to even market their own church.

It sounds easy. Set up a Facebook group, invite people, and post often to encourage participation. In all honesty, serving this way can be brutal. Social Media means bringing the unpredictable into your life. People are from different cultures, backgrounds, and are dysfunctional. Think of a family reunion and that crazy Aunt, and you have chaos coming through as notifications on your phone. Running a successful group means being the moderator.

The moderator is always the enemy–a heartless person always censoring people’s posts. What our society lacks is boundaries and when you set boundaries, they lash out. So, when you begin a movement to inspire a different way of living or thinking, or to encourage deeper prayer lives, don’t look for instant results. You’ll have to go through deep valleys and climb high mountains. You’ll have periods of, “Am I a failure?” You are not a failure. It takes time for a movement to capture people’s hearts.

Movements are ideas that take root and inspire a church body to act. How do you start a movement?

  1. Open a Facebook group about a hobby you like to do.
  2. Start a small group from a blog you write to encourage people. If you write for single again women, start a single again small group that meets at a coffee shop. The small group can be online or in person.
  3. Your status updates, Instagram posts, or Twitter updates should all be around your own personal mission statement for your movement.

The key is to tap into those in the church body who are open to use their favorite hobby, their educational backgrounds, or (fill in the blank) and train them on social media to build up that movement so people are inspired by them to be different. When we create community, we are being the church.  When we are alive as a church body, people can’t help but notice God first. When we are sharing hope through relationship, God will use you to point them to Him.

Let those dry bones come alive! 

 

 

When Discipling Online

Recently, I posted this photo from this site. When discipling, is this wise? 

 

Caption: “Just because all of your friends have bad theology doesn’t mean you have to…”

To the majority of my intellectual Christian friends, this is funny. However, a believer in another country didn’t know what that meant. A pastor responded well, but I wondered if my friend understood what that pastor said? It made me think about what I post on my main newsfeed. In the intellectual community, I understand these terms cause a lot of debates.

I am very careful what I post online these days with my calling in mind. Once in a while, I regret a posting, like this one. It WAS funny to the majority of my friends, but I don’t want the focus of ministry to be on what causes debates or division.

Meanwhile, I need to get back on my Western Seminary Leadership Development courses. It’s been a busy few weeks.