In the face-to-face, our conversations are often about the food we eat, the places we went, and our health issues. Or, it’s about the vacations we experienced. Social media has the same conversations; we’ve forgotten how to contribute and make those conversations count like in the face-to-face world.
You can start with, “How are you?” But, “good” or “fine” is all you’ll get for minimal effort. Sharing memes can be good conversation starters if they are true and if you create a lead in the status update to push for a long conversation. It’s often best to observe what others post and jump into that conversation. The point is to build on what we have in common and commit to long-term trust building.
Too often we use social media to post our opinions, but not our questions. Social media has a lot of opinions and too little room for questions. Social Media and face-to-face can be used in collaboration for meaningful friendships that can lead to Gospel conversations (if only we make the effort).
So, the biggest complaint among older people is how people post deeply disturbing details of their state of mind (pictures like below) on Facebook. Yet, the other day over a meal someone was talking specific details about the problem with their pancreas or colon. In both instances, these are examples of relationship building. Listening. Supporting. Loving. This can be a bridge of communication.
Two kinds of crowds exist in the Christian world: the peace makers who believe that forgiveness means reconciliation no matter what the situation or the danger, and people like me who understand that forgiveness is more important and reconciliation is not always possible. Esther Fleece wrote, No More Faking Fine, and it is a clarion call to the church to understand and learn how to lament.
“A lament saves us from staying stuck in grief and rescues us from a faith based on falsehoods. It was a false belief that led me to believe I was the reason for my parent’s divorce. It was a false belief that told me I would never find my way out of despair. These false beliefs, combined with my inability to lament, caused a deep wedge between me and God. God was not angry with me about this. He understands the complexity of human emotions. But I had to be willing to communicate with Him to see what I needed and what He was doing and to uncover the fake beliefs prohibiting my intimacy with Him. (pg. 38)”
Unlike other memoirs, No More Faking Fine honors her parents and the situation by focusing on the events and what God did through those events and her own psyche. It’s rife with Scripture, pointing her suffering and her recovery back towards an intimacy with God. The book became more than just a review for a publicist company; it became an act of worship, re-visitation of the past, and a lament. People who come from our similar, but varied backgrounds, can relate to this emotion-filled book. It is not written from hurt or revenge, but from a heart in healing and lament. In my experience, lament is not practiced in church because we are busy looking like we have everything together.
Even our Facebook pages are filled with happy, wish-you-were-me posts and pictures of happy families, healthy relationships, and people who, because they are busy, have no time to listen to someone else’s lament. No More Faking Fine goes into talking about how coping mechanisms fail and how pain has a purpose if it leads us back to God. She weaves her own story thinly throughout the book, but mostly gives us a theological look at her emotional and spiritual journey as she worked at coping with coming from an abusive and traumatic past.
What stood out to me was the fearlessness she learned as her faith grew in the Lord. I recall how I was trying to share with someone how a person can go to church all their life and not know Christ or have a relationship with Him in spite of hearing the same verses every week. It is through the relationships of the people that come around us during our time of lament that help us understand intimacy with God. Fellowship is tricky for some of us.
“Some of us need to be told that good people are still out there–and they are. But even when Jason and Tamy showed me in numerous ways that they were there for me, my heart still anticipated their abandonment. I didn’t want to keep them at a distance, but my self-sufficiency had turned against me, and I had no idea how to reverse it. (pg. 176; emphasis mine)”
I resonated with everything written in, No More Faking Fine. We even share some of the same struggles as I am sure some of you whom read it will identify with, too. People I minister to or meet that come from similar but different situations or backgrounds and are damaged have discovered that we share the same emotional struggles. Grief has many stages and that grief needs to be heard in safe places. While I love most of the books that I read on the subjects of grief and forgiveness, I can say with absolute confidence, No More Faking Fine needs to be read by others who struggle with lamenting. Isolation is our worst enemy.
We need the fellowship of non-judgmental believers to come around us with, “hugs and tissues,” instead of Job-like friends who only sit with us for a time until they try to “solve” or blame us for our problems. We need a fellowship of faith so we can recover, and mentors or loving families willing to come around us for gentle and timely correction or encouragement. Like Esther, we need to move forward in obedience to Christ in spite of our fears, real or imagined.
In quoting her namesake,
For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14
You’re doing a great job, Esther.
Keep speaking to those of us who need to understand how to lament and draw closer to Jesus.
Help us become fearless by pointing us to Scripture.
Beginning Saturday, January 14, a new Vlog (a video or spoken blog rather than written) will begin.
Don’t worry though…I am replacing a written blog with a vlog so I am not stretching myself thin while I raise support. There are a couple of different purposes for doing this. Plus, I’ll explain who inspired this new series.
First, you can do missions and evangelism online from your living room without getting dressed and in your favorite fuzzy slippers. This is what my friend said as I worked with her on a video. Inspired by this, I thought, “What a great way marry humor and serious subjects together in one five minute vlog!”
The Vlog will do two things (I hope):
Inspire the church to think outside the box when thinking about missions and evangelism.
Inspire the person seeking to know Jesus to converse with me.
One of the most important pieces of advice I read some years ago was, “Choose a broad subject when deciding on what kind of blog you want to write so you never run out of subjects.”
The blog will cover:
Social Media and technology stories.
Not everyone is into the video thing, but most of the world is as evidenced by YouTube’s ever growing audience as the top video social network in the world. That is why my blog here will have half written blogs and half video blogs. It’ll be a goofy news segment or a casual devotional. I am buying some of the props this week and borrowed a prop in which I hope to have time to put the intro video together by Wednesday morning.
Will you pray for this new series? Like anything…being a Social Media Missionary means that I am constantly adapting to changing trends and ideas in order to reach the lost and the unloved and unchurched.
Right now I’m still using a cheap camcorder or my tablet or my phone for these segments. I am hoping this year to buy a DSLR camera to do better audio and video. I’m also not happy with my video program. It’s okay, but I still like Coral Video better. This is a program I have been using as a church secretary at Solid Rock Christian Fellowship. I also like Adobe Video, but that’s too expensive for now. As ministry grows and as support grows so will my equipment so I can steadily improve online ministry.
But the most important aspect of online ministry is ENGAGEMENT. All these fancy things are simply vehicles for engagement.
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.
When I have tried to teach people how to use graphic cloudware like, Canva, I get blank stares. Most of the time, the people I teach social media to want three things:
Not spend too many hours on a blog post.
Our sponsor, bibleverses.com, has an interesting website where you can get engaging content, graphics, and a quick look up of verses. The graphics are connected to their Instagram account. On Instagram, you can share other people’s graphics. If you do share other people’s graphics to your Instagram account, make sure you use popular hashtags to gain a new audience and write a comment that ends in a question to encourage conversation.
Blog posts are typically between 300 to 900 words depending on your audience. They don’t have to be a lot of work, but they do need to give value to people. Like this sponsored post, I care about you so I only allow very few sponsored posts if the site itself has value for my vision.
In this case, the vision is for people in the pews to be mobilized to share the Gospel on their social media through relationships. What does this look like?
Share a verse with someone today from the site that encourages them to look closer at Jesus.
I am finding that living on the generosity of people who see what God has planned and wish to be a part of it through volunteerism and/or financial giving is going to be rewarding.
Even now in transition (working a full time job, raising funds to do this full time, and working active ministry), I am seeing how God is giving us a glimpse of what might be possible. I am learning to wait on His timing even when I am unsure how I can cover expenses or make time for the possibilities He teases me with.
Somehow, He provides time, resources, and workers. It is truly risk taking, because the whisper of Satan says, “What if you fail? What if, like in times past, you get so close and fail?” I also think of Esther’s obedience…Esther 4:12-13 was always a favorite verse of mine because God gives us things to do, He invites us to participate, and that, in some situations can be dangerous and risky, even financially and emotionally. In Esther’s case, she could have lost her life standing up for her people. She first started by asking her people to fast ahead of her act of obedience which was Haman’s undoing. How can you live a risk-taking and honorable Christian life? It is such a joy, this new journey, even if it feels like I walk a tight rope between buildings.
Social media is the judge and jury of the world. It doesn’t take much to discredit someone. It is all about algorithms and who can spin the story the most to get more readers and advertising dollars. A hashtag can be hijacked, a mere suspicion becomes judgment, and the key is to choose carefully what we share as that perpetuates a story, an agenda, a controversy, or a movement. As I thought about this I began examining my own sites.
What kind of story do you want to share? How can we use social media to change the direction of our world, unite our Christians, and encourage honest and helpful dialogue without condemning the other for being courageous enough to speak?
I work here when I am not behind my desk at Solid Rock Christian Fellowship in Prescott, Arizona working 36-hours a week. Behind me is a coffee pot and to my right is a sliding glass door to my backyard. On Fridays, it’s quiet in the neighborhood. I love Fridays. I get to start my online work that I lightly do Monday through Thursday.
Why do I love this work online?
I get to minister to people within and outside of my community all over the globe at the tap of a few keys. It’s not light work. No way would I ever call it, “playing.” Social media is ministry and missions. It is investing in people’s lives and helping them through practical and spiritual means. That means, helping them find a church home, be that person to talk to when they feel isolated, and praying for them. It also takes on many different forms.
It’s using every form of communication, like pictures, to make long-term connections with someone online. A conversation you experience in face-to-face happens online, too. It’s a community. It’s not just mentoring, but managing three websites, many social media profiles, and the volunteers associated with each website. It’s heightened creativity. There is no end to the possibilities on how something you create can be used in God’s Kingdom.
Not every run will turn out okay. Running is a metaphor, an adjective, and a goal and discipline-maker. As a high school student, I wasn’t athletic. I hated running. All I wanted to do was sit on the bleachers under the warm California sun and read. Running happened almost three years ago when I so desperately wanted to do something different with my life; break the mundane. Do something crazy.
Running happened because someone believed I could do it (you know who you are!). It became part of my spiritual life, a creative expression, a longing to embrace the outdoors. On Saturday, I ran my peak run a few weeks from the Whiskey Row Marathon (20 miles) and it was the worst run ever.
If a friend had driven by and offered me a ride, I would have taken it that day, and called YMCA to downgrade my run from a full to a half marathon. When the emotions and pain subsided, I realized that I did finish 20 miles. The very act of just finishing a difficult task is worship. Following the Lord in what He has called you to do is like running that 20 miles. It is obedience.
Training requires consistency. You can’t train sometimes and only when you feel like it. For a marathon, you have a regiment of regular running, specified miles, so you are prepared for the real thing. When I think of bad runs, I think how ministry requires consistency and planning.
Many times a ministry will fail, not because the idea was bad or it was against God’s will, but because of lack of preparation, discipline, or consistency. A ministry cannot run on a few volunteers. Volunteers must embrace the vision and mission of the ministry and be “sold” on its message. Like running, ministry requires patience as you train to get there.
I’m praying that my run on May 14 will be good in spite of the struggle to train just like I pray your ministry will succeed with unlimited energy to produce great results, but not be results-driven.