How many times do we think social media gives us a force field around our words and actions? Many times we feel tempted to hit share on statements we would never make in public. People think the phrase “just sayin'” will be a safety net.
In my research for this series, several people mentioned this type of behavior. Someone likened social media and our bad behavior as the difference between riding a bike and driving a car. When you are on a bike you are vulnerable and can be heard. So you won’t holler out anything at the people next to you. In a car, we will act very differently. We can close the window, drop the hammer and get out of the situation after we have done something not nice. Social Media is like a car. We might not be thinking of the repercussions of our words.
While we might be thinking a lot about what we say and share, how often are we thinking about what we bring to the table and put into the conversation?
Here this story from the life of Christ, one of his last moments with the disciples.
That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. John 20:19-23
This Sunday we will wrap things up in our #statusupdate series. We will talk about the power Christ gives us to be agents of forgiveness and to bring worthwhile things to every situation we are in.
Have you ever stood at a crossroads? Understanding the possibility of the unknown can frighten all of us.
The good news is throughout the story of God and his people, God has been in the middle of transitions. He leads us to understanding our preferred future.
*What is a sermon preview? Sermon previews are released on Friday’s. They are to give YOU a short glimpse of what the conversation is going to be like on Sunday morning. On Monday, the preview is updated with some discussion questions, scripture guide and an mp3 of the sermon. I do these for 2 reasons. The first is so God can continue working in your life throughout the week. The second is for you to share this with a friend. I invite and encourage you to share the preview on Facebook/Twitter and through email.
In seminary I worked a few shifts a week at a coffee shop down the street from my house. I wanted to do it so I could earn a little extra income, gain new experiences and minister among the downtown community where I lived. My time at the shop made me happy. I learned lessons from the service industry that are invaluable to ministry. I also met some great friends. Let me tell you a story about one of them.
We had a regular who was Nicholasville’s resident “homeless guy”. There were all sorts of crazy stories about him (the usual..he is actually a millionaire, he flew a chopper in nam with his feet, was a roadie for Hendrix), but I was able to develop an honest relationship with him. He actually had a home, but you would swear he sleeps on the street. My friend is mentally ill and at times can’t take care of basic needs. He was many of the people we hear about who lives in extreme poverty, but he spent money at the store every day.
My friend belonged at the store. If I didn’t see his shopping cart outside the window at night, I worried. You could set your clock to when he showed up at the store. I actually think that comparing income vs. purchase amount, he was our best customer. No matter what was going on, Billy knew he could always come in and escape the cold with a cup of coffee and a quiet place to relax. I learned many lessons from that relationship and I want to tell you a few of them.
What Extreme Poverty Teaches Us About Belonging.
1. In Belonging, we are identified as a Member. Like I said, my friend belonged at the store. He was a fixture. To call him a regular would be an understatement. He was genuinely comfortable at the store, perhaps the only place so. When we truly sense belonging, we transcend the marketplace. We are in the midst of safe space, and we have the ability to let our guard down.
The table in the picture above was my friends usual spot when the weather is nice. When it wasn’t, he always sat at the same table inside. At times we have had to defend his space from others, generally because they assumed he was a nuisance.
The space we inhabit ceases to become a place we invade but instead becomes a place we are willing to name. The interesting thing is we do this without privatizing it. We are part of the collective ownership. Membership isn’t equated to consumption but instead to organic sustenance.
2. In Belonging we have a known benefit
Benefit is a different animal than rights. To use civil language, rights are considered to be inalienable. In the marketplace, the customer is always right. Benefits are extremely different. In order to have benefits, we have to be a member.
The early church really understood this. Because they were called to be a pilgrim people, they no longer lived in the civil realm of Roman society. This made them pariahs, and they lost the benefits of society. Therefore, the Church stepped in and show such community, to the point that the world no longer had ownership over the desires of these people. The benefit of being inside the Church overtook the benefit of secular society. But to get to this place, you had to be one of the faithful (no easy task in those days)
We often think of benefits being morally negative, but instead they are what give meaning to our membership. My friend used to spend his evenings sitting on the curb outside the gas station. He was teased by the kids in the neighborhood and looked down upon by the adults. He had no humanity and did not matter. Our little shop provided a very different environment. Imagine if we started thinking about how life inside our churches can provide a drastically different narrative of membership than the world outside?
3. In Belonging we invest in the operation. My friend bought AT LEAST a cup of coffee when he came in, and many times he purchased dinner as well. I have looked around and seen plenty of folks with wealth enough to get a $2 coffee sit for hours without buying anything, but he wouldn’t come in without making a purchase. I occasionally would bring someone else in and would buy them coffee.
Because of our membership and benefit, we are willing to make an investment. This can be financial, time, or our energy. We invest because we see value.
Do our communities truly have the value that people are willing to invest in? Think beyond the scope of money. How do we empower those who belong gaining an interest in our mission? That is the question that we should be thinking about.
Ultimately, belonging trumps the narcissistic individualism of our culture. To belong means we recognize that we need others. As leaders, we have to express this need to others if we want to lead people in belonging. The root of salvation is our recognition that God went to extreme bounds in order for us to belong again to him. The Church mirrors this radical incarnational event
Fairly often I am approached by people looking at either starting or taking a serious look at the contemporary services at their church. I usually travel in Methodist/Wesleyan circles, so this can tend to be a really unique situation. The mainline tradition isn’t know for innovative worship practices. Many of these churches are responding to growth/decline trends and see other churches in their town growing and think a contemporary worship service will heal all their problems.
I have bad news.
As much as church planters, conferences or denominational leaders say it…
There isn’t any magic fairy dust in contemporary worship.
Yes, it can be a major element of growth and new ministry. You can also create a situation which will only serve as a drain of resources and be seen as a fumble by many of the people you are trying to minister too.
Blindly jumping into the lake of modern worship music won’t instantly bring new people to your church. Ministry shouldn’t happen as a reaction to a downward trend. New ministry happens when we listen to God’s call and respond in faithfulness.
There are three key groups of people you need to identify when building a vision for any type of worship service.
These are the folks in your chairs right now. With them comes denominational tradition, individual church characteristics and values. Inside of this group you have the doers and the consumers. Do you normally follow a liturgy or just go with the Spirit? What will totally blow your worshiping congregations frame work and what is just stretching them? Background matters in your design phase.
Who do you want to reach out too? Just saying “the lost” or some other version isn’t good enough. Look at your existing leadership. Do they have a passion or call for a certain people group. It might be an age. It might be a description of “families who live on x side of town” or a people group spread out across a portion of your city. Determining this group will be extremely helpful when you strategize about what this service will sound and feel like.
What does your community look like? If you want to start a biker service but you don’t have a single motorcycle dealer or shop…you might want to rethink things. What best describes the community around your church or neighborhood? What do they value or spend time and money doing? What needs can only be fulfilled by the redemptive qualities of the kingdom?
Being able to identify these three groups of people will go far helping you understand what type of service you really need to start to minister in your area.
The beauty of knowing these three groups helps in identifying when plans or ideas are actually appropriate (context is the most important word in worship design). You can realize when something might not be sustainable before it even gets going. The design of your worship will be appropriate to all three groups.
The small area where all three groups intersect is your sweet spot. This is where you will find the greatest depth of transformation, worship and discipleship. Your aim in any service should be to make this center really strong and healthy.
It will look different in different contexts. All worship communities are both individual AND communal expressions of the worship of Jesus Christ. Some are primarily evangelistic (check out The Skull Church for a great modern idea of this). Others might be a deeply embedded new community (Munger Place is a wonderful example). Your idea and understanding of this center will be really varied..
When desired ministry and context overlap, you have evangelism. When ministry and worship collide, you are engaged in mission (Matt Redman’s song Mission’s Flame is a great example). In the joining of worship and context, discipleship is developed for unique circumstances.
Usually when people ask me “just a quick question about our worship” I tell them this is and should be a much bigger discussion. I hope this provides some clarity around what intentional worship design looks like..because it matters. It isn’t just a hail mary attempt of figuring out what type of music you want. All decisions need to be made with the three major groups in mind. Spell these out with your team. The center of this will be your strong point. The three overlaps will provide the best expression of evangelism, mission and discipleship.
Worship Design matters. It forms how we talk about God. It’s how we want those we are worshiping with to be formed around God. Our worship is the story of God rising out of the redemption which has happened in our lives. Folks will respond in natural ways. Let’s create natural environments utilizing the knowledge we have about our vision using our known congregation, desired ministry and local contexts to form the best idea of how to lead others in a transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.
I met Tom in my first seminary class at Asbury Theological Seminary. I remember being impressed with his knowledge of church history and how he assimilated it into a larger theological framework. Throughout my years at Asbury, Tom was a great presence of humility, wisdom and hard work. Tom wrote a great reflection for us today. I loved it. If you are interested in guest posting, here is more information.
With working at Wal Mart, one of the most common responses that I get from older customers is that they are waiting for their significant others to finish up their shopping. It got me thinking, and here is my profound thought for though for the day and that is waiting can and should be a spiritual practice, especially for us Americans. Living in a culture that demands results yesterday along with fast answers, we have lost all meaning to the words of hope, endurance, and faith. These things are a critical pieces to any faith, but especially the Christian faith.
Here are some practical ideas about Holy Waiting
1. We are not called to be lazy.
The misconception is that holy waiting is another term for laziness and it is not. Holy waiting is the willing to do the work and results will come. People who holy wait often have a depth and maturity about them that can only be a result of waiting on God. There are plenty of warnings and condemnation through out Scripture for those who are lazy or take the easy way out. Laziness really implies that we are waiting for God and or others to show up and do all the heavy lifting and we can somehow get our name on the credits. Or that just by showing up we can somehow get credit with the good deeds just by showing up or doing the flashy stuff Laziness often breads a lack of depth, commitment, and even discontent.
2. It builds anticipation.
When we are in the process of holy waiting, we are waiting for God and living our lives according to what has been promised. Just as Simeon was not only anticipating the coming Messiah, he was anticipating the Messiah in his lifetime. He lived his life in accordance to what has been revealed to him. When we are holy waiting, often it is putting one foot in front of the other and doing what we know that God has revealed and called us to do
3. It is becoming prepared.
During this season of life, God calls us to be more mature and just as gold or silver goes through a refinement process, so shall we. God may call us to something or to leave something behind for something better. God is always calling us to a deeper relationship, but there are seasons where it is more prevalent than others. This is a season that is marked by the use of the Christian disciplines. Whether it is fasting, Scripture reading, prayer, writing in a journal, or any other spiritual practice, it is a time for reflection, listening and growth. This is where the rubber starts to meet the road, because it starts to get real when we are encountering the Holy and asking the Trinitarian God to change us.
4. It builds endurance.
The Christian life is not so much a sprint to see who can get there the fastest. I know different people mature at a variety of paces for different reasons. Endurance and faith go hand in hand. It is trusting God to come through in the presence, just as He has came through in the past. It a results based culture this is the hardest one to swallow, because we all want to be sucessful and not to put in that much time or effort. I have heard that if someone wants to be sucessful at a job, its roughly ten thousand hours of doing the hard work and working from the bottom up. Now I don’t want to say that if someone works at it, they can be a mature Christian in so many years. If we trust God and follow His leading, it will happen. Also, if being mature was easy, everyone would do it.
5. Its all about timing.
Throughout Scripture there are two concepts of time. The first concept is day, month and year. I can say that I will go to the doctor tomorrow and it is in stone. The other concept of time is more of a fulfillment of time. It is the idea of perfect timing of when everything comes together and is right. This sort of timing is tough for us because we don’t have as much control over it as we would like to. There are more factors that need to happen that we are not in control of. When all those things are not forced, it is a fastball down the middle of the plate and Babe Ruth is up to bat.
6. It leads to action.
Holy waiting leads to “well, what we are waiting for?” Everything has come together and it is God calling us to get off of our hands and do what He has called us to do. It can be anything from entering the full time ministry to ones calling to seminary, marriage, to even sharing the Gospel with a friend or coworker. The Trinitarian God invites us to participate with Him in what they are doing in our world It is faith and maturity living out in our world on a daily basis. It is being the hands and feed of the God. It is remembering that God the Father came up with the plan, God the Son, made a way for that plan to be carried out through His death and resurrection, and the Holy Spirit convicts and applies that work in our lives
Tom Boustead lives in Northern Minnesota. He is a 2009 graduate of Asbury Seminary with a MA in Christian Ministry. Tom works at Wal Mart and is actively involved in his local church. Tom blogs at hittingthelongball.blogspot.com
Just a few years ago all most pastors had to worry about was making sure they had a clean shirt on when they ran to the store on a Saturday. Everyone has a social life, but life could remain as open or as private as wanted. Boundaries were pretty easy to determine.
If anyone (whether they are a pastor or not) chooses to live life online (with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other services) they put themselves out in the open much more than in the good old days. Boundaries now exist in the grey area of life; controlled by requests, filters and private accounts.
What are your thoughts on having separate social media accounts for yourself as a pastor, versus private ones for family and close friends. Do you find you need to create boundaries on social media, or do you feel comfortable letting anyone in your churches into that sphere of your life as well?
Isaac asked some great questions and brought up a point many people in ministry ask. What behavior is appropriate for people in ministry and how do we decide what our boundaries are? Many times this question stops people in ministry from ever interacting online. I am of the opinion we absolutely MUST be engaged in social media in many different ways. So consider this post to be a primer, an introduction of sorts. For many of my readers it might come across as extremely elementary. If it doesn’t, I hope you take this information to heart as you think about what it means to not just live, but to pastor online.
Let me share with you the why and how of being a social pastor.
Why Pastors Must Be Social:
1. It is a practice of incarnational ministry.
You might not be a fan of the internet, but if you want to reach people and impact them in the 21st century, you need to be engaged online. Would you live in the neighborhood of your church but refuse to shop and eat around your house? I hope not. The people currently in your pews and in your neighborhood are online. We bring the presence of Christ everywhere with us…even on the Facebook. This is the space I choose to answer much of Isaac’s comment. I am pretty free and open online. I have a few filters set up, but they affect possibly 2% of my friend base online.
2. It gives you a great communication platform.
Have you ever wanted to tell your congregation about what is coming on Sunday? The best place to do it is online. There are tons of ways to do it; sermon previews, video updates and sharing scripture. It is the simplest way I know to keep people talking after Sunday.
3. The separation of life is real.Much of Isaac’s concern was with boundaries. This is an issue for some people. I have yet to come to the place where I need to set these up, but I realize the situation is very real for some people. I know some denominations even have cease and desist policies for when a pastor moves churches (I won’t comment on this just yet). I think when pastors openly share their lives online, the good and the not so good, it helps people to realize they are real people. They have a favorite football team, the grill on propane are charcoal and their kids do stupid stuff as well. They have crappy seasons of life and get their car wrecked too. They know what it is like to have a hot water heater drop out 3 hours before a big meeting (it will ALWAYS happen on a Sunday). One of the biggest assets of living openly online for clergy is to show people they are real and have everyday problems.
2. Come up with a plan.
You can start interacting really easily. If you want to be intentional about it…you need a plan. It can be as simple as “I am going to talk about church and interact with members” or as elaborate as “My whole network is my parish” and you turn into a regular internet pastor. This is the place where you can set up some boundaries. I have different ways I use every network. I share alot on Twitter, interact and share on Facebook and give a backstage look at the life of a pastor on Instagram. I have a written list of how I use these services and occasionally remind myself of my decisions.
3. Start conversations.
You will get out of social media what you get into it. Give as much as you ask. Share other great things you have read, congratulate people on joys in life, let others know you are praying for them when they need it and simply live life among everyone else around you online.
This is only the beginning of the conversation. I hope this begins a great discussion.
Chad Brooks is a United Methodist Pastor serving in Louisiana. Married to Meredith, he is currently starting a new church in northeast Louisiana. Host of the Productive Pastor Podcast and lover of motorcycles, Chad would love to find Bigfoot one day.