House Renovations

We’ve had to do some work on the house, lately.  It’s one of those things that snuck up on us.  Since we moved in three years ago, we’ve intended to get the front steps tiled to match the porch.  Soon after we moved in a pipe leaked into the basement and we had to tear out a wall so the plumbers could properly fix it.  That wall has been torn up ever since.  Some plaster cracked in the bedroom and we needed to get it repaired.  We waited too long and the crack became too big to do a simple repair.  We looked around and realized that all these small jobs had turned into a huge job.  So we called a handy man and dug deep into the wallet.

Our relationships are like this.  Maybe a person gets angry and yells at their spouse, but if we talk about our feelings…process what happened…then that “small crack in the plaster” can easily be fixed.  Maybe a person really messes up and breaks trust with a parent or child.  They say that they will pick them up or take care of them, but, then, the person forgets or chooses not to. It’s like the basement wall, though: If we get in and repair it correctly…and rebuild trust right away, we can get back to enjoying life and it may not have to cost us so much.

With any relationship issues: ignoring the problem is not a good option.  The longer we ignore the problem, the bigger the problem becomes.  Sometimes, when we don’t properly talk through our smaller problems the relationship breaks down and soon it is far too expensive to repair.

With our house, I think we caught it in time.  We had to use quite a bit of savings, but our house is nearly all fixed up: even better than when we moved in.  If you have a relationship that has broken down, don’t wait any longer.  Get to work fixing the pain and begin the process of rebuilding trust.  I think you will find that it is worth the risk, time and expense!

How Do I Do This Job?!?

An appointment to a new church can be a anxiety-laden experience.

  • You still have to have your head in the game at your current church.
  • You need to start developing relationships with people at the new church
  • and…you have to begin thinking about what ministry is possible with the new congregation.

First, I admit that I have it easy in this appointment change because I am on a medical leave after my brain surgery.  I am working ‘ahead’ on some things from the comfort of my home, but I am still anxiously imagining ministry in this new place that I don’t yet know or fully understand yet.

I know, I know, partly I just have to go be with them and the rest will come…but that doesn’t stop my head from spinning with ideas.

First and foremost on my mind, of course, is communication.  As an associate pastor I’m not sure how much I can influence the church in communicating in the ways I’ve been outlining on this blog, but that won’t hamper my enthusiasm…

  • I am concerned with developing a more effective (and relational) presence on Facebook.  They are a urban, on-campus church of about 1500 members but have 40 people on their Facebook page.  I can’t help but think we can explode that!  We can develop an atmosphere of check-ins, upload more photos and videos from around the church, and encourage relational posts (and sharing blogs).  What else are people doing out there?  Help me dream!
  • I think that blogging is one of the most effective ways a church can develop an online presence, but I’m just an associate pastor.  Does anyone have ideas for how an associate can get others blogging?  Anyone out there doing it effectively, especially where there isn’t currently a culture of blogging?
  • This next one may surprise you.  I think that printed media can be a highly effective mode of communication. So much communication is shifting to the internet that more-and-more people will be surprised by and notice real life mail, I think.  Yet, what a church puts out should not simply be a repository of small type and long articles.  It has to be concise, relational…and (this is the big one) high quality.  It has to look and be great!  And, by the way, what we put in worshiper’s hands on Sunday morning should be high quality and add to the worship experience, hopefully adding to the experience visually (with photos).  How important is it to have color capability?  How does one help train and inspire staff in not just publishing technique, but also taste?  (Again, not an indictment on the current staff…I just don’t know yet)
  • Oh, and the website… well, there is work to be done but until we develop social media and dynamic content I’m not sure it’s time to put too much energy into the internet presence with the least future potential.  This article shows that blogging and social media combined is outpacing website connections for churches and I think we’re only at the beginning. (38 percent of respondents said they had accessed a religious website and 41 percent had liked a religious institution, friended a religious leader, or read a religion oriented blog)  Most importantly, we should note:  17% had read a blog whereas people who had visited their religious institutions website (19%) won by a surprisingly narrow margin of only 2%.

Well, those of you involved with organizations, please leave me comments on how you do communication or send me an email!

Title image was found at:  http://www.ksrealitybites.com/2010/02/online-therapy-for-office-stress.html

A Social Media Pentecost

To Ponder:  Full Pentecost Scripture

When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.  (Acts 2:1-4)

When the day of pentecost came, the believers were emboldened with the Holy Spirit.  They were able to be understood by the people around them, even if they spoke other languages.  The religious people of this past century have begun to struggle in being heard and understood by a new generation and their new and “troubling” ways of communicating.  I believe that the Holy Spirit is coming upon believers who are open to it and alighting us with new language and new ways of being heard!

Pastors and lay people alike who feel the Spirit upon them and who God has given the language of social media must be a new church, just like the earliest believers at Pentecost.

This is our chance.  This is a new day and there will be a new church whether we like it or not.  It will look different and it will not be confined by the traditional walls that we have come to associate with ‘church.’  Will the mainline (or I prefer to say: old-line) churches (United Methodist, United Church of Christ, Lutheran, Presbyterians, etc) be a part of this new church?

If we can let go of the structure and fear that is holding us back, we will.  And the price is too high to not be a part of this new church.  We have theological gifts to share with a new generation.


Unfortunately… and I can only speak for the United Methodist Church, but our UM Communications and, in Illinois, our Conference Communication team make the church look old-fashioned (that’s honest, mostly, I suppose) and they move too slowly and carefully.  Worse, they focus on communications rather than relationships!  Our denominations are stymied and they make us look terrible (recently at our annual charge conference we were shown a video of our bishop that made him look like a used car salesman, oh- and the district office couldn’t provide my church a digital copy when asked!!!).  But at the local church level and in our own communities we can now accomplish bigger things than they are even capable of with social media.  Our reach can be effective in our local communities (even the most rural) and they can grow our local, walled churches…  yet our reach can also,now, go well beyond our local communities and walled churches.  When we effectively use the internet, social media, and blogging we can share faith, touch lives, and experience community in places that we never before dreamed possible.

If you are listening for the Holy Spirit in this new generation and want to speak out and connect with new people, I have some suggestions:

  1. Make sure you have Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts and (and this is the really important part) grow your presence:
    1. Work hard to cultivate a following by:
      1. posting often
      2. posting quality and relational materials
      3. try not to use insider language
      4. continually adding friends / followers
    2. Look at other accounts / pages / walls / feeds and share interesting items
    3. Don’t be afraid to share personal things about yourself (within safety and reason).  Use these avenues as a way to foster relationships!
  2. Get a blog account!!!
    1. There are several sites that can help you, I especially recommend:  Blogger (by Google, just use your Google user/pass) or WordPress.
    2. Get your blog and social media accounts connected to your webpage.  It makes your page more dynamic and personal.
    3. Share your blog by social media.  It turns 140 characters into a full and on-going narrative.
    4. I can’t emphasize this enough:  don’t be afraid to share your own personal stories, yet connect them to your faith.
    5. Keep it short.  Think in terms of a 1/2 to full page of paper at most when you write your blog! (This blog post is pushing the limit)
  3. Keep your eyes peeled for new ways to connect online.  If lots of people are using 4square or LinkedIn, etc…then go where the people are.

Paul used tent making to build relationships, John Wesley went out to the masses in England preaching in fields and cemeteries…I don’t know what it will look like entirely yet, but we have to find new venues and ways to build relationships and share our faith story!  Now, in 2012, we must be a Pentecost people!  We must feel the Holy Spirit as it enlivens us to share our faith and we must speak the languages that God is giving us the gift to speak.  It is our time and our new and exciting world.  Let’s share our faith as disciples of Christ!!!














Title image found at:  http://peacesojourner.blogspot.com/2011_06_01_archive.html
Ministry from the Backyard.

I’m still on medical leave from my pastoral duties…at least officially. Although I preached this morning for a confirmation service at my church, I get to walk away without the worries and responsibilities of being a pastor for the rest of the week.

I came home and relaxed in my recliner and did all the things that a guy should do when he’s recovering from surgery…but, then, when my wife got home I joined her in the backyard. She wanted to write a blog, but also enjoy the day. I couldn’t argue with that. I went out and did the same.

I logged onto facebook, then twitter, and then went over my blog stats and posts. I really did very little, yet I communicated with a number of friends, member of my church family, and people in the community. As I sit in the sun and write blog posts (feeling the wind whip past me and the sun on my arms) I am connecting with other people and building relationships. A pastor who only did this all week would be…well, quite simply, lazy… Yet, shifting some responsibilities to make time for social media is a smart move.

Getting a small laptop or iPad and going to the local coffee shop or a restaurant…or using an iphone to update your status (or check-in) from a community event or location will enhance and deepen your ministry and your connection to the people who live near you.

It is time for pastors to recognize that making time for social media, not at the end of the week when everything else is done, but throughout their week (as a priority) will help them to do every other element of their ministry in today’s new context!

NOTE:  The photos above were taken with intstagram.  If you are a pastor with an internet-connected smartphone, you need to get the app and start a photostream!  It’s a fun way to share your world with others.

Nuts & Bolts

Alright, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my ideology of communication.  Yes, some of it is dated, but I want to move on.  I want to write a bit about the “nuts and bolts.”  I want to inspect more specifically how we put good communication into practice.

Over the last few months I have started an experiment by accident and I think we can learn something from it.  Let me tell you:

A few months ago I was in an unusual situation.  My church had decided to make major staffing changes, so I knew I was moving.  I went to the doctor and found out I had a brain tumor, and then my senior pastor went on vacation for a month.

When I went in to talk to my District Superintendent (the pastor who supervises my district of churches), she shook her finger at me and told me that I needed to communicate VERY CLEARLY and often with my church.  My job, she reminded me, was to minimize anxiety and keep the church informed.

She was right, but also I didn’t want my wife burdened during (and after) my surgery with lists of people to call and email, nor did I want her to feel inundated with calls when she was going through a lot.  Hmmm.  Well, Facebook, Twitter and my blog turned out to be the solution.  It was perfect because friends, family, church family, and even the people who weren’t yet on facebook could stay connected to my progress without much effort on my wife’s part.  We ended up starting a new blog and by the end of that month we had over 6000 hits.  It was a great success.

It was an accident, but  it worked beautifully.  It wasn’t just information, it wasn’t just what happened, but it was about how I felt.  Perhaps more importantly, it wasn’t just words but also video and pictures.  It turns out that I finally did all the things I’d been expounding on this blog for so long!  I was using social media to build relationships.  In the process of authentically expressing myself, I was sharing my life and faith with a larger audience than I preach to each Sunday.  How cool is that?  It was an accident, but I was actually doing the mission statement of the church… perhaps even more effectively than on Sunday morning.

Resurrection & New Life:  A New Blog Series
Image found at:  http://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/news/st-edwards-stained-glass-window-recalls-resurrection-1428418.html
A new Easter series from April 8 (Easter Day) – May 27 (Pentecost).  I have invited a number of friends, scholars, pastors, lay people, and even some bishops to share devotions about Resurrection and Eternal Life.  Over the next few weeks you will hear from me and many guest bloggers as they share about Easter from a variety of places, ages, and world views.  Be sure to come back often.  I’m already giddy with anticipation about some of the people I’ve lined up for you all!!!
If you would like the opportunity to contribute, simply send me a devotional (1/2-2/3 of a page maximum) and I will be glad to consider it:  scotteugene79@mac.com
Settling Accounts

My journey to where I am today began way back last summer.  My mother was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma which is a tumor of the ear that had grown into her brain (example, left).  She underwent brain surgery last May and Drs. Benecke and Polinsky did wonderfully.  The problem is that I was experiencing symptoms like hers.  My wife and I became concerned and I finally went to see a doctor.  I shuffled from one specialist to another until an MRI was scheduled.  On December 2 at about 8 am I met with Dr. Kelly (a Ear, Nose, Throat Surgeon) who looked at my MRI and said, “it’s all clear.”

Well, we went on with our day.  We had plans to meet my parents in Peoria for a  Transiberian Orchestra Concert and by 3:45 pm we were arriving to pick them up for our fated evening.  Unfortunately as we neared the parking lot to meet my parents I received a call from Dr. Kelly’s office.  On the other end of the phone a stalled voice instructed me, “Could you please hold for Dr. Kelly?”

Dr. Thomas Kelly was calling me to explain that after reviewing the full MRI (not just the ear canals) and the full radiologists’ report, it was obvious that I had a mass in my cerebellum and needed to meet with a Neurologist at my soonest convenience.

Unfortunately it was 4pm on a Friday afternoon, so you can imagine that WebMD, Wikipedia, and our imaginations wrecked havoc upon us for the remainder of that weekend.  Over dinner, after the concert and a lovely night with my parents we shared with them what little we knew and, now, the rest is -as they say- history.

Over those next weeks of December we continued to meet with my primary care doctor, neurologists, neuro-surgeons, and other specialists and began to better understand what exactly we were facing (well, we didn’t know what we were facing, but they were able to help us assemble a roadmap and plan the battle).

Now, we worked with an array of phenomenal doctors and staffs.  I don’t know that I could pick a favorite or a best:  for one thing, they all have their own areas of expertise…  but I want to take a moment to testify about Dr. Fang Li of McClean County Neurology.  She was quick to bring us opinions beyond her own, she was clear and direct, she spoke to us as adults and educated us along the way….and she was never afraid to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find someone who does.”  If you live in Central Illinois and need to spend some time with a neurologist, I highly suggest that you try to get in with Dr. Fang Li.

The only negative experiences we really had were indirectly related to our insurance.   The United Methodist Church provides us with excellent insurance and when we would call the insurance company we never had any direct problems, but every doctor and nurse we spoke with would say things like, “Insurance won’t cover that,” or “your insurance won’t let you go there,” or “insurance can’t approve what you’re asking.”  It turned out that these were all falsehoods for us, but we realized that there is a very real reason that doctors would say these things:  these statements are far too often true.

These last few weeks have made us feel exceptionally fortunate for our insurance, our jobs and our supportive churches; but these last few weeks have opened up our eyes to the deep trouble our society has surrounding healthcare and the way patients are treated in the midst of troubles.

Enough of that.  I don’t want to get all negative and cynical, especially in regards to something I can do little-to-nothing about, right now.

As Ray Owens left on vacation for a few weeks and I was trying to ‘hold down the fort’ for a few weeks at the Pontiac Church I finally got the call from Barnes-Jewish Hospital that it was time to come down for a consultation.

On January 19 I met Dr. Dacey who is Chairperson of Neurological Surgery and Co-Chair of the Department of Neurology and Neurological Surgery for the Washington University School of Medicine.  He is, incidently (not to ruin the end of the story, I hope), the man who would eventually (and successfully) remove that tumor from my cerebellum.

One more important thing for you all to understand about my relationship with Dr. Dacey.  It failed.  I had the goal of making this very serious and buttoned-down neuro-god laugh.  I was just sure that I could do it.  I made jokes about “diddling interns in closets” (Grey’s anatomy) and my sister-in-law even asked if he had to wear a diaper during surgery, since it was a 10 hour procedure….but through it all, through each attempt, Dr. Dacey held firm and remained stoic and professional.

By the way, if that was the choice to make: between stoic and professional or jovial and silly.  Well, I’m happy that I got the right guy!

 One of the most exciting things which we learned from Dr. Dacey about this surgery (at least, the most exciting for a technophile like me) was that they would be using the latest in technology.  (Carrie, my wife, likes to tell people that Dr. Dacey and his team just put it on autopilot and didn’t do anything else…but we know that isn’t true, don’t we, Dr. Dacey!?!)

First of all, On Sunday, February 5 Barnes-Jewish did a special MRI of my head using -what Carrie and I have termed “cyborg lifesavers.”  The nurse had told us that we could have a nice dinner the night before the surgery so we made plans for Sunday night at a Bob & June’s fancy country club (Sunset at Gravois & 270).  So it was a surprise when we went in for the MRI Sunday afternoon (before dinner)… they started shaving parts of my head.  Then they went on to tell me to be careful because my “cyborg lifesavers” must remain in place until the end of my surgery the next day.

Needless to say, there were a lot of strange looks that night as people walked past us at Sunset Country Club…  Well, the lifesavers stayed on.  We enjoyed a great dinner with my in-laws, my parents, my wife, sister-in-law and sister!  I looked like hell, but I enjoyed myself.  Oh- and I didn’t care what other people thought about my alien-like appearance.

I don’t remember much about the surgery on Monday.  Mostly that is because I was unconscious, but also, no one has really told me much about what happened.  I know what was supposed to happen:

That special MRI which mapped my head got loaded into the computer / microscopes and then Dr. Dacey and his team could see what they were doing inside of my head with their fancy probes and tools.  Pretty cool, huh?  The surgery seemed to go pretty well and it might have even gotten finished in the 4-6 hours they had estimated, except that it turned out their machines worked perfectly and there was a little more to done, in the end.

Barnes-Jewish has this really cool new MRI right in the neuro-operating room called an Intraoperative MRI.  While I am still ‘knocked out’ and on the table.  You know, while it is still (relatively) easy for them to go back in and do more work on me, they run an MRI right in the operating room.  With those funky cyborg spots all over me and with all of their computer technology they can see if there is anything they missed, if there are any other spots, if there is any unexpected bleeding, swelling, etc.  How cool, right?

Turns out there was some tissue that they hadn’t gotten the first time around, so they went back in and continued the surgery in order to make sure that they got all of the tumor.

I have to tell you all, from the first doctor’s visit I had last summer, to this fancy equipment, to the expertise of my neuro-surgeon- I feel blessed –and not just a little bit lucky.

My primary doctor might have fooled around for two years.  The doctors might have put off the MRI, or I might have ended up at a hospital where they don’t have the intraoperative MRI technology yet (and could have left part of the tumor).  I mean, when one thinks of all the variables.  When one imagines all of the possibilities:  it is staggering.

After 10 hours face down on a table my face was swollen.  After having my skull pinned into a halo device, I was sore and had bumps all over my head.  After such a long surgery and with staples running down my head and spine…I was incredibly sore and tired.  But do you know what?  I am blessed beyond belief.  There is absolutely no question about it.  Through all I have endured these last few weeks, I know that I am a man of many blessings.  I have a family who has stood by me;  I have churches and pastors who sat with my friends and family, who sent me greetings, love and prayers; and I have in-laws who have graciously opened up their house, not just to me, but to a Shriner patient and her families over these past months to ensure that all in need would be cared for.

Sometimes we need to settle accounts.  You know, put things in place: make sure our debts are paid, our actions have come together:  We have to make sure that our checking account balances out.  I wanted to give an “full update” from this past week, but I realized that with a week like this one, a summary of “goings-ons” just doesn’t do justice to the past days.

If you’ve been watching  my videos, well, then you know there are countless people to thank and far too many “accounts to settle for this blog entry to ever end.  I won’t even try.

I do want to make a couple of special thank yous for some people who provided special support to me and my family over these past weeks.  First of all, Rev. John McIntosh has been not just a pastor to me and my family, but is now a friend and clergy-colleague to my wife and I.  He was selflessly willing to take time away from a very important Clergy Covenant Session in order to sit with my family the day of my surgery and provide pastoral support and friendship to my family in one of our greatest moments of need.  Rev. Stephanie Lendt is one of the pastors at Bob and June’s (my in-laws) church and, she too, made herself available throughout the day in order to provide support to the Berry family as they waited through that very tough day.

Now there are many other friends, colleagues, and family who stopped in, including my District Superintedent, Leah Pogemiller; directing pastor, Rev. Dr. Ray Owens and his wife; and Greg Weeks the Sr. Pastor of Manchester UMC.  There were many people who came by during those next few days, but there was one group who really went above and beyond and I must name them especially.  Upon hearing of my ordeal and finding out that I was at Barnes-Jewish in Saint Louis, Rev. Ed Hoke, Rev. Dr. Victor Long, and Rev. Jim Barnett rushed from Dallas, TX.  Yes, that is right:  Dallas! to be at my bedside (it is unclear, they may have been on their ‘way through,’ but let’s make sure to make them sound SUPER heroic).  Upon hearing of my compromised state, Ed, Victor and Jim jumped into the car and sped through the South until they landed at my door.  Ladies and Gentlemen:  That is love, that is friendship.  (That is also probably a load of crap, but I’ll leave that for you to investigate)

I was high on narcotics at the time, but this is what Ed, Jim & Victor
looked like when they showed up at Barnes Jewish!

This has been a crazy few weeks and I’m sure you are wondering if I’ll soon be done rambling about it.  In part, that’s why I’m trying to get this all out of the way with one massive “update,” but you also need to understand that these past weeks have had such an impact: positive in many ways, that you are still sure to hear much more about my weeks of sickness and God’s triumph in my renewed health.  On the one hand:  I’m sorry and I hope I don’t wear you out.  On the other hand:  sit down, shut up and read about my experience.  I had a brain tumor so I get to be verbose!

For now, goodnight.  I’ve eaten the last of the Oreo cookies and the milk is nearly depleted (Bob, I know how you like it when just one thing is left in a package, so I left the very last oreo cookie just for you).

My Wife is Sometimes Right, but don’t tell her so!

Alright, sometimes I’m willing to admit when my wife is right and I’m not.  This maybe one of those cases.  Carrie says I’ve been doing too much blogging.  She may be right, but I have a lot on my mind (less in my head, technically, but more on my mind), so you may have to put up with me a while longer.

Today I’ve been thinking about my luck this week.  Not just luck, though.  I’ve been thinking about my blessings.  I’ve slowly been learning about what happened during my surgery and in the time after (which with the anesthesia, I don’t remember, either).

A surgery that was only supposed to last 4-6 hours went for almost 10.  During that time I had family sitting together, surrounding one another and showing love for me that I didn’t even know about in the moment.  My mother, father, and sister never once left the hospital, only taking short breaks to the cafeteria.  Since my wife has so many St. Louis friends, having been raised there, her friends and family came and sat with her, bringing her food and support throughout the day and my loving wife never left the waiting room (according to her, I will get some fact-checking done on this 🙂

After a surgery that when more than twice as long as expected, we can expect that they had been thorough. I’m sure they were, but a new state-of-the-art intraoperative MRI was the real blessing, I guess.  While I was still on the operating table, the surgeon did a new scan and found tissue that still needed to be removed and the surgery continued in order to be sure that it was done right the first time.

So far, I’m already amazed at the care and love that has been shown to me, but there is more.  With every wearying visit, with all the amazing notes through twitter, facebook and comments on my blog…and with the letters that have already found their way to my in-laws house…  I see the blessings around me in all kinds of new ways.

It’s too bad that we wait for these moments in order to notice our blessings, isn’t it?  God fills our lives with continue blessings:  people who care, love being shown, and moments of health and care.  I hope that we will all set aside our cynicism and concerns in life in order to pay more attention to the joys that are right before us.  I hope that we will see the people who surround us in love.  I hope that we will feel healing, even in the midst of pain.  I hope that we can appreciate the small thoughtful things that loved ones do rather than over look them or expect more!

May my week of blessing, shed some light on all of our blessings this week and give us hope and peace for next week!!!

blessings,

Blogging As Spiritual Discipline
    As I’ve begun to consider how the church (the people of Christ) must re-imagine how it shares its story with the world and one another, I keep coming back to blogging.  Blogging has been around for quite some time now, but it is not going anywhere.  If anything, it is gaining in popularity.  I think we have underestimated this form of communication.  Let me share a non-church example:
    One of my professors, Dr. Brook Lester, integrated blogging into his Introductory class on the Hebrew Scriptures.  He is convinced that the blog is going to become mainstream for communication in education. You see, so far there has been a sense that PhD’s are not taken seriously if they blog, yet serious -even ground breaking- work is being shared through blogs.  There are several reasons that blogging could be a powerful tool to education:
  1. First-of-all professors have access to new and exciting projects and work instantly, there is no waiting for publishers.
  2. Because the work of these academics can be tagged and searched, “pipes” of information can be setup so that all of the most cutting edge research (down to the moment) can be seen side-by-side in, nearly, real-time.
  3. The communication is raw and narrative in style…but more importantly it is two-way. Comments and photos can be quickly posted by others so that a new collegial environment can be formed.
    So, let’s break this down for the church.  The church website has always been far too static to do the church much good.  It is just another way for the church to put up information in hopes that people will come looking for it.  Imagine, instead a church that encouraged interested members and leaders to begin blogging as a spiritual practice.  Using Yahoo “Pipes”, they setup the church website so that church members whose blogs have a certain tag in them are piped into the website.  When ‘edna’ blogs about how she was spiritually transformed through a recent bout with cancer…. or John blogs each day of a church mission trip; the stories are being shared with the community of faith.  Best yet, their friends are seeing faith stories naturally.  You see, our church member’s friends can see these blogs in a number of ways and it is not just another avenue to creating ‘dynamic, emotive [and narrative] content’ but also an avenue of bringing people to the website and even to the church, perhaps.
    To get there: FIRST, pastors and other church leaders must begin blogging about their lives and need to make it part of their spiritual practice (not just something to check off a list at the end of the week).  SECOND, as we talk with our congregations about spiritual practices and Christian witnessing…. we need to talk seriously about this new, American schizophrenia where we lead two lives a “real life” and, then, a virtual facebook life where we say things or post pictures we would otherwise never show!  We need to begin modeling what it means to have an authentic witness not just during an hour on sunday morning but out in the world and even in the cyber-world.  THIRD, we must be willing to let go of content control.  Someone may post something inappropriate or, perhaps, not-flattering about the church….but as a community of faith, that is always possible right in the sanctuary of our church.  We must trust our communities to respond to negativity with optimism and love.

    As I understand it, John Wesley kept two journals:  one set of private journals and one set of public journals.  These were both for his own spiritual growth, but the more public journal was also intended that others would grow in faith.  If we are to continue this Methodist legacy, it seems that blogging is the twenty first century solution.  Let us grow our faith as well as help others as they seek to grow in Christ. Hmmm…Let’s take our faith outside of the church walls!  Let’s not just tell an ancient bible story yet again, but tell our own stories relating them to faith!