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
Hanging On.

This blog has taken a backseat to VirtuesOfScripture and Musings…but don’t fear, I’m still committed to it.  It’s just hard to stay motivated when my other blogs have such wide readership and this one appeals to a…   …to a much ‘narrower’ audience.  So if you see articles on this blog you like, be sure to “share” them on facebook and comment on them.  I think there is great value for the church in the conversation of good communication!

Title Image found at:  http://imagebase.davidniblack.com/main.php?g2_itemId=2405

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!