Links I like

The Joy of Getting Unstuck

Brandon Smith:

Earlier this year, I ran headfirst into a wall. With all of the busyness of life, I nearly locked myself in a closet and tried to disappear. I felt overwhelmed and driven into the ground. I was an old pickup truck with a busted engine and four flat tires. I was stuck.

Truthfully, I had taken my eyes off of God and put them on myself.

The Uselessness of the Twitter Battles

Trevin Wax:

Twitter is a place for conversation, but once we go into battle mode, I think the legitimate conversation is already over. Twitter battles are like putting on a spectacle for the perverse pleasure (or dismay) of the Twitter audience. Has anyone watching one of these debacles ever said, “You know what? You convinced me! I’m wrong and you’re right.” No one. Ever.

I’ve declined to engage in most Twitter debates, but after jumping into the ring a time or two, I’ve decided not to do so anymore. I love conversing on Twitter, but once I see the conversation devolving into the battle, from this point on, I’m going to step out. Here’s why.

David Platt on Heaven is For Real

HT: Jeff Medders

The Church Needs Philosophers and Philosophers Need the Church

Paul Gould:

The church needs philosophers. But we Christian philosophers need the church too. We need to be reminded daily that the Western canon of intellectual history is not our “real food.” To paraphrase Jesus, “Man does not live on Descartes and Kant alone, but on the word of God.” We need to be reminded of the Great Commission. Remind us that Jesus, and not a solution to the problem of universals, is the world’s greatest need.

In Which Calvin Defends Lip-Gloss

Derek Rishmawy:

A number of these young women have grown up in difficult and abusive homes. Some don’t have mothers. Others had never had a stitch of makeup on in their lives and wouldn’t know where to start. And so, my wife, expert that she is, taught them how to wash their faces, massaged them, and then helped them understand how to use makeup in a way that amplifies and accentuates their natural features–eyes, cheeks, lashes, and lips–instead of drowning them out in a wash of paint.

I see this as a service and not simply a misguided encouragement to vanity, and to make my case, I’d like to call to the stand a witness: Genevan Reformer John Calvin’s theology of the body.

The Social Church by Justin Wise

The Social Church by Justin Wise

The first time I heard Justin Wise speak on social media I was impressed.

It was the first session—actually the pre-conference workshop—at a conference for Christian creatives in Canada. Wise was speaking on how churches need to embrace their websites as their new front-door. And as he laid everything out, with tons of practical examples, I had two reactions:

  1. People really need to listen to this guy
  2. This is going to be really hard for some folks to swallow

Many of the people occupying the leadership roles in churches, non-profits, and for-profit entities are digital immigrants. They remember a time without Wi-Fi, Netflix, and Facebook. Many of them use social media, but struggle to understand how to do it. Others don’t bother with it at all, seeing it as a distraction, a fad, or a time-suck that gets in the way of getting real work/ministry done.

But, Wise argues, digital communication is not a good thing for a church to engage in—it’s necessary if they’re actually serious about reaching people with the gospel. And that’s really the heart behind his book, The Social Church: A Theology of Digital Communication, where Wise unpacks the “why” of social media, with a bit of how sprinkled in along the way.

Mission and ministry in social media

If you could boil the why down to one thing, it’s really this: Churches need to be engaging social media—blogs, Facebook, Twitter, whatever the next thing is that’s going to take the world by storm—not because it’s hip and trendy, but because it’s about mission and ministry. Where people are, Christians must be as well. But the difference, and maybe the most challenging aspect of it, is that mission and ministry in social media requires two-way communication.

“For many, many years, churches communicated in the same fashion you and I drive down a one-way street: traffic only moved one way,” Wise explains. “Churches broadcasted a message and never anticipated a moment where the congregation would start speaking back.”

But social media has changed this dynamic.…For the church, and virtually every other sector of society, the shift to social permanently turned the tables in the public’s favor. Social media gave people a voice, and they’re not going to give it up easily. (30)

This is the challenge many of us have when engaging social media. Because the expectation is two-way communication, you actually have to engage people. You have to talk to them when they talk back and share content that’s not all about you. And this is also where so many organizations—including some of the world’s biggest brands—fall on their faces. So if you’ve just realized that you’re doing the digital equivalent of shouting into an empty room, take heart: you’re not alone and you can change this.

But in order to do it, you have to know the values of a social media culture, what it likes and dislikes. What it thinks, how it feels… This is, essentially, the “nasty” business of contextualization, becoming all things to all people so that some might be saved. And even as we seek to understand—or humbly admit we can’t make the leap ourselves and bring in people to help us—we find more opportunities to push back.

Challenging a mediated world

Even as “online” and “offline” become increasingly blurred, we’re going to find ourselves having to confront the tendency to hide in the digital realm with more force. Humans were not meant to hide behind screens and smartphones (and yes, I understand the irony of me even saying this in a digital medium). Real relationships can form and be nurtured online, but the best kinds of relationships form in the real life.

I suppose the inherent danger of online communities is when there is a mistaken belief they can serve as a one-for-one replacement for in-person communities. They can’t (and shouldn’t). Offline trumps online.

Having said that, online community is definitely preferable to no community whatsoever. Lives have been changed, saved, and redeemed all because gospel-centered online communities exist. (155)

You can see the tension here, can’t you? I think Wise is certainly correct that “digital community is better than no community” to some degree, but the fact that this also points us to a legitimate issue in our context: that even as we develop a sound theology of digital communication, we must develop a robust eccesiology to compliment it. This is the difficulty many of us have with idea of online services—while streaming the service can certainly beneficial, how do we challenge people to engage in reality?

Years ago, I was part of an active hobby-focused online community. People would talk about the primary subject (comics), but would also delve into all kinds of other topics, including sharing deeply personal details about their lives (not in a TMI kind of way. Usually). Folks would meet at conventions for drinks. Users who lived in the same cities would get together every once in a while for a meal if the suggestion was tabled… But in the end, when someone stopped visiting the site, it was like they never existed. In an instant, those relationships were severed. The connections weren’t really all that deep.

This is the challenge we face when we deal with the implications of online ministry. How do we build real connections that aren’t easy to sever? This is something Wise doesn’t thoroughly address in the book because, honestly, I don’t know if he or anyone else is equipped to put forward an answer. But make no mistake: if we’re serious about being gospel-minded, gospel-centered people who want to engage the digital realm for mission and ministry, this elephant in the room must be named and addressed.

The beginning of a much deeper conversation

The Social Church is not the last word on social media and the church, nor should it be. Instead, it’s best to see this book as the continuation (or possibly the beginning) of of a conversation we’re not quite ready for: a much deeper discussion on how to do ministry in a simultaneously bigger and smaller world. But whether or not we’re truly ready, it’s a conversation we need to have.


Title: The Social Church: A Theology of Digital Communication
Author: Justin Wise
Publisher: Moody Publishers (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

You (yes, you) really do need an outside perspective

twitter-icon

One of the many dangers of social media is the temptation to say something before you’ve thought it out. A snarky comment or a genuinely witty remark are occasionally the fruit; more often, the result winds up being something, well… unwise. I almost had a moment like that last week. Fortunately,my wife tends to be sitting next to me whenever I’m preparing to send out a tweet. Because she sometimes has a better sense of—how do I put this?—feeling than me, she usually can tell pretty quickly whether something is going to cross the line from funny to offensive.

This is something I suspect more of us need. Not necessarily a spouse telling us, “Hey, you shouldn’t tweet that,” although that’s definitely helpful. But someone to watch our backs, to helpfully second-guess us when we’re writing, speaking or whatever. An outside perspective to help cover our blind spots, and to push us onto our best work.

And yet, it seems like we’re a bit afraid to do this at times, doesn’t it? We blogger types tend to be secretive about our writing, at least with other bloggers. Is it because we don’t trust other writers to help us? Sometimes, though I’m not sure why we act like this. It’s not like whomever we ask is going to scoop our article for themselves.

Unless they do.

And then they’ll be jerks.

(Kidding.)

Mostly, I think it’s because we’re afraid to ask. So we publish something with more holes in its logic than my car has rust spots, or presents a straw man, or is just kind of “blah” as a piece of writing—just because we didn’t seek an outside perspective.

Which, of course, is silly.

We all need someone who is going to give us the straight goods on what we’re doing. Who is going to tell us when we’re in danger of crossing a line we ought not cross, or when a joke falls flat, or when something we’ve written just isn’t very good. The only reason we don’t go after it is because we’re either too proud or we afraid of constructive criticism (which also means we might be too proud). Sometimes feedback’s going to hurt, but it’s not because the person giving it doesn’t care. It’s because they do. After all, “faithful are the wounds of a friend,” Proverbs 27:6 tells us.

Whether you believe it or not, you (yes, you) really do need an outside perspective. Don’t let pride or fear blind you to it.

"Perhaps I'll be like Peter in his bravado…"

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

 

Steve Timmis, co-author of Total Church and Acts 29’s Western Europe Director posted a series of profound comments on Twitter Monday morning that I wanted to share with you: 

How can I be sure I would lay down my life for sake of Jesus & the gospel?  

Perhaps I’ll be like Peter in his bravado and subsequent denial? 

Can’t ultimately be sure until I’m called on to do so. But there are indicators in what I am reluctant to give up… 

If I’m not prepared to give up my bed to go and serve someone, I can be fairly confident I won’t give up my life… 

If I refuse to give up a holiday abroad so I can support someone in gospel ministry, I can be fairly confident I won’t give up my life… 

If I’m not willing to pursue people who are different from me in order to bless them, I can be fairly certain I won’t give up my life… 

If I’m not prepared to miss out on promotion so I can stay & help plant churches, I can be fairly certain I won’t give up my life… 

If I’m not prepared to jeopardise a friendship so that I can tell others about Christ, I can be fairly certain I won’t give up my life. 

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Jesus Christ
 

Lots to think about here.

Sunday Shorts (05/31)

Just Do Something: A short interview with Kevin DeYoung

Over at Buzzard Blog, they’re featuring a brief interview with Kevin DeYoung, author of Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will. Look for a review of this book here in the next few weeks.

And: Words and Deeds

Hunter Beaumont at The Resurgence offers wise counsel on the relationship between our words and our actions.

Strangely, many emerging pastors say that if a church effectively embodies the gospel, then preaching becomes less important. Others fear that if we welcome unbelievers, we have to water down the message. In reality, just the opposite is true!

Read the rest at The Resurgence.

Should We Use Twitter During Church?

John Piper and Josh Harris both agree: No, probably not. Read both of their reasons why at their respective blogs.

Did you know…

Blogging Theologically is now available for your Kindle. If you’re so inclined, you can subscribe at Amazon.com

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

The Persevering Prophet: Harsh Language A look at the harsh language that the Bible uses to describe sin.

Made in the Image of God: Relationship and Responsibility Looking at how humanity images God through our relationships and different responsibilities.

Week Five: Am I an Adrenaline Junkie? What I’m learning during my fast from podcasts and theology books.

How Would You Tweet the Gospel?

A question making its way around the blogosphere this week (largely in reaction to Christianity Today’s recent Rob Bell interview) is, “how would you tweet the gospel?”

Twitter allows you 140 characters (including spaces) to make your case. Can you do it?

Post your response in the comments section.

Sunday Shorts (04/26)

The Gospel Coalition 2009 Conference Online

The Gospel Coalition’s 2009 conference messages are now online. Give them a listen as you can’t go wrong with Tim Keller, John Piper, and more.

22 Essential Words for Writing Cheesy Christian Pop Songs

Guest blogger Josh Harris provides us with the essentials of cheesy Christian pop lyrics at Abraham Piper’s blog. The comments are even better than the actual list (check out Abraham’s song in comment 7).

Matt Svoboda’s take on Mark Driscoll

Matt at Evangelical Village posted a very helpful letter he sent to his pastor regarding Mark Driscoll in light of the recent kerfuffle surrounding him. Here’s an excerpt:

I am not here to beat the drum of Mark Driscoll, but it would sadden me to see people disregard his ministry for inappropriate comments and occasionally taking things further than Scripture permits.  His ministry is gospel-centered as he always points people to the cross.  As you and I would say, he is ‘Our Kind of Calvinist.’  He is theologically and missionally as solid as anyone I know.

Aaron’s on Twitter

I caught the Twitter bug while watching all the hip cool marketing folks at ad:tech this week. Next week I might write haikus.

If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me here.

And in honour of this, I once again (ironically) present, The Twouble with Twitter: