Tag Archives: personal

Trajectory of Engagement

trajectory of engagementIn The Social Media Gospel, author Meredith Gould talks about the trajectory of engagement. This is the movement from online communication to offline relationships.

This concept of the trajectory of engagement is having a large impact on the church today. Engagement on social media may be a good start when it comes to church relations. But it cannot be the end result. We, in the church, know that faith engagement must at some point be face-to-face, person-to person. The trajectory must go beyond technology to faith-based living in the family of God.

So how does this trajectory happen? It happens through concerted efforts to invite those who are engaged in conversations on a church’s social media platforms to join in events at church, be it worship, a small group Bible study, a soup supper, whatever opportunity for personal engagement at the church presents itself.

It is only in the actual presence of other people that the richness and vitality of the Christian Church can be seen and felt most fully by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I know for me in my life, so many conversations I have with people in the church are now through text messages, which can be great for sharing a quick story or an encouraging word but cannot replace being together in the pew or chatting over a cup of coffee at lunch. The online and the offline communication must work in tandom for a deeper connection to develop spiritually.

I often wonder what it would have been like if Jesus had been alive during this time of social media. My first thought would be that he would point us to the parable of the Good Samaritan. Would we be like the priest and the Levite who walked by the person in need right in front of us because we were texting our friends?

It’s time for us to look up from our phones and look at social media in the church not as an end in itself, but a beginning, a doorway, a portal into a life of more meaningful real-life personal relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Be social in life and not just a screen!

 

 

Sermon Trends

sermon trendsTrends in sermons are changing fast. The traditional approach of preaching on a biblical text in a lecture format through deductive reasoning is being replaced more and more by what is being called in seminary circles as “the new homiletics.”

New homiletics, broadly speaking, looks at the preaching of a sermon more as an event or an experience. Those in the pews often become part of the conversation through question-and-answer formats or personal stories that are shared.

Much of what is behind this shift in homiletics has to do with the rise of social media and our increased comfort level as a society in engaging in a dialog about any number of topics.

The challenge for pastors and other church workers is how to direct and control that conversation within the context of a sermon in order to achieve the spiritual goals they have in mind for their message and for their audience.

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A Zacchaeus Moment

ZacchaeusI tend to sympathize with Zacchaeus. He was interested in  Jesus, but he had trouble seeing him in the crowd. He was resourceful, so he climbed a tree to see him. But he didn’t really want to be seen himself.

But Jesus pointed him out. Jesus made it clear that he wanted to talk to him and spend time with him, even go to his house. Zacchaeus must have been mortified. I know I would be. I, like Zacchaeus, am curious about things but like to stay in the background.

But Jesus brings Zacchaeus to the forefront. Why? We find out in Luke 19:10 when Jesus says:

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

Bible scholars call that verse the heart of the Gospel of Luke. Located toward the middle of the Gospel, it is the hub on which the wheel of Christ’s mission spins. Everything before and after this verse is driven by this goal.

The Son of Man came to seek … He looks out for us. He searches for us.

… and to save … He is here to deliver us from sin, death and the devil.

… the lost. He knows we are lost in our waywardness and need to be found by him in order to gain eternal life.

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Dunbar’s Number

150 membersHave you ever heard of “Dunbar’s Number”? Discovered by British evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar, it is the human norm that the number of genuinely personal relationships a person can actively maintain is 150, give or take. Dunbar and his colleagues note that “150 people is both the approximate size of a typical small-scale human village and about the number of people who can live or work together without needing power structures to enforce cooperation. The group is small enough that social pressures can keep people in line” (“Does Your Pastor Need a Friend?” Christianity Today, October 2017, p. 62).

I find this interesting because at a recent conference I attended, the keynote speaker said that currently a majority of congregations in America have an average weekly attendance of guess what? 150 members.

It occurs to me that this is not simply a coincidence. 150 appears to be the sweet spot for most churches for the very reasons that research for Dumbar’s Number indicates:

It keeps the group manageable. People do not become just a number. People know them by name. Functions can happen without an overflow of people and not in an oversize room.

It keeps the group personal. Everybody knows each other and can keep relationships functioning. People care about one another because they know them well and see them often.

It keeps the group accountable. People notice when others are missing and can follow up with them. People can see when fellow members are straying and can bring them back into the fold. There is a sense that people are expected to be present at certain times and be there for one another in times of need.

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Small Churches

small churchAccording to a study done by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), of the 3.6 million baptized members of that church body, half worship in congregations with an average attendance of 150 or less. And out of the ELCA’s 9.393 congregations, 82 percent have an average worship attendance of 150 or less (Lammi, Kurt, “Would They Notice?” Living Lutheran, p. 33). The conclusion? The denomination is mostly made up of small congregations (p. 33).

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The Model Prayer

Lord’s PrayerAuthor Michael Kelley in the book Holy Vocabulary: Rescuing the Language of Faith, takes a good, hard look at how we approach the Lord’s Prayer.

“in modern usage,” he says, “the prayer has become something of an incantation, recited laboriously before a sports event or a civic meeting. It’s become a tool we use in an attempt to guarantee God’s endorsement of whatever we’re about to do” (p. 30).

Sounds somewhat harsh at first reading, but the more I think about it, the more he is right about how I personally approach the Lord’s Prayer from time to time: something to just say, get through and check off to say I talked to God today.

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Boundaries

personal boundariesToday marks the 1-year anniversary of this blog. Thank you, dear readers, for joining me on the journey this past year, and I look forward to the holy journey yet to come.

For today’s post I would like to focus on another new reality of communications from Pastor Matt Peeples that we need to be aware of in the church:

Personalized Boundaries

Even though we have more ways to interact with each other than ever before, we also all have an abundance of options to control at what level we wish to interact with one another. We can set up controls to limit the amount of information shared on any given platform (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) and we can choose to block people or hide posts.

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Connection

connectionPastor Matthew Peeples has identified 16 new realities of communication that we as Christians need to be aware of as we are in the business of communicating the message of the Gospel. I will be touching on these new realities in several posts throughout this year. Here is the first new reality:

We are simultaneously connected and disconnected.

I do find it interesting that we have an ever-expanding range of ways to connect with each other, but we seem more disconnected from each other than ever before.

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Coloring Craze

coloringI’m sure by now most of you are aware of the adult coloring book craze that is sweeping the nation. I for one cannot make sense of its appeal. Maybe because I had tough art teachers in the past who reprimanded me for not coloring “in the lines,” and I am afraid of not “doing it right.”

But the theory behind it is that coloring is a creative endeavor and clears our minds of troubling thoughts and sharpens our brains’ abilities in other tasks.

The craze has made inroads into Christian publishing recently with adult coloring books being launched that include religious imagery and Bible verses. The books are presented as a kind of tool to use as a devotional or meditative spiritual outlet. And many are finding that to be so for themselves in their personal faith-walk.

Going a step further, there is a larger trend developing in the publication of Bibles that includes more white space in the margins to allow for drawing, doodling, coloring and note-taking on the Scripture passages on the pages. I do like this idea, because it makes the activity of Bible-reading something that is more personal, more intimate, more tangible, more practical, and less academic and structured and orderly. Continue reading →

Mere-exposure Effect

neighborly

Be neighborly. Who knows what God has in mind?

The mere-exposure effect is the well-documented psychological phenomenon that people tend to respond favorably to and think positively about anything they are merely exposed to regularly or are familiar with. I recently heard about it on an NPR story involved a study of parents’ perception of the educational system in our country. While a high percentage of parents had an unfavorable opinion of the educational system as a whole, they had a very favorable rating of their children’s school or the school in their community. Fascinating!

I think this effect has some applications, both positive and negative, for us as Christians.

On the positive side, while many people in our country may have an unfavorable attitude toward the institutional church as a whole, they may be more receptive to regular personal contact from individual Christians who talk to them on the street, wave hello, stop by to drop off some food when they are sick, etc. This is an opportunity for us to be a friend and a good example of what the Christian life is all about: loving one another on a personal level because of the love that God has shown to us in Christ.

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