A good fisherman always “sets the hook” before trying to reel in the fish. Hopefully, now that I’ve got your attention, let me go back to July of 2009. Something was growing in me, a whole new realm of inspiration. I was going to start writing a blog, “Keeping Your Head In The Game.” Two things were converging. The first was using the numerous communication tools that technology has made available to our age. Thesecond thing was as the sub-title of the blog states, “Helping people think Biblically and have a Christian mindset throughout life’s journey.” I was excited! I was “pregnant” with a God-idea!
The timing for my launch might have been a little bit off. It was during the Sadler’s Alaska Ultra-Challenge in 2009, which is the longest and hardest wheelchair or handcycle race in the world, 256 miles from Fairbanks to Anchorage. The questionable timing was because I didn’t have a full grasp on the time demands that writing would make, even bad writing. So, to try to do this during a six-day stage race was a bit taxing. Either way, I made the plunge, and since then, there have been some starts and stops, as I’ve juggled my time between preaching and teaching, and the new craft of writing.
This led to Twitter, the most well-known of all the micro-blogging websites. It has over 200 million people using it, and it has become part of how people communicate today or “the people’s voice. I am very aware of the valid spiritual and moral concerns in the world of social media. This is why you must have some clear spiritual guidelines and parameters to use technology effectively. However, I believe some of these pitfalls are trumped if it is used as a tool for the purpose of communicating God’s truth. Here is what we came up with how to best use Twitter for the church and its mission as a medium of communicating truth.
To use it judiciously in a thoughtful and prayerful manner (you get in trouble if you think you must say something about everything).
To help facilitate the dynamics of leadership with words of encouragement, vision, purpose, and admonishment here in the U.S. and around the world.
To help people feel connected with the preaching of the Gospel, the mission of our church, and various church-related news, activities, and prayer requests.
A way to shape the cultural conversation, letting people know about current events, serious or pop culture, what we can call people’s attention to, and comment upon.
To steer people to more substantive platforms, such as our website and blog postings.
In another sermon I preached just this February, this was part of the introduction: “You’re not going to stop today’s technological tsunami, but our challenge is we must diligently work to understand how to live for God faithfully in a technology-saturated world and coincide with Jesus’s mission and mandate, ‘I will build My church.’” Overall, I have tried to adhere to these principles. I received a note right after the November elections that said, “The presidential election being what it is and gay marriage and pot smoking being approved in my state. I could use a positive/encouraging tweet right now.”
So, back to practicing the discipline of writing. This post was preceded by a statement I read by Jocelyn K. Glei. She wrote the following: “Today, writing well is more important than ever. Far from being the province of a select few as it was in Hemingway’s day, writing is a daily occupation for all of us – in email, on blogs, and through social media. It is also a primary means for documenting, communicating, and refining our ideas. As essayist, programmer, and investor Paul Graham has written, ‘Writing doesn’t just communicate ideas; it generates them. If you’re bad at writing and don’t like to do it, you’ll miss out on most of the ideas writing would have generated.” Having said that, I know there are some things that can only be effectively communicated face-to-face. Listen to the Apostle John, “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” (2John 12) I’d like you to see that the Apostle John is comfortable using “1st century technology”: paper, pen and ink. John was able to use technology in the service of the church, but he still recognized that this was inferior to embodied relationships. He employed both kinds of communication; but he believed that only face-to-face reality offered both him and others “complete joy.”
All of this was sparked by a powerful incentive that came to me just recently in one of those “God-reminders” that often comes to those who follow Jesus Christ. I came across one of the 40-year old weekly articles that I used to write for the Prescott, AZ newspaper, The Prescott Courier, which ran every Friday. The series was called “Metamorphosis” which is the Bible’s word for change or transformation. I actually had forgotten about this, but it reminded me that the desire to write had been with me, placed there by God for a long time. It confirmed the truth of (Eph.2:10)
“For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
I remember some of the events surrounding this. I was a young Christian in the Prescott Foursquare Gospel Church. I had the “idea” that maybe the paper would print an article highlighting the miracle of people’s changed lives in Christ. I told my pastor about the idea, and he suggested that I talk to another man in our church about writing it, Phil Payson, He was a good man, and certainly much more qualified than I was. The only problem is this idea had not been birthed in Phil’s heart, as gifted as he was; and it wasn’t growing in the garden of his soul! After awhile I felt the Holy Spirit challenging me that He wanted me to write this article, since he’d deposited this “open door” originally in my heart. Here’s a copy of one of those articles with my by-line! I’m quite sure that it wasn’t Pulitzer-quality writing, but that reminder spoke to me that these desires to communicate the Gospel through various media outlets had been planted in my heart a long time ago, and God had not forgotten!
It was the author Kurt Vonnegut who said, “Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style. I am not urging you to write a novel, by the way – although I would not be sorry if you wrote one, provided you genuinely cared about something. A petitioner to the mayor about a pothole in front of your house or a love letter to the girl next door will do.” One thing I do know is that God’s grace in my life has equipped me with the capacity to feel very deeply or passionately about things that matter most!
Oh yes, the title question, “Would the Apostle Paul use social media?” Paul’s exposes his heart to us in (Rom.1:14,15) “For I owe a great debt to you and to everyone else, both to civilized people and uncivilized alike; yes, to the educated and uneducated alike. So, to the fullest extent of my ability, I am ready to come also to you in Rome to preach God's Good News” My sense is the man who wrote this would most likely employ every communication tool at his disposal, while recognizing some real pitfalls inherent in how it’s used.
The purpose of this blog posting is to do a kind of spiritual reset! I take encouragement from a writer’s adage, “Have the courage to write badly.” OK, I can try that! I’m excited because on the one hand, the Word of God is inexhaustible, and on the other hand there is the Holy Spirit’s inspiration enabling me to care deeply about things. So, in shameless self-promotion (!), I encourage you to follow me on Twitter and visit the web site for any new postings. I will keep trying my best to be.....“STILL AT IT!”