Thinking Out Loud

March 17, 2018

Church Directories Build Community

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came

~Theme from Cheers TV-Show

It was a heated congregational meeting that had been called nearly twenty years ago to address the implications of the rapidly growing church going to a two service format on Sunday mornings. The usual pros and cons were being kicked around when a woman at the back stood up and voiced an issue I hadn’t foreseen; “But we won’t all know each other.”

I never thought of that.

This was a church where, heretofore, everybody knew who everybody was. The kind of thing you expect in a rural church environment. Suddenly, that was about to change, and there was apprehension, if not plain fear about the implications of going to church on Sunday morning and not being in command of the first and last names of all the people in the auditorium.

# # #

Some churches have always resolved the identification issue by having a bulletin board at the back with photos of “Our Church Family.” A local church in our area raised the quality standard on this a few years back. When the professional company doing their photo directory was done, the church was presented with a couple of beautiful, framed wall prints showing everyone’s directory photo and name alphabetically. I’m sure it is often referred to, given that church’s size.

Another option is name tags. Besides the risk of the pin-type tearing clothing — many churches opt for the lanyard type — I’ve always felt it reminiscent of the “elder” name tags worn by the Mormon (LDS) missionaries who come knocking at your front door at inopportune times. But some churches thrive on this system, with visitors quickly assigned a quickly-scribbled Sharpie version which, I’m quite sure, would make seeker-friendly advocates like Bill Hybels shudder in horror; although it beats asking visitors to stand up and give their names, a practice I sincerely hope has disappeared by now.

It also raises an issue I don’t have space to get into here: The artificiality of the “turn around shake hands” type of forced fellowship. Or name tags themselves. If you click the image on the name tag at right, it will take you to a blog post on that subject.

Then there are various types of mixers including Newcomers Lunch, where established church leaders get to know recent arrivals; or the “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” events where, each quarter, people alternate between being a “host” or being a “guest” at a mystery house with mystery guests. (You can even heat things up by sending the charismatic-leaning, Arminian Smith family over for lunch with the conservative Calvinist Jones family; but who gets the Adams family with their ten children?)

Of course, the organic approach to getting to know people is small groups. You won’t know everyone, but you’ll build deep relationships and strong community with the others in your group. And possibly at that point, knowing everyone’s name won’t be so high a priority.

Which brings us to church directories.

# # #

When my oldest son was about six I showed him an entry in our church’s directory where one couple’s name was listed, but there was no address or phone number. It was easy to see why if you knew that he worked for the RCMP. (U.S. readers: Think FBI.) So I asked him, “Why do you think they don’t have an address?”

His answer was; “They’re homeless.”

I then explained the nature of his job, and the notion of privacy. There are other examples I can think of where families have chosen to opt-out completely from even having their names listed, but in most small and medium-sized churches, a church telephone directory is still considered useful, even though some online people haven’t picked up a phone handset in years; so most people participate.

Directories easily fit into the collection of things listed above (name tags, photo boards, etc.) but offer something else: A means to get in touch, or stay in touch with other people in your church throughout the week. You can call the kid’s teacher to see if he left his Bible in the classroom, ask the worship leader’s wife for the title of the book she mentioned in the lobby, and e-mail the woman who said she had a great recipe for carrot cake. You can see where people live, and the names of their children.

I am convinced that these directories — with or without photos — are in another category altogether, and sincerely believe that, where feasible, every church should have one.

Especially in an age of e-mail.

I know there will be pushback on this — some people will not want their e-mail address published — but I am convinced that we live in an electronic world where not having e-mail is like buying a house and taking down the mailbox. I believe there is potential for abuse, but it is outweighed by the contact that can take place between church family members.

As a business owner who does a monthly e-mail newsletter, I’m always tempted to steal e-mail addresses from directories, but we’ve learned over time that we’re better off initiating contact some other way before pursuing electronic communication. However, one local church meets this problem halfway by giving business owners a back page to list their name, the name of their business, the nature of their business, and business phone and e-mail information.

That same church also has a strong push for people to submit photos. They produce their own directory, and so there isn’t the hesitation associated with commercial photographers trying to sell families additional prints and print packages at inflated prices.

In an environmentally-conscious world, some churches have put their church directory online. A login is necessary so that only members and adherents can access the information, though the same login allows those listed to update their own data.

At the other end of the spectrum, in another church that we are actively involved with, the directory is simply a list of names and phone numbers. No indication of where people live or if they drive a great distance for worship. No opportunity to send an e-mail; which really grates on my wife and I, who use online communication extensively.

The other major liability of their system is that children under eighteen are not listed at all. I’m not sure I can even begin to grasp what kind of message that sends to, for example, the teens in the youth group. (“You’re not really part of our church family.”) It’s an oddity that sticks out all the more if your kids are accustomed to seeing their names in such a publication. The church in question doesn’t really have a large number of children. Coincidence?

# # #

Send me a postcard, drop me a line, stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say…

~Lyrics from the Beatles, “When I’m 64”

# # #

In a world where privacy concerns dominate so many discussions, and insurance companies advise churches against anything with the faintest hint of liability, the idea of a church directory may seem like a throwback to a bygone era; however this writer is sold on them. I even keep a few old ones now and then as a sort of yearbook of memories of what the church family looked like in the past. Once in awhile, I discover someone in the church family who only lives a few blocks away, or someone who lives next door to someone with whom I’ve recently shared my faith journey.

I also remain absolutely convinced that creating e-mail community is absolutely essential, especially as various factors seem to add to the isolation people experience. Your church may prefer to do this through Facebook community; but do update the thing now and then, okay? Computer contact is not the same as face-time, but it’s better than nothing. And those with hesitation can always choose to opt-out of listing their online address, but I find that most choose to share their full contact information.

Also, I cannot minimize the role that both standard telephone contact and e-mail contact can play when someone in the church faces an urgent need for prayer.

# # #

If we’re a family, then family members talk to each other, right?

And church isn’t just something we do on Sunday.

# # #

This 2011 piece was included today as a part two to a more recent discussion we had on this topic yesterday.

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March 16, 2018

Your Church Family Directory

One of the two churches with which I’m directly involved has a church directory which includes email addresses. The major benefit I see is that it allows people to continue the conversations started on Sundays throughout the week; to initiate contact; or to follow up with friends they haven’t seen in awhile.

The church family phone directory is probably something that will disappear over the next decade because of (a) privacy concerns, and (b) the degree to which the megachurches set the agenda of smaller churches. Nonetheless we thought we’d visit this topic.


Since my church uses a photo directory, I had a thought today that it would be fun to do one where instead of actual photographs, people submitted an avatar, as they do on social media. It would be 100% contrary to the purpose for which photo directories were created in the first place, but definitely fun and colorful.

Full disclosure: I was looking at this picture of two cats when I came up with this, and thinking it might be better than the dated picture of Mrs. W. and myself they’ve been using for the past four years.


Next, there is the issue of people who appear in these directories who have long moved on, hopefully to another church.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a megachurch pastor. We often forget that numerically, he would qualify by today’s standards. The church experienced phenomenal growth. At their size, not to mention the cost of paper, a church directory would have been impossible. But there was a membership roll and people wanted their name kept on it. He wrote,

Let us not keep names on our books when they are only names. Certain of the good old people like to keep them there, and cannot bear to have them removed; but when you do not know where individuals are, nor what they are, how can you count them? They are gone to America, or Australia, or to heaven, but as far as your roll is concerned they are with you still. Is this a right thing? It may not be possible to be absolutely accurate, but let us aim at it… *

I don’t think that everyone I’m aware of actually wants their directory listing to be kept. They’ve possibly changed churches and aren’t giving it a thought. Rather, the fault lies with the church for not noticing their absence. (Having written that, I just got in touch with someone I haven’t seen lately to see how they’re doing.)


I see we’ve covered this topic before. Four years ago, I proposed something different:

How a social media hub is different from a Church directory

I’m writing this in a vacuum, because I haven’t exactly seen done what I am proposing here. I just see a need. So here’s the proposal, and if you have any suggestions or revisions based on experience with a church that’s doing this please leave a comment.

Social media, as we have come to know it, is with us to stay. The platforms will migrate over time, but a generation has grown up communicating on line, and overall, I would say that for the church, this is a good thing. We can start a conversation at a weekend service, and continue it all week. We can learn that people have specific interests, and send them links to articles and channels of interest. It replaces the classic “encouragement notes” or “thinking-of-you cards.”

  • Ideally, a church directory lists every member and adherent. A social media index lists only people who want to share their various social media platforms.
  • A Church directory contains addresses and numbers for mobile phones and land lines.  A social media index has names and locations for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, tumblr, WordPress and YouTube pages.
  • A Church directory often exists in print; a church social media hub exists only online. It’s live, so information may be added or removed at any time.
  • Church publications generally promote the church’s own social media pages. A social media index highlights what the church family is doing online.
  • Church directories are usually only distributed to the people whose names are contained in them. A social media index can just be a page on the church website — “Central Community Church on Social Media” — with no restricted access, because each of the pages concerned are public anyway.
  • Knowing that anyone in your church can access your pages is a wonderful way of keeping yourself accountable for what you write, post or link to. Your social media pages may reflect a personal family focus and other interests and hobbies you have; but ultimately you are aware that fellow church members might drop in at any time, unannounced.
  • Social media is constantly changing. A social media index for your church family needs to be updated on a regular basis, perhaps weekly. If a given platform falls out of use, there can be a decision to delete all links to that platform.
  • If any social media platform from any church member is reported to have questionable content, all their listings would be removed.

If one of the basic problems in the church is that we don’t really know each other, I know of no other way to change that than to be interconnected online. This allows us to get to know each other to a greater degree.


We’ll look more at this topic tomorrow!

*Spurgeon quotation source, click here.

August 21, 2016

Most Popular Church Website Tag Line

new-website-small

Years ago my wife and I noticed that the phrase, “A Different Kind of Church” was becoming so ubiquitous to the point of being meaningless. It was a decade of great ecclesiastic shuffling, books were being written at a furious pace, and church planting was the de rigeur activity for any younger pastors or leaders who wanted to keep up with the times.

Even today, the phrase will produce about 114,000 results on Google; change the word Kind to Type and you get 42,000 more. The fastest growing church network in Canada, The Meeting House boasts it is a “church for people who aren’t into church,” which will get you almost 1,500 more results.

But these days, it seems like, where I live anyway, the most popular tag line for church websites is something like,

Website Under Construction

Admittedly one was hacked, but one church signed up with a new provider only to find themselves being down for over a year. It’s up and running as of a few weeks ago.

This week we’re visiting a church that is in-between websites, and it’s frustrating not having the advance information as to what to expect, or if the regular pastor will be speaking. At least we were able to verify the service time, and get the location from Google Maps. You are referred to a Facebook page, but it seems to be more about reflecting back to the previous weekend than looking forward to the one to come.

Someone has said that in the 21st Century, if you’re not online you don’t exist. It’s true. I’m betting that internet searches now exceed word-of-mouth as the top reason people visit a church. And don’t even mention those adverts in the weekend newspaper. Waste of money.

I recently tried to contact a pastor whose church is about 45 minutes east of me, only to discover they never had a website. Not even a static, single page. That’s a major blunder as I see it.

Service industries and other commercial ventures couldn’t tolerate being down for more than a few hours. An IT guy would be called in to fix the glitch and get the thing going. So why do churches let it slide for so long before the sites become operative again?

I think a greater level of urgency and prioritizing is needed when the site goes down. Your church can’t afford to be without it.


A year ago we linked you to this related article by Derek Ouellette

If you’re not already aware of it (and don’t mind the title) check out Church Marketing Sucks

July 13, 2015

CT Article Gives Insight into Local Church Culture

I’m not going to provide any spoilers here, you’ll have to read the article; but in the July/August issue of Christianity Today, sociologist Bradley Wright unveils the results of a study that involved contacting nearly 3,200 churches by email using fake accounts belonging to people with distinct ethnic-sounding names, to see if the nature and volume of the replies said anything about racial attitudes in today’s churches.

Rather, I want to look at two things that were peripheral to the research results.

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2015-06-17 19:09:04Z | http://piczard.com | http://codecarvings.com

The article was also CT’s cover story. Their cover was nearly blown, however when one pastor, relocating from Alaska to Texas got the same email in both locations.

First, only 59% replied. Now in statistical research, for all I know, that might be a fairly decent response rate. But these are churches and that type of response is to me, very disappointing. For a faith that follows One who taught that a shepherd will leave 99 sheep in the pen to go after the one which is lost, that 41% did not reply is really close to abysmal. (Elsewhere on this blog, we’ve noted the same is true of Christian publishers, media outlets, and parachurch organizations in general.)

If you or someone you know oversees the general email box of your church, or gets the inquiries generated through an online form, make sure they have a mechanism in place where every legitimate email is getting a reply.

Second, it was interesting to note the definition of what constitutes racial diversity in a religious group. If 80% or more of a congregation is of a fixed race (i.e. White, Hispanic, Black, Asian) then that church is not diverse, regardless of how prominent a role some families may be given. Overall, among all religions the rate is 15%, but if you pick a Protestant Church this Sunday the rate is only 5%, in other words, nineteen-times-out-of-twenty, that congregation will be four-fifths or more of one race.

It was noted that one church body, Willow Creek, which also provided the greatest number of responses (and was declared “the winner,” assuming this was a contest) has been intentionally looking for ways to diversify its attendance.

The article is available to subscribers, or in print at newsstands. A number of charts also break down the research results.

 

December 13, 2014

Facebook Pulling Back Feeds of Status Updates for Businesses, Churches

Sample of Church Facebook Page

From home-based hobby sales, to cottage industries, to small business, to corporations having 500,000 likes, Facebook is scaling back the practice of putting posts into the feeds of readers, and the policy change has impact for non-profits and churches as well.

facebook-logo-289-75Many small businesses currently operate as a ‘page’ adjunct to an individual’s personal Facebook profile. Just as you ‘friend’ the person, you ‘like’ the business. Years ago, Facebook started restricting what you see from individuals and business alike.  The logic went, ‘if you have 300 friends and they post twice a day, you’d have 600 updates to read daily.’

But small businesses noticed that much of what they posted wasn’t getting to anyone, with averages of 16% being normal. If someone took the effort to visit the page, they could see everything, but most people who ‘check Facebook’ read only what the algorithm assigns to their feed.

Instead they were being told to ‘boost’ each post with a payment ranging — for small business — between $5 and $33. Many times the posts weren’t even selling anything, but updating readers on local events in an effort to build community.

Then last month, the Wall Street Journal reported things would change more severely:

The change will make it more difficult for entrepreneurs… to reach fans of their Facebook pages with marketing posts that aren’t paid advertising.

Businesses that post free marketing pitches or reuse content from existing ads will suffer “a significant decrease in distribution,” Facebook warned in a post earlier this month announcing the coming change…

…More than 80% of small companies using social media to promote their businesses list Facebook as their top marketing tool, followed by LinkedIn and Twitter, according to a recent survey of 2,292 small businesses by Webs, a digital services division of Vistaprint. The top three reasons owners cited for creating a Facebook page were customer acquisition, building a network of followers and increasing brand awareness, according to the survey.

Dan Levy, Facebook’s vice president of small business, says that Facebook’s paid-advertising options have become more effective recently and that companies should view Facebook as a tool to “help them grow their businesses, not a niche social solution to getting more reach or to make a post go viral.”

He says he has “a lot of empathy” for business owners who “are feeling this evolution” in the reduction of what he describes as organic reach. But, he says, organic reach is only one of several reasons companies benefit from having a presence on Facebook. Last month, there were more than one billion visits to Facebook pages directly. “Having a presence where you can be discovered still has a ton of value,” he says…

This is a small part of the entire article, click here to read at WSJ.

But it gets worse, as churches and non-profits will also be affected.  One writer suggests the strategy over the next few months should be to get those Facebook friends to respond to something that provides their email address (and in countries where applicable, express consent for placing them on on a list.)

Over the past 18 months, one of the biggest challenges with Facebook marketing is not knowing exactly what changes are on the horizon and how it will impact organic reach. We believe that eventually organic reach on larger nonprofit Facebook pages will reach close to 0%, so marketing on Facebook will significantly change.

Read more at NonBoardBoard

One website, while overtly trying to sell a print report, offers some clues:

The ability to build communities of fans, and then maintain contact and encourage engagement using content published to fans’ News Feeds was a critical aspect of Facebook’s early appeal to marketers. The opportunity of achieving engagement at scale motivated many brands and corporates to invest millions in developing communities and providing for care and feeding via always-on content…

This isn’t an academic exercise. Facebook Zero is a reality now facing every brand and business with a presence on the platform. Action is required, and specific decisions will need to be made with regard to content planning, paid support for social media activities, audience targeting and much more.

Read more at Ogilvy.com

But social media of one kind or another is so essential. In a recent 48-minute podcast at the aptly-named Church Marketing Sucks, the director of Social Media for Saddleback Church offered a number suggestions as well as stressing the importance of social media for churches.

Listen to the podcast here.

The same website also offered suggestions for using social media at Christmas. While most of these arrive too late for this year, you could file them away for 2015, but with Facebook Zero coming soon, the information may seem antiquated a year from now, or even sooner.

Want to switch your emphasis over to Instagram. I wouldn’t. Remember, in 2012, Facebook paid $1 Billion to acquire the photo site. What’s happening on FB will certainly follow on Instagram.

Twitter, anyone?

This page is a reminder that what Facebook decides here has worldwide impact on Churches and Christian charities.

This Facebook page image serves as a reminder that what Facebook decides here has worldwide impact on Churches and Christian charities. That’s 2,868 people the organization is engaging with in the UK that it now has to find other means to reach.

March 3, 2014

Creating a Church Social Media Hub

Church social media directory

How a social media hub is different from a Church directory

I’m writing this in a vacuum, because I haven’t exactly seen done what I am proposing here. I just see a need. So here’s the proposal, and if you have any suggestions or revisions based on experience with a church that’s doing this please leave a comment.

Social media, as we have come to know it, is with us to stay. The platforms will migrate over time, but a generation has grown up communicating on line, and overall, I would say that for the church, this is a good thing. We can start a conversation at a weekend service, and continue it all week. We can learn that people have specific interests, and send them links to articles and channels of interest. It replaces the classic “encouragement notes” or “thinking-of-you cards.”

  • Ideally, a church directory lists every member and adherent. A social media index lists only people who want to share their various social media platforms.
  • A Church directory contains addresses and numbers for mobile phones and land lines.  A social media index has names and locations for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, tumblr, WordPress and YouTube pages.
  • A Church directory often exists in print; a church social media hub exists only online.
  • Church publications generally promote the church’s own social media pages. A social media index highlights what the church family is doing online.
  • Church directories are usually only distributed to the people whose names are contained in them. A social media index can just be a page on the church website — “Central Community Church on Social Media” — with no restricted access, because each of the pages concerned are public anyway.
  • Knowing that anyone in your church can access your pages is a wonderful way of keeping yourself accountable for what you write, post or link to. Your social media pages may reflect a personal family focus and other interests and hobbies you have; but ultimately you are aware that fellow church members might drop in at any time, unannounced.
  • Social media is constantly changing. A social media index for your church family needs to be updated on a regular basis, perhaps weekly.
  • If any social media platform from any church member is reported to have questionable content, all their listings would be removed.

If one of the basic problems in the church is that we don’t really know each other, I know of no other way to change that than to be interconnected online. This allows us to get to know each other to a greater degree.

 

Graphic: Sacramento Metro Church of Christ (click image to link)

August 2, 2012

The Value of Words

At this blog and at Christianity 201, I frequently re-blog material from other writers, sometimes in part, but at C201, usually in whole. Only once in a combined 3,000 posts at both have I ever had an author request their material be removed.

But heaven help me should I decide to use a comic or a cartoon here without permission. You may have noticed that the Wednesday Link List is not adorned with as many comic panels as it once was. I don’t know if the cartoonists are as litigious as the people who own rights to photographs, but their “permissions” pages are rather threatening and I don’t need the added tension.

Cartoons and comics take more technical savvy than just sitting at a keyboard typing words. It either requires expensive software or a drawing table with many types of pens and markers. But does the technical sophistication mean the finished cartoons are somehow worth more — and to be protected more — than the ideas and concepts conveyed in words?

Local churches increasingly use clips from popular movies to illustrate a sermon point or draw in listeners. Those movie clips have to be licensed for public performance, even if they’re only 90-seconds long. But the same churches that pay fees to show a brief scene from Spiderman don’t think twice about streaming a clip of Francis Chan teaching.

Does that mean that the technical sophistication of a major film — with sounds, costumes, lighting, big name cast, etc. — gives it a value that a man simply talking on a stage to a group of teenagers does not possess?

Similarly in church we pay license fees to project the lyrics to modern praise and worship choruses. I have no problem with this, and encourage churches to join CCLI. Better safe than sued. But then later, in the sermon,  the pastor’s onscreen notes will include several slides’ worth of an excerpt from a book by Max Lucado or N.T. Wright.

The books are actually subject to copyright, but no pastor ever thinks twice about copying out a couple of pages of text for use with PowerPoint or printed out for a sermon outline or for quoting in the church newsletter. Does that mean that worship song lyrics are somehow worth more than an author’s prose?

What I’m saying here is that I think we tend to worship the product of more complex technology more than the more simple rendering of straight talking or written text.

By so doing, we ascribe more value to things drawn, composed, acted out, etc., than we ascribe to the power of words.

July 18, 2012

Wednesday Link List

It’s Wednesday, but Friday’s a-coming!

February 6, 2012

Non-Biblical Terminology is Counter-Productive with Men

This was a fairly busy weekend here at Thinking out Loud, so be sure to check out the posts from Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Today’s article is from a rather unique blog, Church for Men and features the writing of David Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church — now available in a revised edition released late in 2011 — where this book excerpt appeared under the title Terminology Matters to Men.

The word religion gets a bad rap in our culture. It conjures images of people practicing empty rituals, going through pointless motions, devoid of power and bereft of love. Post-moderns tend to see religion as old-fashioned, oppressive, and false.

So when a person has a life-changing encounter with Christ, he needs a new way of speaking of his faith. He needs terminology that tells everyone he’s not simply practicing the old, dead religion of the past. Twentieth-century Evangelicals coined two phrases that attempt to separate living faith from dead piety. Both have become very popular, and unfortunately, both are somewhat repellent to men.

The first of these terms is, “A personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” It’s almost impossible to attend an evangelical worship service these days without hearing this phrase spoken at least once.

Curious. While a number of Bible passages imply a relationship between God and man, the term “personal relationship with Jesus” never appears in the scriptures. Nor are individuals commanded to “enter into a relationship with God.”

Yet, despite its extra-biblical roots, personal relationship with Jesus Christ has become the number one term evangelicals use to describe the Christian walk. Why? Because it frames the gospel in terms of a woman’s deepest desire—a personal relationship with a man who loves her unconditionally. It’s imagery that delights women—and baffles men. Guys have a hard enough time maintaining relationships with people they can see and hear (audibly).

Nowadays it’s not enough to have a personal relationship with Jesus; many of today’s top speakers encourage men to have a passionate relationship with Him. They invite men to rest in his arms, look up into his eyes, and experience a warm, gooey feeling for him. Speaking as a man, the idea of having a passionate relationship with another guy is just plain gross.

The second popular phrase popular with preachers and authors is “intimacy with God.” The term is spreading like a virus through the church, communicated by men with advanced degrees who write religious books. Here’s an example I read just this week: “Through Jesus God reveals that he loves us passionately and longs for an intimate relationship with us.”

So what’s the problem? God loves us. What’s the harm in using this quasi-romantic language to describe what we have with him?

Think of the mental gymnastics that must take place in a man’s mind as he pictures himself becoming passionate with Jesus—kissing him, staring into his eyes, or lying in his arms. If you don’t detect homosexual undertones in this imagery you’re not looking very hard.

Just like personal relationship with Jesus, the Scriptures never use the term intimacy with God. And lest you think I’m dirty minded, whenever the words “passionate” or “intimate” appear in the Bible, they always refer to sex or lust between humans.

When a man loves another man, he uses the language of respect. “Hey Joe, you’re a stand-up guy. I admire you.” Men do not speak of passionate, intimate, or even personal relationships with their leaders or male friends. Can you imagine a couple of bikers having this conversation?

Rocco: Hey, Spike, let’s go for a ride in the desert so we can develop a passionate relationship.

Spike: Sure, Rocco. I’d like to enjoy some intimacy with you.

One more thing on relationships: men really do need to have a relationship with God. Religion without relationship is bondage. The problem is the word relationship. It’s is not a term men use in conversation, except when describing a male-female couple.

(Phone ringing) 

Ron: Hey Bruce, it’s Ron from the church. How you doing?

Bruce: Fine, Ron. What’s up?

Ron: Hey Bruce, can we have a personal relationship?

Bruce: (click)

When Christ called disciples, he did not say, “Come, have a personal relationship with me.” No, he said, “Come, Follow Me.” Hear the difference? Follow Me suggests a mission. A goal. But a personal relationship with Jesus suggests we’re headed to Starbucks for some couple time.

We should use the same active terminology Jesus used when describing our faith. The next time you’re sharing your faith with a man, call him to follow Jesus. To walk with God. See if that doesn’t make a difference.

~David Murrow

August 8, 2011

Counting the Online Cost

When it comes to the local church, I may critique things from time to time, but I want you to know that I’m a huge cheerleader for what can be accomplished through local assemblies and congregations.  But the fact remains: There are some things we are not doing well. When Jesus talked about “counting the cost” in Luke…

14:28(NIV) “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?

…the context seems to be financial costs and physical buildings.  (The larger context is about measuring the cost of being His disciple before jumping in.)  But today we don’t expend energy so much on capital projects and physical construction as we do on virtual construction. For local churches, the online world is a vast landscape with huge potential.

But which of you — as Jesus might say it — when starting a church blog, a church Facebook page, or a church website, sits down and counts the cost and realize that you’ve got to maintain the thing?  Why are so many church blogs, Facebook pages and websites abandoned before much time has passed?  Why is it so easy to start something, but so hard to do the relatively boring work of maintaining something?

At the right hand sidebar to this blog is a blogroll and website index that was a rather massive project.  But once it was done, the real work began.  I check those listings on a fairly regular basis; sites are dropped, blogs are added and sometimes the description you see when you hover your mouse over the link has to be rewritten because the writer’s focus has change or the description has become outdated.  It’s a chore.  It’s a pain.  But I decided going in that it was going to take some effort, but it would be worth doing well.   I encourage you to check out some of the links there.  And let me know if any of the links don’t work.

Another lifetime ago, I dabbled in what was then called electronic music.  Synthesizers and the like.  There was a rule in electronic music that I’ve learned applies to so many other things in life:

Every parameter you can control, you must control.

As a Christ-follower, I believe our commitment to excellence means that our “face” on the internet is well maintained and updated.  And that means calling your church if they’re doing a poor job of it.  (You may find you just volunteered for something, though; so be careful!)  I believe that if Jesus were restating what we know as Luke 14:28 today, he might well have used a website or a Facebook page as an example of dedication. 

At least it’s an analogy people would understand. 

…So, while we’re at this, how is your Christian life going? Is it well-tuned and humming along, or is it like a webpage or a blog that someone started and then abandoned?  Monday is a great day for rededication.

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