Thinking Out Loud

April 28, 2012

Blog Posts Won’t Change The World; Actions Can

I originally wrote this on Wednesday at Christianity 201, but decided it needs to be seen here as well…

Many times at Thinking Out Loud, I pick up on news stories that are making the rounds and try to offer some fresh exposure or a fresh take on what is happening. I enjoy playing journalist, and I think it is significant that here at WordPress, when you’ve finished writing something, you click a button that says “publish.” It certainly gives me a sense of self-importance.

But I really haven’t come that far from when, 30 years ago, I was writing for CCM, a Christian music magazine based at the time south of Los Angeles. My final column gave my reason for quitting, “While it’s one thing to write the news, it’s a far better thing to make the news.”

Today, I would have qualified that sentence a little better!

The Christian internet is full of people with ideas to share, but I’m reminded of this verse in James:

NLT James 1:22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.

The context is sin and obedience and the transformative power of God’s Word, but the application is still valid: We’re to be evaluated not on the basis of intention, doctrinal conviction or knowledge, but on what we actually do.

I just bought my wife an old Dilbert book titled, This is the Part Where You Pretend to Add Value. Sometimes in my blogs I tell readers I want comments where they are truly adding value to the discussion, not just saying, “Thanks, I really enjoyed that.” (Though some days I really need that encouragement, too.)

But ultimately, we don’t add value to God’s kingdom by just blogging, or just preaching, or just getting doctoral degrees in theology or divinity. We contribute more with our hands and our feet than with our mouths or our computer keyboards.

Here in North America, we face an economic crisis because nobody makes anything anymore. We ship out our raw resources, but our consumer and industrial products tend to come from somewhere else, often involving other countries shipping those same resources back to us. Our gross domestic product consists of trading and exporting knowledge and technological expertise, when the greatest needs in the world continue to be food, clothing and shelter. (And medicine, transportation and security.)

I have to ask myself,

  • What am I adding to God’s Kingdom? Am I producing fruit?

Note: They were a decidedly non-industrial community when the Bible was written, so fruit may not the metaphor of choice today, but the problem is I can’t think of a better one.

Another thing that occurs to me reading the Christian blogosphere for the past five or six years is that there isn’t a lot of the love of God evident. There are breakthrough days to be sure, like the day Jon Acuff’s blog, Stuff Christian Like raised $60,000 in 24-hours to build two kindergarten classrooms inVietnam. Why is what Jon did so rare?

Also, there are times an interaction in the comments section really touches your heart. But mostly there just a lot of opinion flying back and forth, some of it quite heated. If our key pastors and leaders were to be evaluated on the basis of their blogs by people outside the faith, what type of character could they infer from our discussions?

MSG I Cor 13:1If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

I’m not saying that Christian writers and bloggers aren’t loving people. I just don’t see a lot of context online to demonstrate the love of God and the outworking of grace. Our web-surfing should take us to places where what we read brings tears as we read it. The stories should stir us. The information should mobilize us.

I have to ask myself:

  • Do people see in my writing a reflection of the God’s grace and love?

Finally, all this writing online has produced some superstars, though some are just known for writing. We all like to read our stats, and there’s even a Top 200 list that’s crammed full of more stats than you knew were being tabulated. There’s a human cry to be recognized, to be known, to be honored; and though we try to deny it, we all want just a tiny bit more attention than we’re currently getting.

CEB: Phil. 2:3 Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. 4 Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others.

I’ve quoted this before: “There is no limit on what can be done for God as long as it doesn’t matter who is getting the earthly credit.”

I have to ask myself:

  • When someone says they want my help with some ministry project, do I envision myself serving at the front of the room or at the back of the room?

Summary conclusions:

  • Less talk, more genuine actions
  • Fewer opinions, more love
  • Reduced self-promotion, more humility

Read more on this topic at Chasing After Words

NLT = New Living, MSG = The Message, CEB = Common English Bible

January 7, 2011

Getting the Story versus Getting the Credit

Over the holidays, I got to play a very, very, very small part in a much larger effort to bring both a hot tasty meal and warm friendship and fellowship to people who would normally be alone on Christmas Day.  At some point in the future, I might write further about how important it is to meet both of those needs.

A local reporter was present at the event and interviewed a man that she knows from his involvement in the local business community.  The end result was an article that was genuinely favorable, but one that placed this one individual at the center of the story, when in fact, this was a group effort involving dozens and dozens of volunteers.  To be fair, it’s possible that this person did not know the whole history of the event in question.

It’s the third time in a few weeks that the local paper has not gotten the story right, where the story involved something church-related or of a “religious” nature.  While it’s not objective journalism, I think sometimes the best reporting on a thing like this one can only happen when someone within the story itself does the writing. Also, churches need to be more sensitive when a member of “the fifth estate” shows up and assign a press liaison to that person.  Perhaps everyone else should be told not to speak on behalf of the organization or event, but to refer questions to someone else.

There’s a whole lot I could write here about how the media generally misses the nuances of Christian — and especially Evangelical — event coverage. We need more Christian young people to study journalism.  My wife says the potential for errors multiplies greatly when you’re dealing with small town newspapers.

But I want to put some positive spin on this.

While thinking this over in the 24 hours since I finally got around to reading the story, I was reminded of something seemingly unrelated that Frank Viola has written in many of his books that deal with the house church movement.  (Told ya it was seemingly unrelated!)

Viola says that when you visit a home church, if it’s running ideally, when you walk in you won’t get a sense of who is in charge. Different people participate by contributing different gifts and any teaching you get is organic, springing up from within the community, and possibly coming from different voices on different weeks. There isn’t the compelling need which we have as humans — similar to the need to put things in ‘boxes’ — to identify the “Alpha person” and give them a place of honor. Viola would say that the Holy Spirit is in charge. Not a particular individual.

That’s probably what bewildered the reporter.  She was looking to “get the story” as reporters do. And really, there were a couple of people “in charge” that she could have interviewed if she was doing her job properly, and those two are humble enough that they wouldn’t allow the story to center on them.

The “star” of the show that day was the Christian community — and a few others who were drawn into the current of generosity that was flowing that day — who were manifesting the grace of God being outworked in love and service.

And if you find yourself being interviewed some day, that’s where you should directing the “credit.” The pop and rock stars who accept their award by saying they “want to thank God,” may not always be sincere, but their words have the right idea. That would have worked well in this situation.

A Canadian pastor, Dennis Anderson shared a few years ago in a sermon, and it has stuck with me ever since…

“There is no limit on what can be done for God, as long as it doesn’t matter who is getting the earthly credit.”

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.