3 Thoughts on Facebook, being Missional and the Movies

I have to confess that my Facebook feed has brought me much grief over the last few weeks. Facebook has been an excellent tool in my own life to help me see pockets of hypocrisy and need for growth… it’s also given me a window into the lives and thoughts of others. What saddens me the most is how easily I engage in a debate about the trivial… like my opinion matters more than the person I’m talking too. Rarely ever do we communicate well in these short gusts of phrase and the opportunity for miscommunication is high.

It’s been awful to watch the discussion around the Noah Movie. Before the movie was released there were already debates waging about whether Christians should go see this movie or not. Then the mud began to sling. To be fair I don’t know that anyone on my feed called any person out in particular but there were a lot of straw men put down… Straw men are what we build and destroy to prove a case when no one enters the debate with us. In our minds we may picture real people we are too cowardly to approach or we may just be trying to show an assumed audience that we are with them by verbally attacking a mutually disliked position. How easily Facebook distracts us from the real mission field.

The problem develops when we allow a trivial thing like a movie to cause an apparent rift between brothers and sisters in Christ. We say things in general to the public we would never say to each other in person. A difference of opinion on a movie (mainly whether or not it’s worth someones time to go see it) is all it takes to cause a virtual schism of my Facebook friends. No matter which side of the debate you are on it becomes so easy to build your straw men, aim in the general direction of the opposition, and fire your volleys of well put phrase.

It’s so easy to tear down… So hard to build up. That’s why after some time of thought and reflection I came up with these 3 guidelines to keep me from tearing down my friends (real or imagined) on Facebook over trivial things like the movies.

1. I am accountable to God for everything I post. The following passage is talking about food but given the current conversation there is room to make application to how one posts on Facebook.

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. (Romans 14:12-20 ESV)

2. Not everything that I’m free to do, is good to do. The following passage also deals with food (in a different way). The gist of the passage indicates that my personal freedom isn’t the most important aspect of my life and that even personal freedom when it comes across a brother of weaker conscience can be limited for the sake of his good and God’s glory.

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience– I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:23-33 ESV)

3. Correction and discipline need to be applied in private and on a personal level. There are those occasions where a person has sinned against you and you need to address their sin. They may have sinned against you on Facebook or other areas of the public forum. Their sin still needs to be addressed in a private and personal manner.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
(Matthew 18:15-19 ESV)

I’m not there yet. I have a long way to go. I found that out the other day in the midst of the whole Noah debacle. I thought I’d add to the fray and call some folks out in “general” who were fighting straw men… Little did I realize I was falling to the same temptation.

How about you? What are your thoughts on facebook, being missional and the movies? What other points would you make or add?

3 Tips for Using Smart Phones in Corporate Worship

First off you have to know that I’m perhaps the worst person in the world to write a blog post about smart-phone etiquette in church. Simply put, I’ve broken all the rules. I’m the pastor who heard a phone go off while he was speaking, eyeballed the crowd in a judgmental manner, only to realize that it was MY phone going off, and sheepishly reminded everyone to turn their phones to “off” or “silent”… I’m that guy! I was once caught using Instagram FROM the baptismal pool… ok, I was just kidding on that one, but you get the picture… I’m bad. On the other hand, I am a pastor and I care about people. I care about you.  I want you to experience and enjoy a real and meaningful relationship with God. That’s not just my job, it’s my calling. So while etiquette usually takes into account the feelings and perceptions of those around us the aim of this post is to help us think deeply about our use of, or abstinence from, smart phones in worship. Rather than listing out a series of “best practices” I thought it most practical to lay our some basic guidelines that keep loving God and loving our neighbor at the center of our thoughts on the issue.

3 tips for using Smart Phones in Corporate Worship

Phones are just tools and as tools they can either help us or hurt us, but it really depends on how we use them. To ban phones all together might be oversimplifying the issue and cause us to miss a few real blessings along the way, however to use them incessantly to record events or interact with others who are not in the room may cause us to miss everything entirely.

Be Fully Present. However you use your phone, when it comes to worship, be fully there. If you find that you are distracted by your phone turn it off, on silent, or leave it in the car. However, if the bible app helps you fully engage or if your pastor posts interactive notes on line or even if you take notes with an app that allows you to write notes and record audio to be played back later… use it. The key is how you use your phone. If it takes you to another place mentally, then leave it behind.

Be Respectful of Others. You’re not the only one there. If you choose to use the technology on your phone in a way that helps you be fully present, make sure your presence doesn’t become a distraction to others. If at all possible turn your phone to off or silent. Ask the people sitting beside you if they mind if you take notes on your smart phone or tablet. If someone tells you that they are distracted by your device or you notice the children in your section are peering over trying to see what you are doing, you will want to accommodate others and put up your device or move to a less kid friendly section. If you need to use your phone to call a friend who was supposed to meet you at the service, step out into the foyer or perhaps even outside so as not to be a distraction to others.

Don’t Judge How Other People Use Their Phone. It’s easy to judge others for how they use their phones. We tend to be harsher on others for their bad manners than we are on ourselves. The truth is we seldom have the whole story. Unless you know for a fact that someone is playing a game on their phone, assume they have a legitimate reason for having their phone out, such as taking notes, reading a bible app, looking up words they don’t understand, etc.. If you are distracted by someone’s use of a phone, either politely ask them to refrain from using it or to use it elsewhere, “Excuse me sir, I can’t hear the pastor while you are talking on your phone, can you take your call in the foyer or outside please?” (Wish I was kidding).  Or perhaps you could change sections. Obviously if it’s your kids who are using the phone in church you have a lot more leeway in sequestering phone use and dictating what is acceptable and what isn’t.

A few books that have helped my thinking on this issue are Emily Post’s Manners in a Digital World: Living Well Online and Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning which is a book geared towards educators but has significant crossover into the ministry world and of course The Bible which should be our ultimate guide when understanding how to approach God and encourage one another. I’m also greatly indebted to about a dozen folks who took time to comment on  Facebook post in which I asked the question “What about smartphone use at church? Can I check in on FB? Tweet? Use my Bible App? Etc. what’s acceptable and what’s not?” As I glanced back over this article I couldn’t help but notice how several of their comments had slipped into my own thought process on this issue and made their way into this post.

What did I miss? What are some of the apps or practices you use to help engage in the worship service? What are some of the biggest distractions and pitfalls with using smart phones in church? Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

You See My Update, but God Sees My Heart: Twittering Our Righteous and Unrighteous Deeds

Matthew 6:1  “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

I’m guessing that if Twitter were around back in the first century that the Pharisees would have been all set.  I mean who needs a trumpet to announce your giving when you can just update your twitter feed with a picture of you giving to the poor.  Twitter would have been the ultimate tool to shape public perception.  No good deed would go unnoticed.

And maybe that is what bothers me so much when I reach in my pocket to pull out my phone and I begin to type in my latest update.  More often than not I end up putting my phone back because I realize my desire to tweet isn’t always born out of a pure motive.  I want you to see all the good things I have done.  I want you to know that I disciple my kids, that I have gospel conversations with people in the community, that I exercise, that I’m losing weight, that I pray for our missionaries. Perhaps sometimes my motives aren’t bad, I truly have a passion to see people grow in Christ and part of that comes by seeing an example.  But to be honest, more often than not I just want your affirmation. 

Then there are times that I’m not searching for affirmation.  I just had a conversation with someone about something and we left a bit of a disagreement.  So I reach in my pocket and pull out my phone with thumbs ready to type in a quote, re-tweet an authority on the subject, or even lay out a blanket statement that 99% of the twitter world won’t recognize as a backhanded jab at the person with whom I had a disagreement.  Then I pat myself on the back for not blatantly telling someone off directly like a more immature person would do… No I’m sophisticated.  I publish my jabs covertly into the stream of public consciousness (I hope you noted the sarcasm there).

Then there are the times that I don’t use my twitter status in a passive-aggressive way.  I settle instead for plain old aggressive.  When I pull out my phone and with great passion start to type my angst.  Usually this comes out against a company or unnamed person (such as the driver who cut me off in traffic or passed by on the median during a traffic jam).  In a sense I feel like I’m justified in sharing this information with the world since I was the victim of a great injustice (sarcasm there as well).

Thankfully I stop before too much really gets out.  I have never been able to publish so much unfiltered content before and it has taken me a while to realize that not everything is worth publishing.  Here lately thought, I’ve been thinking about forming guidelines on how I use twitter, facebook, my blog etc.

So I came up with 3 basic guidelines for how I want to use the social media publishing platforms at my disposal. I drew them from 1 Timothy 1:5 where Paul charges Timothy to correct those who are in error.

1Timothy 1:5  The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

  1. A Pure Heart – Do I have an ulterior motive? Am I publishing this to get affirmation or to jab someone?
  2. A Clear Conscience – Am I about to call someone out on the very things I’m guilty of myself?
  3. A Sincere Faith – Am I trusting Christ in this moment?

I have a long way to go.  Hopefully when I publish content it will be to build you up in Christ, not to boast in myself or tear down others.  To be sure there is still room in there to weigh in on a debate or share an opinion, but hopefully it will be evident that my thoughts are tempered by love.

Psalm 19:14  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

I have too many books, so I’m giving some Away

I have too many books!  So I’ve come up with a creative way to give away some of my books, reward those of you who stop by here from time to time (or just today), and get some of my blog posts out there. So here is the deal:

1. Pick a favorite blog article from this blog (I’ve listed a few of mine below, but you can pick yours)

2. Share a link to that article via Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, etc.

3. Let my know which post you shared and how by commenting on that post or this one. (example of a comment: I shared your “review of Generous Justice” on my Facebook Page.)

On Friday, February 25th, 2011 I’ll randomly select the winners. Right now I have at least 3 books to give away but I am scouring my shelves for more.  I’ll be giving books away according to how I rated them.  So if your name is drawn first you will get  a 4 or 5 star book in my opinion.  If your name is drawn last you might end up with a 2-3 star book (I won’t burden anyone with a 1 star book).  Obviously if more than 3 people enter,  not everyone will get a book.  If less than 3 enter you may get more than one book. There is no limit to how many times you can enter.  Just share a different blog post with each entry and place a separate comment on this blog so your entry gets counted properly.  If you have questions leave a comment and I’ll answer.  If you win, I’ll mail the books to you providing that you live in the continental United States or Canada.  (unless of course you live here in town, then we can make arrangements for me to drop them off).

Here are a few of my favorites from over the past year or two:

Is It Time For A Media Diet?

As a  young boy growing up I thought my parents had some really strange rules.  One that I thought was completely weird and unnecessary was my mother’s rule that we were only allowed 10 hours of TV time a week.  Though I fought it tooth and nail at the time, the 10-hour-a-week rule had some really positive effects.  My brother and I played outside more.  We read books.  We became really good a negotiating when we figured out we could squeeze in one or two more shows a week by turning off the TV for commercials… We also became unaware of all the cool stuff that was marketed to kids and teens because we didn’t see the commercials.

I look back now and I’m kind of thankful that my mom imposed some limits on our TV consumption.  It helped round me out, I discovered my imagination and found out that I enjoyed reading, writing, sports and other things.  Her tenacity to stick to the 10 hours a week rule really shaped my character in a positive way.  At the time I argued against setting limits on Media consumption… Today as a Dad with children of my own and even more media influences than ever before I find myself echoing the wisdom of limiting the influence of media.

Please understand what I’m saying.  I’m not saying that media is bad. I’m saying too much media is not good and limits a child’s capacity and desire for other satisfying and healthy influences.  It’s like dessert, it’s a self-indulgence.  And like dessert, media is best balanced out by other influences like family time, reading, sports, church, etc.

So here is the question:  When it comes to you and your family how much time do you spend in virtual world activities (facebook, video games, television, etc.) versus real world activities (family time, reading, church, sports, etc.)? If you want a simple tool to help you calculate how much time you are your kids are spending in each world, check out the free Media-Diet-Calculator tool produced by ishinelive.com.

What is a healthy balance between virtual world activities and real world activities? We’re still working on an answer for our family, but I know this… after taking a glance at my personal numbers on the Media-Diet-Calculator I’ve determined that I need to spend even less time in the virtual world and more time engaging in the real world with my family and others.

What do you think?  How much time in the virtual world is healthy?  When does it become unhealthy to be engaged in video games, etc?  What do you and your family do to limit or be disciplined in how you use virtual world technologies?

4 Basic Guidelines for Facebook Etiquette

I am a follower of Jesus Christ (some people call us Christians) and I also like to use the internet to chat with friends, find cool things, and write out my thoughts.  So to a lot of people I am a representation of what it looks like to follow Jesus.  However, I have several friends and acquaintances that also say they rep. Jesus, but they do some crazy things with their facebook profiles that make us wonder whats really going on.

To be fair, none of us are perfect.  Following Jesus isn’t about being perfect, its about following, and sometimes we all can get a little “off track.”  Thankfully God has provided the way for us to be forgiven and come back into a right relationship with Him.  Still we should guard our online presence in the same way we are to guard our actually words.  It amazes me that sometimes we post things on facebook that we wouldn’t say to people face to face.  So here are 4 basic guidelines for facebook etiquette.

1. Don’t rat someone out of your facebook status

So you have a disagreement with someone about something.  Don’t post, “Some people make me really angry!”  You may feel that since you didn’t mention their name that it isn’t gossip or slander.  Inevitably someone comments, “what happened?” and you are either inclined to say what happened or ignore them making the interest pique all the more.  Better to not post than to drag a disagreement in the public forum or worse cause all your friends to guess at who you could possibly make you so mad.

2. Comment on other people’s profiles like you would want other people to comment on yours

If you disagree with something I post, that is okay.  If you are really offended, tell me in private and we can seek reconciliation. Don’t comment on my post that I am a jerk, idiot, or whatever.  See Guidelines #3 and #4 for more details.  If you have a comment, but wouldn’t want someone posting the same comment on your profile, then don’t post it.  If the post can not go unanswered send a message.  It is much more private and will give you the opportunity to work things out.

3. Remember facebook is very public, not private

Ok so I post, “I like spaghetti” on my profile.  Then you remember a funny (yet embarrassing) story about me and spaghetti.  You think it will be funny to comment on my “I like spaghetti” status because we have 3 friends in common who will think of the incident and laugh.  What you failed to take into account was the fact that I have 758 other friends who have no clue who you are or know the full story behind the “spaghetti incident.” What you posted as an “inside joke” and was funny to a few people can makes you look like a jerk and damages your reputation with my other friends.

4. Befriend and de-friend for the right reasons

Don’t de-friend someone just because they made you mad.  You might eventually get over it.  Resist the urge for a few days and see if things workout.

However, sometimes people have facebook profiles and they don’t need to be your friend.  They may think they are entitled, but the are not.  You choose who your facebook friends are and are not.  A few basic guidelines that I like to follow are listed below…

  • Ex-girlfriends or boyfriends probably don’t need to be your friend on FaceBook (unless it was in the distant past).  If you just came off a bad break up, you are still going to be tempted to send harassing messages back and forth.  Cut the excess drama out of your life and cut the FB friendship.
  • People who are prone to excessive gossip and slander.  You may have been hurt by past rumors and accusations and even come to a place of forgiveness.  But just because they are forgiven doesn’t mean they deserve a spot among your facebook friends.  Why would you give them open ground and opportunity to hurt you further?
  • Toxic people.  While the two mentioned above could be considered toxic people, this guideline covers the rest.  These are the people who are out to cut you down.  We all have friends who have bad days and maybe there is a disagreement from time to time, but you do not have to invite people into your facebook world who go off on you every time they get upset.

MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Tangle Christian?

The video above is from a friend of mine.  He has a different version out now.  Its a great call for followers of Jesus to wake up and realize some of the contradictions in their lives.  We claim to know Jesus and want to demonstrate love toward others, but how often does that  stop at the window of Social Media (Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)?

I am constantly disappointed by people who claim to follow Jesus but consistently live like they do not know him in how they interact on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  For example… I consistently see a “Christian” teenager type up a rant about someone else or even a “Christian” adult make an ambiguous jab at someone in their status update only to have a nosy friend ask, “what happened?” and they spill the beans about how selfish they really are and how wronged they feel about something or someone.  This is the kind of thing that should be done in private (Matthew 18) between the offended and the offender… not all over Facebook.

What are some ways that you have seen Social Media (facebook, Myspace, Twitter, etc.) be used to proclaim the message of Jesus?

What are some ways that you have seen “Christians” act in unappealing ways on Social Media?

What are some basic guidelines you would recommend for living your faith out on the internet as well as in person?

Don’t forget to view the video above and listen to the song.