Tuesday, 1 September 2015

My rules for posting on social media.

In a previous blog post (here) I spoke about our need to think about how we use social media. In that post I mentioned I had some rules I always try to adhere to before posting anything - and I said I would outline them in a separate post... well this is that post.

As best as I can, I try and think about each of these things before I hit the 'post' button.

1: What is my intention?
This is the most important thing I think of when I am writing  - even just a 140 character tweet.  Why am I going to share this, and is my intention a correct one?  That doesn't mean I never post anything negative, because sometimes with the right intention a negative veined post can bring about resolution, or a call to arms or something that is not inherently 'wrong'.  But I ask myself is that what I am trying to do - or am I wanting people to see I am angry (that is not always a good intention) or am I wanting certain people to know I feel hurt (that is not a good reason) or am I wanting people to think I am especially good at something, or I am important (again, not good intent).  Many times I have written a status update, a tweet, or even a blog post - and then in considering it's intent simply decided to delete it rather than post it.

2. Am I being ambiguous?
And if I am, am I using that to generate constructive conversation, or attention on myself, or room for implying gossip? Sometimes ambiguity is a beautiful thing - it can generate interest and bring about a good discussion on an important topic.  However a real trend on social media to is ambiguously post so that people have to assume what is really going on.  A post like "That sick feeling in your stomach when someone hurts you so deep" naturally leads people to wonder 'who hurt you?' or 'what happened?'   Sometimes this is done in the worst passive aggressive way, knowing the person who hurt you will read it and know what you mean while other's will be in the dark.  This is not the way to handle conflict - especially publically.  So I always re read my post to ensure it is clear, or that if I am being intentionally ambiguous that it is for the right reason.

3. How might this post be received?
Text based communication leaves a lot of room for misunderstanding - especially with short and sharp status updates and tweets. I don't claim to think through every conceivable possibility - but I do think through some things, like 'have I had a conflict with someone recently who may read this and think it a personal attack' (I admit I learnt this from an unfortunate life experience), or 'is there someone hurting at the moment who won't appreciate this' (posting an epic car roll video on Facebook knowing a friend was just involved in a traumatic car accident isn't being very sensitive).  This is especially important if I am choosing to be ambiguous, because that leaves a lot more room for misinterpretation.

4. Is it worthwhile?
Even if I am simply posting to share a little insight into my life, I feel it has to have some worth. "I just ate a chicken sandwich" isn't an overly worthwhile post, but letting someone into your life by showing a photo of an amazing crafted sandwich and sharing your gratefulness at getting to enjoy it might be.  If the post is going to have a negative connotation, it's very important to make sure that it is worthwhile and not just me having a vent.  I don't feel social media is a constructive place to vent, and most venting is not worthwhile for those reading.

I know I don't get it right every time, but asking myself these four questions time and time again have certainly refined the way I use social media, and have definitely reduced the amount of conflict I encounter on social media.  I have a few other rules too... there are certain topics I simply won't comment on via social media - I don't think it is a conducive environment for political, social, even religious discussion - instead I'll simply offer an invitation to speak about it privately or in person.  Also another huge rule is I don't post if I am feeling personally hurt and angry about something.  I might write something - but I don't post it... I'll go to bed, or leave it for a day... then I will come back and read it and with a bit of perspective then decide whether or not to post.  Posting as an emotional response usually leads me to break the rules I mentioned above, and that usually gets me in trouble.  I especially think that if I wouldn't say this to someone face to face, then I shouldn't feel comfortable posting it on social media.

Now I've going back to re-read this post and check it out before hitting 'Publish' ;-)

Monday, 31 August 2015

Judging Success...

I struggle with judging success when it comes to my ministries... what measurements do I use? Is it purely a numbers game, or are numbers not important at all?  I would love to measure it by a depth of spirituality, but how does one quantify that, especially when it seems some people may be going deeper in their faith only to then turn around and walk away all together?

I do think numbers play some role.  Even just last night at church, nearly everyone involved with the young adults ministry was there - the numbers brought a greater feeling of belonging and purpose, just because the room was filled, and I wasn't left wondering where different people had gotten to, and if there were issues keeping people away I was going to have to work through.  Growing numbers is also a good sign, especially if it is coming through those already there inviting and bringing along new people - I think that points to the depth of the group as well, that they are receiving from whatever ministry it is, seeing its worth, and sharing it with others.

But when that's not happening, is it my failure, or is it a hardness in the group, or is it some other element outside the scheme of control?  That's where I struggle to judge where things are going right or wrong.

It's hard to set Key Performance Indicators on such a organic community, which is hopefully being designed to follow the Holy Spirit - and not so much set goals defined by the group leader.  It's also hard to set KPIs when they would be dependent on the individual relationship people are having with God - I can teach and encourage, but that is ultimately up to them to maintain.

It's not a new problem I know, but I am wondering if anyone out there has some tangible measurements they use, or ideas for implementing things with ways to reflect on the success or failure of the workings.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

A little more than useless

There's a Relient K song that says:
And sometimes I think that I'm not any good at all
And sometimes I wonder why, why I'm even here at all
But then you assure me
I'm a little more than useless
And when I think that I can't do this
You promise me that I'll get through this
And do something right
Do something right for once
We often feel useless... and label ourselves as useless. And in some senses that is correct; on our own - depending on ourselves - we are pretty much useless.  But to actually label ourselves that denies that God has anything to do with our lives at all.  God sees us as 'more than useless' because He chooses to input into our lives, all of our lives whether we recognise Him or not.  He sent Jesus so that we would not be useless.

So don't deny God the recognition of what He puts into your life... you are more than useless!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Concerns on the social media worldview

Social Media is a fantastic tool, a great way to connect with people from all over the globe.  I love that I can talk with people I served on the mission field of The Gambia with - or old school friends - or American friends who have headed home - or even just church friends during the week in a much more relaxed way.

But time and time again I am reminded that I have to make sure I don't view the social media world as equivalent to the real world.  There are many things that make the world of social media a dangerous place if you take all of your experience and information from it, without regarding what is going on in people's real life.

People say things on social media (both publically and privately) they would never say in person.  It's very easy to type out a harsh comment, or not consider the circumstances or intent of how their words will be received.  It's also very easy to misunderstand someone's social media post, because it's tough to gauge emotion, sarcasm, intention and intent from written words.

There certainly is a need for 'real world' communication to supplement and, ultimately, complete the conversation that may start on social media.

Also just as it's easy to amass a large following of people whom you hardly know... it's easy to disconnect from people you know, but find yourself in conflict with.

In times of conflict it is very easy to find the 'unfriend' button, or maybe just the 'unfollow' or in those moments of complete anger the 'block' button. But that doesn't stop the real world does it.  It's not so easy to disconnect when you are seeing the person in person.  However it does create an awkwardness... I know that I notice when people have 'unfriended' or blocked me on different social media platforms and it becomes a little strange when you go to interact in the real world knowing the person has purposely disconnected on social media: do they actually want to talk to me? should I resolve some conflict I am not really even aware of? are they still a friend here in the real world?

So as amazing a tool social media is - it has to be used carefully, and with a correct intent.  I have a few rules about what and when I post (I may share those in another post sometimes - **update** I have written that post... here), but I think everyone needs a reminded now and then that what happens on social media will affect your real world life, so you need to consider that in all things you do online!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Praying for the Mission to be Seen!

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
~Matthew 28:18-20

This passage is at the heart of everything I write here on "Working on the Mission", because it is one of the key verses that outlines the very mission we as the Church are commissioned to work on.

I find myself constantly lining up the things I am doing with passages like this... "is what I plan to do today conducive to the mission I have?"  I admit to sometimes doing my own thing, going my own way (don't we all), and those days there are times I look back and think "what a waste" - and there are times it takes me days to realise my eyes have turned from the mission.

But how are we as the Church doing? There are probably many individuals who are focused on the mission, but what about the Church as a whole?  In a wide sweeping generalisation I don't think the Church is as focused on the mission Jesus gave it as it should be.  At least in Western countries you see (especially in the mainstream media) an organisation, not a body of Christ. You see money making schemes, not disciple making.  You see people falling from grace and not teaching to observe Jesus' commands.

There are pockets of the Church doing amazing things for the mission, but on the whole the secular world has infected the church to a point that the world now sees it as a corrupted and old fashioned enterprise.

I can't feel responsible for the actions of others, but somehow I do - my heart breaks when I see news articles slamming churches and seeing that there might be some validity in their reporting. I get angry when I hear of grand expense used on material things in churches when people are going hungry right next door. Yet I feel I have no influence to change the wider church...

...except to pray.

I will continue to preach and teach about observing Jesus' commands, I will strive to make disciples, I will rejoice as I get to baptise them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And I will pray that God impacts the Church in a global sense to turn back to Him, for the gardener to prune the vine where needed and fertilise where needed - for the One with all authority in heaven and on earth to change the hearts of those who claim to follow Him and proclaim His Name.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015


I think many people believe a pastor should always be motivated to work at his job, because his job is played out as service to God. You know what I agree, and even on the tough days it is that idea of service to God that motivates me.  But that doesn't mean I am always energised and enthusiastic.  Some days I just can't get started, or I wonder why I bother, or if what I am doing is actually going to matter to anyone.

Last Sunday I preached from Matthew 22:34-40 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all of your soul and with all of your mind."  That's a pretty clear directive for our lives isn't it... and Jesus telling us to do something should be enough to motivate us into action.  But how many of us can actually say that every moment of every day we feel motivated to do that?  Even our Saviour imploring us to love Him with all our hearts isn't enough for us to actually do that without ceasing.

So it goes both ways I guess, we have to recognise that there are times that our motivation fails us and it's part of our human nature - at times as a pastor I have to recognise that some people just are not motivated (because of personal life, current situation, tiredness, spiritual dryness and many other reasons) and to be encouraging and up beat instead of coming across as an old drill Sargent pushing for things to be done.  But also people should realise that sometimes pastors struggle for motivation too, and being upbeat all the time takes a heavy toll, being involved every week takes a heavy toll, and sometimes it means that we just don't feel like doing something (even though I know most of the times pastors will still do it)... it's sometimes the expectation that it will just always be done that drains even more, and people just understanding that sometimes things are tough makes things a bit easier.

Someone posted this on Facebook last night, and though I am not their pastor, it was encouraging to think that people do think like this.  I'm not sure which stats I sit in personally, but they are definitely worthy of thinking about and considering - and wondering how you might be able to care for your pastor this week.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Encouraged and reminded by example.

I can't get enough of the things Francis Chan says at the moment. This quote probably sums up why, because everything Chan does points to Jesus.

It's a challenge that I try and keep right before me. I know I don't meet that challenge very well most of the time, but I am also so thankful for the grace that my life sits on, because when I fail to point to Jesus His grace continues to bring me close to Him when I repent.

My whole life is Jesus' - He has bought it, it's completely paid for by His blood.  Though I wrestle it back at times, I willingly hand it back when I realise the error of my ways. My life is not a great example continually pointing to Jesus, but my life is a fantastic example of God's grace at work.
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