Discernment Danger

You have probably heard the old adage: “bank staff learn to identify counterfeit money by handling the real thing.”

I suspect we have a growing problem today. Actually, several.

1. Too many of us don’t think counterfeit money exists. Actually, I am not thinking about money. I am referring to ideas and agendas. Too many of us are shockingly naive. We have a vague notion that there is sin in the world, but still we assume that nobody could have ulterior motives as they deal in words (at least, not ones that are not immediately obvious to me). If you question the standard media or cultural narrative on any issue then you run the risk of being dismissed for believing conspiracy theories or being classified as a bigot or nutcase. Hold on, assuming the media or culture has no motivation to push anti-God, anti-Christian, or anti-truth agendas is about as crazy as suggesting nobody has any motivation to make or use counterfeit money! This world is full of lies and it cannot be the job of Facebook or Twitter to guide us into all truth.

2. Too many of us spend too much time handling “funny money.” Again, I am not thinking about money. I am referring to social media, mainstream media, Hollywood/entertainment media, news, etc. If we believe it is all neutral and trustworthy, we will become eerily unaware when our values are molded into the shape of this world, rather than being transformed by the renewing of our minds. How easily we can give hours each day, tens of hours each week, to a cultural indoctrination program that we don’t really believe exists. Is it time to take stock and stop feeling so impervious and maybe even being so arrogant?

3. Too many of us spend too little time handling the real thing. You might prefer this post to be about handling money, but that is not at all what I am writing about! I suspect that one of the big problems in our world today is that too many of us who know God and the truth of His Word are too distracted by the communications of this world to really soak in God’s Word. What this world needs is not primarily for us to be constantly active on social media, thoroughly conversant with every news story or knowledgeable about every movie (all of these may have some value, of course). What this world needs is men and women who are strangely soaked in God’s Word, “divines” if you will.

I know which of these three points has convicted me. Which is on target for you? If you aren’t sure, start with number 1.

3 Weird Things To Avoid Doing on Social Media

SocialMedia2It is easy to live in the moment and lose perspective.  For instance, let’s think about social media.  As a preacher or church leader, just press rewind and imagine doing the following things back in the old days (i.e. even the 1980’s or 1990’s).  What would it look like if we went back in time by a generation, thus removing social media, but still acted the same way?  Would we really do the following?

1. Mundane Info Sharing.  It’s Monday morning.  You had a busy Sunday and are not feeling too motivated to dive into another week.  So you are running a few errands for the family and decide to sit down at a cafe for a cup of (in those days) regular coffee.  Before you do, you take out your church phone list and drop a load of coins into the public phone just outside the cafe.  “Hey, Roger!  I am just going to sit down for a coffee and unwind for a few minutes.  I might look at a newspaper.  I’m just a normal person!  Thought you’d like to know!”  Several hundred calls later, you get your coffee.  Weird.  Sharing mundane info should have died out after the first six months of Twitter.  It mostly did.  Facebook is another story . . .

2. Retweeting Praise of Your Preaching.  Just as the crowded church is starting to head for the door, would you rush back up to the podium, tap awkwardly on the microphone and get everybody’s attention . . . “Hey folks!?  Before you all head for home, I just wanted to share with you what I heard Tom saying in the lobby.  He told a couple of his friends that my sermon was the best he’d ever heard!”  And would you stop on the way, get the sound guy to press the record button on the cassette, then make copies of it and send it to everyone you know?  Probably not.  It is weird. Social media doesn’t make this kind of self-promotion any more appropriate today than thirty years ago.  If other people praise you, be thankful.  But a retweet smells a lot like self-praise.

3. Name Dropping.  As you walk into the dining hall at the conference venue, you spot a “celebrity” Christian.  So you squat down next to their seat and have your friend snap a picture.  Immediately you rush to the nearest one-hour photo place and have a few hundred copies made, before posting them to everyone you know with the note, “Guess who I just met?”  Would you have done this back in the day?  Probably not.  This is also weird behaviour.  There is certainly a place for public acknowledgement of people you appreciate, but sometimes it can feel like the smiling you is the real centrepiece of the picture.

Bonus – Time Wasting.  You have two hours before your next appointment.  So you sit down to read a book.  You never get to it.  This may have happened back then, but maybe less than today?

I am sure all of us fall foul to this list now and then, but are any of these things your standard way of functioning? Social media is an amazing resource, but as preachers and church leaders, let’s be sure to use it well!

Any other weird behaviours you would add to the list?

Facebook in Sermon Preparation

James Wood made the following comment on the post Extent of Application:

I think he brings up a good point. I’ve tried to combat this by forming the sermon through conversation with the community. The beauty is, technology can aid this! I will post questions from the text to my facebook page as I’m studying. The responses help me to direct my study and hone my examples to reflect the needs of the community.

I have not tried this, but am intrigued.  While not a huge fan of facebook, it may be an easy way to access “feed-forward” input in the preparation of a sermon.  The point of “feed-forward” input is to be able to hone a message in advance of it being preached by gaining input from an individual or group during the preparation process.  (Obviously it is kind of like feedback, but in anticipation.)

Has anyone else tried using Facebook or Twitter or even good old fashioned email for input prior to preaching?  There is something about face to face interaction, but let’s be honest and recognize that something is better than nothing and unless we have a system in place, we are often choosing nothing over something in these matters.  At the same time, perhaps people feel less pressure in an electronic social setting and are therefore more willing to engage honestly?

Any thoughts or experience on this, please share!