Social Media, Blogging, Ministry and Work

August 18, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Monday night was not the first time that is happened, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.  All it is is the most recent.  It wasn’t a public rebuke.  I don’t know if you could even consider it a rebuke per se.  More than anything it was an encouragement to be better and to be a more effective successful pastor.  Now mind you, I have been rebuked before.  I have also been just asked questions about this before.  This was somewhere in between.

The issue, and I’ve probably been asked this 5 or 6 times, has to do with blogging, ministry, social networking, etc.  If someone is a pastor or a minister, is it “work” to be on Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?  This brings up a much broader question about what is and is not work.  If I’m out to eat with my family and someone from the church comes up and talks to us for 10-15 minutes, is that work?  If I am at home sort of watching TV, but rehearsing my intro to my sermon in my head, is that work?  Is having coffee with a guy from the church talking about sports work?  Is it only work if it’s in an office with papers and/or computer?  Some of my job can easily look like fun, does that make it “not work?”  If a pastor is going to be honest, he will often admit that this issue is a struggle.

However, we are talking about something specific–social networking.  If I am on my computer, replying to people’s emails or working on a sermon, and I click over to the Facebook (friend me here.) or Twitter (here) and talk about what I am doing, is that work or not?  If I blog about something related to church, and ask people to read it, is that work?  What if it’s a devotional?  What if it’s silliness?  What if it’s all three? Let me give you my reasoning (defense?) for why I do what I do.

I view my job as being somewhat complex and relatively nebulous (vague, undefined).  However, the goals are pretty clear.  I am to help people have a relationship with Jesus, grow in that relationship, and then help them help others have that relationship.  How one best does that is a matter of style, effectiveness, personality and a lot of factors.  I believe that I need to teach and inspire.  I also believe that the best way to do that is through relationships.  I want to know people and for them to know me.  I believe that gives me a stronger platform for teaching and influence.

Therefore during the day, I will take time out to post something about what’s going on with me and will check on what people are doing.  Sometimes it’s informational.  Sometimes it’s humorous.  Sometimes it’s an invitation to church, a ministry or to read something that I wrote on my blog.  Most of what I write on are short devotional thoughts that I hope can help people grow in their walks with God.  Short, on-line devotionals.  To me, there is little doubt that the writing of a devotional and the encouraging the reading of said devotional is “work.”  If not, then the preparation and delivery of sermons would have to be called into question.  To me that is an easy way to take a few minutes and connect with about 200 or so people and help encourage them.

FB posts and Tweets that are not of an overtly spiritual nature feel like a good thing for me to do as well.  I am connecting with people where they are–on-line.  If there were a few hundred people gathered somewhere and I went to talk to them, I would consider that productive, even if it were just to say hi.  If I then got to share a thought about God with them, all the better.  It is my desire to be with people, connect with people, be it “live,” on-line, on the phone, whichever.  To me Social Networking is a highly effective ways to do what God has called me to do as a pastor.

Now, let the debate begin.  Does this ring true to you?  Does it seem like the ramblings of a guy who likes to justify goofin’ around on the computer?  What do you think when you see a pastor that does a lot of that?

Please, let me know what you think.  My guess is there are churches our there banning FB at the church office and those that require Twitter accounts for all staff and everything in between.  What do you think?  If you want to say something that you feel would be a public rebuke, don’t sweat it.  If you want to make it anonymous, you can.  I will make sure it still ends up in the comments.  Now…go!


7 Responses to “Social Media, Blogging, Ministry and Work”
  1. Cyndi Williams says:

    Okay, I’ll go! Charlie, there has never been any doubt in my mind that this is “work” for you. Our sermon last week was about how we spend our time and that we don’t really have to feel bad about our time online or socializing with friends, etc because it is possible and the right thing to incorporate God into those other activities and parts of your life. I have seen God on Facebook many times and been amazed to have a friend across the world who I have never met ask me why I believe what I believe and to see her grow in her own understanding over the past 2 years. How else would God be able to expand my territory in such an unbelievable way if not Facebook? So, yes…I think you are doing this as a way to reach people for God. I don’t buy that if you also enjoy something it can’t be work! Keep it up, Charlie.

    (PS-I especially feel closer to God on American Idol nights, so thank you…and please keep those spiritual threads coming!)

  2. Megan says:

    Wow, what a great post! I feel like I could jump off half a dozen topics in response right now.

    It’s all about personal preference of the pastor, but I think that to the extent he feels comfortable and can be disciplined about it (many of us can testify to the great timesuck that facebook et al can be), it is desirable if not necessary for him to have an active presence in the social networks.

    I think you’ve talked before about being who you are no matter the setting. What better way to walk that walk than day to day online?

    It is actually a high calling if you really think about it. You might be the only pastor-type a person interacts with, a person who would “friend” you because of a common past but would not likely visit you at your church. It is a great opportunity to live life before a larger community of people and point them to Christ. Living life before them, foibles and all, of course, because “fakebookers” are a huge bummer, dude.

    Of course, not just pastors; we should all be mindful of the great opportunity that we have to truly connect with people online and how we represent Jesus. I think it is a fine line to walk to be real yet not complaining, to be hopeful yet not bragadocious (really, spellcheck? you don’t know that word?) and ultimately to point to Christ.

  3. Scott says:

    I love the fact that you are involved in this debate. It was so nice having you in Cabot, and this was one reason why. One thing that drew me to you as a pastor and a friend was that you are “real”. You have a great heart for what you do, but also are more than willing to show you are human. Examples I would give are those like what Cyndi posted about American Idol nights, and other times when not only are you being “spiritual” in your posts or blogs, but showing who you really are. So many pastors and leaders now-a-days for some reason feel that they can’t show any flaws and have to be absolutely perfect in their members eyes. It is tremendously refreshing that you are willing to discuss everything, and it was great getting to know you in Cabot. Being “real” and “relevent” (two words you have mentioned as overused but apply here) is one reason why I have looked up to you so much. It makes you very easy to talk to and work with, because I don’t feel like I need to hide anything. Keep up the great work you do!

    We miss you guys in Cabot, and are glad to hear things are settling in Fayetteville. Hope to come see you guys soon!

  4. Kevin says:

    I see it as using the technology God blessed man with to extend the reach of Christ’s good news. Can you imagine the mission field in 20 years when almost the entirety of the world is online? Granted, there will be areas that may never truly make it into the digital age and will require traditional methods, but I get excited by the fact that the barriers to spreading the reach of the gospel may be transcended by the use of social networking and other technologies.

    The church I am attending now has Facebook name and Twitter account lines on their communications cards. That is embracing and reaching into where people live indeed!

  5. Jennifer Loftin says:

    Two thoughts come to mind and both spell: BALANCE. First thought, in college I had a professor of English Lit that absolutely refused to e-mail, etc. He said he was hired to teach Romanticism, etc. and could not be effective if he had to devote two hours a day to answering e-mails on sometimes stupid things. I always deeply appreciated his choice. He was amazingly deep and a rare find as a person. His knowledge of literature was sincere, extremely deep and broad. His house was filled with literally thousands of first editions of every 17th to 18th century British writer. It was amazing!

    Something I have noticed in the last 15 years in the church is a lack of depth on real spiritual issues and knowing God’s word. This is a huge injustice to the flock. Without the spiritual knowledge of God’s word we are at a lost to be healed, to be freed, to come out of bondages, to fight false religions coming into our land. Sometimes I fear that our conversations are so light and on the surface. I remember in the 80s men who knew how to do battles in the spirit, who had sustained times with Jesus. They got away to know the Father. And as a result, I grew to know God greater through them and not just think they were nice, godly guys. I have gone to a few pastors in the last 10 years who didn’t know how to deal or discern spiritual issues in my life (God routed me to a church in St. Louis that did) but they were stylish pastors. Sometimes I get sick on my stomach when I see powerpoints about the presence of God – can no one talk deeply from their own experience and give personal testimonies anymore? I long for depth which takes extended time with Jesus.

    Second thought – Recently, I found more community and spiritual fellowship online through a social networking site for booklovers called shelfari. Not only was I loved and prayed for but also exhorted and shepherded – given guidance about what to reveal online and what was too intimate. There were some pastors who literally acted like watchmen on the walls to protect us. One of these dear men was a retired missionary to Africa. He was from the Netherlands. I was going through so much and my church was too big, and too busy to speak to anybody there. I tried. I felt foolish for spilling my guts on the site one day but the next morning I woke up at 3 p.m. and felt the presence of God all over my apartment. My heart was flooded with supernatural peace. I thought, “I’ve been prayed for”. And I had. I checked my e-mail to find that this old missionary responded beautifully to my needs and hurts, even giving a recommendation for one of the best resources I’ve ever read.

    SO, yes to social networking as long as it doesn’t distract from your own personal depth and time spent knowing the Lord.

  6. Josh says:

    I agree with Jennifer about balance. FB and twitter are great for connecting with people. But I question how deeply we can truly connect with people on social networking sites and even if we can, how many people really do truly connect with their “friends” on there. Also, we can’t forget there are people who don’t use them. The most recent poll I heard said 50% of people in the U.S use social networking (facebook, myspace, twitter).

  7. Brandy Vines says:

    I have argued the whole social networking thing with a couple of friends that do not use Facebook or Twitter. Usually they had the same reasons for not subscribing…gossip, bad news, spreading negativity, etc. I have told them all that my view on it is that we can use social networking for good if we want to do it. Sure, its easy to complain or post a negative comment about something, but how powerful would Facebook, for example, be if believers used it as a platform to glorify God and reach out to others? We don’t all have the gift of ministry or creative writing but a short status update or wall post is all it takes to be used to glorify God. Not to mention, it has amazed me how many people can be reached for a prayer request when it’s posted on a status update. Knowing that fellow believers and friends by the dozens are praying for each other every time a request is made.

    We all have friends that are not believers or are sceptical to say the least but when these people view our comments and pages, what will they see about who we are? Is there anything different about the tone or context of postings we submit? It’s been said a million times that you may be the only “Jesus” that a particular person ever sees. If they don’t like you or if we don’t seem any different than the rest of the world, how will we ever convince them to want to know our Jesus?

    I’m definately not gifted with communicating my thoughts through blogging, but I hope that makes some sort of sense when others read it. Just as in our everyday life, we can chose to walk or Facebook/Tweet in love if that is where our heart is!

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