Faith Lab

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Going a little different direction with the blog.  We will see what happens

A different approch

So a while ago I made my last post.

It was, of course, another post about hoping to be more active in the blog.  There has been little movement on that front.

In conversation with one of Eden’s teachers the other day we were talking about putting things out to meet our goals.  As part of that it is important to look of the low hanging fruit to build up the momentum. So, in that spirit I know that  I know that i am much more of a spoken word communicator rather than then the written word.  I have the needed recording equipment and I am going to try and ream up some audio posts that will come out in the future and may turn into a podcast based out of this blog.

We will see if it goes anywhere….. Here’s to experimenting.

One Proud Pastor

There are times where my heart bursts with pride because of the faith community that I get to serve.  For the past month and a half we have taken a look at different religions of the world.  Each week we laid the foundations for the beliefs for each religion and then sought out some of the similarities between Christianity and the others.  Additionally, we attempted to see where we can be reminded of the depth and wonder of the Christian faith by seeing how other faith traditions may call us to refocus on some aspect of Christianity.  We also spoke honestly about the differences.

The goal of this series was that we could sit down for a cup of coffee with someone of a different faith and no one have to give up our beliefs or convictions, but we could both be more deeply committed to our faith because of the conversation.

The series, it gave me a platform to make connections with many people who I wouldn’t have connected with otherwise.  I met many hindu, buddhist, jewish, atheist, muslim and even some christian folk who shared their story with me.

There was a lot of trust placed in the church and prayer for the Spirit’s guidance during this series.  The leadership, worshiping congregation and FaithPoint community at large took a big risk with these conversations.  As a community of faith committed to making our belief and practice a real everyday part of our lives these conversations needed to happen.

This past weekend we partnered with a local mosque and have a panel of young people come and talk (over coffee) about the core beliefs and practices of Islam as well as some of the differences.  This was our chance to show that the kinds of conversations that we had been encouraging throughout the series are really possible.  We had 5 young people come and be part of the conversation.  Some were in high school, others in college and one is a teacher at the middle school that we worship.

To be honest I was nervous.  For weeks I struggled with how much of the conversation should be outlined ahead of time and how much should be organic.  I knew this was a conversation we were called to facilitate, but the “what ifs” kept creeping in.  I had only met 1 of the students ahead of time.  But if we are going to model this kind of conversation the more “real” it could be the better…right?

So, I sent out our order of worship to the group ahead of time along with contact info and about 5 questions to guide the conversation.  That was all the pre-conversation scripting that happened.  I was determined that there would be no surprise for these young people and FaithPoint’s leaders and those serving last weekend were a huge part of making them feel comfortable.  Emails were sent to their parents and FaithPoint’s leadership affirmed how these young people were brave coming into “our” space to share. “So let’s make sure they know they are our special guests,” one of my leaders said.

The time came for the conversation and it was easy and natural.  The coffee was also great.  I had a blast!!! I learned so much, made great connections and couldn’t believe how quickly the time went.  The best part was that we were able to say we needed to do it again rather than outright ending the conversation.

BUT THEN…. worship ended and the FaithPoint community descended on our guests.  I stood back and watched as the group was surrounded by a whole church full of people saying thank you, giving hugs, and in tears that we could come together and find common ground.  I watched as a proud parent at the playground when their kids interact with others.  My heart was overflowing.  We were late getting cleaned up because of the rich connections that were happening.

I know this interaction couldn’t happen everywhere, but FaithPoint is one of those places called to be a forum for this kind of conversation and I couldn’t be more pleased, proud and blown away that I get to be their pastor.

Thank you , Thank you, thank you for being the church you have been called to be as we all grow in God’s grace together rather than the church that is comfortable resting on “the way it has always been.”

Don’t just LIKE, Be Social

“Don’t just LIKE, Be Social”

The long and short of this post is:

What if we didn’t favorite a tweet, like a post or +1 an image without also commenting?  

I have been looking at the way we use social media and studies that go alone with life satisfaction and what gains traction and what doesn’t. A number of studies have shown the effects of facebook on our mental health.  One of the most notable comes for the University of Michigan which found support for the hypothesis that the more you use facebook the worse you feel.  Check it out here

A little while ago a study was conducted using twitter to show the life-cycle of happy vs unhappy tweets.  Interestingly even happy tweets would at times gain steam because of negative feedback.  Sorry I couldn’t find the source for this one.  You can see another study that attempted to quantify happiness or sadness via tweets.  Though the source and research techniques may be a little more suspect but may uncover a trend.  Check it out here

It shouldn’t be a real surprise that the things that keep coming up seem to be negative or of no real value.  Case and point, this week being all of the talk of the newest Kim Karshshidan pic (mehh) overshadowing the fact that a drone was landed on a comet (super cool).  We see the trend to the negative in television news stories too because they are the ones that get the ratings rather than stories filled with rainbows and unicorns.

So what is social good for?

Being social, of course.

Our social interactions have the potential to make some really powerful connections, but they often lack real interaction.  We like, retweet and plus one things rather than engaging and adding to the conversation.  This may be illustrated when a friend posts that they have just suffered a tragic event or lost someone close to them and there are always a handful of people who respond the the information by pressing the little thumbs up.

Sure there is a kind of social contact that is happening, but there i little fellowship that is happening.  I am reminded of Howard Thurman’s comments as a precursor voice to the civil rights movement who recalled the understanding of contact without fellowship.  Thurman’s reminder of calling us back to true connection and conversation may have application in breaking down a different kind of barrier today.  When we only have the perception of someone else’s story without knowing their story we quickly paint an unfair picture of this person or group.  Or as one pastor puts it:

The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.Steve Furtick

As we look to the holiday season, we have to realize this is a tough time for many people.  In every church I have served on staff of or volunteered at people mention the pain of the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.   I think that there may be a way for all of us to leverage social media for what it was made for, turning a profit through selling our personal information,  making meaningful connections with other people.

The Experiment:

So here is the proposal.  What if we didn’t like, favorite or +1 any social post without adding something to the conversation? 

I think this would do a number of positive things

  1. This may remind us that we are interacting with real people who are living real lives, just like we are.  Often we are comfortable with the anonymity of the web and forget that there is someone on the other end of the interactions
  2. It may foster some real and meaningful interactions that you cannot have through just a click of the mouse or a tap of your finger.
  3. At least in the case of Facebook it may make your social experience more pleasant because the more you interact in a positive way the more Facebook’s algorithm will serve you up a stream of meaningful posts rather than noise and junk.
  4. If we know we are going to interact more thoughtfully we may be more intentional about when and how often we get on our social sites.  Therefore we will get some of our day back.

I may be totally off point, but these are some anecdotal things that I have seen as I have tried to regulate my social media use.  It may be worth a try for you.  I know it has been positive for me.

The Other 6 days

When someone finds out that I am a pastor, I will often be asked “So what do you do the other 6 days of the week?”

Besides the obvious, 16 hours of daily prayer, bible study and fasting, there are a ton of exciting things to do.

My church is currently doing a teaching series on the balance of family life, and so I have been more aware of doing some fun and different things with my girls so that they will ask questions or have fun. The goal is to take a little bit of the frantic-ness out of our lives.

After some conversation with our 7 year old about the dishwasher, we made a hypothesis about what happens to get the dishes clean.  One guess was that little guys come out from a trap door and scrub the dishes with little brushes (mine). The other guess involved a lot of bubbles (Eden’s).

So yesterday Bethany and I took some video of what happens in the dish washer.  We set up a light in a Tupperware food bin so that we could see the the little guys come out and scrub our dishes what happens inside the dishwasher.

Bethany’s input to the project was to make sure her Elmo plate was washed, so he was given a staring role.

The footage proved to be less dramatic than either hypothesis, but fun none the less.  It also is a good opportunity for some good creative thinking and conversation.

Back to the question at hand, “What do I do the other 6 days that are not Sunday?” My week is filled with planning worship, youth group, pastoral care, cross country practice, meetings, paperwork, juggling and putting out the occasional fire just to name a few things.  While all of the work stuff chips away at my time I try and fight for the family time and make that a priority.  I don’t always do great at it, but when I do it is super fun and that is the encouragement to do it more.

Next stop… The dryer

All Saints’ Weekend

This past weekend was All Saints’ weekend where I was privileged to share with my district superintendent what FaithPoint has been up to in this past year.

If I am being honest I will tell you that I don’t really remember picking when our annual charge conference would be considering it feels like we signed up for them 6 months ago.  Charge Conference is a meeting where our District Superintendent, JW Park, comes  to check in on how FaithPoint is doing.  He has a little over 75 churches that he oversees as a kind of pastor of pastors.

As I reflect on this weekend I can’t think of a better time to have a worship celebration of this kind than on All Saint’s day.  This is not only because we got an extra hour of sleep due to the time change, but also because it puts into perspective that we are not alone in this journey of faith.  There are those who have faithfully gone before us to blaze trials and pave the way for us to be the church (universal) we are today.  There is also a realization that at some point we too will be part of the great cloud of witnesses encouraging others to faith and good deeds.

We were able to share with JW and the FaithPoint congregation the ways that we are growing in our weekend worship, making disciples though youth ministry and raising up young leaders.  We also were able to honestly talk about our growing edges as well.  As a congregation called to reach out wide and invite the non-religious and nominally religious, financial stewardship is a critical part of our discipleship.  It is critical that we don’t minimize this growing edge because our finances are what allows us to live into the mission.  Financial stewardship is first and foremost a discipleship issue.  It is also a way that we are able to partner with the Holy Spirit and the local church to transform hearts and lives.  Your giving to the church will not return a dividend check each quarter, but goes a long way to make disciples and change the lives of those in our community and beyond.

We finished up the service with communion and a time of sharing about the impact that some of our local missions have had on our community and some of those servants who were willing to make food and be the hands and feet of Christ in Urbana.  It was awesome.

After worship we were able to gather for some food and the business end of the Charge Conference.  We ate, and between mouthfuls of delicious food, voted on leadership, approved compensation and set goals for the coming year.  I have to say that it was by far the best annual meeting I have ever had.

Above all, this past weekend reminded me of how proud I am to be the pastor of FaithPoint.

We has a trunk-or-treat to start the weekend, then worship and charge conference, and the weekend came to a close with youth group.  As I was a part of all of the ministry that happened I found myself pausing and thinking, “I can’t believe I get to do this for a living!”  Yes we are not a perfect church, but we may be perfect for those we are called to reach. We have growing edges, but they are a result of us doing what we are here to do.

The fact that few other churches would have a sandal and superhero tee wearing, socially awkward goober like me is not lost on me either.  🙂

I can’t wait to see how God uses FaithPoint in the coming year.  I know the course we have set and I am excited about the ride to come.