Monday, July 25, 2011

Social Media

I've spoken about blogs and facebook, but the evolving world of social media is continually bringing us new ways of connecting. Recently, and reluctantly, I accepted an invitation to join Google+. (Let me know if you want an invite.) So I'll talk a bit about my take on Google+ as well as on Twitter as I've also been a Twit for quite a while now. Whether you choose to use social media or not it is good to be aware of what's out there and how you might be able to leverage it in your ministry.

Twitter

I have been tweeting under the name PomoRev for a few years now. I know a lot of people like Twitter and keep it streaming on their desktops. I tried this for a bit but found it way too distracting. I do like to drop in on it once and a while and see what is trending. Trending is basically a snapshot of what topics people are talking about the most.

What Twitter is really good for is sparking ideas. Writing a tweet, which is a message within 140 characters (including spaces!), forces you to write concisely. Some people are really good at Tweeting. I use Twitter almost exclusively to put up pithy quotes from books I'm reading. Stuff that really gets me thinking. It helps me remember the quote (to type it out) and it sometimes generates neat conversations. The thing to realize with Twitter is that it is like shooting a shotgun at a distant target. Sure you might hit it, but a lot of tweets just evaporate and some hit unexpected targets as well.

Google+

Google+ is a whole different beast. Right now it seems more like a social media connector with filters. While I don't see a lot of native content, it does capture lots of linking to content in other forms and at other locations (blogs, etc.). What is different about Google+ is that you have a lot more flexibility for who you pass on content to and filtering the content you follow from other people.

The main filter is in how you set up your contacts (what facebook calls 'friends'). Google lets you organize all the people you want to network with in a variety of ways. You can put some in family, some in friends (those you feel you can share deeply with, unlike facebook's friends' concept), some in acquaintances, some in a group called following, you can even make more groups - I have one for ministry contacts, academic contacts, and even gamers. You can place folks in more than one circle - which is helpful. Also, and this is important, no one knows what circle(s) you put them in.

Circles are used when you post status updates or link things like blog posts you like. Circles dictate who can see what you have done. Circles are also used to limit what goes in the streams you want to look at. So if you really like a few bloggers and just want to see what they've linked lately put them in the following circle and click that stream. Voila you have a window into just their online lives.

There also seems to be a move towards collaboration in Google+. The way it is set up makes it great for forming working groups and teams that you can deal with directly without getting them all mixed up with the rest of the social media crowd. (I still think that one needs to realize that all online media is in some ways public.) And Google+ includes a tool for setting up chat/video groups called hangouts. I haven't tried this yet, but I'm thinking of setting something up soon with people I normally Skype.

I think Google+ has potential for being a helpful tool. But it will depend entirely on who chooses to use it. I know my own church dragged me onto facebook - I did the myspace way back in the day and was not intending on going near facebook. But in retrospect facebook has been a good tool even if it is full of distractions. I still find myself going to facebook for updates on the people I can't see as much as I'd like. So far Google+ isn't that helpful yet and the few Google+ folk I like to keep tabs on are also doing the same stuff on facebook.

Hope this is helpful. Next week I'm hoping to have another installment of Blogs That Get You Thinking.

Frank Emanuel, Freedom Vineyard, Ottawa.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mentoring with Feeling

While I am involved in mentoring a number of folk, mostly outside of our local church context, it always surprises me when folks I have a mentoring relationship with approach me to walk through something but feel terribly guilty about asking. The reality is that mentoring people is incredibly encouraging for the one doing the mentoring. The people I have chosen to mentor are not taking life from me - they are giving it to me.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What's Difficult About the Gospel?

I just returned from holidays and am lining up some content for the following weeks. In the meantime this is what I've been reflecting on lately.

Sometimes I feel like we’ve simplified the guts right out of the gospel. In our effort to communicate something of the good news to the people God puts in our lives there is a temptation to gloss over the demands that the gospel makes on anyone who embraces it. As Paul tells us in Romans, the only reasonable response to the gospel is to present our whole selves to God. Anything less is not enough. I’ve been reflecting on this recently on my own blog and evaluating my own presentation of the gospel to those God has given me to love.

There is a certain danger in missing this important part of the gospel. That danger is that eventually those we share our gospel messages with will catch on to the actual cost of the gospel. It is helpful at this point to note that Jesus never sells it short in the gospels. All that talk about taking up our crosses is not about lapel pins. More and more often I am running into Christians who feel that Christianity did not turn out to be what they were told it was – and tragically they have invested many years into something that just does not work. In the worst of these cases the folk have given up on their faith, or at least in the institutions that should be life giving to their faith. The best cases end up with folk finding new ways of taking the gospel’s claims serious. While any misrepresentation of the gospel is tragic, I think the lesson we can learn is that we need to find better ways to communicate the gospel in its entirety.

John Wimber once said that a faulty gospel produces faulty Christians. Such an insight should cause us to always be vigilant as to the content and character of the gospel we preach. Let’s face it, we do not always get it right and different seasons bring out different aspects of the gospel. Our responsibility is to take seriously the need to continually reflect on and refine our understanding of the gospel. This is a serious charge we have been given. I personally think that this is now a season where God is calling us to consider the cost of the gospel and make that part, once again, of the content of the gospel we share with the people God leads us to.

Frank Emanuel, Freedom Vineyard, Ottawa.

Monday, July 11, 2011

On Vacation

I just realized that I hadn't scheduled anything for today. I am on vacation. I'll try to have something at the regular time next week. Enjoy the summer!

Frank Emanuel - Freedom Vineyard, Ottawa

Monday, July 4, 2011

Intensives - Thoughtworks Serving Your Community

One of the great things we get to do with Thoughtworks is bring top-notch training to your churches. Intensives are easy to put together and can be very enriching for your church and the churches in your area. Here's what you do.

1) Identify a need. The best training is timely and directed at the needs of the community. It also makes it much easier on the equippers if the group they are training is already invested in getting the most out of their training. Often training will include some pre-work (usually reading) so that the conversations can be richer and deeper. Among the areas Thoughtworks can help includes: pastoral care, biblical foundations, gaining a historical context, training in preaching and teaching, providing theological foundations, deepening faith, and others. Rather than being committed to a pre-sett inflexible programme, Thoughtworks seeks to serve the needs unique to your community.

2) Contact your Thoughtworks Rep. This is what we are here for - helping your congregation mature and flourish. We will help you figure out who best can deliver an intensive suited to your needs. We can help.

3) Choose a time and venue. A typical intensive is done on a weekend. Usually the whole day Saturday. Your role will be to provide the venue and make sure it is conducive to running the intensive you have asked for. We can work with you to make sure you know what is required.

4) Get the word out. We will help with this too. Most intensives will primarily draw from your church and the churches close by, after all the needs of communities are not all the same. Events like this a better together, so why not offer the opportunity to your neighbours? I am sure they will thank you for it. Wouldn't it be awesome if our churches were instrumental in bringing quality training to all the churches around us? We will also advertise on this blog and help you get the message out through other social media.

5) Reap the benefits. An equipped church is a confident church. In the Vineyard we love the idea that everybody plays - but we also love the idea of equipping the saints so that they can play better. This is the piece that is so important for the future of our communities. Our goal is not just a transfer of knowledge, but to ignite the spark of Kingdom possibilities in every person we can. Imagine what an equipped and confident church can do in your neighbourhoods? Imagine what we can do in out nation? Imagine what God calls us to participate in throughout the whole world! Let Your Kingdom come.

Looking forward to seeing you at a Thoughtworks intensive soon!

Frank Emanuel, Freedom Vineyard, Ottawa.

Note: the picture is Larry Levy (Halifax Metro Vineyard), I used it cause I like Larry a lot and he embodies the kind of down to earth passion for teaching that I am trying to promote here.