Social Media Club of the UMC

I have enjoyed being involved in #SMCKC, the Social Media Club of Kansas City. I have learned a lot from others, particularly over the past few months in presentations on social media efforts from various local companies. In addition, conversations have proven to be fruitful.

So why not #smcumc? A Social Media Club for The United Methodist Church? A mission or purpose statement could be similar to that found at the #SMCKC website:

“Our primary goal is to help the greater Kansas City and sister communities across the country understand social media’s purpose, use and benefits. #smckc was founded on six pillars: Awareness, Education, Advocacy, Industry Leadership, Adoption of Standards, and Technology.”

I believe that the UMC at all levels, from local church to general agencies and general conference could benefit from better leveraging social media.

Who’s in?

What is God’s purpose?

The best response that I have to this is found in scripture:

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.'” (Exodus 3:14, TNIV)

God is.

God exists in relationship eternally, with creation, humanity and individuals. Perhaps God’s purpose is to love and be loved in return.

What would you add to this response?

I recently met with a congregant who shared some deep questions with me. I asked for permission to share them on this blog to more broadly share my response.

Gospel according to BRGR

How’s this for an “About Us” page on church website?

First United Methodist Church (First UMC) brings you a fresh adaptation of the most classic faith concept around. The gospel of Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem and bred across the world as a way of reconciling people to God, but it’s grown up a bit, and has become an active part of bringing the kingdom of God on earth. Imagine the original gospel from early house churches, recreated using 21st century methods, and you have First UMC’s gospel presentation. First UMC (the forerunner denomination’s initials) is bringing “the gospel of Jesus Christ” into the neighborhood. Considering the current economy and the popularity of the burger, the founders Nicole and Andrew, decided to bring you a value-oriented church experience for the grown-up lover of God. At First UMC expect to get great worship made with fresh ingredients, focused service, and a little reverence for the classic gospel of Jesus Christ.

This was inspired a few days ago when Nicole and I were in the Corinth Square shopping center to get a couple pairs of Nicole’s shoes repaired at a great shop. It was about lunch time and we decided to eat at a new restaurant – B.R.G.R. Kitchen + Bar. We split the BRGR burger and it was the best burger that I have had in a long time, yes, better than Five Guys. In addition, the restaurant was an excellently designed space. When we arrived home, I checked out their website. This is where I was really impressed – their about us section reads:

BRGR KITCHEN + BAR brings you a fresh adaptation of the most classic restaurant concept around. The hamburger was born and bred in America as a convenient way to eat on the go, but it’s grown up a bit, and has become our country’s favorite food. Imagine those original burgers from classic burger joints, recreated using 21st century methods, and you have BRGR’s modern burger. BRGR (the owners’ initials) is bringing “the modern burger joint” into the neighborhood. Considering the current economy and the popularity of the burger, the owners Gaylin and Roberts, decided to bring you a value-oriented culinary experience for the grown-up burger lover. At BRGR Kitchen + Bar expect to get great food made with fresh ingredients, focused service, and a little reverence for the classic American burger.

How simple, yet how well executed.

4 Ways to Consider “Spiritualising the Internet”

Several months ago, I received a copy of several articles that explore the intersection of religion and the internet. I was fascinated. I had no idea that there was scholarly work being done on the subject. My background in biology and small experience in research combined with my current job description as Pastor of Resurrection Online lead to great interest for me. I want to record some of my notes on the articles and at the same time share them with you.

Spiritualising the Internet: Uncovering Discourses and Narratives of Religious Internet Usage by Heidi Campbell was published in 2005 in the Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet. You can download a PDF copy here. “Spiritualising the Internet means the Internet is seen as a technology or space that is suitable for religious engagement, whereby allowing users to include Internet-based activities into [the] rhythm of their spiritual lives” (2). Campbell presents four ways in which the spiritualization of the internet could be discussed:

  • “The Internet as a spiritual medium frames the Internet as a technology possessing, within the hardware and wires, an unseen realm where humanity can encounter the transcendent and spiritual experience” (13).
    • In this discourse, the internet functions as a ‘spiritual network’ (14).
  • “The Internet as a sacramental space discourse frames the Internet as space which can be shaped to allow people to engage in new or traditional religious rituals online” (13).
    • In this discourse, the internet can serve as a ‘worship space’ (14).
  • “The Internet as tool for promoting religion frames the Internet as resource able to connect with religious people and activities that can lead them to spiritual transformation” (14).
    • In this discourse, the internet is a ‘missionary tool’ (14).
  • “Finally, the Internet as a technology affirming religious life frames the Internet as a resource for building a communal or individual connection with a particular religious tradition or form of life” (14).
    • In this discourse, the internet supports ‘religious identity’ (14).

I very much appreciate Campbell’s treatment of the subject and find these four discourses to be a good classification.

The internet as spiritual medium does not make much sense to me and I do not believe that this way of spiritualizing the internet could come out of Christian tradition. The final three ways of considering the internet are all ways that Resurrection Online is seeking to spiritualize the internet.

  1. Resurrection Online seeks to encourage people to engage in both traditional and new religious rituals through the internet. Right now, this is primarily in the weekly worship service.
  2. Resurrection Online seeks to be an evangelism tool which can be used to connect with non religious and nominally religious people. I believe that this is a tool for those that are already connected with Resurrection to use when inviting others into the community.
  3. Resurrection Online seeks to affirm a United Methodist way of being a Christian with the flavor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection with a particular purpose, vision and journey.

What do you think about the categories that Campbell presents? How might Resurrection Online live more fully into these categories? Would that even be helpful?

Will you share your thoughts, feelings or opinions in the comments?

Church = Spiritual Formation

I believe that the primary role of the church is spiritual formation.

Through worship, teaching, classes, serving, conversation, care, accountability and many other specifics the faith community that is the church is about forming the souls closer to the image of God. This journey of sanctification moves us closer toward perfect love of God and neighbor.

In Matthew 28, Jesus sends the disciples to:

  • go
  • make disciples
  • baptize
  • teach

All part of spiritual formation.

Do you agree? Why or why not?

Guest Blog – A 3-Year Plan

This is a guest post from Kyle Holt of The New Parables and The Bible in Rhyme. From his blog: Each person is called to use the talents God gave us; to be a voice of one calling out in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord. Make straight paths for Him.”

I turned 30 years old in January, and it’s an age that should make any Christian pause and think. Jesus started his ministry when he was 30 and it ended 3 years later upon his death, but what he did during those three years has influenced billions of people over the last 2,000 years.

So what am I going to do in the next three years?

This is a question that we ought to be asking ourselves every day of our lives, but we get caught up in our own routines and forget this very important question.

I have a two-year old son, and I want to see him grow up. But if my death at thirty-three would bring billions (or even thousands) to God, wouldn’t it be worth it? It’s a scary thought, but Christ tells us that those who love their lives will lose them, and those who give up their lives for him will gain everlasting life. We’re not to martyr ourselves, but it is a call to be in the world, not of it.

Businesses and individuals often make 5 or 10-year plans. In the same vein, I would lobby that Christians should set forth a 3-year plan. The messiah completely redefined the world in three years. He was setting an example for us. As if to say, “I did it, and so can you.” Given, we are not the perfection that Jesus was, but if we strive to be, then we can reshape life as we know it.

If I live to be 75 years old, I have the opportunity to develop fifteen 3-year plans during the remainder of my life. What an opportunity! But in order to maximize that opportunity, I have to start now.

In 2006, I felt called to start working on a project called The Bible in Rhyme (www.thebibleinrhyme.com). It is my hope and prayer that God intends this to be a part of my 3-year plan. I pray that it is something that can work in the hearts, minds, and spirits of Christians and non-Christians alike. I don’t know what will happen, but I trust that God will guide me the way He wants me to go. And I know that it will require a lot of hard work on my part.

Besides, isn’t hard work what God asks from all of us? We are called to love and to believe, but that’s just the beginning. To really make something happen, we have to be ready to get our hands in the dirt and work for Him. To give up our worldly lives do His will here on earth.

So today, tomorrow, and definitely at each birthday, I recommend you ask yourself, “What is my 3-year plan?” Leave 5-year plans and 10-year plans to businesses. Make the 3-year plan God’s.

Influencing the United Methodist Church

Last week one of my colleagues asked, Are you comfortable with the influence that The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection has on the United Methodist Church?

Yes, I am comfortable with the influence that Resurrection has on the denomination. I think that Resurrection seeks to represent the extreme center in the United Methodist Church and within the religious dialogue in the United States. I think that this is a voice that is desperately needed within the denomination and a voice is able to speak in meaningful ways to those outside the denomination – both non religious persons and those of other denominations. I believe that Resurrection is thoroughly Christian, Methodist and Wesleyan and I feel great about those influences shaping the denomination.

However, I also recognize that there are many churches and leaders across the world that are working for renewal within The United Methodist Church and within local churches. I think that Resurrection has a lot to learn from others as well. I think that the denomination is healthier with many congregations and leaders actively seeking and working toward renewal.

Every day that I am at church I pray for spiritual revival in Kansas, renewal within The United Methodist Church, wisdom and endurance for delegates to General Conference and Resurrection‘s purpose, vision and journey. I believe that all of these can be and are influenced by the others and I hope to be a part of God’s work in this place and time.

  • What do you think about all this?
  • Do you think that Resurrection has an influence on the denomination? If so, is it an appropriate level?
  • What congregations do believe have significant influence on The United Methodist Church?
  • What individuals do believe have significant influence on The United Methodist Church?
  • What other topics did I leave out of this conversation which need to be addressed?