A new series begins today at http://missioscapes.com entitled, "If We Were the GCR Task Force." Marty Duren writes the first of seven scheduled posts by the editors during the month of August addressing the GCR and offering our thoughts on what we would do if we were them. It should be a profitable discussion and I hope that you take a look at it. Leave a comment and give us your thoughts. By the way, I'll be writing quite a few posts like this announcing new articles for missioscapes.com since it is a new site and we are trying to let people know about it.
Me. What do all of us have in common? Apart from being friends, we have blogged on ministry and missional living over the past few years as pastors and leaders. We also found common ground in some of our views on the SBC and found ourselves blogging together on the now defunct SBCOutpost. Perhaps you remember it. It created something of a stir.
Well, we are giving it another go at Missioscapes.com and plan to begin by giving our views on the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) that is being proposed in the SBC. We are going to be bringing in other writers as well from a wide array of backgrounds. From there, we will engage in an ongoing missional conversation that will sometimes touch on ministry in an SBC context and will sometimes go beyond that. It promises to be quite provocative and it starts today. Check it out and pass it along.
I often have people question the validity of blogging and wonder if I am wasting my time with my constant writing. Granted, I have to carve out time to write, whether it be in the morning or late at night. It helps that I type very fast. Tonight, I decided to go to my Statcounter just to see if anyone was paying attention. I didn't really even want to check because I had a feeling that my traffic had dropped a good deal. It has dropped, but I was still encouraged by seeing this:
In the past few hours, I have had visitors from
17 states in the United States and the District of Columbia
I also was encouraged about what people were looking for and finding by doing the following Google search (corresponding Google rank for Downshoredrift's post on each subject included)
"Identity in Christ verses" (#6 on Google)
"African Child Soldiers" (#8 on Google)
"Invisible Children - The Rescue" (#14 on Google)
"Causes of the Current Housing Crisis in the U.S." (#5 on Google)
"American wealth disappeared" (#2 on Google)
I think that is pretty cool and just motivates me to write that much more. Many of you with blogs have the same experience. Getting the word out concerning where God is working in the world can make a huge difference. Let's keep it up.
By the way, if you read Downshoredrift regularly and have a blog, I'd love for you to link to me. It drives up visibility and traffic for the issues that I think are important and possibly overlooked in the world regarding where God is working. I'd appreciate it!
I now Twitter. I also Facebook. Is this good or bad? Read my thoughts on making social networking redemptive and tell me what you think about it.
Erika works on me about technology and communication. You would think that she would want be to back off, but instead, she encourages me in it and keeps telling me to move forward in communicating my thoughts. Lots of wives want their husbands to be quiet. Erika tells me to say more. I'm a lucky guy. Anyway, I started my blog a few years ago because I thought that I had some things to say and as a pastor, I thought that I could use it as a teaching tool. It has been far more effective than I ever dreamed. For a long time, I was very content with my blog. Still am, actually. I liked to think things through, write essays, and explore new ideas. My readership is not huge, but I have a few hundred people who regularly check out what I am writing and have had visitors from every country imaginable. So, it has been a good outlet. Like I said, I was totally content.
Then, Facebook came along. I must admit, I am not a huge fan of Facebook. I go there every once in a while and I have enjoyed reconnecting with old friends from the past. I feed my blog into my Facebook page, but I am not one to update with pithy sentences on what kind of cereal I had or how long I was stuck in traffic. You can only read about me being late for a meeting so many times before you realize that I have a tardiness problem. Seriously, it is just too much information. But, everyone was doing it and if everyone is doing it, it must be a good thing, right? I mean, EVERYONE can't be wrong, right? Um, right? Yeah, right. Anyway, the more I thought about it, the more that it seemed like a good idea, at least for the sake of networking and communication, which is pretty important for a pastor. Plus, Erika starts telling me that I've got to get a Facebook page. She got one first and she actually set me up with my page. So, I blame her.
Yes, it is good to connect with people, but it is not good if we reduce all of life to soundbites and pithy sentences that explain little. We lose something when we don't take time to really think about things in depth or we don't care to engage thought on a level more intricate than what can be said in 140 characters. The danger and superficiality of the technology was keeping me from seeing the possible benefit if used wisely. At any rate, for the first time in my life, I felt myself resisting new technology because it seemed strange and unnecessary to me. I am a pretty fluid thinker, but I suddenly realized that I was getting set in my ways.
So, at the continued urging of my wife, I have now joined the Twitter revolution. I use the term "revolution" loosely. There is no social networking Che Guevera leading us to publish every thought that comes into our head, but the way that people connect is being affected by this in a profound way. I do not pretend to be even remotely interesting enough to chronicle the events of my day for the public, but I thought I'd give it a try. I set it up last night along with a changed format on my blog. My Twitter updates will pop up in the upper right hand corner of my blog and they also update my Facebook status. The cool thing is that I can text Twitter updates from my phone so it takes virtually no time at all. I can do it at a red light or waiting in line at the grocery store, if I want. I might end up using this after all. You can subscribe to my Twitter if you want, but I haven't tried that yet. Click on here and follow instructions, I guess.
The more that I think about this, the more that it might be a good thing. I am always thinking about something and it often has to do with where I see God working in the world around me. Now, instead of having to wait and create a blog post once a day or 3-4 times a week, I can pull out my Blackberry and broadcast praises, insights, observations, and things that I am learning and experiencing in the moment. Again, I do not think that my life is all that interesting or that anyone is waiting around to gobble up my latest tweet, but it does organize my thoughts and I have had tons of conversations and connections with people through blogging and Facebook that I would not have normally had. Maybe Twitter will provide the same interaction or more.
Anyway, the whole process can be pretty disingenuous if we are not careful because people rarely write things that do not cast them in a flattering light. The whole social networking experiment has a tendency to cause us to only promote ourselves in the best light possible, which can lead to hypocrisy and vanity, causing us to see ourselves as much more important than we really are as we act as the star of our own life drama, displayed for all the world to see. Spiritually, this can be a very dangerous thing. So, I think that everyone needs to beware of trying to act cool online. For example, if you are going to put a picture of yourself up, make sure that it really looks like the person posting, not you from 10 years ago. As in all things, we must submit ourselves to God and serve and glorify Him in everything.
Will this enhance my pastoring? Perhaps, as long as I am genuine with it and truly reflect what I see God doing in my life, my family, and the world around me. The way I figure it, about half my church is on Facebook. I can send an email to our church and get only one or two responses. Email is so 1999, isn't it? Only a handful of people in my church comment on my blog, even though quite a few read it. Blogging was huge around 2005 but is already fading as a primary means of interacting in Web 2.0. But, I can put something on Facebook and I get comments there and people stop me in the hallways at the church and say something to me about it. Twitter is basically the same, but easier and faster than Facebook and it updates my Facebook page. Facebook is 2008 and Twitter is 2009-10. What's next?
This blog will continue to be my main outlet. It feeds into Facebook and Twitter updates here. It is my creative home and I feel comfortable writing long essays about what interests me. They do need to be shorter - yes, I know. But, I am willing to change and adapt to new technologies, especially if I can use them to give praise to God and chronicle the blessings that He pours into my life through my wife, children, church, and through all of my experiences.
By the way, we're getting a puppy today. HUGE learning experience for the family, but good for the kids. If you had read my last Twitter update, you would know that. :)
A month ago or so I said I'd be revamping this blog, changing my links, updating things, etc. Well, it takes a little time and I haven't gotten to it, but I can tell you someone who will be on my blogroll when I redo it: Emily Hunter McGowin. I've seen her comments on some of the blogs that I frequent here and there over the past couple of months, but I didn't know who she was. She provides a unique (read, not male) perspective on living the Christian life and theology that we all need to listen to. I really liked her latest post on the significance of women in God's design. Here's an excerpt:
All right, ladies, I have a "newsflash" for you: God didn't make a mistake when he made you a woman.
I know that seems silly. You may be thinking, who really thinks God made a mistake when he made them female? But, I assure you it is not silly. In fact, I have encountered many women in the past few years who are decidedly, though normally not admittedly, disappointed that they are women. I can't unlock the many reasons why this is so. Often, they are too personal and complex for any outsider to discern. But, those of you who struggle with your identity, who long to have the apparent freedom that men have, this post is for you.
We need to hear from all voices in the body of Christ, not just the male ones. God made us all and gives all of us a unique perspective on life and His work amongst us. Thanks, Emily, for letting God speak through you and for being willing to teach . . . (ahem), share with us men. :)