How Many Likes Will This Get? The Social Media Infection

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We live in the age of social media. According to the digital marketing company Zephoria, as of two months ago, over 1.05 billion people access their Facebook (FB) accounts daily, and since May of 2014, over 4.5 billion “likes” have been generated every day. In September of 2014, the Pew Research Center reported that 40% of all people who own a mobile phone had one or more social networking applications in active use. By September of 2015, Facebook alone boasted over 1.39 billion users actively accessing the website via a mobile device at least once within a month’s timespan! According to Emarketer, approximately 30% of Facebook users are aged 25-34 (the largest reported age group), and according to the Pew Research Center 89% of persons between the ages of 18 and 29 (the millennial generation) regularly use social media websites. We are the workhorses that run social media; we are the fuel that feeds its fire.

          At this point you may be wondering why it seems like I vomited a bunch of statistics and facts onto your screen, but stay with me! There’s a point to I all, I promise. News headlines are dictated by what’s trending on Twitter (the Pew Research Center reported that ~50% of social media site users draw their news information from social networking sites – that means 1 in every 2 adults in America let Facebook tell them what’s going on in the world around them). Government agencies’ statements and policies are swayed by how viral videos and topics affect public opinion (e.g, the current nationwide social movement on racial equality was started from the hashtag “#BlackLivesMatter”). YouTube “stars” boast salaries grossing in the millions (Forbes Magazine reported that 23 year old Felix Kjellberg made upwards of 12 million in pre-taxed dollars on his YouTube channel in 2015 – because apparently 40 million subscribers are entertained by him throwing expletives around while they watch him play video games). All these numbers add up to one simple idea (and the point I promised earlier): we live in an age of governed social media. Which causes me to wonder, if social media shapes tides of government and current events and so on, and if almost 9/10 people in the millennial generation regularly ascribe to social media, does that mean social media governs the millennial generation? Maybe we don’t actually run social media, maybe (just maybe) it runs us.

          I have a friend who adds roughly twenty hash tags to every picture he posts to Instagram (IG), or maybe he adds fifty. I lose track. Every possible related idea or concept or word is thought of and hash-tagged away. I asked him why once, and he said he was on an IG come up and that I needed to step my ‘like game’ up. (I shrugged ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.) I have another friend whose entire life is chronicled on twitter. I never need to ask them what they’re doing, because 15 seconds after I wonder, they send out a tweet letting the world know. I have a friend who pops up on TV shows now and again, and when they do, they spend ridiculous amounts of time and energy making sure their appearances go viral. I have a friend who updates their Snapchat so often, that at the end of every day they have at least 400 seconds of snaps to get through. I almost got carpet tunnel from trying to fast-forward through them all her snaps once. Okay, I’m clearly exaggerating about that, but the point remains: we are a generation governed by social media, living in the age of social media.

          You already knew this though. Something in the back of your mind gave it away when your FB profile pic’ got over 100 likes (or some arbitrary number that you’ve given yourself based on your own “average number of likes”). It gave a very small sense of accomplishment, or a very small sense of pride. It’s like you could hear Sally Field’s 1984 Oscar acceptance speech running in the back of your head saying, “You like me! …You [really] like me!” Or maybe a tweet you sent got a ridiculous amount of re-tweets, or an IG pic’ you posted got dozens and dozens (or hundreds) of “likes”. You saw that, and sat back satisfied because someone somewhere affirmed your thought (or picture or video). Someone somewhere cared about what you had to say. Someone thought you were funny, someone thought you were cute and for a very brief second, that made all the difference. You mattered. Your words, your insight, your imaged mattered. How do you know? Where’s the proof? You got a lot of “likes” – social media’s stamp of approval. So the wheels started turning on how to keep it up. What funny caption to ad, what filter to use, how much skin to show, what series of hashtags was the best combination to draw attention to your new haircut? You have a reputation to keep! A popular opinion to appeal to, and you want, or maybe you need, social media’s affirmation – more “likes”. You want someone somewhere to value what you say, what you think, what you look like and the “likes” to prove that they do.

          So, you see, we live in the age of social media. We, the millennial generation, are the workhorses that run its campaigns. We are the fuel that feeds its fire, and we are the embers that burn those who don’t meet its standards. We have created a culture built around proving our worth based on Internet popularity, and we, the millennial generation, need to help it stop. Why? Because we need to remind others (and ourselves) that importance or value does not come from a random series of “likes” given by friends or family or anonymous strangers. The value of an object comes from the price someone is willing to pay for it, and you, kind stranger, were bought at an infinite price (1 Peter 1:18, 1 Corinthians 6:20, Acts 20:28). Your self worth is immeasurable because the price Jesus paid for you is incomprehensible. So the import of the things that make you *you* (what you say, how you appear, what you think, what you feel) can never be measured by “likes” because your value is rooted in eternity. Someone thinks you’re hilarious. Someone is captivated by how you look. Someone hangs on your every word. Someone always wants to know how you feel. Someone knows that you matter, and at the end of it all, the only opinion that really matters is His.

Now I challenge you to measure your social media success not in how many likes you get, but in the positive impact of the life you live.

Verses Referened Above:

Acts 20:28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

1 Corinthians 6:20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. NIV

1 Peter 1:18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver. NLT
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You’re not like me, and that is OK!

 

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The following events, I experienced myself:

*I was asked whether it is ok to baptize someone that is living in the USA without working documents.

*I overheard a conversation where a family was sharing that they will not vote for an African American candidate for president, based solely on his skin color.

*The day Obama was elected president, the newspaper with that headline was ripped. This happened in an Adventist office.

*Someone tells one of the Hispanic pastors that he should tell all his undocumented members to go back to their country. Immediately.

*A 1st generation Hispanic church member tells a 2nd generation youth to please attend an English speaking church, making fun of his Spanish pronunciation and sending the clear message that his kind are not welcome there.

These all happened in the last 10 years.

11 o’clock on Sabbath morning is still the most segregated hour in Adventism in America. In order for our churches to become what God intended them to be, we must take the lead in reconciliation. Being reconciled with God means being reconciled with my brother. God intends his church to become a house of prayer for all people.

As we seek to become a house of prayer for all people, we must intentionally seek to develop relationships and make our churches a welcome place for the following types of people.

1. People that don’t look like me. One of my good friends, Pr. Harold planted a congregation in Oregon. Originally, the church started as a 2ndGeneration Hispanic Church. What he soon discovered, is that 2nd Generation Hispanics marry and have friends of different cultures. One time, a person that was attending asked why they called the church a “church for 2ndGeneration Hispanics”. In his attempts to become more inclusive and to reach out to a neglected segment, he was in fact being the opposite of inclusive. The church is now called Mosaic, a Multicultural church in the west side of Portland. This church includes African Americans, Koreans, as well as people from Hawaii, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, among others.

The fact is that the younger the person, the more tolerant he is of different races. The browning of America is happening, whether we like it or not. Think salad bowl, not melting pot.

2. People that don’t think like me. In the church that I grew up with, questions were not often welcomed. You did what you were told, and that was final. With this generation, such methods hardly work. In order to reach them, we must allow them to express their opinions, value their input and respond with solid evidence, not just a “because I say so”. I still remember the answer our youth leaders gave us when we asked why we could not go to the movies. First of all, your guardian angel stays outside when you go into a movie theater. Secondly, Ellen White condemned movie theaters. Thirdly, because we told you not to. Not a word was mentioned about content of the movies, being able to select better entertainment or allowing us to question why the same people that condemned the theater watched the same movie in their home. When we pointed out that there were no movie theaters in EGW days, we were met with accusations of rebellion and not conforming to the truth. It’s incongruences like this that helped some of my friends to reject orders completely when they went to the movies and saw that the place was no different than the local mall. I’m not advocating movie going. I am advocating for consistency and plain common sense.

What I see happening all too often in our churches, is the labeling and demonizing of people that hold other viewpoints. Liberal, extremist, contemporary, conservative. These are just some of the labels thrown out there. It has been said, that when fishermen don’t fish, they fight. I wonder if the millions of people down the street that are on their way to “not heaven” really care whether we sing two more praise songs or if the prayer comes before the welcome, (actual fights in church boards I have been present in). What if we used those energies and the time we spend in countless committees, to minister to the community that surrounds us? What if we helped people to realize God is madly in love with them?

I don’t have to compromise my values to connect with you. I don’t have to change my mind about doctrine to open my arms and love you. I don’t have to leave my brain at the door, just my prejudice.
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#NoogaStrong: Terrorism and the Church

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Two weeks ago Chattanooga, TN made the national news as four Marines and one Navy sailor were shot and killed by Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez who opened fire on a military recruiting center and then a naval reserve center. As a Chattanoogan and an American, it was tragic, it was sad, and it was called an act of terrorism.   We didn’t expect this kind of thing in OUR town…. It seems so wrong, so brutal, and such an attack on our identity and freedom.

Yet in the midst of it all, what’s been interesting to me is how the community has responded in the aftermath of this tragedy. The hashtags #chattanoogastrong and #noogastrong have been appearing not just on social media but now on billboards, signs, and posters all over the city. It’s become about a community standing together. It’s our rallying cry. Every evening there have been groups out on the freeway overpass waving flags and showing support. Churches have held prayer vigils. Great numbers attended the funerals. And just today I stood at one of the memorials looking over the sea of flags, notes, signs, flowers, and more. The men killed are revered as nothing short of fallen heroes. And Chattanooga stands boldly in display of our outrage against these attacks on our defenders.

But all this has made me think. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that our “adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” He is the ultimate terrorist. He hates God’s government and is especially out to wreak havoc on the soldiers of God’s army – His church (Revelation 12:17).

And I can’t help but wonder: What if the church responded to the terrorist attacks of Satan like our community responded to the attack on these US soldiers?

When one of our fellow “soldiers” in the church gets shot at or dies spiritually, do we unitedly raise our flags against our enemy the devil in support of our fallen comrade? Or do we simply accept their defeat? Do we treat them as fallen heroes? Or do we write them off as weak defectors? “Poor Bob, I guess he’s fallen into sin…” “Did you hear what John’s been doing? I don’t know how he can expect to be a church leader like that.” “Well, it looks like Mary’s apostatizing into her old ways. We better bring this up at the next church board meeting.”

What if the church responded to the terrorist attacks of Satan like our community responded to the attack of these US soldiers?

Oh, I’m not trying to excuse or condone sin. But I do wonder: Do we realize that when someone falls they are a literal victim of a terrorist attack? Do we see that those who “leave the faith” are our fellow soldiers being shot at by the enemy? Do we believe that those captive to sin are war hostages just as surely as any POW in Vietnam or elsewhere? And if we really d0 believe these things, how differently might we treat the fallen?

Imagine if whenever someone in our church fell from the shots of the enemy and disappeared from our doors we followed “no man left behind” and no one moved on till we got that person back. Imagine if when a fellow soldier of the Lord was wounded, we all waived our prayer banners and gathered in vigils pleading for their restoration and healing. Imagine if people knew that the church was the one place that, no matter how they’d been hit, would stand for them, remember them, and fight for them. Imagine if Satan’s hostages comprehended that God’s church was continually working for their release and waiting with open arms to welcome them home. Imagine if the devil discovered that the more he tried to divide us the more united and determined God’s church would become instead. Imagine if when one of us went down, the devil knew he had all of us to contend with…

Yes, I’ve learned a few things from watching my city respond to attack and become #noogastrong. And I can only dream (and pray) that I’ll see my church do the same. Because when it does, I have a funny feeling things will never be the same.

“…and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” – Matthew 16:18

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Three Ways Churches Mess Up Community Service

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Have you ever wondered how Jesus, an unknown preacher with an unpopular message was so effective reaching crowds of people? It’s a one word answer. LOVE. People did not follow Jesus because of his diet. They were not attracted to him because of his dress. His compassion showed that you can at the same time call people to holiness while loving them intensely through the process. In order to do that, you must love. We love through our service.

When serving your community, avoid these three mistakes:

1.  Figure out a plan on your own.

The best people qualified to tell you what the needs of the community are…wait for it…the community. Not your board. Not the conference community service director.

Last church I pastored, we went out in the community and asked them what their interests, needs and hurts were.  It was a simple survey, but very telling (I can share if you’d like).  It was interesting that only 30% of the people that lived in a 5 block radius of the church knew who we were. That is pretty consistent with the percentages of people in the United States that are aware of us. When I hear people talking about persecution, I want to ask them: How are they going to persecute someone they don’t even know exists?

After the survey, we then developed programs to meet the needs.  That transformed the church in a fortress mentality FUBU church to a community oriented congregation.  First of all, we were surprised such a very small percentage of people we asked knew who we were.  That made an impact in us, since it was a five hundred member church in the middle of the Hispanic community.  Second it helped us target more effectively our community.

 

2.  Wheel reinvention:

There are already organizations that provide many services in your community. Instead of re-inventing the wheel as we often do, why not join worthwhile organizations in what they are doing? Here is a good starting point: http://www.voa.org/ Invite organizations that have purposes akin to yours.  We need to be cautious about who we bring in, and what their agenda is, but we have to realize that we did not invent the wheel.  There are community and religious organizations that have been doing at least some of what you are doing, usually for a longer period of time.  In an event at the Hillsboro church, we invited several organizations to participate, including a local Christian college counseling department as well as representatives from the local hospital and police department.  Just their exposure to our church ministries, opened many doors.  We got five hundred teddy bears, a grant for food, free cholesterol screening, more than forty computers for a lab, all free of charge.

 

3.  Avoid politicians.

Many times we have been reluctant to engage politicians, sometimes with good reason. One of the first things I do when new in a district is finding out and meeting with the mayor, council members, and representative. It’s also not difficult to contact the governor and senator. Why should we connect with the powerful in our community?

*They can point you to need areas.

*They can point you to other organizations.

*They can provide resources, volunteers and funds. This can get tricky, so tread softly.

I usually introduce myself and tell them that we have an interest in improving our community through a holistic approach that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. I ask them 3 questions:

*What are the greatest needs of this city/town?

*What organizations or people would you suggest I talk to?

*Are there any initiatives that you’re implementing that we should take a look at?

I have always found them ready to talk and willing to help. Even secular mayors like the one in Portland was touched by the actions of Christians in the community.

We can’t be perfect, but we can strive for excellence. Serve, like Jesus. Make it a way of life.

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