Today has been a tough day. A dear friend and member of our church that I have had the honor of pastoring for the last 6 years passed away. I got a text from his wife at about noon that he had passed away and I immediately went over to their house. As I walked in, his body was sitting on the reclining chair in their living room where he had spent a majority of his last few weeks. I hugged the wife and tears started to fill my eyes. While he looked peaceful, he was not there. I was struck by the fact that I would no longer be able to sit at his dining room table and get his counsel. I would not see him in church anymore or shake his hand as he left the worship center. I wouldn't hear his words of encouragement. God used this man in my life and in the lives of many, but his work was done. He had finished the race. He had kept the faith. He was with Christ in fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). And that's the point. Death isn't the end. For a believer, death is the beginning.
Over the last few months I have been contemplating the effects that social media have on us as individuals and as a society. This has led to reflection on how it affects me personally. I've come to the conclusion that I need to take some actions in my own life to manage social media and it's influence on me better. Let me start by explaining some of my reflections and observations over the last 4 months or so.
I grew up without social media. I'm part of the last generation that wasn't "connected" constantly and to be honest, I've found myself longing for the simplicity and peace of an age before social media. Social media exploded onto the scene when I was in college. I remember a roommate had his computer open to this Facebook thing and I asked him what it was about. Back then, you had to have a .edu email account to even get on Facebook and it was archaic when compared to it's current form. So, as most college students, I jumped on without thinking much about it and to be honest, that has been the state I've lived in ever since. I haven't thought much about it. It's just been normal. It's become natural.
That presents a problem for me, because as with many amoral things, we can not regularly evaluate the impact and effect of them because they start out benign and become so woven into our routine and lifestyle that we can rarely stop and ask if it has become more harmful than good. At least this has been my experience with it. This has led to some significant problems. These problems have grown slowly, incrementally over time. It's like all the small problems that we ignore in life that end up becoming big problems when they are not addressed early on. Over the last 4 months or so, some situations have arisen which have alerted me to the fact that I have been merrily plodding through life and have not considered the impact that social media has had on me, my family, and my disposition. This has led me to identify some significant problems.
This last week and a half have been challenging. I’ve been in and out of the hospital trying to get to the bottom of some significant stomach pain. Not exactly how one would expect a post about joy to begin, but I’ve discovered some things (or been reminded of some things) throughout this process that I wanted to jot down (this is being written on my phone so there might be some typos). Let me start with a few basic things to set the stage.
This year for VBS I wrote our teaching curriculum and created it in a way that can be used by parents in conjunction with an amazing kids book to help them see the story of the gospel. The book was recommended to me by a friend of mine when we found out we were having our first child and we have almost worn it out. The curriculum is really designed to be a discussion guide for parents that can help them engage their children with the story of the book... which is the story of redemption. You can find a link to the PDF here, but I've included everything below. I hope this is a help to you.
Yesterday, I returned from my third trip overseas to train pastors with Training Leaders International. This latest trip was to Mongolia where we served pastors and church leaders there by teaching the story of the Bible. Prior to this trip, I have taught hermeneutics (Bible interpretation) in Romania and preaching and sermon prep in Uganda. Each trip has been unique, but there has been at least one thing that has been common to each one, namely, I was a foreigner.
Well, it's that time of the year. Time for certain Christians to rise up and start freaking out about every little thing. From Halloween through Easter, we have to deal with all sorts of garbage; from "if you take your children trick or treating you're worshiping Satan" to "Easter and Christmas are pagan and therefore should not be celebrated". I promise you... this is not that. I've just seen some posts on social media and articles that have caused me to think. One of the things I've noticed is my generation of parents (I'm 35) tend to question and think through a different lens. It can be a difficult lens to understand and if someone hears "we don't do the Santa thing," it is easy to jump to the conclusion that they are just killjoys. Well, we don't do Santa in our house and since it's that time of year for all the Christian Crusaders to come out, I thought I would contribute a sensible and non-agressive explanation for why we made the decision to NOT do the Santa thing. 'Tis the season. So here are the main 2 reasons we don't do Santa in our house.
What I learned from not wanting to do FCA at the Middle School.
- Affections drive actions. We forget why we do things or our affections try to keep us from doing things.
- 4 ways to combat this:
1) Increased love for God
2) Increased love for others
3) Pray and ask for God's help with your affections/attitude
4) Take a step of faith
Here is the video:
I decided to create some videos to help orient people to Training Leaders International, share why I'm partnering with them, and tell some stories from past trips. My goal in this is to show, rather than just tell, why I'm taking trips to train pastors around the world. You can find out more by visiting my support page, and you can check out some info on my next trip to Mongolia in Feb 2019. You can also subscribe to the YouTube channel to get updates when new videos are posted.
Yesterday, I wrote on Jesus' plan to reach the world and argued briefly that the primary way that Christ continued his work is through the church and most of his ministry was devoted to training men to care for the church and train leaders for the church. In other words, Christ trained men to care for and equip the local church and their training was a model that could be (and was) reproduced within the church as a means of growth. As leaders care for the church well and equip the saints (Eph 4:11-12), the gospel spreads. As the gospel spreads, more churches are planted and grow. As that happens, more leaders are necessary to equip those churches and the way those leaders are trained is through the local church and in particular, pastors who have been trained (2 Tim 2:2). I suggested that we can have a tremendous impact through intentionally investing in developing, training, and equipping leaders both at home in our local churches and abroad. I also mentioned that the American church has two particular strengths and suggested that as we think about missions, we need to play to our strengths. So what are these strengths?
Jon is husband to Carlee, Papa to Finleigh, Ainsley, and Olivia, a pastor at Arbor Drive Community Church in York, Ne, and co-host of The Pastor Discussions Podcast