I’m moderating #chsocm tonight

I’m moderating #chsocm on Twitter tonight @ 9:00 p.m. If you are a church-ie social media type, just join in on Twitter with the search and hashtag #chsocm.

A lot of you are wondering, “What the heck is #chsom?” It’s Church social media. #ChSocM (ch-sock-em) is a weekly Twitter-based chat about using social media to build church and faith. Welcoming, informative, ecumenical. Tuesdays, 9PM, ET. Commentary, interviews, transcripts, and fun stuff on the blog.

My good Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest friend Meredith Gould started the Twitter chat topic/community about 2 years ago. Since then, it has grown into a weekly meet up for lay people, pastors, seminarians, and social media church geeks (that includes me).

Don’t be a non-participate observer! Join in! (I loath the word “Lurker” or “lurking” for social media listening. It’s too creep-stalker-ish. See you tonight on #chsocm!

Church uses vandalism for social media message

What do church leaders usually do when someone vandalizes the side of a church with graffiti? Cover it up, repaint, or remove the vandalism. A church in Randolph, New York was recently vandalized with the words, “Can I still get into heaven if I kill myself?” The church responded in a remarkable and unconventional way.

Grace Episcopal Church allowed the vandalism to stay, but the church added their own reply:

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The above picture circulated around Facebook and Twitter with folks generating a conversation about spirituality and community.

Elizabeth Drescher at Religion Dispatches covered the story and found out why the church responded in this way and how it relates to modern religious expression:

Rather than approaching the tagging as a criminal act, however, church leaders decided to take the graffiti seriously as an expression of something spiritually meaningful—a cry for help.. They approached it relationally, using the church building itself as a social media platform, and responding with their own message of hope.

It’s the story of a fairly traditional church actively recognizing that religious doubt, religious critique, and all manner of theological questioning that once would have been seen as belonging squarely within the clapboard walls of a village church unfold in a much wider, much more broadly networked universe.

What started as a process to respond to church vandalism turned into a broader conversation on social media. With hundreds of shares, likes, and comments on Facebook and Twitter, this church’s vandalism response sparked mostly positive reaction. Some of the replies on the church’s Facebook post tell of the conversation around suicide, religion, and young people:

“As a pastor who has lost a young adult son to suicide, let me add that the forum is 100% appropriate and the response is as well. Song lyrics or no, any indication that an individual might be contemplating suicide needs to be taken with the utmost seriousness.”

“I’m not of this faith, but I really respect and admire this response. It goes beyond religion for me. It comes down to basic, good old-fashioned human kindness, which, sometimes, is the one thing a desperate person needs.”

“This is what I got from this message (go ahead and kill yourself God loves you) should have been worded differently indeed! And so as long as I ask for forgives before I kill myself its all good right.”

“I think the response was great — people in that much pain need to know that not only does the Church love them, but that God loves them. Who knows, this might be just the turning point that this person needs to know that people and God cares”

“my experience working with suicidal people is that the thing that might encourage someone to get help is the sense that someone has heard them. We also don’t know if the person who painted the original message is suicidal or whether the are in profound grief after someone else’s suicide… or if something completely different is going on. You can’t really counsel an anonymous message written on a wall – sounds like the parish is doing the best they could have done under the circumstances”

This story is a lesson in leadership. Rather than react with, “Who would dare do this!?!” The church was proactive and asked, “Why is this person hurting so much to do this? What can we do to reach out in an equal response?” Many Christians and churches are quick to judge, but we must find creative responses to brokenness – as Jesus did.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: Did you thank the Lord?

As stories come out of Oklahoma’s terrible tornado that left dozens dead, one cable anchor received an unexpected response from an interviewee.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer interviewed a survivor only to find that she did not share the same religious beliefs:

“We’re happy you’re here. You guys did a great job,” Blitzer said to Rebecca Vitsmun

“You’ve gotta thank the Lord, right? Do you thank the Lord for that split-second decision?”

 “I — I’m actually an atheist,” she said.

“You are. All right. But you made the right call,” Blitzer said.

“We are here, and I don’t blame anyone for thanking the Lord,” Vitsmun said.

Was it improper for Blitzer to ask such a question?

How do you think the interviewee handled the question?

Respond using the Facebook window below or the comment box at the bottom of the post.

 

Is this art or sacrilege?

When does art cease to be art? Where do we draw the line? Case in point: A naked street performer took a ride on a moped with a cross. The artist called his performance art. That has some Christians up in arms. Unfortunately, someone took pictures.

This dude must be Superman to carry a cross of that size.

And then there’s this one:

Again, super human strength.

Brian Ashcraft incorrectly identified a cross is a crucifix. A crucifix is a cross with Jesus on it. A cross is without a dying Jesus. (The word “Crucifix” comes from Latin word, cruci fixus meaning “one fixed to a cross”.)

So, what would drive someone to do this? The performer said,

“Every time I finish a run, I always check online to see what people online are saying about me,” said Li. “The internet creates such a wonderful way to interact, and I really want to see what others think of this thing I’m doing. It makes conversation online.”

So, is this art or sacrilege? Comment below via Facebook or Disqus.

Great Pentecost Resources

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Looking for some great Pentecost resources? The folks over at http://bluetruckpublishing.com got you covered.

“Anything but Ordinary – readings for worship during Ordinary Time (Pentecost to Last Sunday of June)”

This collection of liturgical helps is the second worship resource from Don Durham. Each of the pieces are tied to the lectionary readings for the day and every Sunday includes:

Invocation/Call to Worship Responsive Reading Benediction

There is also a free stock image included inthe purchased download. You can preview a sample of this product for free on the Blue Truck blog here. Don also wrote “Lenten Liturgies” and it received 5 stars and this review from a worship pastor: “A well written RCLliturgy resource. A steal at 99 cents even if you don’t use all of the resources. The Palm/Passion Sunday resources include both thematic elements to allow for Holy Week flexibility.

Download here.

A visit to Mount Saviour Monastery

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Recently, I spent a few days at Mount Saviour Monastery and it was an incredible time of reflection, prayer, and spiritual enrichment. I also instituted a social media blackout. I must admit, I didn’t know what to expect. My friend and follow pastor David Bennett invited me to come.

In seminary I studied the monastic life and learned of the rich tradition in spiritual community. I was surprised with how God spoke to me and how I connected to a deeper prayer life. The monks pray based on St. Benedict’s monastic order and the Liturgy of the Hours:

  • 4:45 am: Vigils
  • 7:00 am: Lauds
  • 9:00 am: Mass
  • 12:00 pm: Sext
  • 3:00 pm: None
  • 6:30 pm :Vespers
  • 8:15 pm : Compline

I wish I could say I was up at 4:45 a.m. but I was at Lauds every morning. The rhythm of the prayers is worshipful and reflective. The monks lead in singing hymns, psalms, prayer, and responsive liturgy. I was amazed how the song and prayer centered me. I can’t say that I came away from the experience with a profound insight in to God but did receive peace. Eating meals in silence help further the sense of listening rather than speaking. Humility of the monastic life requires one to listen instead of being quick to speak.

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The monks tend to sheep, the farm, serve meals, and keep the property running. Mount Saviour Monastery is a place that houses a small group of monks and priests. There were some visiting Catholic deacons on retreat. In addition, there were visitors for the day.

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Our accommodations were basic. A 10 x 6 foot room with a bed, desk, and window. Such simple rooming reminds you that basic comforts is all one needs to live a life of prayer. And like living in a dorm room in college, I didn’t make my bed for this shot.

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The experience was an examination of how the monastic life is not a crazy way to live. Perhaps we live the crazy life: weighted down many possessions, worry, fear, and the general rat race of our culture. Living a life of prayer and worship is so freeing. We continuously consume social media, entertainment, and news. We have to take Sabbath and get away from those things in order to focus on “God things”.

The social media blackout

Social media can take a toll on your life. Keeping up with Facebook, Twitter, and other networking sites is exhausting.

On average Americans spend just as much time on the Internet (13 hours a week) as they do watching television. That adds up to 26 hours — a little more than a day of our week — spent in front of a screen.

We can suffer from social media. Managing several social media accounts while holding down a job and life can be taxing. Social media is a world of instant communication and demand. We can’t possibly keep up with the check-ins, pictures, internet memes, Words with Friends, internet news, and Twitter trends.

Sometimes, we need a social media blackout. Usually, a social media blackout happens when a company or celebrity has an embarrassing moment and they go silent on Facebook and/or Twitter. Example: Anthony Weiner, and his… ahem, Twitter problem. After everything went down, Weiner went silent on his active Twitter account.

The social media blackout I’m thinking about isn’t because we have done something wrong but because we need a break.

Taking breaks or sabbath is a requirement in life. Just as our bodies need rest, our minds do too. From time to time we need a mental health day. A day where we disconnect from the craze of the world and focus on things that we love. Walking, reading, spending time with family, or going to a movie are all things that help us refocus.

Taking a social media blackout from the dependence on technology harks back to the day when humans relied on their own skills and gifts. A social media blackout helps us to realize that meaningful connections are made through relationships, not digital networking. True love and friendship are found with time spent together, and not through a computer.

For the next two days I’m doing a social media blackout. No Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, or Foursquare check-ins. I’m going to a monastery to do some reading and writing. To recharge.

Do you need a social media blackout? How have you taken a social media break? What practices do you find meaningful during a social media blackout?

Who decides if you are a Christian?

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Yesterday I was a guest on HuffPost Live with Rev. Paul Raushenbush, HuffPost Senior Religion Editor and two other authors. (You can watch the segment here. I come in around 12:00 and 19:00) We discussed the coming out of NBA player Jason Collins and the conversation turned to Christianity. Collins briefly mentioned his faith and his relationship with Jesus Christ.

As the segment on HuffPost Live progressed, the topic of “Who decides if someone is a Christian” was dancing around as an unspoken question. Perhaps what sparked this was the recent story of ESPN’s Chris Broussard comments concerning the topic of Jason Collins. Broussard raised eyebrows when he said:

“I’m a Christian. I don’t agree with homosexuality. I think it’s a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is… If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ.”

As I was asked about pro-athlete’s faith on HuffPost Live and how they live their faith. I commented that athletes who have moral failures often have their faith questioned. Then, the segment turned to how a Christian is to read the Bible and interpret it. An online commenter  posted this scripture and the host read it on camera:

‘You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” Leviticus 18:22

We discussed the scripture and another guest dismissed the above law with other holiness codes in the Old Testament (shell-fish, etc…). The host asked, “How can we respond to that?” I made the point that so many other laws are not followed such as, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The host remarked that wasn’t a law. I said, “Yes it is!” I made the argument that many Christians do not follow this law when confronted with difficult topics, such as homosexuality. And, we must first begin there.

In the end, what was really discussed was who decides who is and is not Christian. Jason Collins said he is a Christian, but some Christians do not think he is a Christian. Rather than judge him first, I believe we need to first heed the call of Christian of how to treat others who we disagree with.

Who decides if you are a Christian? You? Your church? Other Christians? I want to hear from you!

I’m a guest on HuffPost Live, join in

UPDATE: If you missed the discussion, you can see it its entirety here.  

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I’ll be a guest on HuffPost Live talking about Jason Collins, faith, and sports today.

HuffPost Live’s segment is billed as

Jason Collins is 34, black, and gay—and religious. Collins’ coming out presents an intersection of LGBT rights, religious freedom, and professional sports. What role does faith play for athletes and what it means to be gay in the NBA?

  • Rev. Paul Raushenbush, HuffPost Senior Religion Editor, New York, NY
  • Rev. Alan Rudnick, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Ballston Spa, Albany, NY
  • Esera Tuaolo, Former NFL Football Player; Author of ‘Alone In the Trenches,’ Minneapolis, MN
  • Paul Shirley, Former NBA Basketball Player; Author of ‘Can I Keep My Jersey?’ Los Angeles, CA
  • Tom Krattenmaker, Author of ‘Onward Christian Athletes’ and ‘The Evangelicals You Don’t Know,’ Portland, OR

Some have suggested that because Collins identifies as a Christian he cannot be a Christian because he is gay.

Join in on the chat, watch the live interview, and comment. Everything starts today, Thursday at 2:30 EST.

Jesus, the original hipster?

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A new ad aimed at making Jesus more culturally relevant has a major church working to re-brand the image of Jesus.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn started a campaign that is gaining national attention. The ad has captured the attention of pop culture with picturing Jesus as the “original” hipster.  Apparently Chuck Taylor All Stars are the key to making Jesus hip:

Apparently Converse’s “Chuck Taylor” sneakers are a favorite choice of footwear of both the Pope and Jesus Christ. And why shouldn’t they be? They are comfortable, colorful, and according to Seth Meyers in his SNL Weekend Update, are why more Catholics are returning to church.

Catholics yearn for a Church they can relate to. That is what Seth Meyers was jokingly referencing, and that is what the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn’s new “All Faces, Everyday Understanding” marketing campaign is trying to achieve.

This isn’t the first time we have seen a hipster Jesus in print. In 2012, Time Magazine featured a modern looking Jesus on its front cover.

Is this ad simply a fun attention getter or a real attempt to bring young people into the pews? According to CNN, the ad has helped the Brooklyn Diocese’s website to see traffic increase by 400%. Certainly, a metric of tracking interest.

Ads like these help generate discussion and interest, but will that translate into more people in churches? Most likely not. Posting an ad on the streets will not solely translate into the masses attending church. Other changes need to be made in order to reach young people. Investment in young people in church ministry requires a coordinated effort.

As for Jesus as the original hipster, he certainly hung out with outcasts and not with popular people. That certainly made Jesus cool to the least of these. Perhaps that means he is attractive to young people today.

Discussion: Is this ad a real way to win young people back to church or is it all hype?

The Church Draft

As millions of football fans will undoubtedly will be glued to their televisions and social media, they will hunger for the latest information about NFL draft picks. The NFL draft is part pageantry and part celebration for football teams and their fans. Draft day means that a team can have hope for a better season as new athletes come on their roster.

This is also a tense time for football teams. Owners, coaches, agents and managers are all trying to work together to pick the best player. With all those high powered people trying to work together sometimes egos, tempers, and anxiety can play a major role in the team’s success. In order to get the best draft position teams will give away players, negotiate terms, trade draft spots, and participate in a number of complex agreements. The world of the NFL draft is truly a dizzying drama for teams but also there is tremendous opportunity.

In the world of the NFL, resources and money are seemingly endless as players are paid multi-million dollar contracts. For churches, the search for staff and volunteers is a frustrating process. Many churches lack the financial resources for say a full time youth minister or education minister. Often volunteers have to take on that work load without pay. Unlike the NFL, churches do not have ability to search for and pay for staff that could grow their organization.

In the church world of limited resources, what if churches joined together to have a Church Draft?

I live and minister in a small community with five mainline churches within a mile of one another. Our worship is similar and so are our ministries. We pastors get along very well. Back in 2009, we started meeting regularly and formed a clergy organization. We started to dream of the ways in which we could work together. We already had a number of connected ecumenical gatherings, but we wanted to do more.

One day, I jokingly asked if I could steal one of the other pastor’s secretary since we were in search of one. He replied that I would have to trade my choir for her.  A few months later we were searching for an office manager. I went back to the same pastor and reminded him of our trade agreement but this time it was for real. I wasn’t going to give up my choir but we negotiated terms to share his staff person for our church office administrator position. BOOM! It worked. Fast forward a few years, and now all of our churches are talking about sharing a community youth minister and are supporting community based youth ministry! And, we continue to negotiate and draft ministry people to work in all of our churches.

In our community, it makes sense to work together and “draft” staff and volunteers. Each individual church may not have the resources, but together we are able to work together as one team and not five teams working against one another. Churches in the 21st century need to think about their staff and volunteers as players in the big game of ministry and not see each other as competitors.

Alan Rudnick is the author of “The Work of the Associate Pastor”, Judson Press.