Texting During Church

Texting and Tweeting in churchI read an interesting article from Time magazine last week about churches warming to the idea of texting and tweeting during church. Twittering in Church, with the Pastor’s O.K., by Bonnie Rochman sites a few churches that are encouraging church members to text and tweet all they want during the sermon, in an effort to get the people interacting with the sermon.

I have actually seen this in action.  The other night I was briefly watching a sermon on TV (in Texas, there are about 10 channels on broadcast TV that are religiously themed) where the pastor was interacting with text messaged questions and comments from the congregation during the sermon.  It seemed interesting, although most of what the people had texted was totally uninteresting.  It seemed pretty cool.  Something like that would be especially useful for building a sense of community and interactiveness in a case like Saddleback in California, where there are several on-campus simulcasts in order to accommodate the sheer numbers of people who attend.  This could also be really good for achieving the same goal in some sort of live TV broadcast (Billy Graham style).

There is another side to this, though.  As a minister, one of the biggest challenges that I see in church culture is not getting people to interact with the message on Sunday morning.  In fact, this could be achieved any number of ways that didn’t involve Twitter or texting.  Instead, I see one of the biggest difficulties in getting the people to dial down from the wired world that they live Monday through Saturday (OK, and Sunday too, right after service ends).

A couple of weeks ago during my Mother’s Day sermon, one of our church elders was in his usual spot in the congregation.  As I taught I noticed that he was busily reading his email on his iphone.  I think that people in the congregation somehow believe that there is some sort of two-way mirror where the stage ends, that allows them to see me, but totally blocks my view of them.  I thought about calling him out on it, but I knew that probably wouldn’t be a good idea for my own career, and I strongly suspect that the action was more intentional on his part to send a message (I’ll just leave that there—I could be wrong).

My point in mentioning that situation is this: while many congregations might use tweeting and texting to create a positive and interactive culture surrounding the message, the net result of these changes will not be to plug more people into what God is doing on a Sunday morning.  Instead, in my opinion, it will be exactly the opposite.  People who are struggling to focus their attention on what is happening at the service, will now return to multiple-option-land where there concentration can be as split as it is the rest of the time.

I guarantee that if I gave the teenagers in church the option to text and tweet me during the service, some would take me up on it.  At the same time, I would have twice as many teens texting their friends just like they do all the rest of the time.  One of the biggest negatives of our over-wired world is that people seem to be having an increasingly difficult time existing unplugged from the Matrix.  I was amazed two weeks ago at some of my teens who spent the late night hours texting and myspacing on their phones.  Some of them were up past 3 AM doing this.  They weren’t busy laughing and talking to each other like they usually would at a lock-in.  They were triple-tapping their LOL’s and OMG’s as their batteries slowly drained.

I don’t think as adults we should be feeding this beast in church.  I don’t say this from a biblical precedent standpoint, but just as one examining culture.

A Brief Update

I’ve taken a brief hiatus from blogging, due to the two craziest weeks in recent memory. After the conference in Galveston, I have had a house guest, a Mother’s Day sermon, the biggest youth event of the year, some big changes to our church program, a house guest, twice as much work for the youth group, a coffee house at church, and did I mention a house guest?

There were other things too, but these were the most pressing.

In the middle of all of this, I decided that blogging was just one of those activities that I had to put on hold. I also have a mountain of laundry (some still packed from my Galveston trip). Next week things will slow down again, and it will be back to the regularly scheduled program.

In the meantime, enjoy this Video Infection:

Pictures of Galveston after Ike

These pictures were taken in May of 2009, during the Vineyard National Conference, about 8 months after Ike. A lot of these pictures were taken through my car windows as I drove. The quality isn’t great, but it shows just some of the devastation.

Semi-Liveblogging the VNC (Session 3)

Tonight I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting too much.  Don Williams was speaking, and I’ve heard him quite a bit in VLI.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Don Williams.  He is obviously brilliant.  He has an amazing heart for God.  My experience has been that he rambles a bit, and it is sometimes hard to follow him.

He blew my expectations out of the water.

He spoke about the Holy Spirit.  He showed how the ministry of the Holy Spirit to us and in our ministry is biblical, indespensible, and powerful.  He told his testimony of encountering the Holy Spirit.  He read the testimonies of famous modern Christian leaders in the same regard.  He was funny.  He was clear.  He was short.  Yes, that is right.  He didn’t talk for an hour.

Then he asked us for the people under 35 to come forward to receive a filling of the Holy Spirit.  They did a similar thing at the last conference.  I went forward.

Just as an aside, I don’t know what it is due to, but there is a huge difference in the age demographics between this conference and the last one in Anaheim.  Last time the building was full of rapidly graying hair, bald spots, Hawaiian shirts, and creatively secured Bermuda shorts.  There was a smattering of under 40’s, but it was clear who was in charge.

This time was clearly different.  It was trendy shirts, spiked hair, and tattoos.  The under 40’s were large and in charge.  We are energized.  We are networking.  The Hawaaian shirts are smiling, but I suspect that is from fear (j/k).  There is a definite sense of passing the baton.  This was my big prayer last time.  Now, we just need to not forget that the Hawaiian shirts have a lot of wisdom and experience.  They are godly men and women we can learn a lot from.  The tattoos bug me a bit though, I must admit.

So back to Tuesday night: I stood there for a long time, just waiting on God.  I really felt the Holy Spirit early on, and I was bursting with laughter.  Not the kind of laughter that is at something funny, just a bubbling up from joy kind of thing.  I can’t really explain it.  What I do know is that everyone around me was weeping, and I was laughing…that is so me.  But then I realized that people could feel that I was laughing at them.  So I tried to stifle the laugh.  I stood there shaking as I held it in.  But I knew God wasn’t done with me.

As I stood there I had the growing sense of being totally alone.  I am not going to go too much into this (I’m probably sharing too much anyway), but this is a feeling beneath the surface that I’ve always had.  Sometimes I feel totally alone no matter who is around me and what they say.  Other times, it is not so bad.  Lately I think I am in a season where this is more of a reality anyway, so I think it has been bubbling under the surface for quite some time.  I can’t always identify it, but it has been there.

I began to weep.  People prayed for me.  I wept harder.  More people prayed.  I wept harder still.  Finally, a pastor from Philadelphia named Paul came, and he asked me what I was feeling.  I told him.  He prayed for me with power.  I felt the Holy Spirit ministering to me, and touching my soul in a way I haven’t felt in a while.  I am very thankful for him.

I’d like to say I spoke in tongues as I rolled on the floor in the Spirit (OK, maybe I wouldn’t like that, really) but I didn’t.  I think last night was just a time for God to minister to my heart.

Semi-Liveblogging the VNC 2:00

I just attended the seminar on Growing Your Chruch in Times of Change.  Here are my thoughts:

His stuff was really good, except for a mathmatically flawed example about triangles.

He started by saying that it was important to settle the issue that God wants your church to grow.  This is a real issue, and one that I feel we don’t focus on enough.  God wants us to multiply.  I really feel that we need to set a goal at Grace to multiply our Sunday morning service.  He intimated that this was a good thing to do.  Frankly, as long as there is anyone in Arlington who isn’t in a vital and growing relationship with Jesus, we shouldn’t stop growing.

He said that statistically most people only have 60 relationships within their church.  If the church is only 60 people, then they know everybody.  If the church is over 60, they might say this, but in reality they don’t know any less people.  They might say “I don’t know anybody anymore,” but in reality what they mean is “I don’t know everyone anymore.”  There could be two reasons for this:
1- They don’t have the influence within the church that they used to have.
2- They are looking for meaningful relationships.  In this case they need to be connected to a vital small group.

Never use the word “divide.”  Always use the word “multiply.”  Oops!

This was a big one for me, and one I will be instituting even more:  “Never do any ministry without bringing someone with you to learn how to do what you are doing!”  In the past, I have often said, always ask “What am I doing that someone else could do?”  I think this is better, and is my new paradigm for youth ministry.

As an aside, he said that they have recently asked the question, “What does it mean to be a follower of Christ?”  This has led them to formulate 3 commitments that someone at their church should have: 1-A commitment to Christ; 2-A commitment to the Church; 3-A commitment to the cause [of the Church].

I think that last one may be the topic for my sermon on Sunday.  I’ll know better as the week progresses.

Semi-Liveblogging the Vineyard National Conference (Session 1)

Vineyard USA National Conference

Bert Waggoner spoke.  I’d like to say that he’s riveting, but I’d be lying, and we know where liars go…politics.  Here is what I wrote while he was speaking:

I’m sitting in the Vineyard National Conference.  Bert Waggoner is speaking about “Heroic Leadership in a Time of Change,” which is the conference theme.  He’s using the book of Esther as a template for a paradigm for heroic leadership.  It is nice to see that we are focused on “a time of change” right now.  I wonder if we are really late on this, but a lot of denominations haven’t caught on yet.  His message is:

Heroic Leaders are:

1-     Compelled by a controlling value
2-     Committed to a Necessary risk
3-     Captured by sacrificial love

He used the words “post Christian” and “fall of Christendom” quite a few times, maybe too many.  It seems odd to be eulogizing ourselves, although I know that we aren’t proclaiming the death of the Church.  I fear that somehow we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Christian America hasn’t been all bad.  I am dying for a change now, though.  I am praying that I hear or experience something powerful and transforming for our movement.  I want to hear something heroic.  I haven’t yet.  I’m keeping my eyes open.

After the session I prayed for Jason, a church planter about my age.  He was a great guy.  He prayed for me, against any cynicism.  I needed that.

Semi-Liveblogging the Vineyard Conference (a)

Vineyard USA National Conference

This week I’m on Galveston Island, southeast of Houston, for the Vineyard USA National Conference.  I am going to be semi-live blogging the event.  I can’t actually get internet in the conference room, and I’m blogging from a laptop.  I will be posting my thoughts that I have penned the old fashioned way and typed out.  I know, I feel like a luddite…or something along those lines.

Galveston was ravaged by hurricane Ike over a year ago.  The flood waters have subsided, or course, but there is still lingering destruction.  Peichi asked me tonight if there were any buildings left.  I guess that the media made it sound like that.  There are.  The whole place was underwater, but many of those places were cleaned and repaired.  But many places were also totally destroyed.  The closer you get on the island to the sea wall, the more you see hotels standing uninhabited, and buildings that look like they’ve been through a hurricane (duh).  The convention center the conference is at has no working elevators anywhere.  This is because of the flooding.

The most difficult thing for me is the fact that half the street signs have all been blown away, and have yet to be replaced, as if replacing street signs for me are a top priority to the city.  It is hard to find my way around sometimes because of it, though.

I’ll be taking pictures and will include them on a different post when time allows.