Many argue that social media depersonalizes relationships and dehumanizes ministry. I have found just the opposite.
A few months ago I started a new YouTube video series called the Two Minute Bible Study. I started it on a whim without very much planning. I just started speaking into my webcam about the upcoming Sunday’s readings. One of the first comments came from a good friend of mine.
He said, “I like the video, but I really don’t want to look up your nose the whole time!” You can see why:
He wasn’t the only person who felt that way.
My friend Katie Osweiler had the same reaction and she performed what I can only describe as a "YouTube intervention". Katie is experienced and gifted in video production. She brought in her own camera to record me at eye level (and at a safe distance), added music, and titles. The production value is a zillion times better.
But the biggest change in the Two Minute Bible Study is the one that is happening inside of me.
I was recently introduced to the French sociologist and theologian named Michel de Certeau and an essay he wrote in 1973 entitled “How is Christianity Thinkable Today?” (You can find it in The Postmodern God.)
In this essay Certeau reflects on the decline of the church, and he asks how can we imagine a vital, living, church today, and from whence that vitality and life arises.
One of the promising aspects of the ELCA LIFT report (some background here in my previous post) is its urgent call to begin to understand our church, not as a monolithic institution, but as a collection of overlapping and interconnected networks.
It “calls for immediate attention to this church as a grouping of networks. Caring for these networks, some of them virtual networks and social networking relationships, is an immediate necessity.”
Further, it recommends that we “initiate ways to encourage congregations, synods and partners to develop flexible networks for varying purposes, recognizing these networks can increase collaboration and connections across this church and include emerging leaders from all parts of the ecology.”
This is incredibly helpful and I want to make some suggestions about how we might do this.
My short take is that the task force shows very good instincts, particularly in its overarching recommendation regarding the shift of focus and resources to local congregations. However, I think the report also falls victim to three persistent problems we face in our church ecology.
He wrote that although Holy Week is the most sacred time of the year for Christians, it is also the most dangerous - because Holy Week has often been the cause and occasion for great violence, especially against Jews.
He recounts, as he does at greater length in his book, Constantine’s Sword, the way that Christians have, until relatively recently, blamed Jews for the death of Jesus, and how the passion readings, for centuries, incited people to leave their churches on Good Friday and commit terrible acts of violence against Jews.
It is a haunting legacy that impacts us still. And so, his plea to preachers is this: “preach peace.” Preach peace in Holy Week.
I recently attended a retreat with a number of church friends. We spent part of our time together looking at sociological data on religion in America over the last 60 years.
We paid particular attention to mainline denominations, including their declining attendance and size. Over the course of an hour we talked about all sorts of reasons for that decline - political, cultural, sociological.
Not once, however, did we talk about anything the church may have done (or not) to contribute to its decline. To be fair, that question wasn’t put to us, as such. But nothing about the church’s role - in the last 60 years - over the course of 60 minutes?