15 May 2011
Be Human! (It's Harder Than You Think)
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.
So, here’s what happens every time we sit down on Tuesday mornings to shoot the Bible Study: Katie hits record and I start talking. I go on for about 30 seconds and she says:
“Wait, wait, wait."
“Just be human.”
"Just tell me the story."
You see, whenever I start talking about God I automatically shift into my preaching voice and pastor persona. I do it without even thinking about it. You can see it on the playback. It’s a little scary - and the scariest part is that for seven years I had no idea I was doing this!
Now, I’m a fairly down to earth guy. My writing and preaching are generally pretty accessible and grounded in lived experience. Even so, when I start talking about God, my affect, my voice, my vocabulary all change. I wrinkle my forehead, I talk softly when I’m making my main point, I trip over Biblical and theological details. I sound sort of like a hypnotist. It’s painful to watch.
The first two or three takes always sound like this pastor person, but then, after Katie’s continued calls to “be human” we finally get down to the human Keith. Thanks to Katie, that’s what you see in the videos.
All this has made me realize that even when we think we are speaking about God in a way that people can understand, we probably aren’t.
It may not be our words that are the problem. It might be our body language, affect, or voice. Whatever it is, it just doesn’t connect in the same way that just being human does. But being human is not as easy at it looks.
An (Un)Learning Process
For ministry folks there is a process of unlearning that must take place - you know, the learning that says “this is how professional talks when they speak of God.”
Now when I look into the camera, I just pretend I’m explaining the texts to a good friend.
It has also taught me that once we find a style that works for us and our audience, we really stick with it. We get very comfortable with it, verging on complacent. I’m only seven years into pastoral ministry and I already see it. Without this experience, I would be preaching the same way for the foreseeable future.
The thing is: even if our style works and works well, we be must willing to step back and analyze it - and we should be willing to try something new - not only for the Gospel and the church, but also for ourselves.
This is already transforming my worship leadership and preaching.
My thanks to Katie for calling forth my humanity and this really valuable lesson. Here's one of our best studies: