Lately, I've been practicing a lot of what I have been thinking of as theology without a net.
Theology without a net happens in public spaces. It does not involve a presentation, PowerPoint slides, or a written text. It does not rely on the expert knowledge of professional ministry-types.
It does not offer or promise neat answers. It is an ongoing conversation, which is shaped by whoever shows up that day. It is responsive, not leading. It listens more than speaks. And it has to be authentic. It lives at the intersection of faith and life.
This is different from how I was trained to do theology. Theology happened controlled environments: in church or academic buildings, classes, and worship, with subject matter experts (pastors and professors), who were training me to become one too. And, hey, I loved it. I absorbed it. I got good at it.
But the world we live in demands that we do theology in a different way, on-the-fly, in different places, with different people, on someone else's turf: theology without a net.
It sounds crazy, doesn't it? I mean, how will people reach you if they need help, want to share good news, or need pastoral care?
It would be crazy to give up your phone for Lent.
And yet, we quite easily, and in some cases flippantly, talk about giving Facebook and other social networks for Lent like its no big deal.
This reflects a profound misunderstanding of the role social networking now plays our lives and ministry.
When we talk about giving up Facebook for Lent we usually mean that social media are simply a form of entertainment, that they are ancillary to our "real lives." When we place them in the category of giving up meat, coffee, chocolate, we insinuate that Facebook is a guilty pleasure that we are probably be better off without, but usually don't have the willpower to give up.
However, digital social networks have become an integrated and, for many, an essential, part of life, relationships, ministry, and, yes, faith. Just as much as any phone.
Discerning whether to seek and accept a new call to ministry is an intense experience.
A myriad of ideas, dreams, and worries swirl around in your head and heart. It can be hard to know your own mind, motives, and true desires, let alone God’s.
In my own experience of deciding to leave one call and take another, these are the three central questions that helped focus my discernment—and the resources that helped me answer them. I hope they can be helpful to you in your own process of discernment.
After one of my recent workshops on social media, one of the participants confessed that she had money riding on my presentation.
She and a friend had wagered on how long it would take me, a Lutheran pastor, to mention the Printing Press.
She won. It was the third slide.
When Lutherans (and many others) talk about social media, we often take the printing press as our starting point. Its our way of describing the amazing revolution that is taking place in communications today - and our way of thinking about how we harness new forms of media to share God's grace.
Yes, they both represent a dramatic shift in communications. However, while the printing press marked the dawn of broadcast (or mass) media - communicating your message to many people at one time with little opportunity for comment, today's social networking actually resembles the communal reading of the medieval period, which was more interactive, social, and crowdsourced.
I wonder: how do we get beyond the printing press? How can we engage social media theologically? After all, the printing press and social media are only tools. Where can Lutherans locate social media in our theological framework?
For me, the most compelling theological category is vocation.
“a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” - Psalm 51:17,
Today marks the 66th anniversary of the death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. After these many years, it feels as though we are all still catching up to his brilliant theology, his Christian witness, and his deep understanding of discipleship.
On this day, it seems appropriate to reflect upon what Bonhoeffer called the “cost of discipleship” and to ask what it means for us now. In my experience as a parish pastor, I’ve come to see that each of us calculate the cost of discipleship differently. We each give it a different name.
One of the viral hits of the holiday season is this YouTube video of a flash mob singing the Hallelujah Chorus in an Ontario mall food court. It’s fun, beautiful, and has moved many to tears. I love it because it breaks down our notions the sacred and the profane - and the false divisions we erect between them.