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.
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.
However, As Elizabeth Drescher argues in Tweet If You Heart Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation, the parallels between social media and the printing press may end there.
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.