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Thursday, June 23, 2005


It's almost been 2 months now since I started the blog. In some ways, it's been a success, and in other ways...well, we won't go there.

Technology is an interesting puppy. There's no doubt we can use it to enhance our services or even our teaching ministry (click here to enter "Wired Blog Forum"). But how does a person use it to shepherd others? Here are some of my thoughts:

1) It can never replace "normal shepherding." In other words, I wouldn't see the arrival of the "eChurch" as a good thing. Part of being the Body of Christ requires personal interaction. It's too easy to hide mood, attitude and even sin behind a keyboard and screen. People need to see in each others eyes; to share a hug or handshake. Therefore, I can see a pastor having technical savvy (possibly even a Pastor of Technology) yet I don't think his job could be completely fulfilled via the web. He'd still need to be making person to person physical contact.

2) It's personal...and it isn't. To some (like me) an email feels very personal. To others it feels a little cold and distant. When I left for college, my mother made a box to keep all the letters I would write to her. I think there are two letters in that box. Email was born, and I sent most of my thoughts via the net. I thought it was great. She was disappointed. Neither view of email was wrong. I was wrong, however, for not observing that emails weren't as well received as I hoped. In the same way, we need to be able to read people, to know whether electronic communication is received warmly or not.

3) Podcasting, mp3's, etc. I see this one as a huge way to encourage and build the body. People may not have an opportunity to read a book on a particular topic, but they can pop in a cd, or listen to an ipod while they drive. There is such good teaching out there on the web (and some poo)! This can be a great way to equip people and help them see the church corporately is entering some of the same discussions we are.

4) Blogs...eh. I know my blog isn't really the type that puts pictures of myself or the kids or shares much personal information (I like those, I just didn't feel like doing that), but I truly believe a person can read my blog and get to know me a little better. You can see what issues I'm dealing with. You'll understand my approach to things and hopefully pick up a little bit of sense of humor. I do believe it is something that can enhance relationships, since you get to know the person better.

Yet there are a few pitfalls.

Written word seems to be so intense. I can say something, and I can write something and written word will always have more gravity. I know I'm not a good writer, so I use words improperly at times, and don't really convey inflection like I should in writing. Just misunderstanding the tone of something can put a whole different spin on it. Then a person is able to read, reread, read into the words that were typed. Sometimes thing get much bigger than they should have.

Privacy is also a tricky thing. People that are not our intended audience can also participate in the conversation. Sometimes this is great; it broadens the scope of our thinking. Sometimes it can be detrimental, bringing others into a situation it'd be best they were left out of.

Ultimately, electronic communication brings so many positives. It's cheaper, easier and more immediate than other forms of communication. It can enhance any person's ministry...provided it is received well.

And that's where we'll need to be patient.


  • At 1:34 PM, Blogger Jeremy Bear said…

    I don't know if you remember this, but Pastor Bennardo once did an open-mic Sunday at LCC. Not so much a testimonies thing, it was more an opportunity for anyone and everyone to address a panel of "experts" at the front about Christianity as it relates to difficult subjects of philosophy, science, relationships, money... just about everything sticky.

    I remember getting really frustrated with the whole thing because of a conversation I'd had with Pastor Tom the week prior. I was trying to convince him to just introduce the panel and let the morning flow as it would. If there's chaos, so be it, but how often do we get the chance for that manner of edgy public discussion?

    To his credit, Tom relented a bit, but he was very wary about not providing a structure. It was important to him to see the questions beforehand and it almost felt as if he wanted to design something very controlled, giving the appearance that it was all off-the-cuff.

    Looking back, it still annoys me a bit. What are we afraid of? Isn't Christianity at least partially about the Big Questions? Sure, maybe people might've gotten agitated and some unpleasant scene might've occurred, but again, so what? Why can't we be honest about our problems and questions with the faith in church? If not there, where?

    Long way around the horn to get to the main point, but it's exactly why I'm so fascinated by the internet: it births a very particular type of community that's hard to recapture IRL.

    Sure, you don't get the eye-contact or the hugs or the immediacy of an interpersonal relationship... but you can often get a certain kind of dialogue that's much more difficult face-to-face. There's less to lose online, in a way, which inspires a strange sort of honesty.

    As for eShepherding, maybe that's in the mix too. Online will never be a good surrogate for in-person, so maybe we shouldn't try. Rather, play to the strengths of web-life on its own terms.

    And I'm not even sure what that means. I do know that I've had some very good, very difficult discussions about my faith on message boards that I doubt I'd be nervy enough to have and continue face-to-face (and I know for a fact that many of those discussions happened with folks that wouldn't be caught dead in a church).

    Personally, I think you're off to a very good start. You're being genuine and gutsy and you're opening yourself up to the criticisms of jackasses like me. That's pretty cool.


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