Six Questions for the UMC #6qumc

One mission.

Three simple rules.

Four areas of focus.

Five practices.

Six questions for the United Methodist Church.

So here are my six questions:

How are you raising up the next generation of leaders?

How are we supporting emerging ministries?  Not emergent church…emerging ministries.  Think Internet campus, social media, and beyond.

How is the call to ordained ministry different for Elders and Deacons?  Is it? How are we living into the uniqueness of each Order?

Are we willing to risk faith to reform the structure of the church to maximize the mission?

How does the structure of our denomination empower/limit the local church?

How does the communication/advertising reflect local church practices?

And, the question that continues to nudge me, ok, it’s question 7 (maybe 8), requires a quote from the current issue Rev. Magazine (Tony Morgan, “twitter this!,” Rev., July/August 2009, p. 51. web link not yet available).  Here’s what Tony Morgan writes:

When the printing press was invented, the church used that pioneering technology to spread God’s Word and it ushered in the Reformation.  Now we treat new technologies as threats rather than embracing and leveraging their potential.  We live in a world that desperately needs the new life that only Jesus can provide.  God has given us a new “printing press.”  Will we embrace the opportunity it give us to reach the world?

Will we embrace the opportunity social media gives us? Or, will we allow a committee to decide whether we should be using social media and how it should be used?  Just wondering.

In the past two days, I have accomplished more by using Facebook than you might believe.  My Mom was wondering why I wasn’t at work.  She lives in suburban Detroit.  I live in Cincinnati.  My status said I was having breakfast on my balcony.  She read it at 1 PM.  We laughed.  I found a local sound company from a young adult who now lives in Cleveland.  I am setting up appointments, too.  I learned a colleague who is moving sliced his hand and is having surgery to repair it.  And, in the midst of a debate about liability, the church, and social media, I was chatting on Facebook with our Annual Conference contact who quickly pointed me to information online. In a matter of minutes I had the best practices for non-profit use of social media on my computer screen.  New technology provides a way for us to reach people we could not imagine reaching before.

By the way, church, Facebook has been around since 2004.  We’re a bit late to the game.

Perhaps the threat of new technology is a subtle form of fear.  We tend to fear what we do not know.  For some, technology is a huge monster lurking in the corner.  Can we help you learn? Are you willing to learn?  We’ll be gentle guides.  It’s fun for us to remember what it’s like to learn about technology.  We appreciate it even more when you “get it.”

I know I am not the norm.  Here’s my life with technology:  I grew up with an Apple computer on my Dad’s desk downstairs. I never typed a paper on a typewriter and don’t know that I could if I had to.  I use the backspace key a little too often (only 4 times in that short sentence).  I would have never received two Masters Degrees if it wasn’t for my laptop.  As a kid I kept track of my baseball cards on a digital spreadsheet…yes, a bit of a tech nerd.  I then did the layout and design of our high school yearbook on one of Adobe’s products.  I had one of the first generation iPods that looks now like a dinosaur, or perhaps a remnant of the first video game, pong.

I have only known change in technology.

From a Mac to a PC and then back again.  No, actually, I now own one of each.  It’s a long story.  I have not bought a CD in well over a year.  I use Twitter to update my Facebook status and find staying in touch with high school and college friends much easier because of technology.  I was among the first to disconnect my land line phone in 2001.  Most thought I was a bit odd not to have a phone at home.  And now, my iPhone is always near.

I will have whatever hand disorder is caused by touch screen technology. I leave it home when I am leading worship on Sunday (only because I am just a two minute walk away).  Other than that, it is with me.  Soon, I’m sure we’ll be sending tweets about sermons.  Perhaps some of you sitting in the pews already are.  Actually, I know you are.

I read the NY Times, USA Today and ABC News on my iPhone.  A newspaper?  Only when I visit my parents in Michigan.  I checked my bank account to make sure bills were paid electronically on my iPhone while waiting for a pizza.  I’m ready to disconnect my cable TV, too.  Why am I paying for it, when I can watch shows online?

Yes, I’m living in a digital world.  We all are.  Do we know how to move into this new era with grace?

The church, little c, is still living in the midst of the revolution of the printing press. We still grab our hymnals, we still have our order of worship in front of us, we kill more and more trees with each passing day.  If we’re smart, we recycle our left over bulletins.  We can’t abandon all forms of printed material.  I don’t want us to…not yet.

When I had the joy of worshiping on line with two other churches, I noticed the interaction that happened on one allowed guests to be a part of a conversation.  Questions were asked and people shared.  Others who were regulars were checking in on how work, school, and family were and if prayer concerns from the last week were finding new life.  The other church used cameras in such a way that I felt like I was there.  When I started singing outloud, I wanted to apologize to my neighbor.  Music is not a gift of mine.

Will we utilize these opportunities to share the gospel?  Technology is a tool. It is another door into the church. We have many opportunities to impact the world.   Here’s what I wonder:  if over 28 million people 18-34 years old have a Facebook account, why wouldn’t we want our local church to be present on Facebook?  Why wouldn’t we do everything in our power to equip people with the knowledge and skills to use social media to share the gospel.

I used to hang out at  a local pizzeria with my friends.  It was the place to see people and be seen.  Today, the place I can “meet” more people at one time is Facebook.  So whether it is sending an Happy Birthday wish or a note about an upcoming event, we have tools to help us in ministry like never before.  More importantly, we have a tool to reach the world with the message of the gospel.

The question remains: Will we embrace new technology (social media and beyond) to reach the world?

And, if you are wondering, yes, I’ll be posting this link on Facebook.

Perhaps you have a question for the United Methodist Church.

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