Stop the Presses

March 23, 2012

Photo by Stewart Butterfield on Flickr

Encyclopedia Britannica has stopped the presses- literally. After 244 years, the folks at Britannica have decided to stop printing it’s iconic set of books.  While it feels a bit odd knowing fifth graders all across America will not need to hunt through these volumes for information for their state reports. Well, come to think of it, perhaps they haven’t been digging through these dusty pages for a while. If they are anything like me, when they have a question, they turn to google or another search engine.

So, while Britannica isn’t going to be printing any more information, all their information will still be online. As Jorge Cauz, president of Britannica, points out, printed work is limited. With all the information available, they have had to squeeze and prioritize what information got printed. Online they have limitless possibilities of what topics and to what depth they can post.

Information is going digital. It isn’t that people dislike books, so long as it pertains to novels. It seems, however, when it comes to accessing information, people prefer the quick and easy access of the digital world. But this doesn’t just stop at information for a elementary report or recipe. Christians and non-Christians are looking online for spiritual information. Software and web searches are more used rather than printed concordance. At least twice a week I search for a bible passage reference online. My worship pastor read verses from his phones, and another uses his iPad instead of handwritten notes. Remember the maps at the back of the Bible? Well, google earth may have replaced them. I have seen at least two people use them when referencing one of Paul’s missionary journeys.  Perhaps digital information is more accessible information?

What about you? How do you access information?

Friendship Evangelism

March 12, 2012

Photo by William Christiansen on Flickr

Easier this year, facebook rolled out the timeline- a digital way to show a person based on events, friends and connections.

Then Facebook made the announcement that they were requiring all of their facebook pages to switch to a similar format.  It left us thinking “how can this help spread the gospel?” After watching the announcement (or nearly all of it), it is interesting to see just how social this new timeline feature can be. It is all based on the premise of giving users a voice. As facebook pointed out, personal recommendations go much farther in successful marketing than announcement advertisement. For example, you may see an ad to try a restaurant, but if your friend gives the restaurant a rave review, you are more likely to get in there to try the food. This is a similar concept to the google+ button. Facebook now has a way to give more weight to certain posts than to others.

Facebook has expanded how people can tell their friends about Jesus. Well, I am sure they were not thinking of Jesus at all when they made it. But, just like many things that were build for communication, and commerce (think of the Roman Road), we have an opportunity to specifically reach our friends and engage them in conversations about faith, church, and the gospel. All you need to do is find your favorite Christian ministry, worship band, pastor or teacher,  join the conversation started on their page or share a link they shared. Your friends will see this, and are likely to respond.

So, we want to encourage you, go for it, interact- check into your church or bible study, comment on a worship video. Because facebook has automatically made it easier than ever to share that information with your friends. They are more likely to trust YOU than a welcoming easter flier that they find on their doorstep.

What are your thoughts? We are listening…

Evangelism Abroad

March 5, 2012

Have you ever had the experience where you engage in a conversation with a friend, and later overhear a stranger sharing the same information? It is almost like you want to jump into the conversation screaming “YES! I was just saying this and YOU understand!” That is exactly what we at GMO felt when we read this blog by John Dyer, director of web development at Dallas Theological Seminary.

In this entry, John shares how technology and the internet help Turkish Christians grow online. “We’ve all known people addicted to technology who have trouble unplugging and connecting in person. But in Turkey this anonymity allows Muslims who are curious about Jesus and Christianity to explore it safely.”

John continues by explaining how, while it is legal to be a Christian  in Turkey, it is still dangerous for Christians to carry a bible or “hang around a Church.” Yet, the Turkey Internet Evangelism Network (TIEN) utilizes online technology, like websites, email, youtube and facebook to engage people in faith conversations.

“The amazing thing is that they are all working to draw Turks along a path from an anonymous seeker to a faithful follower of Christ connected to a local church body.”

How exciting to read of stories of believers reaching out online to reach the world for Christ! What other stories have you seen lately?

Perhaps you have used the +1 button to mark a helpful link in your Google search results. Maybe you have used it to mark an interesting article you have read. But have you thought that using the +1 button can help you share your faith?

As the above video shows, when a  person who has a Google profile clicks the +1 button, Google automatically uses this click like a recommendation. This means if your friend clicked +1, this would show up in your search results.  Even if there isn’t anyone you personally know who liked the page, Google will still display the number of people who have liked it.  This “like” or recommendation of sorts is to help you have more confidence in knowing the site you are about to visit — that it will actually have the information for which you are looking.

So, what if you liked a page that has a presentation of the gospel? We already know that millions of people a day are searching online for spiritual related information. It is safe to say that some of these millions might be people we know. If they were searching on Google, they would see the sites that you have clicked +1.  It is a virtual recommendation from a trusted friend. What if you +1ed an article that helped you grow in your faith? Your friends would be able to see this article when they searched.

The brilliance in sharing your faith this way is that it takes less than a second and meets people in the moment they are searching.  You can’t know or be there in every moment of everyday.  But by clicking +1 on pages you like, it is like you are leaving a sign to point people who are searching in the right direction.

If you are interested, help people find Jesus by visiting GodLife.com and click +1 on the gospel page or any of the GodLife articles that help you grow in your faith. What other sites can you +1 to share your faith?

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Academy Awards could be “the biggest night yet for social media.”  ABC, the  station hosting the awards, plans to have two people tweeting from back stage.  There is a new feature on the  Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences facbook which lets users choose which films and actors they expect to win. There is even an Oscar app which will show videos winners who want to extend their acceptance speeches. Using dedicated hastags, people can leave comments about their favorite and not so favorite actors on the red carpet. All the while, ABC will be monitoring what people are saying online. They will use this feedback to decide what clips to show, and what gets featured. More than ever the Oscars will be a social experience.

So, what about churches? What can we learn from the Academy Awards?  Social media is all about making the world more connected. How can people connect more with the family of believers?

First, think of the possibilities if churches posted more “behind the scenes.” If a service happens one day a week, what about the other 6 days? Using twitter or facebook, churches can let their congregation know what they prayed for in staff devotionals, how a building project is going, if God answered a major prayer request, some of the pastor’s thoughts, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Second, use a hashtag. Many sermons include an overall theme or point. Turn that into a hash tag.Then ask your congregation to hashtag their learning throughout the week is powerful. It will help them to remember what they have learned, and also engage with others.   Check out the hash tag #1000Gifts for an example.

Third, use a facebook polls to get feedback from the very people you are trying to engage. Ask if there was something unclear from the last sermon. Ask what scriptures God has been revealing to their hearts lately.

Last, reach out to those who are not saved online. The Oscars is a huge moment for stars, but ABC has gone out of it’s way to make it accessible to everyone. Not everyone is a Christian, but as the body of Christ, we need to out out of our way to reach out and invite others to know Jesus. There are many opporunities through facebook, prayer, and even responding to people online.

Let’s work to give God as much air time as any awards show!

Image from MDI Digital and found on the Wall Street Journal Website

At the end of last week, we posted our first three tips on how to respond as a Christian online. Here are the rest:

4. Be Gospel Focused.

One wonderful aspect of God is that he is big and often does things outside of how societies and cultures think he “should.”  His word, is clear on the importance of the gospel. Remember to stay focused on the Christ instead of what divides us. If we take a look at Galatians 5 and we see how Paul stresses how the gospel is central to our faith.

5. Don’t Blast the Negative.

We understand that the beauty of social networks is that they allow us to express ourselves. They give us opportunities to post publicly what we are thinking or feeling. There is a trend, however, in which people tend to blast another person’s thoughts or actions in status updates or tweets.  As Christians, we should think about how can build up the body of Christ, not tear it down. Realize that if someone does or posts something that bothers us, it is much better to virtually follow the advice given in Matthew 18:15 which says “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens, and confesses it, you have won your brother over.” (NIV)

6. Be Encouraging.

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 (NASB)

“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 11 (NASB)

If Jesus wanted it to happen for his church in person, he would also want it to happen online. Let’s be focused on building one another up in each interaction we have with one another.

7. Check Your Heart.

Ask yourself and God to reveal why you feel the need to respond? What will responding do for the situation or discussion? Can I be loving in my response?  From my own experience, I notice when I take those extra few moments in an space where my fingers can’t reach a keyboard I find it is often my own PRIDE that wants me to respond. It isn’t because I want to be loving.  Sometimes it is because I want to be seen as better, more spiritual, kinder, wiser, or whateverer than the other person. This isn’t a reason to respond. When I give the space for God to either give me the words or to convict my heart, I am left open to do what he wants of me. Sometimes it means not responding at all. Othertimes it is confessing, and allowing HIM to give me the words I should say.

There you have it, seven tips on how to respond as a Christian online. What are some other things that you have found to be helpful when responding as a Christian online?

With more and more of our communication happening over technology rather than face to face, it is easy to sometimes forget that there is a real person on the receiving end of our communication.  There seems to be a trend to blast people over text, tweets, or a Facebook status. Message board discussions can quickly turn to nasty debates. While it is perfectly reasonable to express your thoughts and opinions, Christians are often left wondering how Jesus would have them respond online. We have a two part blog on 7 ways to respond as a Christian online. Here are the first three:

1. Pray.

Yes, yes. This may seem like the most obvious one. But how many of us actually do it?  In the heat of the moment when we see an opinion that is clearly “wrong,” it is easy to not even think “oh, I got this,” and respond. But taking an extra moment to pray and ask God “how would YOU respond to this” helps to sift of focus from what we feel to what is truly important.

2. Walk away.

It has happened to all of us. We are on our merry way, not in a bad mood, not looking for a disagreement, and suddenly, we see something that makes our blood boil. It is so tempting to want to jump into a discussion right then, especially if others are. But before we say type something, take a moment. Literally walk away from your computer or cell phone. Cool down. Get a drink of water.  Walk down the hall, do ANYTHING but respond in kind online. Psalm 37:8 says “Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it only leads to evildoing.”

3. Avoid debate.

Proverbs 26:4-5 says “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes.”  It is important to remember that many statement online are nothing more than folly. Everyone can spout off some very stupid things just because they can (Yes, everyone). So, avoid getting into foolish debates. Foolish debates wont change a person’s heart, and both parties in a foolish debate look, well, foolish. You can’t help others “see the light” if they are being foolish. That said, if you feel your silence will confirm a person’s foolish actions, do speak up. You only need to say it once. You don’t need to debate.  Also remember, it is easy to mistake what and how a person is trying to communicate over technology. Because there are no nonverbal cues, people might take what you say wrong, even if you are tying to be friendly and helpful.

Stay tunes for our next 4 tips on how to respond as a Christian online…