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4 Ways You Can Use Social Media for Good

Small GroupsI just wrote an article for one of the best websites on the net for small group ministry, SmallGroups.com. Here’s the intro:

No one can deny the popularity of social networking. It’s everywhere. It’s the cloud we breathe all the time without even thinking about it. If you’re like most people, you get anxious when you’re more than eight steps from your phone, and you think you feel it buzzing in your pocket even when it’s quietly lying on the table. But is social media useful for small groups?

I believe you can’t have a healthy small group without being about social media. Apps, gadgets, and social networking websites are optional, but social media is a phrase that captures the very reason why small-group ministry exists. Let me explain.

Media simply means information or data. Media is content—the message. Social is merely a word we use to describe the way media travels: from person to person, relationally. Small groups are all about people getting together in relationships around a message. So social media is the very DNA of small-group ministry, with or without the Internet.

If you believe that both content and relationships are at the core of any great small-group ministry, you’re already well on your way to using social media more effectively for ministry. We just need to establish a good philosophy of how technology relates to ministry.

I believe that modern social networking tools have the power to unite us around causes, connect us with new people, and extend the reach of important messages people need to hear—including the gospel. And I’m convinced that social media has tremendous potential to improve group life and small-group ministry. Here’s how:

Read the Full Article (at SmallGroups.com)

What Did Jesus Suffer? And Why?

Head on cross

About seven hundred years before Jesus died on the cross, Isaiah wrote about it in extraordinary detail…

Who has believed our message? To whom has the LORD revealed his powerful arm? My servant grew up in the LORD’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.

We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.

Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands.

When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.

– Isaiah 53:1-12 NLT

Just to re-cap…

  • He was despised
  • Rejected
  • Pierced
  • Crushed
  • Beaten
  • Whipped
  • Oppressed
  • Treated harshly
  • Condemned
  • Struck down
  • Buried like a criminal

And why?

  • Yet it was our weaknesses he carried
  • It was our sorrows that weighed him down
  • Pierced for our rebellion
  • Crushed for our sins?
  • Beaten so we could be whole?
  • Whipped so we could be healed
  • All of us, like sheep, have strayed away
  • The Lord laid on him the sins of us all??

You can debate the meaning of the cross and the nature of the One who gave His life on it. What you can’t do is get around this one, undeniable, life-changing fact. Jesus really, really loves you! He proved it.

Now, it’s up to you. Do you own your weaknesses and sorrows, confess your rebellion and sins, and trust him to forgive you, make you whole, and forgive all of your sins? Or do you continue on your way as though you’re okay, as though his death means nothing, and as though eternity doesn’t hang in the balance.

Need help? Have questions? Reach out. I’d love to help you make the biggest and best decision you could ever possibly make – to put your trust in Jesus as Savior and King! But you don’t have to have my help. Tell God you believe him. You own your sin. You believe Jesus died for you. You trust him to save you. You commit to live the rest of your life for him. And then prepare for everything to change. Forever.

Photo by CreationSwap.

Grace Hills: A Growing Church for a Growing Community

Grace Hills Lobby

I’m in awe of God because He is God and because of all that I know to be true about Him from Scripture. And I’m humbled to be a part of what he is doing in the world today. I just got to share this brief update about Grace Hills Church via Mission:World Magazine. Will you read it and rejoice with me?

Sometimes Northwest Arkansas feels very much like the center of the world, at least culturally. What was once small town America is now a cluster of cities collectively larger than Little Rock and consisting of dozens of ethnic groups and people from every major religious background. The region is also home to the world’s largest retail corporation and a new, American art museum that draws a half million visitors per year. Somewhere around 1,000 people move into the I-49 corridor every month. In other words, we couldn’t plant enough churches to keep up with the population explosion and cultural transformation happening around us. But we’re going to try.

In the four years that we’ve been planting Grace Hills, we’ve met close to 2,000 visitors and now average 250 in Sunday worship, having baptized close to 100 people. A dozen and a half small groups now scatter around the county each week. And we’ve also accomplished one of our biggest goals – we’re planting a daughter church in nearby Siloam Springs – Journey Church, led by Michael and Jennifer Smith and Cody Woodward. Additionally, we’ve sent The Sanders and Crabtree families to Papua New Guineau and we’ve partnered with missionaries John and Alisha Herring in Nixa, Missouri and Ely and Ana Brito-Semedo in Thailand.

The biggest celebration is that behind every number is a name; every name has a story; and every story matters to God. Join us in praying that God would keep sending more broken people our way in need of the redemptive hope of Jesus Christ!

24 Great Links for Leaders, Readers, and Creatives – March 27, 2015

9 Major Stallers To Church Projects and Initiatives, by Tony Morgan

Churches often get a bad reputation for not being able to see things through. In fact, in nearly every church I’ve worked with, someone has shared the story of a past initiative that fell short of the finish line.

Minimum Viable Spiritual Growth Plan, from Leadership Network

Leadership Network recently surveyed over 1,600 ministry leaders of large (1000+) churches. The most frequently cited issue facing churches today is “discipleship.”

15 Essential Quotes from Bill Hybels – Global Leadership Summit, by Brad Bridges

“Legacy leaders are the only ones wiling to pay the price to fix a broken culture.” — @BillHybels

Brandon Cox on Mentoring & Releasing Church Planters

Rich Birch, from Unseminary, interviewed me on his podcast about how our church is involved in church planting even though we’re still young.

How To Promote Your Blog Posts To Get 10,289 Social Shares, by Robbie Richards

Today, I’m going to show you step-by-step how to promote your blog posts to get thousands of social media shares (without spending a penny). Zero budget.

13 Things Spiritual Leaders Do Differently, by Neal Samudre

In a world of noise and production, the spiritual leader stands in stark contrast to the surrounding culture.

Best Visual Marketing Apps to Create Social Media Graphics, by Rebekah Radice

Are you using graphics in your social media posts? Would you like to connect consumers to your business through visual marketing?

A Pursued and Purchased Prostitute, by Eric Geiger

The story of Hosea and Gomer is a shocking one, but one that reminds us of our sinfulness and God’s enduring love for His people, His bride. Hosea was a prophet who ministered during a very rebellious period in Israel’s history.

Stop Asking God to Speak and Start Praying for Better Ears, by Lysa TerKeurst

Have you ever found yourself frustrated because it seems like God’s not speaking to you? I know. It’s hard.

Effective Leaders Make Decisions, by Sam Luce

A decision is a judgment. It is a choice between alternatives. It is rarely a choice between right and wrong.

One Key Reason Most Churches Do Not Exceed 350 in Average Attendance, by Thom Rainer

Nine out of ten. That’s a lot.

The Anatomy of a Successful Facebook Post, by Shari Monnes

When it comes to using Facebook for business, many people wonder what the secret for success is. What kinds of posts get the best results, and how can you increase engagement? Are there things you should be doing that you’re not?

Installing Soft Walls in Your Church, by Kevin A. Thompson

The credit should probably go to Dale Earnhardt. While his stubbornness may have cost him his own life, his legendary status forced NASCAR to act when he was tragically killed on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

Why God Doesn’t Remove Our Sinful Cravings Immediately, by J. D. Greear

Every Christian I know has had the experience of coming up against the same sin—again—and wondering, “Will this struggle ever end? Why doesn’t God just remove this?” (If you haven’t had that experience, just give it time.

Monica Lewinsky: ‘Shame is an industry and the currency is clicks’, via Mashable

If anyone knows what it means to be publicly humiliated, it’s Monica Lewinsky. In one of very few major media appearances in more than a decade, Monica Lewinsky took the TED stage on Thursday to champion online compassion.

7 Intangible, Seemingly Unproductive Actions Valuable in Leadership, by Ron Edmondson

Much of what a leader does can seem unproductive at times. For someone wired for production — progress — checklist completion — even wasted.

Done With Church? Don’t Quit It, Change It, by Karl Vaters

There’s a large and growing number of people who say they’re done with church.

And New at Pastors.com This Week…

Digging In: Cultivating a Healthy Church Culture, by Jim Powell

Culture is the somewhat nebulous and complex blend of norms, beliefs, attitudes, traditions, and practices that define a congregation. Every church has a culture…

Saddleback Church Staff8 Values of TEAMWORK That Keep a Church Healthy, by Rick Warren

The success of your ministry depends largely on developing a strong team with a deep sense of team spirit. I’ve witnessed the incredible power of a unified team to create growth and have counseled many churches who weren’t growing because their team members worked as individuals and not as a team.

Three Reasons Why Ministers Should Be Hard Workers, by Ronnie Floyd

Ministers have challenging jobs. In many ways, ministers are never truly away from the office…. Yet, with these realities and many more that I did not list, ministers should never be excused from working hard.

Free Ebook – Building Strong Worship Leaders, Edited by Dwayne Moore

One of the greatest needs of the church today is gifted, godly worship leaders who will not only pour themselves into the weekly corporate gathering but who will, behind the scenes and off the stage, pour their very lives into discipling and training a whole new generation of worship leaders.

Free Ebook – Skinny Jeans and a Tattoo Does Not Make You a Leader, by Brian K. Dodd

As a member of INJOY Stewardship Solutions, I have the privilege of attending some of the greatest Christian conferences possible. During the second half of 2014, several events among others stood out…

Hope for Families Touched by Suicide, by Scott Attebery

The test of eternal life is not whether or not a person takes their life, but whether or not they have received Christ’s life. No person will enter Heaven because of a good life or great deeds. Rather, eternal life comes by grace through faith in Jesus (Eph. 2:8-9).

4 Types of Unconnected People and How to Connect Them, by Mark Howell

Have you picked up on the fact that unconnected people are different in some ways than connected people? If you have, you are already moving in the right direction.

Before Your Church Starts Using Social Media…

Blog GraphicShould churches utilize social media for the mission of carrying the gospel to the ends of the earth? Yes! But after a decade or so of helping churches and leaders utilize blogging and social networking for ministry I’ve come to a solid conclusion that every church leader needs to hear:

We don’t need to get our church involved in social media until our church’s leaders are invested in it. 

Usually, when a church reaches out for help about getting started, this involves launching or redesigning the church’s website, creating a church Facebook page, and possibly creating an Instagram and/or Twitter account. But repeatedly, these efforts are wasted because of a misunderstanding about the nature of social media.

Here’s the simple explanation. Social media is media (information, truth, a message of some kind) that is social (spread person-to-person or person-to-people through relationships). But we who grew up in the age of television, radio, print, and even the early days of the Internet wish it were as simple as it was a couple of decades ago when any institution or organization could mass distribute its message and count on a decent response from the general public.


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Here are the harsh realities, or the beautiful opportunities if we can see them as such, that are now facing us:

  • People don’t trust institutions, including churches, to be honest about their own message.
  • People don’t listen to institutional language but instead demand an authentically human voice.
  • People don’t choose things based on advertising but rather based on the opinions of friends.

So having a church website, or church Facebook page, or church anything is terribly ineffective if it isn’t personal, human, and relational.

I believe that for most churches, especially smaller to medium-sized churches, it’s actually more important for the Pastor and staff to be present on social media than for the church to show up there institutionally. Marriott is just a hotel, but reading Bob Marriott’s blog makes it a knowable, relatable business. Zappos revolutionized the fashion-retail business by directly responding to customers on Twitter. And Ed Stetzer is one of evangelicalism’s most listened to voices because he’s decided that blogging and tweeting prolifically is worth the time.

So now, my first and primary question to any church leader asking for help getting into social media is this: Are you personally and professionally using social media?

Using the excuse that you don’t have time doesn’t cut it anymore. If you have time for evangelism, you have time for social media. If you have time to meet new people, research current trends, and build relationships, you have time for social media. So the time is right now.

If you’re a church leader and you’re not using social media to advance the church’s purposes, you’re simply delaying the obsolescence of your ministry impact. You can coast a while longer and relate only to fellow hold-outs, or you can decide that now is the time to engage the current culture, where it is, in the online world. Here are some tips for getting started:

  • Sign up on Twitter, create a decent bio and use a current photo for your profile, then follow people that make sense – fellow church leaders, community leaders, and people on the fringes of your church’s extended family.
  • Use Facebook regularly. Post something inspirational daily, open a window into your life with some photos, and encourage other people with comments, likes, and personal messages.
  • Blog. Use WordPress, Tumblr, or Medium to turn your sermon notes into devotional messages that live past lunch on Sunday. And dare to share it with other people.
  • Sign up for free, helpful material from Lifeword, whose goal is to help every believer become a media missionary. Or read a book about using social media for ministry.

When church leaders such as Pastors, staff members, and volunteer team leaders get excited about communicating the gospel and cultivating a healthy church community using modern tools, the church will follow. And at the end of the day, the people who sit in our pews on Sunday are far more instrumental to the spread of the gospel than the institution’s public face. It’s been that way since Jesus commissioned the apostles to take the good news to the whole world.


 

And for some other good follow-up reading on social media, check out these links: