The blog has been a little lonely lately. I have been filling in preaching in the traditional service at University United Methodist Church in San Antonio during their time of pastoral transition. It is good to get a chance to proclaim the Gospel on Sunday mornings though it makes it a little hard to keep up with everything else.
Even though it feels like it is pulling me away from my primary ministry focus, helping local churches leverage technology to reach the mission field, I think it helps me refocus on that very task. Preparing and delivering a sermon each week brings me back to what my work is about.
For the last three weeks, I have been preaching from the letters of the Apostle Paul. These letters were an early form of social media. I don’t think that is a stretch. Paul would send these letters to a particular church to deliver a message. The letters would be shared with the church orally. They were likely also shared orally with other churches. Then they were copied and shared with other churches who shared them. They likely copied them and shared them with other churches. We know that they were copied and shared since that is the only way to explain how we have access to these texts. We don’t have originals of Paul’s letters. We have handwritten copies mostly from decades after the initial manuscript was penned. It was through this early social media web that these words were shared and eventually passed down. In our modern vocabulary, the letters we have today are the ones that went “viral.”
Now let us think about what Paul was doing in those letters. Very often, Paul’s letters were corrective. Paul heard back that Christians and churches were straying from the message of the Gospel. Sometimes it was bad teaching or false teaching. Sometimes it might have been what we would call “mission drift.” Other times it seems to have been related to the complexities of what happens when clear and sound teaching comes into contact with the messiness of the world.
It took a long time for Paul’s letters to circulate. It could take weeks, even months, for a letter to be delivered. Any copies had to be hand written. We now live in a world where anyone with an internet connection can communicate instantly with anyone on the planet. And we now have a social media network that can take a silly video about cats and spread it to millions of screens in just hours.
I wonder what we are doing with it? I wonder what Paul would have done?
I am going to stop today with that question. But there is a part two of this post in works. Social media is evolving and messy. There are a lot of voices out there. Even within our denomination we have arguments over doctrine, theology and practice. Does all this free flowing communication help us communicate truth or does it lead to more false teaching and mission drift? How do we handle that? How do we use this worldwide social network to advance the sharing of the Gospel? More soon.