Friday, January 29, 2010

The Pope Dives Into Social Networking-What about your church?

Here is a recent article in which the pope encourages priests to use social networking to spread the gospel.

The Pope said, "Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the
latest generation of audiovisual resources -- images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites -- which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis," he said.

If the Pope, who is 82 and no technology buff, is calling on people to use social media, what about us?
How is your church using social media to share the gospel? What help can you offer or do you need?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Colleges seeking to make degrees more relevant-what about churches?

I recovering from a nose job that I had last week. Ha, ha. :) Actually, I had surgery to correct a deviated septum. They removed my stints today-yikes! I hope to be back to full strength in a few days. Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and prayers.

I really have been trying to rest, but I came across an article today in the New York Times entitled, Making College Relevant. The article cites various examples of colleges increasingly seeking to be directly "relevant" in the majors that they offer. The University of Louisiana, for instance, is eliminating their philosophy major, and the University of Michigan is eliminating American Studies and Classics majors. The reasons? Decline of students majoring in these fields.

Increasingly, students--and their parents who are paying exorbitant tuition rates--are asking, how will this major help me get a job? No one can afford $100,000 to get a degree in Sand Script and then work at StarBucks. The loans cost too much. So economic reality is driving this shift in part.

However, there is another cultural force driving this shift--the collapse of Western thought and the rise of pragmatism. Western philosophy was built upon thinkers such as Rene Descartes. Descartes doubted everything until he could find the one thing which he could not doubt--that he thought. Upon this absolute foundation, he then built additional thoughts and conclusions. This led to the rise of "foundationalism," deduction, and rational thought.

In case you had not noticed, no one is buying anyone else's deductions these days. Deductions are viewed to be a way of manipulating and controlling arguments. Not only is there skepticism of the deducers, but we are moving into a post-literate, narrative, image based society where deduction and logic are rarely the primary forms of communication.

For instance, when was the last time you saw a TV show or movie where the form was people making statements and then seeking to prove them? Purely deductive sermons--once the norm in churches--are now death for communication. No speaker comes in to an audience--even a Christian audience--with enough clout to pull this off consistently. People are already skeptical.

At the same time, people are skeptical of induction to form conclusions as well. Science claims to be inductive, based upon emperical evidence. But as the recent scandal on global warming shows, data can and is often manipulated by humans--whether scientists or other mere mortals--to fit pre-conceived conclusions.

What are we left with, then, if both deduction and induction are viewed skeptically today? Pragmatism. What really works. People don't have time or patience for theories or knowledge for knowledge's sake. Give me something that works, and that I can see that works.

This has huge implications for "how we do church."

  • Sermons need to have practical application and inspire people to actually take action.
  • Bible classes need to be much less about knowledge--which can be found anywhere on the Internet--and more about real life issues - marriage, relationships, child raising, friendship, Christianity in the workplace, how to reach out. And because people are dealing with different issues, we need all kinds of "classes" in all kinds of places.
  • Elders need to spiritual life coaches, not board of directors. Younger people are dying for mentors, role models, marriage examples, and people who care about them.

People today say, don't tell me about the doctrine of grace. Tell me how grace can help me forgive my wife or husband. Or make me not beat myself up. Or be kind to my children when they are acting like little rebels!

Many college administrators are bemoaning the fact that college students are not that interested in philosophy and are so pragmatic. They want college students to receive a broad based foundation that goes beyond an immediate job and helps them learn how to think. There is value in this. But if no one signs up--whether for a major or for something church related--then this thinking does no good. A more integrated "curriculum" that provides broad based thinking while emphasizing practical application may be a necessity for today's pragmatic society.

And, after all, shouldn't Christianity "work?"

What do you think of the pragmatic emphasis in culture? How should this be applied in the church? What should be avoided? What is good about this?