Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Goodread of the Week: Platform, by Michael Hyatt

Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, by Michael Hyatt

How can Social Media cut through the cacophony of noise and deliver great content while fostering relationships?

Michael Hyatt does not disappoint. The chairman and former CEO of Thomas Nelson publishers has written a step-by-step guide for building your platform.  Much of the content derives from posts at his excellent blog, but the book is worth every penny.

Some of his insights don't apply to my field as a pastor, but most are applicable to any platform.  One of his key points is... 
Social media is relational, not transactional.
Building a platform is not about spamming potential hearers or buyers, but about creating relationships and adding value to people's lives. 

Here are the Five Parts to building your platform, with examples of how I've applied his concepts to my work as a pastor:

1) Start with Wow - creating a compelling product is crucial.  David Ogilvy wrote, "Good marketing only makes a bad product fail faster."  While I'd enjoy blogging about my beloved Oregon Ducks and the latest variations of goo and gee coming from our son, Ezra (also beloved), that's not what I'm hoping to contribute with Believing-Thomas.  My hope is that I can become a fruitful participant in the passionate conversations well underway about theology, culture, and the future of the church.  

2) Prepare to Launch -  Hyatt encourages us to think big and have specific goals, but be able to boil our goals down to an elevator pitch.  There is plenty else on assembling your 'pit crew', branding, and developing a media kit.  What's my elevator pitch for Believing-Thomas?
"Believing-Thomas is an online conversation that traces the marks of Christ and culture, looking for clues about the activity of God in our world and for hints about how the church might better serve a changing reality."
3) Build your Home Base - This is basically the how-to-build-a-blog section.  Hyatt offers many words of wisdom to make blog writing an efficient and fruitful process, while avoiding common blogging mistakes.  Personally, I use and LOVE Evernote to organize my ideas and notes for everything, blog or otherwise.  Evernote is basically my digital-brain and has become my primary productivity tool.

4) Expand your Reach - Hyatt considers your blog/website to be your home base and uses this section to teach us how to employ Twitter, Facebook and other social media to expand the reach of your home base.  How to generate blog traffic and subscribers without losing too many readers.  I'm trying to promote this blog along existing networks of friends without getting spammy.  
One change I've made in response to this section is to re-envision my church's Facebook Page and Twitter feed.  I used to only post announcements and reminders, along with the occasional picture album from recent events.  Now I use Buffer to collect and stagger posts of interesting links and stories from the web that I hope will give food for thought to our audience.  Again, the hope is to maintain a regular online presence where self-promotion is but one facet.

5) Engage your Tribe - Related to his key point that social media is relational, this section offers lots of help in how to participate in conversation with your platform community.  He likens publishing a blog post to hosting a dinner party.  The host takes care of the location and provides the meal, but the life of the party comes in the ensuing conversations.
This is where I hope Believing-Thomas is headed.  I know that will take time and interesting content.  Lord have mercy.

For more information, checking out Hyatt's blog is a great place to begin. I highly recommend signing up for his e-mail subscription. This book is also well-worth the price, whether you are in business, ministry, or other endeavors.

For you, what topics cut through the social media noise and grab your attention?  Leave a comment below!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hey Church, You Lost Me! Part 1.

Roughly 60% of young adults have dropped out of regular church involvement, after previous involvement during childhood.

For the next few weeks I will be blogging through a fascinating recent book on the decline of church participation among young adults (18-30).  "You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church," by David Kinnaman president of the Barna Research Group.

 I believe this book can clue us in on some of the larger trends in American Christianity and the changing landscape of church life.  We are closer to 2050 than to 1950, and the church must translate the Gospel for today's world without losing the heart of our heritage.  I believe it can be done and I believe the vital signs are present at my congregation (Bethesda Lutheran, Eugene, OR) and countless other places to continue stepping into God's future, in faith and service.

Kinnaman first notes three realities we need to keep in mind:

1.  "Teen church engagement remains robust, but many...are not growing up to be faithful young adult disciples of Christ."
2.  "There are different kind of dropouts...we need to take care not to lump an entire generation together."
3.  "The dropout problem is, at its core, a faith-development's a disciple-making problem.  The church is not adequately preparing the next generation to follow Christ faithfully in a rapidly changing culture."
Next, Kinnaman gives a helpful distinction between three broad ways of being lost:

1.  Nomads walk away from church engagement but still consider themselves Christians.
2.  Prodigals lose their faith, describing themselves as no longer Christian.
3.  Exiles are still invested in their Christian faith but feel stuck (or lost) between culture and the church.

Finally, Kinnaman offers three contexts in which disciple making needs to be addressed:

1.  Relationships - most young adults surveyed feel frequently isolated from the parents and other older adults in the realm of faith and spirituality.  A majority reported never having an adult friend other than their parents.
2.  Vocation - millions of young adults are interested in serving in mainstream professions, but receive little guidance from their church communities for how to connect these vocational dreams deeply with their faith in Christ.  This is especially true with vocations in the sciences.  There is also a noted loss in the church of "creatives," musicians, visual and performance artists, filmmakers, storytellers, writers, etc.
3.  Wisdom - young adults have more access to knowledge than any other generation in human history, but many lack discernment for how to wisely apply that knowledge to their lives and world.  How can the Christian community help young Christians live wisely in a culture of mental, emotional, and spiritual distraction?
In the weeks to come, we'll look at Kinnaman's descriptions of dropouts, the most common reasons cited for disconnection, and some possibilities for reconnection.

How about you?

Do you see this pattern of dropouts in your church?  

Please leave a comment below:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Only Children Die in War

Imara Studios, accessed via Twitter.
This image arrested me today.  An Infantryman's infant.  A  child who will not long be kept warm by his father's empty uniform.

Many of the men and women who have given their lives in service to our country were fathers and mothers.

Each and every were somebody's child.

This same image could serve as a haunting forecast of a future casualty in a future conflict.

Our son, Ezra, will be 4 months old on Sunday.  I cannot fathom how quickly-lived will be the time from today to his eligibility for enlistment.

My heart and prayers are with those who have lost children to war.  Psalm 46:10 is a well-known and beloved passage of scripture - "Be still, and know that I am God."  What is less well-known is that this is a word spoken into the midst of battle and uproar:

God is our refuge and strength, 
    an ever-present help in trouble. 
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way 
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 
though its waters roar and foam 
    and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, 
    the holy place where the Most High dwells. 
God is within her, she will not fall; 
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us; 
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the Lord has done, 
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields[d] with fire. 
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; 
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Into the midst of violence, our hope comes in Triune form:

  1. The passion of the Son has shown the Father's heart towards the estranged children of God.
  2. The presence of the Spirit turns the grieving heart into a garden for a grace as yet unseen.
  3. The power of the Father brings all things to stillness and ensures death will not enjoy the final exaltation.
In other Memorial Day reflections, has a thoughtful piece written by a "soldier turned pacifist," on the tension between loyalty to God and Country.

I invite you to leave a comment below in honor of those who have given their lives for our freedom.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Wingman for Jesus

Today is a big day for Lutherans.  You know, Pentecost Sunday.  Who doesn't associate speaking in tongues and holy fire with Lutherans?  Ok, maybe we figure Martin Luther breathed enough fire for the rest of us.

Anyway, this is the day we celebrate when God The Wingman came down from heaven, introduced his friend, Jesus, and the church was born.

Besides well intentioned Lutheran efforts to clap on the wrong beat, a lot of people do get excited about spirit, holy or otherwise.  We live in the age of the spirit.  As our culture becomes more alienated from the authorities of the past, spirits of all types beckon us into the future.

Meanwhile, Jesus is often left standing in the corner of the ballroom.  Nice guy, perfect gentleman, but not the exciting and mysterious dancer we've come to appreciate in the Spirit.

My theology professor at Luther Seminary, Steven Paulson, referred to the Holy Spirit as the Wingman because Scripture is clear that the Spirit is the delivery person - Jesus is the goods.  Or as New Testament scholar Dale Bruner has written, the Holy Spirit is the "shy member of the Trinity."  The Spirit likes when people say, "You're very exciting to be around, and we will get to know one another, but could you introduce me to your friend Jesus first?"

Here's a sermon I gave last year.  I don't have a podcast yet, so you get a static video to deliver the audio recording:

So friends, how might we live in the age of the Spirit without overlooking Jesus?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Welcome to Believing Thomas

My family.
Thanks for checking out my blog on Christ and culture.

"Doubting" Thomas gets a bad rap.  After all, he was apparently the only disciple brave enough to leave the locked room and fetch supplies for the others.

Besides, his is a story of coming to belief.  Christ does not leave Thomas with his doubts...

  1. Thomas was a friend of Christ: His life was marked deeply by Jesus.
  2. Thomas was a man of his culture: He had believed death to be the final mark of their friendship.
  3. Thomas traced the marks of Christ and culture: Tracing the marks in Christ's hands and side, Thomas came to believe that "my Lord and my God" had brought together death & the divine.

Our culture of beauty & brokenness, love & loneliness, devotion & doubt has been marked by the cross of Christ forever.

This blog is a fragile attempt to trace the cries of culture as clues of Christ's ongoing activity in our world.

Join the conversation!