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Monday, July 31, 2017

If Jesus had a Facebook Account

Over the past few days, I have had a recurring thought: Everything is temporary.

This runs entirely counter to anything I want to be thinking, right now, in the midst of transition.  No one wants to consider the fleeting nature of everything when something wonderful has just begun.  We usually save this kind of contemplation for endings.  Yet here I am…

As it turns out, there might be some wisdom that comes with age and a couple of decades of ministry experience.  That’s the first thing I want to write about on this #MinistryMonday, but I have to start with the lack of wisdom that accompanied those early years when I set out to save the world with a wish and a prayer.

I think most of us imagine how life might be… at least sometimes.  I suppose I am something of an anomaly (surprise, surprise), but my daydreams have often included intense plans and details.  As soon as a viable possibility appears on my radar, I can build a life on it.  This is both a blessing and a curse.

In my early 20s (and beyond… and maybe right up until this morning, when it hit me like a ton of bricks), I didn’t understand the difference between attachment and permanence.  What a tragic flaw!   

Just statistically speaking, ministry assignments are not permanent, and they’re often far shorter than the average human being hopes.  Very early on, I made this connection and apparently (subconsciously) determined that I would only get attached if I found myself in a context that lent itself to permanence.  What a terrible mistake!  If we all lived like that, no one would ever get attached to anyone or any community. 

Nothing lasts forever.  For me, this drive toward permanence resulted in a few places that I love so much it hurts and a few more with which I never fully engaged.  I think I’m definitely having one of those “If I knew then what I know now” moments.  Live and learn.

Recently, this quote from Jim Elliot has resonated deeply (I honestly can’t remember if I’ve already blogged it.  If so, forgive me.  I have done an awful lot of writing on various platforms lately):

“Wherever you are, be all there.”       

What, exactly, does this mean?  Admittedly, I’m not 100% sure, but it must begin with relationship… with attachment… 

With all of this came a second thought (or maybe a question), and I feel as if I need to be exceptionally careful with it, because technology has moved and shifted our social contexts in ways none of us could have imagined when I started out in ministry: Who are my people?

This used to be an easy one to answer.  Our people were the ones we saw on a regular basis, in “real life.”  My very imaginative children used to play this game they made up, and there were actually three “worlds” of sorts.  There was real life, real life; real life, pretend; and pretend, pretend.  Depending on which mode they were in, there were different people and different scenarios.  As you might imagine, sometimes it was entirely dramatic play (see pretend, pretend), but sometimes they were themselves in their alternate reality (real life, pretend), and I think maybe “real life, real life” was actually real life… duh…  I found it endearing that they inherited the whole “daydream like it’s real” thing.     

Enter social media…

We don’t ever really leave anyone or any place, anymore.  There are things about this that I love.  The ability to stay connected with everyone who has ever been a part of our lives is phenomenal on so many levels.  But do we have the capacity for this?  Do I have the capacity for this?  I don’t know.

So, I started thinking about if Jesus had had access to Facebook when he was here on Earth in bodily form.  Would he have had a personal profile and a separate page for ministry related posts?  Would he have had an automatic feed of his blog and podcast that friends could use for cross-pollinating promotions?  Would he have been offended if Peter didn’t share his posts?  What about John?  What about Mary… or Mary… or Mary?  Would his disciples have joined a “closed” group, perhaps with additional “secret” groups for the seventy-two and the twelve?  As he went from one town to another, how well connected would he have been able to stay with each community?  Would this kind of pervasive interaction have kept Jesus from being as “all in” as he needed to be with the people who were literally in front of his face, or would it have served as a way to strengthen every relationship, appropriately, in a timeless sort of way?  Would Jesus have used Memes?  Wait… don’t answer that one…

Somehow this all comes together… this balance between permanent and temporary, between attachment and distance, between face-to-face and face-to-screen.  And I think one of the hardest things to work through is the fact that it’s all real.  We simply live in an era where our communication and connectivity is greater than it has ever been before… simply, but not simple.


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