Influencers

What do you always start with to get on with your days work? Many people are disciplined enough to start their day with spiritual devotion or physical exercises or maybe a cup of coffee. However, many are bound by the chains of social media. They have to switch on to different social media accounts before they start off their day.

How did the tentacles of social media have their grips on people? Or how did people give in to the tyranny of social media? I think it all began with the subtle offer of horizons to be conquered and vistas to be traveled to that offline life could not offer. Indeed the offers were true and good, but then they had a down side.

Covid 19 and its restriction enhanced the positive side of social media and therefore raising these questions is not attempting to deny the importance of social media but in a sense asking how can we be free from social media in that we are not a slave to it but it becomes our servant.

What should social media serve? Initially, social media accounts were set up to connect people together – “Social media.” As a medium it did well but then it took a life of its own and started creating more use for itself. It become not only a platform but an enterprise for consumerism and created a cut throat agenda of “man eat man social agenda.” It now become a survival for the fittest as evolution at its best was seen by the turn of use of social media.

If you turned to social media to connect with friends, you were faced with a challenge. Do you also post to impress or to simply connect? You see, many people do not have thousands of friends in real life but when you accumulate all their friends online, others have millions and some even billions of followers. Wow!

The evolution theory is that you change or you become extinct. Social media has confirmed that if one does not change, he becomes irrelevant and society ditches him/her. It becomes wise that one learns the ins and out of social media to connect but more importantly to pass your best values, just as the best genes are the ones that survive during a evolution phase.

To use social media for good, then understand it is not only for the purpose of connecting with family and friends but for passing on values. That is why those with many followers are called influencers. God calls us to influence the world and occupy till he comes. He uses the analogy of yeast and how it influences a whole dough. So get into the habit of influencing others by the social media handles you have for the glory of God.

Let go, Let God!

The Psalmist in retrospect saw his fallen nature when he thought the prosperity of the wicked was something to be envied. Psalm 73:2 he confesses of his slipping nearly losing his ground. He has a clear evaluation of himself and what was happening around him and not only did he catch himself before great harm to his relationship with God but he also penned it down for posterity to learn from.

2020 has helped me slow down and look at my life for what it is. As January 2021 comes around I look back to what values did I actively promote and those that I sat on. The parable of the talents, the merchant who bought a field and the one about the wise and foolish virgins in a great way reflect my action and inaction of 2020.

God did not want me to compare with others or even rationalise with him why the 365 days he gave me were not invested. He saw multiple ways for fruitfulness and multiplication possibilities. When I did not work on those commands in obedience, it lead to barrenness and I clogged my blessings.

2020 humbled me as I saw my dark shadow specifically on passivity. Time as the greatest resource was on my side but I was so stuck not moving because of the past. However, time also healed me and I am on the path of healing. I am not as stuck as I have been in the past.

2020 has blessed me with the gift of self-evaluation with no fear of time. I had the time to look at myself, mourn and grief for what I have lost and the pain I have gone through. The process is not over but that start of proper grief has helped me a lot. I feel light, I feel am on the right track. I no longer look at my desert time as waste but a time to learn great lessons about self, God, and others.

God has been gentle with me, showing me his mercies because I do not deserve any more chance. Yet over the cause of the year he shepherd me inspite of my wandering. He did not say go your own way be what you want to and never come back because you do not deserve to be mine. No!

I saw God not so much as Hagar saw God, but I saw God’s tenderness and grace. I saw them through my school time. Through Dr. Lenny Luchetti, Dr. Gutesson, Dr. Grimm, and Dr. John Drury. My professors showed me how to live out the calling of God amidst the most challenging times. As they went through 2020 with personal challenges, they portrayed Christ love and encouragement to me and other students in ways that left me thinking so much about why am I not helping others. Through them I saw and heard God.

Pastor Rich Villoda stood out in his leaving out his spirituality in the midst of a pandemic. A native of New York which at one time was the epicentre of the pandemic, he wrote and completed his best seller book Deep Spirituality, kept a three time online prayer movement from his home. Stood against injustices and did so much yet was never too busy. Home front, my friend Kiteto was able to minister to so many people online and also one on.

Life as we know has changed, it has taken time for it to sink into my head but time is what God gave me in 2020. It has made me bold to capture what 2021 will offer and for that John 20:21 is my word for the year, “As the Father has sent me, so do I send you.” I believe 2021 is a year of doing all that God has sent me to do regardless of the circumstances. I think that is the major lesson from 2020. That regardless of issues, people, resources or not, God’s calling on my life, I must do it. I must do all that God has sent me to do. I must be about my fathers business. I must work when it is day for night is coming. 2020 was night and it opened my mind to realise it.

My wife stood by my side and I think she saw the limping side of me and she helped me limp back. Am forever grateful to her.

To say the least, 2020 has been a year of so much. All I ask from God is that I learn from all of it.

“Always On”

The following post was inspired by “Always On” by Angela Williams Gorrell.

The title of Angela Williams Gorrell’s book is eye-catching and apt at describing many of us – Always On. The book’s big idea is to help us understand the world of social media and how to engage it faithfully, constructively, and pastoral. How are people being impacted by the new media, and how does the engagement on social media say or tell us about you. So she is calling people to reflect theologically on the development of the new media and, in so doing, use it for the purposes of spiritual formation.

The book progresses from chapter one, where she provides questions to help the church reflect on new media’s possibilities and its brokenness. Being real about what has been going on in the new media but moving the conversation to a new level of imagination of how it could be redeemed theologically and be Spirit-guided, leading to fruitful discussions. In chapter two, she examines the term new media terrain encompasses and provides insight into why new media is connected to the Christian faith and is meaningful to people and Christian Communities. Chapter 3 describes the shaping stories examining how we share stories online and how that shapes us. She looks at the designers and developers of new media and how they become channels of enhancing the stories, arguing that the media’s form and structure contribute to what will be told and how it would be received.

Chapter 4 turns toward imagining Jesus’s life and ministry as a methodology for articulating Christian visions of the true life. She carefully draws the reader to transcend the designers and developers, and owners of the platform to see how Jesus would act and feel when using new media and what kind of unique media circumstances Jesus would seek to create. In chapters 5&6, she aims to set a convergence that there is a hybrid living that is faithful and fruitful. It will bring joy and peace in the Holy Ghost and requires grit and a commitment to practice discernment and nurture a hybrid, healing community regularly. She shares the principles and the ways to live out practical ways to develop hybrid Christian practices and design a rule for life in a new media landscape.

Gorrell’s book highlighted the fact that the new media is the harvest field ready to be harvested that Jesus talked about. Alongside personal faith formation, Christians are called to be the light and salt of the world. Because the means by which God communicates and reveals himself through his Spirit is us, then our media platforms should be products that show a life transformed by Christ and should draw others to it. Her book made the concept of incarnational living real. In the new media, one can exercise an Incarnational mission, living amongst and alongside people as witnesses. Our presence, among others, instead of inviting them to come to us. 

The radical message is in line with Romans 12 that note we live within the community, building relationships yet being distinctive and transformative. Being true to oneself does not mean hiding and protecting self behind the screens and keys but undertaking daily life alongside the people, working with people where they are rather than trying to get them into specific practices and buildings where church typically lives. In essence, our lives are watched, and our faith is put into practice because we are not working from a position of power wanting to save people but are coming from a place of weakness, banding with the weak and broken and pointing each other to the Savior Jesus Christ.

As I pondered the implication of the digital era, I have some repenting to do. If billions of people are online asking all manner of questions, including theological questions, it makes sense for a Christian witness presence. My judging the online community by standards that even us who are offline cannot abide by is hypocrisy. Jesus’s parable in Luke 10:25-37 depicts the truth about many of us offline people. Those who communicate online are like the good Samaritan; they are, in effect, the good neighbor, and we should join in and do likewise. Being offline is sideling with injustice and against the “others.” The Samaritan who shared what he had drew a fascination on the hearers and more so for the wounded Jew.

I would agree that the new media has opened up avenues for seeing and being seen, knowing and being known, being in a and belonging to a community, and for the voices of many to be heard. As a connections pastor, I should be at the forefront of using the new media to build faith communities that shine brightly into the dark world, as witness and salt to the world. I need to challenge the assumptions that true community cannot be found online as to how many Christians look at online communities as a threat. There are opportunities for deeper, more interesting, more honest, more authentic, and supportive relationships online. As a  pastor, I should look for how I can take advantage of how people’s true color is seen online than face to face and craft a curriculum that will reach them as they are. Think of the confessional box and how, for years, the roman catholic church has discipled their flock and how spiritually formed their congregation have turned out to be because of the practice of confessing.

The reality of “cheating” online is the same as cheating offline, and hence that should not hinder the church from engaging with and evaluate digital cultures critically. Our work as a church is not online police activities but to be salt and light, be the good Samaritan, and keep sharing and living incarnational lives among and alongside those online communities.  

Reference:

Gorell, Angela. Always On: Practicing Faith in a New Media Landscape. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019

Galileo Was Right

Galileo Was Right

How do you help persons develop a passion? What does it mean to have people catch a vision? That was the driving force behind the acclaimed From Earth to The Moon documentary by producer Tom Hanks on how astronauts’ training into Lunar geologists and the whole team for Appolo 15. As I related what I watched and thought of the various learning theories concerning the congregational spiritual formation, I think a good curriculum should locate the people and choose a teaching method that will produce the best learning outcomes.

The documentary highlighted that it would take time, patience, and the vital virtue of contentment to see learning objectives achieved. The motivation for new learning is tied to identity and commitment. The documentary clearly showed the clash of egos between the geologist and the astronauts. How can you, as spiritual teachers, help forge a new identity and commitment to the students without breaking them and not being crushed? It would help if you convinced them why they should take the curriculum leading them past the introductory remarks to the in-depth wanting of more. As they form a new identity, it leads to new commitments and wipes out the confusion of why they are on this spiritual formation journey.

The documentary helped me realize as I craft the curriculum so that children and adults remember for life, correct education will mean repeated intervals for remembering purposes. The geologist professor in charge of training the astronauts made them keep what he was teaching them by having them keep it in memory. How do you structure your content that it sticks to memory? He took them to field trips, had classes at night outside under the moonlight, had a fun movie night.

As I reflected, it becomes clear people have a desire to learn, but sometimes we, the teachers, cannot bring out that learning edge in people. A good spiritual teacher will make even dull students sit up and get engaged in the learning process. A good teacher taps into the students’ willingness and journeys with them through self-discovery and beyond.

The documentary helped me see the difference between teaching people and helping them know what they need to see. A professor who just taught and rambled through the class and the astronauts were getting nothing until a change of professor came who turned the whole learning experience.

What the new professor knew and how he taught stood out.

  1. He helped the students see the big picture.

Why were they going to the moon, and why was the geology classes important? He also highlighted the place of time and preparation

  • Learning should be beautiful and fun.

He bonded with the astronauts, and he showed them to seek beauty as they learned.

  • Students and teachers must know what is at stake.
  1. Find what you came for.

A curriculum should be done to pass primary thoughts, and students find what they come for. Objectives and learning outcomes must be clear and achieved at the end of the teaching. Teachers have a lot to do in preparing the students for the journey of a lifetime. The following quote from the documentary stood out for me “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lit.”  

Integrated Shepherding

A shepherds involvement in the life of his sheep is a classic example for us as we desire to teach our community spiritual formation. A sheep can easily get lost even in a good field but the shepherd knows how to lead it back to the fold. In the same way God calls us sheep that have all wondered away!

As the Psalmist calls God the great shepherd who leads us to the best pastures we get our cue on how to lead others from God. Two blind men will lead each other to a ditch as a Christian educator for congregational spiritual formation you have to learn the truth and not stumble through the teaching.

The human development process is held intact by mans spiritual maturation. There are five different development aspects which are emotional, intellectual, social, physical, and moral. Because the supporting base for progress in all the above aspects is spiritual formation then an integrated approach is important.

How well do you understand the way human beings development occurs and how do you use the spiritual wisdom of scripture, church history, personal experience, and reason to share and shepherd them into a spiritual person?

The more a shepherd stays with his sheep, the more he knows them and they know him. The Bible say “my sheep know me and my voice” own paraphrase. As under-shepherds are you faithful to be with the Great Shepherd? Do you spend time learning about your sheep? Paul the apostle reminds us that those given responsibility are to be found faithful.

Faithfulness involves learning how people develop. How to integrate the different aspects of human development into spiritual formation seeing the whole process and not just stages or seasons.

The critical journey of spiritual formation of the church lies in understanding how stages and seasons coalesce together. The beauty always lie in seeing the puzzle of spiritual formation coming into an integrated life. The emotional aspect, the physical aspect, social aspect, intellectual aspects and the moral aspects forming one big pattern held together because of how the spiritual aspects have been developed.

Paul in Colossians 1:28-29 shares his deepest desire for all the Colossians to be formed into Christ likeness. For this to happen he works hard to do all he can to present them before Christ a bride without any spot. The Church has always been a place for such work.

Prepare yourself before you start just like a good shepherd knows the way before he takes the sheep for grazing.

My Philosophy for Small Group Ministry

Why develop a small group philosophy for spiritual community formation? The following are reasons I see the need for a small group ministry, especially during this pandemic season but in any stage and season of life

· resilient and connected,

· closer to God,

· help in reaching out around you in response to the Great Command and Commission

If there is anything this season has taught us is the priority of our spiritual formation within the setting of small groups. A small group philosophy clarifies the values held in the spiritual formation of the congregation. The result of a small group ministry is spiritual formation, joy, and growth or development of individuals in a setting of small groups. It circles Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens… another.

Anderson and Reese, in their book Spiritual Mentoring, give the story of Anne and Helen Keller. Helen was blind and could not speak, but Anne believed that Helen has potential, and she helped her by creating a relationship of trust and taking the necessary time for Helen’s own voice to be freed to give expression to all that lay within her.1

Discipleship in the context of availability, teachability, and faithfulness is a high priority in small group ministry. The growth in the spiritual formation of individuals done well through small group ministry will result in evangelism and hence the church’s development in numbers as more people are reached out of small groups’ efforts. Social justice and acts of mercy become second to nature, where small groups are practiced well.

 Therefore, it is essential to make small group ministry important for others and the minister. The minister who does not belong to a small group will have burnout in this season. People need to be connected, which provides resilience and causes many to draw to God and commit to the Great Commission and Commandment.

Finally, a small group philosophy should tackle the following

  1. the mission and vision of congregational spiritual formation
  2. the place of Scriptures and prayer
  3. the idea of reproduction and multiplication
  4. the kingdom of God is here mentality

A small group is not a place to insulate Christians from the world but to equip, empower, and shape them to be ready to enter the world. Jesus says, as the father sent me, so I send you. We meet in small groups to go out, not to hide from the world.

Hope

Hope is active it goes up and against the current or grain. It keeps climbing and never stops till it reaches the ultimate goal. You will know when you have met hope because it never leaves you the same. How does hope change people? It changes people because hope is a person. It is the incarnate God, it is Emmanuel God with us. It is the voice of arch angel Gabriel to Mary that she will be with child who is Hope Incarnate and Mary turns into praise and poetic rendition of what Hope is going to do for Hope changes everything. It is the Hope that is realized in the breaking of the bread and the taking of the cup that causes the demoralized disciples to walk away to Emmaus and others to go back to fishing to all turn around and go to Jerusalem to await the Holy Spirit whom will continue with the work of Hope.

You see hope is not a lottery ticket that you might win or not, hope came in the person of Jesus Christ and in him the fullness of God the Father is revealed. Hope is living in the finished work of Jesus from birth, his earthly life, death, and resurrection. Hope is seen when the redeemed keep moving in the midst of calamities and they offer solution and light in the dark world for they are infused with hope.

Hope keeps you awake bubbling with creative ideas of changing the world starting with yourself as you are transformed by Hope. You know Hope never fails, it never disappoints. This Hope is Jesus Christ. Try him, taste him and you will know he is good.

Christian Perfection

John Wesley stated clearly that there is perfection and then there is Christian Perfection. There is love and then there is Christian Love. He had to make this distinction because many of those who pushed for the idea of perfection and love drew their definition from the world. Wesley drew it from the Scriptures, from tradition and from experience.

From the scriptures he saw how it was used in two ways and but the goal is for man to achieve Christian Perfection here and now. He saw this to be true because it was God who had commanded it, prayers are offered for its accomplishment, it is one of the chief purposes for the calling of people to works of service and there accounts of people in the Scriptures who have achieved that perfection like Job and Enoch and Noah.

Wesley sees Christian Perfection in broad sense of one being complete and one also being renewed to one being used for the proper service. The Christian Perfection is wrapped in Christian Love where one Loves God, others and self. It is seeing the purpose of worship and service. It means to fulfill, to bring to an end, or to complete a given task. It indicates a completed task, finished work. In essence our salvation is finished, our righteousness is complete in Christ but the other way of understanding Christian Perfection is in understanding it as the ultimate destiny. The here and not here of the Kingdom of God as preached in the Advent Spirituality. Knowing that the Kingdom of God is here but not fully here as we are waiting for the second coming of Jesus.

There is the meaning of being brought to completion in a time to come but now we enjoy and are satisfied in our growing in Christian Perfection. So we continually aspire for this perfection but we enjoy the perfection that God is continually doing in our lives.