The Modern Pastor
May and June have been an interesting months for me. I apologize for my absence in posting, but we ended up buying a new house and moving on May 5. The was a blessing, but a bit overwhelming at the same time. It wasn’t scheduled and this presented a problem because May was already booked with a conference in Cleavland at Alistair Begg’s church, a wedding in San Luis Obispo, and my Spanish pastor had a heart attack resulting in a 5-way bypass (he is okay). Did I mention that my wife is about 36 weeks pregnant? Minor detail. Oh well, we would push through this busy month trying to rest in Him while pushing with all our might.
In the midst of this craziness, my wife and I discussed the idea of not setting up the Internet at our house until June 1. We thought the idea of unplugging would be a great spiritual fast. The only question we had was, “Could we survive such an extreme fast?” I of course created a bunch of disclaimers such as: my iPhone was okay to use (but the reception is HORRIBLE at my new house) and we could still use the internet off site as I need to receive and send emails, etc, etc. This was very inconvenient given my setting and that my office is at my house.
The first few days were very rough. I came down with a bug and I literally felt like unplugging was making me physically sick. I doubt it. I’m sure it was just stress. Through this month I was struck with how much pastoring I do through the Internet and other nontraditional methods like sending text messages. I was sort of shocked to hear people say they felt disconnected from me and the church after about a week without Internet in my home. I am sure this is accentuated because I don’t keep office hours and do most of my admin/study time from my home office. But as I finish have finished my fast, I have come to conclude there are some very positive ways in which we can pastor–that come with very real pitfalls.
In many ways, I feel like the apostle Paul was one of the greatest pastors. The epistles reveal his great heart for the people he shepherded. He wrote letters. Sent greeting through people. And of course ministered face-to-face. He had no email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blog, text message plan, Skype, and certainly the great Cross Connection Blog did not exist then. Does that mean he would not utilize these inventions? I doubt it.
Texting, Facebook, and emailing are very quick and easy ways to connect with people. I often send out blast through whatever medium is most convenient for the recipient. As people come to mind, I try to say a prayer for them. I will often follow up the prayer with text, note on Facebook, or an email saying that I appreciate them, am praying for them, and ask them how they are doing. I haven’t formulated any method to my madness, but have done this more as the Spirit leads.
Facebook is an interesting tool as you are able to read about people and how they are doing. I have noticed that Facebook has become a method for tracking people’s highs and lows. I don’t always catch everything, but I do appreciate that when something is worthy of following up on I am often notified by a third party that I should check in with the person in question.
Skype. The main way I used Skype is for keeping up with missionaries. I am blessed to serve at a body that support me in traveling to visit with our missionaries for the sole purpose of encouraging them. Through these trips, my relationship with them has deepened. While away from them, I have found that Skype is an AMAZING tool for having a heart-to-heart conversation with someone around the world.
I believe the greatest pitfalls in the new technology is that they have the propensity to replace face-to-face people time to pseudo relationships through social media and text messaging. I believe this is sort of a shift within society which makes finding the sweet-spot a little tricky.
Another problem is that between computer and smart phone these mediums can be very habit forming and can disrupt some of the most intimate relationship we have–our families. I have heard more than one pastor’s wife complain about the invasion of the iPhone into their family. We must guard ourselves from the additive trap of our smart phones.
All in all, I am thankful for the resources we have through technology. The ease of communication has raced forward in the last twenty years. We have the ability to “ping” many people throughout the day to stay in people’s lives. But the reality is that the blessing comes with a curse. We can have many shallow relationships that lack depth as a result. If anything, this last month reminded me to unplug daily, to read more, to focus on building real relationships while simultaneously really appreciating how easily I am able to connect with my people through these various mediums.
Good reminder, Gunnar – thanks. Yes, the danger is to think that a Twitter or a Ping will meet a need every time. As you mentioned, these are tools and the wise builder uses the right tool for the right job. Sometimes an e-mail will do it. Other times a phone call is in order. At other times, only face-to-face will do it. Gehazi discovered that Elisha’s staff wasn’t the right tool for the job. Pastoring is meant to be incarnational. Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, etc. are a very efficient use of time (at least that’s the theory!) The digital pastor can be very efficient without being very effective. I have discovered that pastoring is a very inefficient use of time – and that’s exactly why the effective pastor may not be the most efficient pastor.
In writing this, I became curious as to the meanings of ‘effective’ and ‘efficient’. I went to Dictionary.com and this is what I found.
Effective = producing an intended or expected result
Efficient = functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort.
Effective has to do w/ the end, the result. Efficient has to do with the means to the end, the road to the result. One has to do with product, the other with process. The pastor has to primarily concern himself with the end and only secondarily with the means. I think that maybe we have unknowingly adopted the premise that greater efficiency means greater effectiveness. I don’t think that this is the case. Anyway – good post. Thanks.
“the effective pastor may not be the most efficient pastor”
Man, Tim, that is so true! I was just talking with another pastor last week about this. I tend to be fairly relational in may pastoral ministry, in that people come before tasks, which means that tasks often get pushed aside when people come in. This means that there are many days that I leave the office feeling like I didn’t really get as much done as I intended, even though I still had a fairly effective day. My new term is “Organized Inefficiency.
Miles, man, you jump on what I was going to say exactly! Tim, I really liked that comment as well. I think you may have a whole blog post with dealing with efficient vs. effective. There are days when I don’t feel efficient…like my day has evaporated and I have difficulty trying to measure where it went…but it was lost through a call here, a coffee with something there, etc, etc. Miles, I do love the term Organized Inefficiency! Pure gold!
Under strong conviction following reading this post I almost didn’t comment. But then I know how tender Gunnar’s self-esteem has been, so I wanted to make sure that I registered my thought. 😉
In all seriousness, these are good reminders; as Tim has already stated. I’ve been thinking much on this very reality for the last several months. Used as tools, social media, texts, email, etc. can be great. But you’re absolutely right, they cannot replace person to person contact/interaction. I remember seeing a “virtual church” that started quite a few years ago… I just don’t think that such a thing is really possible, nor is it healthy.
All that said, fasting from such things has become almost more difficult than fasting from food.
Miles, food can be far easier…now coffee is a different category! It’s funny, I felt like I was being consumed by the media, but through my fast, I was shocked at comments (in person, not Facebook) from so many people who said they felt disconnected from me and the church during that time. I think the technology is awesome, but with these tools great cation must be taken (which I fail at) to guard our family from our being consumed or distracted. Kind of reminds me of Jim Elliot’s quote, “Wherever you are, be all there!”
I’m hiding in the bathroom reading this on my iPad because I’m on a technology fast 🙂 No seriously, technology is a wonderful servant but a diabolical master. I love the use of technology as it helps in many ways, but the wake caused by tech is big. For example, on the Tube (that’s the Subway for the Yanks), everyone is on their smartphone with headphones plugged in. To say ‘hello’ to someone is to breach a new form of etiquette. Interpersonal communication culture has changed. There are some good and some bad.
Gunnar, thanks for the post, and congratulations on the coming delivery.
Good thoughts Matt. Yes, while this is focused on pastoring, the reality is our whole culture has shifted. We need to adapt and be contextual in how we communicate. I have heard of a couple people who changed their voice mail to say, “You’ve reached so and so, if you are trying to get a hold of me text me.” It is a crazy new world we live in and we must adapt, but at the same time I believe God desires us to be in true relationships…just like the good old days!
Thanks about the baby. We are getting close to the big day and excited about it!