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.