Social Media and the Frustration Experienced by So Many Pastors Today by Rev. Eric Jonas Swensson

 
1messiahI read an article recently advising pastors how to best deal with the frustration they may have with their congregation.  It included a list of things that frustrate us from accomplishing what we would like to do and one was, yes, social media.  The author’s point was to not let pastors’ boasts concerning the successes of their recent outreach or whatever to increase our level of frustration. In other words, some of our frustrations come from having false expectations. However, to me it was problematic that he gave no advice on how one should use social media. Perhaps he had none: many people are just passive consumers of social media and do not realize the opportunity it presents to tell the old, old story we love so well in fresh and appealing ways.

Also, this boasting on Facebook thing is not what I experience. I have heard this type of thing in general, that people are inventing idealized lives on Facebook and that we should not fall for it. I have thousands of Facebook acquaintances (not to boast!), and what I see is we are all going through a rough patch together. I have more of a problem with too many people complaining than friends bragging.

The church is going through a very rough patch. Congregations are losing influence, members and donations. You might have missed it, but the Alban Institute closed the other day. It is rather ironic that a nonprofit whose mission was to help pastors with burnout and congregations that needed to grow could apparently not turn itself around. Physician heal thyself. Doubly ironic to me were the ads that were on the pages surrounding the article about how pastors would be much happier if they had more realistic expectations. One ad promised 20% increase in donations if you purchased their program, and another said that by the year 2025 congregations would lose 50% of their membership, but they, of course, could prevent that if, you guessed it, we bought what they were selling.

My free advice today is to say take advice with a grain of salt. When looking for advice turn to the Bible. The models we find there are more sure to work because they were, are and will be true. Advice like “return to your first love” may be all we need.

The last thread for me to pick up here from above is on how one should use social media. Do it biblically! All scripture is God-breathed and God’s Word does not return empty, so post that Bible verse, give that link to you latest sermon, and put your messages on a pod cast. I try to provide a mix of things, but not everything. I do some sports and politics but not much, preferring to find things that are very interesting to a general audience and then inserting things now and then about a mission or ministry to support. Think of yourself as having a variety show. It is essential that people keep coming back, so post things that engage people.

We will get through this rough patch together if we keep God’s Word the main thing. We may do that primarily in Word and Sacrament, but in today’s culture where the Nones are the fastest growing religious grouping we need to go to the highways and byways to proclaim God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. Social media is made for that. Don’t use it passively. Have a strategy. Be consistent.

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What is True Prayer? Pray on Purpose!

Lutherrose746What is True Prayer? Pray on Purpose!

Martin Luther wrote instructions on prayer in general in his Large Catechism concerning the Lord’s Prayer. It is good to take a moment to reflect on this wisdom when it comes time to pray. His word’s are true no matter where you are or whatever you are doing.

When reading Luther we notice that Jesus is always there and so is the Father.  This is true whether we are reading Luther’s commentaries, letters, apologetics or catechisms.

Luther holds up the Lord’s Prayer as a model prayer containing the range of our needs. We commend this whole section of the Large Catechism to you, especially if you haven’t read it recently, and we take this opportunity to highlight one thing: Real prayer is really praying for what we really need.

Luther notes that God wishes to draw us to Himself so we can humble ourselves before Him, lament our misery and pray for grace and help. God does not regard prayer on account of the person who is praying, but rather on account of His own Word. Therefore God hears all of our prayers the same as if St. Paul himself is praying. What matters is that we trust God’s Word that commands us to pray for what we truly need and also that we trust He is listening. When we trust God for our needs, we begin to humbly share with our families and the world what we know they need.

Luther gives an example: He asks us would we would think if the Emperor told a beggar he would give him whatever he asked for and the beggar answered by merely asking for a bowl of broth. Not only would we think the beggar to be a fool, but we would come to the conclusion that he was actually showing disrespect to his lord. Luther goes on to say the following about how we should pray:  “Where there is true prayer there must be earnestness, we must feel our need, the distress that impels and drives us to cry out. Then prayer will come spontaneously, as it should, and we will not need to be taught how to prepare for it or how to generate devotion.”

Luther reminds us that just as Jesus came to forgive real sin, so we should also offer real prayer. Give your laments to God – all of them – and give Him all your praise.  Our need has often been great, but so has been our Lord’s supply.  In our prayers we thank God for people like you who not only listen to God’s Word, but who also share your blessings with us and with others.

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Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven | Henry F. Lyte

DSCN3449Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven;

To His feet thy tribute bring.

Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,

Who like me His praise should sing:

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Praise the everlasting King.

 

Praise Him for His grace and favour

To our fathers in distress.

Praise Him still the same as ever,

Slow to chide, and swift to bless.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Glorious in His faithfulness.

 

Fatherlike He tends and spares us;

Well our feeble frame He knows.

In His hands He gently bears us,

Rescues us from all our foes.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Widely yet His mercy flows.

 

Frail as summer’s flower we flourish,

Blows the wind and it is gone;

But while mortals rise and perish

Our God lives unchanging on,

Praise Him, Praise Him, Hallelujah

Praise the High Eternal One!

 

Angels, help us to adore Him;

Ye behold Him face to face;

Sun and moon, bow down before Him,

Dwellers all in time and space.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Praise with us the God of grace.

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Pretty blue balloon flower and a white picket fence

pretty blue flower picket fence

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Split Rail Fence with Day Lilies Border

split rail day lilies

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Storm front

nrhs storm

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Scriptural image: “The eyes of all look to You”

DSCN0736-001

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Echinacea

Echinacea

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We pray that according to the riches of His glory, God grant that you be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being

DSCN0524-001For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

(Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV)

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Sunset at New Rochelle High School

Sunset nrhs 6 29 14

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