6 Ways to FOCUS in a Dug Syndrome Society

SQUIRREL!

We have a serious problem in our society. It’s called Dug Syndrome. And no, that’s not its official name, but it certainly is an apt description of what it’s like trying to focus in today’s world.

In case you’re unaware or don’t remember, Dug was the name of the talking dog from Pixar’s UP! When grumpy Carl and boy scout Russell first met Dug, he explained that his master made him a collar that allowed him to speak English. But midway through a sentence and without warning Dug’s head whips around as he shouts, “SQUIRREL!” (Watch this clip.)

And that is just like us. Mid-sentence… mid-project… mid-thought… mid-study… mid-research… mid-anything… then suddenly: “SQUIRREL!” – we get another notification. We wonder who commented on our Facebook photo. We have to see if any new emails arrived in the past five minutes. And then we go back to whatever it was we were doing, only to rinse and repeat moments later: “SQUIRREL!”

And here’s the problem with Dug Syndrome:

Why Christians, of all people, need to be Platform Builders

And Why I'm A Platform Builder

In a recent article, Christianity Today contributor (and thus, platform user) Martin Saunders wrote a piece titled, “Platform: why a culture of self-promotion threatens to throttle the church.” The article takes aim at former CEO of Thomas Nelson, Michael Hyatt, and the influence of his book: “Platform: Get Noticed in a  Noisy World.”

In the article Saunders writes:

“… my nagging concerns about Christian platform culture have slowly escalated. I’ve watched as self-promotion among leaders, speakers and writers has gone from a sin of pride to an act of apparent necessity.”

Saunders thinks that platform building for Christians is all about making Jesus “more famous,” which he correctly calls out as not being right, but judgingly assumes that that is the motive behind Christian platform building.

So on that note he quotes Mark 9:35 about how we are called to be “last” and to be “servants to all” (as if to assume that platform building isn’t about serving!).

Saunders, it seems, is frustrated because though he wrote on this before, nothing changed. Why aren’t people listening to me and doing what I said? he’s wondering. I mean, if Martin Saunders wrote for change on this subject, why hasn’t the culture simply changed?

“I wrote a couple of articles on this a few years ago, and lots of people sagely nodded in agreement. Nothing changed though, in fact platform culture has become more entrenched in the modern church.”

So this time it’s no more mister nice guy. Saunders is throwing the gauntlet down, or rather, throwing “open the window” (presumably it’s high up, probably so that his message can get noticed in a noisy world…):

“Stop! This is ludicrous!”

He goes on to quote Paul in Philippians 1, that “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Then Saunders writes this:

“We need leaders who genuinely prefer one another; who seek to build each other up rather than jostle for position. And when some of us find ourselves in positions of influence, we have to continually guard ourselves against pride and abuse of position. One of the best ways of doing that is for leaders to surround themselves with people to whom they’re genuinely accountable; friends who will tell them when they’re starting to believe their own hype or get competitive, and to whom they’ll actually listen.”

And he’s right, 100%. But what’s that got to do with platform building? It seems to me that paragraph serves to judge the motives of platform builders. As if to say, if you’re building a platform you don’t “genuinely” prefer one another. As if by platform building, leaders are by default jostling each other for positions rather than working together for God’s Kingdom.

3 ways social media can help you be a better pastor

Connect. Observe. Lead - It's Your Mandate

I want to ask you a question. Have you considered the idea that social media can help you be a better pastor? I’m sure many of you find that to be an odd question. Right now it seems only about 66% of pastors have a Facebook account and a measly 23% are on Twitter.

Those are discouraging numbers, but there is a light at the end of that tunnel as more and more church leaders are realizing that avoiding social media will increasingly become one of the quickest ways to kill their ministry.

I wrote an ebook about why the Internet needs church leaders to plug-in. You can check that out here. But if you’re still not convinced, here are 3 ways social media can help you be a better pastor:

3 social media lessons from the Duggar Debacle

Why Churches Need To Be On Guard

By now you are no doubt aware of the Duggar Debacle. But in case you’ve been off on some sort of excommunicato retreat, here’s the lowdown: the TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” family that everyone either loves to love or loves to hate has been pulled from television in light of the revelation that Dugger son Josh molested several kids including his sisters back when he was 14.

Given the high moral standards the family exhibits and their close ties to potential Republican candidates for the Presidency, it’s no surprise that the internet exploded. Everyone from official news outlets and political pundits who are using the opportunity for political cannon fodder, to blogs, tweets and viral Facebook posts are shouting out their opinions on the matter.

But on this site I’m not interested so much in that discussion as I am in the question: what lessons can we learn from this situation about how to handle our past in this social media world.

The internet is unforgiving and can be ruthless. It often brings out the worse in people and as a leader in the faith, treading the line between using social media for God’s Kingdom and remaining vigilant, private and protected can be quite tricky.

So here are three lessons we can learn from the Duggar Debacle.

From Apathy To Passion in 6 Easy Steps

Get Your Congregation Engaged Online

Apathy is the greatest weapon in the arsenal of the enemy of any mission. And what makes apathy so destructive is its subtly. A mission may have the people, the tools, and the statements – in other words it may seem to have everything it needs to be a success. And yet still go nowhere all because of apathy.

Credit: Freely Photos

A mission filled with apathetic people is a boat with an anchor dragging in the mud on the ocean floor. Fill the mission with people, crank up the throttle and bounce around in one place until the engine burns out.

And this is why for a mission to be successful the people need to catch the fire.

To quote Paul:

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” (ESV)

“Slothful” is a strong word denoting laziness. But that’s not apathy. Apathy is a lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern. So the NIV captures it best this way: “Never be lacking in zeal…”

The problem many churches face is not laziness, but a lack of enthusiasm and interest in its social media ministry.

Selling your church on social media

I don’t need to tell you that social media is important for your church. You are, after all, a reader of this blog.  But often there is a gap between knowing that and communicating it to your church. I don’t know about you, but I’ve spoken to pastors who have a fear of promoting social media to their team and congregation. And honestly, I identify with that fear. I know exactly where it comes from.

When I first tried to sell the idea of social media to my leadership team I didn’t go about it the best way. Most of the people on the board were not very receptive of social media to begin with. And I allowed my frustration to build up until one day I decided to shock our church board into accepting it. The topic was how we could limit the number of distractions our people experienced during church, with a negative focus on their use of smartphones and tables.

That’s when I blurted out, “encourage them to Tweet during the service!”

It was a radical idea. It went against the flow of the discussion. It seemed to come from left field. And most importantly, I had done nothing to prepare them for the suggestion.

If I wanted to introduce them to the idea of a social media ministry, that was not the way.

Needless to say my ill-conceived plan backfired.

Of course if I could do it again I would introduce it differently. I would take the “why,” “how,” and “invitation” approach to selling my church on the idea of social media.

Debating an atheist on morality at 40,000 feet

I can’t say I’ve been involved in many enjoyable debates over the years. But there was one occasion I recall with particular fondness. It was lively, passionate, personal and it took place 40,000 feet in the air.

While docked at the Calgary airport waiting for a new stream of passagers to join my flight a young studious woman about my age took the seat next to the seat next to me. I was happy when the plane took flight and nobody filled the seat between us. More elbow space. So I slumped back in my chair, pulled out a book and began reading.

How I failed the simplicity test (and 3 ways you can pass it)

I was at a preaching seminar earlier in the year and the teacher of the course said something that really stuck for me. He said, “A mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew.” I don’t think that quote is original to him, but it rings with a whole lot of truth. If the speaker – leader, presenter, visionary – is a little misty about his or her topic, the audience will be left completely mystified. And the key to clarify the mist is simplicity.

A few months back my former boss took me out for lunch and over a Chinese dish of sweet and sour chicken balls I began to tell him about my plans and ambitions for this website and he would ask me questions and probe and I would answer them. But then he asked this one question that took me ten minutes of rambling to answer. It least it felt like ten minutes. As I rambled on and on he waited patiently for me to finish, but by his expression and posture I knew I lost him a long time ago. Finally when I was done trying to sound intelligent he said, “But you still didn’t answer my question.

How a tweet can make you a better preacher by Sunday

I’m going to give you a tip today that, if applied immediately, will make you a better preacher by Sunday. There are a lot of things you can do to become a better speaker but central to all the tricks of the trade is the power of a single tweet. Let me explain.

Are you doing this?

There’s a discipline that I want to believe most pastors do, but if the ministerial seminar I was a part of back in March was any indication, it’s probably not that common.

The seminar was geared toward helping pastors hone their preaching skills. During the seminar the leader broke us up into groups of about 4 and assigned each group a different passage from the Gospels. Among the various exercises we had to do was this one: