Tag Archives: Social Media

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Operation Re-Evaluate (Pt 2)

Funny thing, I don’t really like long titles, but what’s a guy to do?


Answering “Why?” 

In my previous post I promised that in the next I would “address ways that churches (including the one I pastor) can use this current crisis to turn us into the effective, healthy Church Body we should have been all along.”

But before I get into that, I would like to give an answer to the question I suggested many people are going to be asking: “Why do I even go to church?”

I know there have been some very well-written and scholarly responses to the above question, and, for me, it all comes down to a command from Jesus Christ. Regardless of what I can get out of it, going to church (gathering with other believers in a biblical, congregational, ecclesiastically-sufficient context, not simply a home Bible study) is an act of obedience and worship. But what is the answer going to be to this generation?

Perceived Value

One reason I believe the question will be asked is because of perceived value: “What am I really getting in return for my investment?”

When people who attend only sporadically, at best, come to discover they don’t miss much through this crisis, the likely response will be to quit going. And who could blame them? If their only reason for going was a religious one, one that satisfied their conscience and offered a visible sense of faith, then why go through all the effort to go to church and be around people they see but once or twice a month? Why not just watch online?

But when people who attend regularly begin to see very little difference between being in church and NOT being in church, what will justify going back? In other words, if while not allowed to attend corporate worship no one gives them a call, sends them a note, checks on their family, or in any way recognizes their personal worth outside of a number on an attendance roll, why be a statistic?

The reality of the human condition is that people want to be loved, respected, needed, and wanted. What I see happening is many church-goers figuring out through this absence that the relationships and friendships they thought were real were only facades meant to perpetuate an institution. Given enough time to think, many will conclude the only reason they were being asked to go to church was to fill a slot, keep up the numbers, or satisfy the ego of someone who didn’t even care to call or check on them.

Revitalizing the Value

It is in times of crisis that we find out who we really are, what we are made of. When it comes to the Church, specifically the local congregations, we have the opportunity to discover if we are more than a weekly social club with voluntary dues and free potlucks.

Go to the sixth chapter of the Book of Acts and what do you see? You see believers who walked through life together, not just on Sunday, but throughout the week. They were a community, a family, one that took care of each other OUTSIDE the walls of any structure. Did they regularly meet at the temple for instruction? Absolutely! Daily, even! But they were also there for each other through struggles, breaking bread in each other’s homes and meeting temporal, tangible needs.

And note: all of the above, as listed in Acts 6, was done BEFORE persecution came. This was the model of church life that would carry them through the truly difficult days just around the corner.

Folks, what we should have been doing all along is making sure there is a legitimate, tangible, temporal value to being a member of a local body of Christian believers. This means more than offering a nice place to sit for an hour, generic smiles, and a sweet, full-color, take-home bulletin with built-in sermon outline. It means genuine inclusion into a Family that loves you, values you, walks with you through the good and bad, and has your back when no one else will.

If we churches don’t want to lose members after this pandemic, then we need to be working overtime to do everything possible to revitalize our sense of family and our duties as a community of Believers. If we simply wait until we are allowed to gather again before we acknowledge each other, then we are hypocrites.

What Bethlehem Is Doing

In some ways we are unique, but in other ways we are well behind the curve. However, every church, to some degree or another, is having to do some new things.

Regarding questions of real and perceived value, let me share with you what we at Bethlehem Baptist are trying to do or improve.

1. Expand our social media footprint.  Long before the COVID-19 crisis erupted, I stressed to our church that we needed to make every use of social media and the internet. Some folk were a little skeptical, as you can imagine. Yet, a few others took me seriously enough to get to work on a website. Unfortunately, the initial energy waned, thereby leaving us with a handicap at this time.

However, one thing that I was able to do early on was drastically increase our presence on Facebook. This is still a work in progress, but increasing posts and promoting the content has brought a good deal of fresh attention to Bethlehem Baptist. Believe it or not, there is not a local television station in our county! Therefore, social media is the only real-time media in town. Not taking every advantage of its usefulness would be tragic.

No photo description available.

Check out the Washington County Grapevine!

Even before this crisis, I had already been posting videos to YouTube, then to our church Facebook page. So, when we couldn’t meet as a congregation, going live on Facebook was second nature to me – I’d already been doing it on my own. I even created a county-wide community Facebook page which could function as one more channel through which we could reach people.

2. Make contact with member families.  If we can shake their hands or hug their necks on Sunday (we still do those kind of things down here in middle Georgia), we’d better be sure to make a call (or visit, if possible), send a card, or do something. We’ve got to show that we appreciate people and miss them when they are not here.

The worst thing we can do to people is allow them to go unnoticed.

3. Seek out needs to be met.  There are still a lot of people down in this part of the country who don’t like to ask for help, and many of them are the elderly. However, that doesn’t remove the responsibility of the Church to care for those in need; it mandates that we should be looking for ways to serve.

Too often the complaint leveled at Christian churches is that all we want is people’s money. Of course, that is patently false. However, even though perception is NOT reality, we need to prove to our own members, at least, that it’s not what they put in the offering plate that makes them special.

Holy Lemonade

Image result for lemonade imagesLike I’ve said before, when life (or China) gives us Coronavirus-lemons, make holy lemonade. And by that I mean that we should look at this as a cutting-edge, next-generation opportunity to engage our communities with the Gospel. Even more, we should up our game and engage the world!

We used to sit around and talk about what the Church was going to look like in the future, how we would operate, and how we would maintain our cohesiveness. Then, right out of the blue (or Communist red) came this tiny little virus that has rocked the world-wide community, including Christians. Doing “church” like we’ve always done it is no longer an option and no longer up for debate.

I’m looking forward to once again gathering in our beautiful old sanctuary, but I praise God for the shock to our traditional system! And what’s even more exciting than seeing congregations stepping up to the plate and swinging is the feeling that this could be the beginning of a new era.

As we re-evaluate, God may be sending revival! 

Leave a comment

Filed under Church, community, ministry

Bio Request Fulfilled

Website On the Way

We are in the process of developing a new website for our little church. If you are curious, the company we are working with is ZaoMedia. Give Scott Grizzle a holler and tell him I sent you 🙂

Anyway, Mr. Grizzle sent me an email asking for my bio to add to the upcoming site. After some hard thinking and prioritizing, I came up with what you see below and sent it to him.

I struggled with what to say. Wouldn’t you? I mean, it would have been great and all if someone else had written it, but whom? My wife? My daughters? They’d probably collaborate and come up with something like:

“Pastor Baker is a native Chattanoogan who loves to write, study, and preach to people. He never spends enough time with his wife and daughters, nor does he take out the trash on a regular basis. He cleans his plate at church functions, but he rarely washes his plates at home. Oh, he’s a great preacher and all, but you don’t know him like we do!” 

The best bio would come from the dog. If we had one of those translators like the kid had in the movie “Up,” then I’m sure it would read something like:

Jack with his beloved cheetah.

“Pastor Master is the best! You will like him much much much! He feeds me, pets me, goes out in the rain with me, let’s me stay close to him when it thunders, and lets me ride with him in his big car on Saturdays! He is the best man in the whole world, and he will give you treats when you pee…outside, that is!”

But, like I said earlier, I had to write my own bio for the website. Therefore, to the best of my ability, I came up with something that hopefully will give people the impression (should they actually read this) that I’m not an “ivory tower” kind of guy, just a sinner saved by grace. If not for the cross of Jesus and the grace of God, I’d be nothing.

The Bio

Pastor Anthony Baker is a native Chattanoogan, having called the area his home for all but the seven years he and his family spent in Kentucky. Now back in Soddy-Daisy, he’s all about rebirthing this historic church and reaching our community for the glory of God.

For decades Pastor Anthony was bound to a life of legalism, self-righteousness, and pride, but then the Lord graciously humbled him, taking everything away except his loving wife and sweet daughters. Nearly 20 years ago he hit rock bottom, learned what it was like to fail, and finally began the long process of growing deeper in faith and walking closer with Christ.

At one point Pastor Baker battled depression, alcohol, and suicide. Even now, life is not always easy, if ever. However, unlike those earlier days when he looked down his nose at other’s hurts and struggles, these days he can look into the eyes of the broken, disillusioned, and discouraged and say with compassion, “I’ve been there, got the t-shirt, but Jesus made the difference…Now let’s walk down this road together.”

Throughout the years Anthony has pastored churches in East Chattanooga and Lookout Valley, toured with several Christian music groups, and authored two books. He has always been the type of pastor who’s worked other jobs in order to support his family (bi-vocational), so he’s well aware of the struggles of normal life.

Anthony is married to Valerie (almost 25 years) and together they have three wonderful daughters: Alicia Westbrook (Josh), Katie, and Haley.

Pastor Baker attended Chattanooga State, UTC, Hopkinsville Community College, Western Kentucky University, Temple Baptist Seminary, and Covington Theological Seminary where he also is an adjunct instructor. He holds a Masters in Ministry and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Ministry.

Hopefully, the new website will be up and running in a couple of weeks. When it is I’ll link all of you to it 🙂

Meanwhile, keep our little church (South Soddy Baptist) and my family in your prayers. 

3 Comments

Filed under baptist, Church, legalism, Life Lessons, ministry, Preaching

Moving Into November

This guest post was written by Susan Irene Fox. Her blog is appropriately called Susan Irene Fox. If nothing else, go to the about page on her blog and read her story of coming to faith in Jesus…good stuff! You’ll be impressed with Susan’s openness and sincere desire for Christ.


Okay, I watched both conventions: the RNC and DNC streaming live into my living room.

image

I heard the speeches, saw the videos, watched the family members, the protests, the name-calling, and the calls to action. And while I’m concerned for our country, I’m mainly concerned for those of us who call ourselves, “Christians.” If we’re Christians, then we must follow Jesus who is the Christ, the Messiah, right?

Jesus said “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” He said these were the two most important commandments. Ah, but he also commanded us to love one another, to love our enemies and to obey all these commands.

Often we are at odds with each other over these commands, preferring to moralize at each other over who belongs in God’s kingdom.

“We believe in grace but not enough to do any serious damage to the walls that separate us from others.” Jud Wilhite

In his book, Generous Justice, Tim Keller explains this division:

“In Western society, these sets of concerns have often been split off from one another. Each of America’s two main political parties has built its platform on one of these sets of ethical prescriptions to the near exclusion of the other. Conservatism stresses the importance of personal morality, of traditional sexual mores and hard work, and feels that liberal charges of racism and social injustice are overblown. On the other hand, liberalism stresses social justice, and considers conservative emphasis on moral virtue to be prudish and psychologically harmful. Each side, of course, thinks the other side is smug and self-righteous.

And consider what Jud Wilhite said in his book, Uncensored Truth

“We believe in grace but not enough to do any serious damage to the walls that separate us from others. But when your eyes have been opened to see [the] thousands of people the religious world has considered too far gone [to] actually experience transformation through faith in Jesus, you can’t help but be forever marked. God’s grace is beyond my small-minded boundaries and categories. His love … consistently amazes me. His mercy – astounding.”

How do we do unify? How do we stop the infighting? How do we rise above the constant swirl of hate, lying and division that suck us down the drain accusation and blame?

  1. Resist from watching or listening to talking head rants.
  2. Refrain from responding to or repeating social media rants, sarcastic comments and cartoons.
  3. Abstain from posting your own rants, sarcastic comments and cartoons that violate Matthew 5:21-22.
  4. Pray for our leaders whether we voted for them, intend to vote for them or not.
  5. Wear the label, “Follower of Jesus” above any other label.

 The glory you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one; I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one so the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:22-24)

Generous Justice, © 2010 Timothy Keller, Riverhead Books, Penguin Group, NY, NY

Uncensored Truth, © 2010 Jud Wilhite

9 Comments

Filed under politics

Social Media Done Right

What Happened

Good Monday morning, everyone! I’m glad to be alive, alert, awake, and enthusiastic! How about you?

Friday morning was a bummer, that’s for sure; I was alive, but not enthusiastic. Friday morning I was suffering from some unnerving chest pain. Let me tell you what happened.

Friday morning I was going over some stuff at my computer. Actually, it was some papers outlining what was needed for me to start back to school, this time for an M.Div. at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. To be honest, they stressed me out. As I sat there, the left side of my chest began to hurt worse and worse. The pain continued for nearly half an hour.

Finally, I went to my wife and told her what was going on. I had my doubts what I was experiencing was heart-related, but there was no way for me to be sure, therefore my wife insisted I go to the emergency room at Memorial Hospital here in Chattanooga.

The pain started around 11 a.m., but we didn’t get to the E.R. until around 1:30. Thanks to a lot of people there before me, I was triaged and sent back to the lobby to wait…and wait…and wait. Finally, at 4:40 I was taken back to a bed in the E.R., then admitted to the CDU (Clinical Decision Unit) at 8:08 p.m. For the first time in my adult life I was made to stay in a hospital overnight.

On Saturday morning, after having my blood drawn twice the night before, I was ready for some food. What I was not ready for was the heart-healthy crap they feed you in a hospital. For crying out loud, you’d think a multi-thousand dollar hospital bed would sleep better than it did, but then to feed me bland oatmeal and decaffeinated coffee? Torture, I tell you!

After breakfast I was taken for a nuclear stress test. Between injections, waiting, and treading on the mill till I thought I’d die, that was another 2 1/2 hours. But come around 11 a.m. I was being released – NO heart problems! Hallelujah!

Right before I was released on Saturday morning. Encouraged by prayer notifications.

Right before I was released on Saturday morning. Encouraged by prayer notifications and “OK.”

But now my knee hurts from the tread mill. Oh well.

Done Right

Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and all our blogs, can be used for a lot of selfish and cynical reasons. But this past weekend, as my inbox will attest, there are times when the internet proves its usefulness.

From the time I first got to the hospital till the time I was checking out, my wife was responsible for sending and checking all the messages. Because of what she wrote others picked up the ball and began to run. Before too long there were people all over the world praying for me, many of which I didn’t even know.

Then, this morning, a fellow blogger showed up right after our morning church service, just to come pray with me. Do you have any idea how much that means?

Folks, I have been tremendously blessed to have friends and family, both in person and over the web, who care enough to intercede for me. It reminds me of the story in the book of Nehemiah, the story where the people were spread out working on the wall, linked together by only a trumpet’s call. But when the enemy struck the trumpet would sound, and that’s where all the people would gather to fight (sorta like what the R.A.F. did during the Battle of Britain).

In the right hands social media became the rallying trumpet, calling those spread far and wide to the aid of one lone wall builder.

The wall still stands; the defenses held.

Thank you for caring and coming to my aid!

3 Comments

Filed under blogging, Christian Unity, Relationships and Family

Facebook Depresses Me

Depression

How can one not get depressed in this day and age? For me to claim that I never get depressed would not only be a lie, but an absurdity few would believe. For crying out loud – with varying degrees of severity – I’m only human!

I’ve heard some tell me, “But brother, you’re a minister, a pastor! Real Christians never get depressed.” I usually respond with, “Have you never heard of Jonah? Elijah? Spurgeon?” Even the greatest men of God have fallen into times of deep despair, so what makes me immune?

Depression can come on at times when we least expect it, draining all joy and optimism from even the most hopeful. However, if we can distinguish what sends us into downward spirals, those initiators of depression, it would be much easier to stay upbeat and positive.

I think I have found one of those initiators, and it’s called Facebook.

Warning!

photo (66)I think that Facebook should come with a “warning” label. Seriously! It can be dangerous! It can be utterly depressing!

Think about it, there’s really very little by way of good news on Facebook. Sure, there are the regular kitten pics and funny memes, the morning devotionals, and the occasional video of someone looking like a fool, but where’s the hope? Where’s the good news?

What I typically find on Facebook is bad news, threats of violence, predictions of doom, loads of racism and bigotry (from all sides), political tension, and food pictures. Even what might be good news to some ends up becoming a source of envy for everyone else (even me). For example:

  • “Look at my new car! I got a great deal because my perfect credit score!”
  • “Here we are at our child’s graduation from Harvard Law School.”
  • “Praise God! We had 5,000 at church this morning, 495 of whom made professions for Christ! 15 surrendered to the ministry!”
  • “Having a wonderful time in Hawaii! Looking forward to our next 10 mission trips around the world! Come join us, if you can!”

Honestly, I think there should be a big, fat warning label on Facebook, at least for my sake. Nevertheless, I may have learned my lesson.

Look Elsewhere

Just the other day as I was trying to figure out what it was that was making me feel so depressed, that bummed out kind of feeling I couldn’t shake, I picked up my cell phone and, out of habit, clicked the Facebook icon. I still remember the very words I whispered to myself as I started to scroll down through the updated stories…

“It sure would make me happy if I could just find some good news.”

Almost immediately it was like the Voice that woke little Samuel from his sleep boomed into my conscience…

“Maybe you should quit searching for good news to make you happy and find your happiness in THE Good News.”

That was it! How can I remain hopeful, joyful, happy, and upbeat when nearly everything I see on Facebook is bad news? There’s reports of terrorism, possible financial collapse, children missing, rampant immorality, religious persecution, Christians acting like heathen, and even stuff to make me envious…why think on these things???

Seriously, a great deal of the depression with which many of us battle could simply be the result of looking for hope where there is no hope. Will my political party win? Will there be something funny to make me smile? Will someone somewhere finally make the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Westboro Baptists shut the heck up?

What does it matter? Who cares?!! Has God lost control? Has his arm become too short, his hand too weak? Has a single nation risen or fallen outside His sovereign will? NO!!! 

No App Needed

The GOOD NEWS is that God is still on the throne; I am His child and He loves me; He loves the world so much that it doesn’t matter what they’ve done, He’s still ready and willing to forgive; no law of the land can change the law of God; and one day all things will be made right.

So, the next time you find yourself feeling a little depressed, put away your phone and do a little social networking with the Lord…there’s no app for that.

 

*NOTE: Andrew Zuckerman did not approve the use of the Facebook logo for this post. However, if I ever start making any money from this blog I will take the image down. Until then the warning stays. Consider it free advertising, Mr. Zukerman.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Christian Living, Culture Wars, Depression