Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Giving you my DIGITS, an article in the making

When I was growing up the most common way to "see" the pastor was face-to-face. I saw him/her from the pulpit or during a pastoral visit at my home (very rare). Occassionally the pastor would call. Those calls were not for pastoral care but for information. "Would my mom bake, could my mom take?" I was never called. I assumed, (I know dangerous ground here) that I was not old enough to have anything to offer.

Now I am the pastor and things have changed! Communication and Care are very different. The personal call is only one tool in my arsenal. Phone calls, book readings, emails, snail mails, text messages, instant messages, blogs and face-to-face are all methods to reach people for the Kingdom. This is the world I occupy. Teaching, preaching, caring, and daring are immersed in this digital world. Now I am not even beginining to talk about evangelism, these people already attend my church. I see them almost every Sunday but my primary relationship is at some other time in some other format.

My readers and I exchange books and give reviews of both the writers and the ideas. I choose books that will help them along their journeys and also prepare them for what lies ahead. I have given them fiction and training books. They understand what I am preaching and teaching becuase they have previewed it in the texts I am using.

The people I call often need the facelessness of the phone in order to bear their soul. They also need the immediacy of the interaction the phone calls allow. There is something about the soothing sound of the human voice that cannot be captured or manufactured by anything else but the phone.

Emails and Snail Mails harken back to the age of "Pride and Prejudice." I can create an image with words that is physical. A person can literally hold on to my words and I, theirs. I can reread and brood over these words and tease out every level of meaning. On dark days I can bring sunshine by revisiting a compliment or success story. Yet this medium asks for brevity and a smart use of words to keep up with the busy-ness of today's world.

Texting and Instant messaging are alike since they give brevity and immediacy. These mediums weed out those pesky emotions that often cloud an issue. That quality makes my job even harder, because I need to be specific and check my inferences. However, I should be doing that all the time. I hone my communication skills using this new foreign languages of abbreviations and icons.

But does my ministry change based on the medium? Am I reaching a different demographic with different mediums? Are people less cared for? Where is all this speed taking us? I don't know. This is the world we live in and I think the conversation needs to begin with the medium. I am lucky, as my more "vintage" colleagues remind me, I can use all of these forms. Yet, I am not the model of what every pastor should be. That is why a church needs to develop how it will communicate with this new world. What abundance the Lord has afforded us! Let us not be poor stewards of our words or the WORD.

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