Archive for May 2014

Help people find your church calendar on Facebook

Nonprofit agencies and Churches need to look at Facebook differently:


A healthy, growing, organization will have concentric circles. They may have a hundred dues paying members, a couple hundred who ‘like’ what the group is doing and reads any news they see about the group, and a perhaps a thousand people who occasionally check in on social media. Growth requires expanding the outer circle.


The next public event that you want people to come to should be stuck to the top of your Facebook page. People forget. Facebook helps remind them.


You need to have carefully thought out set of guidelines for posting to Facebook. You give permission to post to the organizations Facebook page (FB calls this a closed group). Once a person is approved, they must abide by the rules or they will be banned from posting, which is not the same thing as losing membership in the group (don’t make it a big deal).


Consider the following ideas for FB guidelines: 

  • No political items 
  • Positive emphasis
  • Pictures of natural disasters should contain prayer/response information
  • No post more than 150 words
  • No reposts without expressed permission of source (this includes cartoons)
  • No advertisements - donation appeals need prior approval
  • Posting implies permission for item to be used by organization for its own purposes and publicity
Acts 1:6-14
Matthew 25:31-46

I just noticed it for the first time; instead of angels, there are two men in white robes sending the disciples back home after Jesus ascends (verse 10, Acts 1:6-14). And, the men aren’t floating above the heads of the disciples, but standing beside them. Luke then reminds us of the geography; the disciples need to walk down hill in order to ender the city of Jerusalem. Once in the city, they don’t go to the posh neighborhood on the upper Northwest corner. They go to the upper room which was conveniently near the market place center of the city. We are being told, by all this body language, that the proper response to the reality of God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ is to go focus on the mundane. What do people in the city need? Is is possible that those beside us are angels in disguise? How do we treat the people we live with, knowing that as we feed and clothe the poor, and visit the sick and imprisoned, we are serving the Lord of Heaven (Matthew 25:31-46)?


Another thing people often miss, is that there are women in the Upper Room. As the disciples wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, they fellowshipped, shared bread, and pray with a crowd of about 120 believer. Half of these may have been women. They are mentioned here because they will a significant role in the day to day life of the church the Holy Spirit will create, that is, they will be in leadership.


Finally, I have to note that Jesus’ family are present in the Upper Room. Jesus had been dismissive of them. While he was doing the work of the Gospel, his family kept wanting him to return home and enter a 12 step program for people who have a messiah complex. His brother James would later become the leader of the church in Jerusalem, so it is good that he is in the Upper Room praying with the others for the Holy Spirit. The fact that this Galilean family is here in Jerusalem shows that they have had a conversion. They have left the “We want Jesus for ourselves” status of most church goers, and become missionaries to the city of Jerusalem.

Easter 7
Ascension of Jesus
Putting up a Facebook page isn't hard

I have gone from a Facebook hater to a daily user over the past two years. There is statistical evidence that many of the people your church currently ministers to, and hopes to minister to, have done the same thing. I can identify three reasons for this in my life. Each has a direct application to your church’s use of this media:


1) Those people in my extended family who love snapshots, use Facebook to share their daily lives.

Application: Congregations are fellowships. A “group FB page” that carries photos of events at the church will build interest in those events. You can also share mission links to the projects that your church supports (I think the Apostle Paul would love this). The trick is to give the ‘right to post’ to someone in every group in the church. Then encourage people in the congregation to ‘follow’ the church FB page.


2) I keep running into people who use FB today the way I used email ten years ago. Some people prefer to use FB to communicate. 

Application: Every church should advertise every event and program in multiple media. There are people who will check the church’s Facebook page to see the date of the next potluck dinner. Putting something on Facebook should be an extension of putting something on the church calendar. Also, you need to be prepared for those who will use FB messages like email.


3) A club that I belong to uses Facebook as a way to do club functions between meetings.

Application: If you want to get people to read their Bible, then have someone post a Bible verse of the day to your church FB page. If properly formatted, are there prayer concerns you would share on FB? You may want to give someone the job of receiving prayers and then deleting any identifying information. Format: “A member is facing surgery this Tuesday,” and “Pray for those graduating from Riverview High School this week.”


The key to all these things is giving those church members that you trust, the right to post those things that interest them on the church’s FB page. Don’t make the mistake of assigning FB to one person. Go to every group and say, “Who here uses FB?” Then ask them to add posting to the church page to their current use of the media. Think of it as tithing your FB time.

John 14:15-21

Some people would say that when Jesus promised us eternal life, that would be his greatest promise. But, I would say No.  If I am a failure at my current life, then why would I want to live forever? I think Jesus came to save that half of the world that is so depressed, broken, and ashamed, that they only hope for one life to live and that it be short. To them, and those of us who already know the love of Jesus, the greatest promise is found in John 14:15-21 where he promises to send the Holy Spirit into into our lives as a strong, day to day, Advocate. With this advocate, Jesus promises that we will never be like orphans, powerless and nameless. Even the newest Christian, the person of weak faith and who has a horrible personal history, will be able to claim that they are in Jesus and through Jesus, in the creator of the Universe.


These words need to be unpacked in the sermon:

  • What did Jesus mean when he used the word Paraclete (comforter, refresher, advocate, helper)?
  • How have we experienced being orphaned, or abandoned, and how is the promised Spirit going to change that?
  • What does it mean to be in Christ?


These words form the basis for the great promise of life in the Spirit. They also form a good starting place for our summer sabbath (this is Memorial Day Weekend):

  • How will you experience the refreshment of the Holy Spirit this summer?
  • If Jesus promises not to abandon you, how will this summer reflect your identity as a child of God?
  • How will we ground our selves (ie. utilize a daily devotional practice), in Christ?
Today many are being left orphaned by war, natural disasters, and economic inequity
Easter 6
Memorial Day Weekend
Reality Check book for individuals is being written

Last April, I brought out Reality Check 101 as a vision and discernment process for local churches (available through Amazon). While I was working on the book, I kept thinking that I should write a complimentary book to help people gain insight about personal discernment and career planning. Initially, I thought, church leaders who participated in a Reality Check vision for their church, would like to apply the same principles to their individual lives. Now, I realize that I have it backwards. People need tools for doing personal visioning. If the church can provide a short class on finding your own path or discerning God’s will for you, then key laity will be equipped for the related task of congregational goal setting and organizational clarity. 


Clergy and Laity today are hungry for a biblically sound process for life direction. Churches are failing to teach all of the Gospel when they fail to teach discernment. Jesus wasn’t just hiring assistants when he called Peter, James, and John to be fishers of men, he was doing vocational counseling. He invited people into a process for discerning personal clarity through the Holy Spirit. 


Jesus was talking about personal visioning when he said:

 The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23) 


 Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)

Could he not also be talking about our occupations and volunteer pursuits when he said:

 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)


A Reality Check personal vision process would begin with exploration and prayer around three key questions:

  1. What is the nature of human life?
  2. Where is the world taking us?
  3. What does God require of me?


Quiet consideration and group listening around each of these questions always leads to surprising answers. An application question can be paired to each question:

  A1) What dehumanizing dead ends to I need to avoid? 

  A2) How can I remain relevant and engaged as I grow older?

  A3) How can I be God-led, as opposed to guilt driven?  (God loves you and everyone else has a wonderful plan for your life)  


Reality Check 101 revisited the role that Spiritual Passion plays in the local church in providing the fuel for meaningful change. Unless a sufficient amount of Spiritual Passion is brought into the congregational system, side issues will alway stall new visions. In a similar way, a personal sense of urgency lies behind any meaningful change in a person’s life. Zacchaeus climbed the sycamore tree because he was motivated. Many people today feel as if they are driving their life into a rotary and there are exits towards change, but they lack the spiritual energy needed to choose the exit they need to take. All personal vision quests need to be undergirded with what Wesley called the means of grace; Prayer, Scripture Study, Group Worship, Personal Worship, and the Sacraments. 


A personal vision process would offer four exits off of the rotary:

  1. Caring for the clan
  2. Building for the future
  3. Partnering with the weak
  4. Communicating truth and beauty


These four exits are distinctly altruistic and religious. Christian visioning should be different from secular processes. It also should lead people away from the popular “name it and claim it” type of programs, with their get what you want from the Universe approach. 


Further, people should leave behind the old notion that career choices, vocations, and the paths we walk on in life, are set in concrete when we leave high school. God has a way of calling people like Abraham and Sarah to do new things. We shouldn’t set goals or objectives. We need instead to find waypoints and compass headings. Life’s path sometimes takes us back to revisit a passion that we haven’t experienced for many years.

Acts 7:55-60

Take your kids or youth group into McDonald's. When they pile back into the car, have each person tell what they saw. Phrase it: “What’s one thing did you see that you didn’t expect to see?” or  “What is something you saw that no one else saw?” The punchline of the story of the stoning of Stephen is found in what he saw. Stephen says, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” This wasn’t what others expected Stephen to see. It wasn’t what they saw. The young pharisee named Saul, for one, saw to it that no one stole anyone’s coats. He saw an execution go according to plan. Good thing for Stephen, this wasn’t Texas.


It may be fun to remind today’s church goers how similar their vision is to that of the crowd that stoned Stephen. What the elders of Israel saw were the political realities. The Romans needed to be assured that Judaism was a stable religion and that its holy city could be kept under Sanhedrin control. They saw Christianity as a disruptive force, similar to the zealot movement causing trouble in the highlands. They saw people of the town speaking well of these Christians because they were feeding the poor and bringing healing to those who were distressed.


They saw Stephen, a deacon, tirelessly serving the needs of those the Sanhedrin had forgotten. What they wanted to see was Stephen funneling new converts into their folds. They asked Stephen to encouraging people to donate to the the temple building fund, and he refused. In many congregations today, Stephen type leaders are viewed with suspicion.


The other thing political leaders often fail to see is the briefness of their current situation. In a few decades, the Romans will destroy Jerusalem. In a short while, it won’t matter who was certified, approved, ordained, or given an advance degree from Harvard. The first century religious leaders of that place, were given a brief moment on the stage of world history. Crowds from all over the world came to Jerusalem to worship in the temple and celebrate the festivals. How these elders treated those strangers could make a real difference in the propagation of healthy spirituality and koine love. These stone throwers didn’t see the gift that they had been given.


This is why St. Stephen’s vision is so meaningful. He sees Jesus who is the lord of human history. He sees the one who has given each of us our unique giftedness to be a blessing to the world. Our time will pass quickly. The organizations that we have joined will fade away. Nothing remains, but the good that we have done. 

Vision and (mystical) visions are connected
Easter 5
Rep Metcalfe is seeking to impeach the PA Attorney General Kane for failure to enforce DOMA styled legislation

The recent misbehavior of Pa. Rep Daryl Metcalfe (Butler-Republican) has prompted me to devote today’s blog to the following to the letter I recently sent to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. I think you will notice how theological reflection should influence political opinion. When the church stays out of politics, both are harmed:

Dear Editor

    A decade ago, I was a middle of the road minister performing my duties in full support of my denomination’s and Pennsylvania’s stance against gay marriage. Three things changed my thinking:

    I did a thorough study of the scriptures and came to realize that gay bashing and the humiliation of those who are transgendered has no support in the Gospel. I read the relevant passages in their context. I now believe that today’s church should stand in solidarity with the LGBT community. I find myself uncomfortable with bigoted people, such as Rep. Metcalfe, who espouse a very narrow reading of both the secular law and the holy writ.

    Second, I began to see the issue as one of civil rights. It is hard to defend a policy that affords a people equal protection under the law, but denies them something as basic to human dignity as the freedom to marry whom they choose. In a similar way, I cannot say to a gay person, you are free to come to my church, but I won’t accept you into a full fellowship or perform all my pastoral duties for you. When I require other people to be like me, I misuse my authority.

    Third, the demographics on who supports gay marriage and who opposes it, falls clearly along age lines. This is a case where the old need to learn from the young. Rep Metcalfe may hold the gavel today, but this will soon pass. 

   Rev. Bill Kemp

additional author: 
Pittsburgh Post Gazette - May 8, 2014
Psalm 23

v1) I have proven myself incapable of distinguishing between what I need and what I want. The Master lays down for me nutritious food and clear water. I beg for table scraps, wolf them down, and barf it all up on the carpet. I root through the garbage, I drink from the toilet. In spite of all this, the Master loves this shepherd.


v2-3) Our friendship has been formed by many walks. It is in going out into the world that I have come to know my Master’s will. He leads me around dangers and across busy streets. He seems to know both the destination and the lessons I need to learn on the way. He knows when I need to rest, or take a drink. He always has a bag handy for when I poop. He waits patiently for me and teaches me to wait for him.


v 4) I don’t think about death. I know that my Master’s life will go on much longer than mine. I simply hope that he will remember me. The Master has disciplined me when I’ve needed it. He has guided me when I have been anxious. In fact, he has never failed at this. I am comforted. I have the strength to face the unknown.


v5) When the Master has his friends over, they sit at table and give thanks for bread and wine. They pass the dishes of food around the table. They share. This is another thing beyond my comprehension. There are dogs in the neighborhood that I hate. I have fought. When I am hurt, he takes me to the vet and binds my wounds with salve. I know that he wants me to be more like him, but I am just a dog.


v6) Once, I was a stray and then I did time in the Animal Shelter. Since my Master has found me, I have known goodness and mercy. I plan to stay close to my Master all the days of my life, and hope to see him again when I cross over into the unknown.

Easter 4
HDR involves running multiple digital photos through a computer

    Back in the 1960s I learned that if you wanted to do ‘real’ photography, you had to learn to think like Ansel Adams. He was a perfectionist who carefully measured and noted the tone values of each scene into his notebook before snapping a photograph. He hiked with a huge, 8x10 camera, into the mountains in order to capture Yosemite at sunrise. He mixed his own chemicals and spent hours with each negative in the darkroom until he had the perfect print. I wouldn’t hesitate to call him the greatest photographer of the twentieth century. But today, teenagers with iPhones routinely capture better photographs.

    When you spend your lifetime mastering a traditional craft, it’s easy to resent those who come along with today’s technology and capture beauty with ease. Those who play pipe organs often criticize the use of contemporary music in the church. Preachers who diligently read their theologically perfect sermons from a manuscript resent today’s emphasis on relevant narratives told in active voice. Our whole investment in denominational hierarchy is being challenged by the emerging church movement.

    Last month, I went to the neighborhood photo club and heard two comments that challenged my stodgy heart. First, the president of the photo club said that if Ansel Adams was alive today, he’d be loving today’s technology. Great people don’t say, “We’ve got to keep doing things the way we’ve always done them.” Ansel Adams was a great man; even in his eighties, his mind was flexible and accepting of new ideas. Second, a professor of photography at the local art school stated that today’s digital techniques (particularly HDR), allow our photographs to replicate the way the human eye actually sees a scene. Our eyes constantly scan and capture a wide range of tone values. Film can only capture a narrow range. Today’s digital cameras can capture multiple images that are then combined in the computer to create a final picture or video that is more true to the human experience.

    What’s the take away? If you want to be authentic in your Christian witness, learn to embrace change. Ansel Adams would. Today’s church can also.

additional author: 
Photo credit Michael Steighner, MDSimages