Social Media Policies For Churches

Instead of A Show.

In the course of time, Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. -Genesis 4:3-5

It wasn't Cain’s offering that God did not look on with favor, but his heart. His intentions. God doesn’t want us for what we can bring Him, rather He wants our hearts to be broken for Him. Our lives, from the inside out, to magnify the Father. Another verse in the book of Amos brings us back to this same concept. If we put the word festivals into context of today, I think it could be referring to how easily our selfish ambition this day in age to have state-of-art equipment and attend trendy conferences and gatherings can become an idol, in a sense. Lights, fog, songwriting, solos [instrumental/vocal/visual], new gadgets, lasers, environmental projection, IMAG…all of these things can easily become our ‘show and pretense’. God tells Israel quite frankly how He feels about how the idol of ambition has taken over what was meant to be sincere, heartfelt, broken, intimate worship:

I hate all your show and pretense—
the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
an endless river of righteous living. -Amos 5:21-24

…but impurity of heart vitiated all their works, and this was the reason that God rejected everything which the Jews thought available for holiness.

If you have never heard the song Instead of a Show by Jon Foreman {lead singer of Switchfoot}…take a couple minutes to listen to it.

One part that hit me was when it says:

Your eyes are closed when you’re praying;
you sing right along with the band;
you shine up your shoes for services
but there’s blood on your hands;
you turned your back on the homeless
and the ones that don’t fit in your plans
quit playing religion games
there’s blood on your hands…

Wow. You sing right along with the band {lifting up our hands unto God}.
But there’s blood on our hands -- we seemed to have it all figured out, right down to the shiny shoes but there’s blood on our hands.
Blood on our hands…

Contemplating on this for awhile.

Now Showing...

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ -Galatians 1:10

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about entertainment. I work at our local Gamestop and last week, as I’m sure many you know, was the release of one of the most anticipated games of the year. Halo: Reach. Now I personally haven’t played any of the Halo series, but I do love the soundtracks. I own the Halo 2 and Halo: Reach soundtracks. {Yeah, I’m a nerd for film soundtracks and had to get Halo Reach cause its so good.} Anyway, Halo: Reach tallied at $200 million on launch day. $200 million. Now, why is it that people purchase video games, movies, music, etc? For Entertainment.

So, I looked up entertainment and found that it is often defined as something affording pleasure, diversion, or amusement. Whether that’s attending a sporting event, concert, or movie, we go to be entertained. We are spectators of a performance. Unfortunately in some churches, visitors could easily confuse a worship service with a concert or theatrical show. Now when I say this, I don’t mean ”let’s completely eliminate different types of performance art from worship services”. We just have to be careful of the use of them. We need to ask ourselves questions [Who? Why?]. The more priority we put on entertaining instead of involving our congregations and inviting them into worship, the more we develop an entertainment worship. We end up making spectators instead of true worshipers.

I found this quote and was sadly brought to the realization of how entertainment in our churches is becoming more visible.

“We are not producing worshipers in this country. Rather, we are producing a generation of spectators, religious onlookers lacking, in many cases, a true encounter with God, deprived of both the tangible sense of God’s presence and the supernatural relationship their inmost spirits crave.” —Sally Morgenthaler

It’s sad, but true. Entertainment is for pleasing the human eyes/ears…but worship is for pleasing God. Worship is for giving God the honor and praise He deserves. When worship services happen just to please the ears of the congregation rather than the heart of God, then how dare we call it a worship service. In the book of Amos, God deals with a similar problem with Israel [Instead of a Show].

Oh, brother or sister, God calls us to worship, but in many instances we are in entertainment, just running a poor second to the theaters. That is where we are, even in the evangelical churches, and I don’t mind telling you that most of the people we say we are trying to reach will never come to a church to see a lot of amateur actors putting on a home talent show.”
-A.W Tozer

I admit it. Sometimes my motives for wanting to incorporate technology in our services have been purely for cool factor. For relevance. For entertainment.
[Great post from Tim Schraeder about seeking relevance in the church today and where it's taking us]

On the other side of the spectrum, sometimes I’ve felt like there may be about 10-15 people worshiping God while everyone else watches the performance of the praise team putting on an amateur talent show. I think the fact that we have stages, lights, and cameras all over the place gives the feeling of SNL or Broadway productions. Maybe we need to get rid of stages, lights, and cameras? Maybe not. Maybe its just the atmosphere we orchestrate? Maybe we have a distorted view of true worship and need to understand it for what it is?

Worship is beyond music. It is our response to God, in all that we do [1 Corinth. 10:31], because of who He is. I believe once we understand true worship, we can learn how to lead in worship.
I can’t remember where I found this online, I wanna say maybe Camron Wareand/or Stephen Proctor, but I just had it saved in a text file on my desktop and wanted to share it with you:

We need to take a step back and reevaluate the purpose behind our worship services. We need to ask ourselves why we do what we do. In beginning this process, I see four important steps:

Understand Worship—Unfortunately, many of us have an incomplete or skewed view of true worship. Worship extends far beyond music; it is our continuous response to God, in all that we do, because of who He is. A proper understanding of worship will shape how we lead our congregations.

Check Our Hearts—While our intentions in using entertainment in our services can be pure, we must constantly check our motives—we are all capable of placing our confidence in manmade things. As we incorporate music into our services, we should ask ourselves these questions:
• What purpose does this song serve in our time of worship?
• What does the song have to say about God and us?
• How is this song drawing people to the Lord?

Know Our Congregations—Every church is unique, so no one formula works for all churches. Just because a church in Seattle worships in a particular manner doesn’t mean it’s the right formula for our church. We must know what engages their minds, speaks to their souls, and enables them to participate in worship.

Pray—While this last point may sound cliché, it is of great importance. Leading our congregations in worship is not a minor task. Left to our own devices, our worship times can become about us. We must be in constant prayer, asking for the Lord’s guidance as we seek to serve and worship Him.

I believe there is so much truth in this. These four things are crucial and we need to constantly be reminded of them. I think I’m gonna write them down on index cards and place them in the different places I go to around my church.

I recently had to write a two-page paper for a class. The topic was my philosophy on technology in the church. I want to share with you a bit of what I wrote:

Technology isn’t something new. We have always been advancing and discovering new forms of technology. I believe that we can explore past uses of technology and media in the church to better help us understand and communicate the message of Christ, His death, and resurrection. Using history to guide us is a great tool. It can tell us what people in the past have found to be useful and have been able to better develop into what we use today. I believe technology in the church can be used to develop ministries and express God’s truth through media to better prepare us for reaching others. Technology can help us see God’s story woven within our culture and make it easier for us to share that story with those around us. Different ministries reach different people. Ultimately, technology in the church is not about the stuff you have. It’s not enough to just be the “cool” technologically state-of-the-art church. It’s about the people. It’s about glorifying God with our creativity. It’s about looking through rather than reflecting back. The reason we put and use all this stuff is to reach people. To draw people towards God. To open a window to a lost and broken world that needs the church to be the body of Christ, showing His grace and mercy. I read in an article recently that said the cause of the local church is the cause of Christ. Through technology, the church can create ways to lift up that cause. When there is new Kingdom-impacting technology on the horizon, I believe with lots of prayer and discussion, the church should go for it. Not wait around for others to follow in a trend, but go for it for the cause of Christ.

Let’s pray that the church would increasingly give rise to passionate worshipers of Christ, rather than mere spectators of transient entertainment.

Let’s not expand this trend of being spectators, but rather be worshipers the Father seeks.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. -John 4:23


Why and Who.

Every time I find a cool video or read an article in Church Production Magazine, Collide,8bitHillsong Collected, etc. I am reminded of how awesome I am not. When it comes to making use of media around me as an effective tool in ministry, I’m no expert.

I am completely humbled when I hear/read about others in media ministry who know how to do so many things:

Constructing a contemporary worship space using lighting and visuals, launching an Internet campus, design a church logo, make a motion loop, shoot video on a green screen, build a website…….[don’t worry the list goes on]… produce a mobile app, podcast sermons, laying out and printing incredible mailers, run a digital mixer and light board, use presentation software to its full potential, and daily write some of the most hilarious and cunning blog posts that always seem to change the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of readers. Not to mention they do it with wise observations and biblical knowledge. Who can measure up to that?

I know I most certainly can become overwhelmed easily when it comes to trying to learn all of these things, but I just need to remember to keep my head up and my focus on the God.
Focus on why and who.

Why am I making motion loops? Why am I using presentation software? Why am I learning how to go about designing a church’s logo? Why am I incorporating visual worship during the service? Am I doing it so that the church will be considered the cutting edge church in town?
Am I using media to look “cool” to the younger generation of our area? Or do I sincerely want to draw people to God using these tools?

I’m finishing a book called Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith, by Shane Hipps. This book takes you to deep into contemplating just how technologies we use can have such an effect on us. I’m gonna be honest and say that I don’t agree with everything Shane discusses but Its a great eye opener.

Well Shane talks a little about how technology is an extension of ourselves. [Like gun are extensions of our fist; Forks and knives, extensions of our teeth; cars are extensions of our feet; glasses are extensions of our eyes; smoke detectors are extensions of our sense of smell/security and telephones are the extensions of our voice/ear]. And the more we extend ourselves the more the world changes. It becomes an even a”smaller, smaller world.” So we have to be aware that as part of a creative media team in our churches or anywhere else for that matter…we are given the responsibility to draw people to Christ through this medium of technology. I’ve heard it said the methods always change, but the message stays the same. I agree. A Bible translation in itself is a new method-a different language. If it wasn’t for the new medium of technology through the invention of the printing press…we’d all have to learn the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic if we wanted to even read the bible.

Shane says in his book:

The church has a history and habit of resisting methodological changes. The same debate is alive today. Just pick a different medium. In the end, whether its translating the Bible into another language or use television to broadcast a preacher’s message, these innovations dramatically extend the reach of the gospel. Therefore, it is commonly assumed that as long as we protect the unchanging message of the gospel, the method of communicating doesn’t much matter.

But the more I think about it the more I think there is more to it than that. I just need to find out and figure out what it is. Lord, please constantly remind me that it’s not about the technology…but about worshiping You and connecting people closer to You and each other.