It might not surprise you to know that I’ve been described as a social butterfly. In the same way that I love to interact with people in real life, I find a lot of enjoyment in social media. I know there are a lot of downfalls like becoming too addicted or attached, but if used properly this tool is an amazing way to communicate and connect. The “used properly” clause is the hard part about social media. E-mail is the same way. It’s a great way to communicate information instantly. The trouble is when e-mail or facebook, or twitter becomes your source or base of friendship or truly communicating worth or value to another person. As a youth pastor I recognize that there is pain and lives are being saved because of social media. Immediately when I step in my office some of the first things that I do when booting up my computers is check my e-mail, then facebook, then twitter. But the things that give me the most encouragement, the things that make my job worth doing, don’t happen in the cloud.
The other night I received a voice mail from someone I consider a role model when I become a dad. Sometimes when a voicemail is left after 9pm from a parent, I get a little nervous, was someone in an accident? Will I be driving to the hospital soon? But the voicemail I received brought so much joy to my heart. It had nothing to do with something I did wrong, it had nothing to do with issues they were having with their children or a tragedy. The entire point was to encourage and lift me up in prayer, making sure I knew what I was doing mattered to them and to our church. I will not ever be deleting this voice mail. Too often when we are in a hurry to try and add more “things” to our schedule we forget to encourage one another in the faith and the things God is doing in our midst.
I started talking about social media and e-mail because when it comes to encouragement and being thankful for people, this is a pet peeve of mine. There is something about receiving a mass e-mail thanking me along with many other people that I appreciate but don’t always feel encouraged by. When I receive things like a late night phone call just to say thanks, or a hand written note, it communicates a sense of worth that I don’t feel many places. In youth ministry in order to communicate about events we often do a “mass mailing” or e-mailing in order to get details to parents or students. But I’ve never felt comfortable about this. If we really have the desire to encourage kids to come to an event that we know God is going to show up at is this the best way of being a good steward of our limited time here on earth to spread the gospel? I can’t be satisfied with “it’s just the way we do things” anymore than Jesus was satisfied with the practices of the religious when he walked the earth. He was constantly challenging the accepted ideas of how things should be done and the spirit in which they were accomplished.
In the places we live and work, even if it might be considered a bubble, there is a need to be encouraged to do the right thing in the middle of a world that doesn’t want us to always follow Jesus. The early Christians did things that were completely counter productive to the ones who observed them, they spoke gently to those who persecuted them. Do we even speak gently to the ones who don’t give us the best customer service at a fast food restaurant? They gave ungrudgingly, and took care of those who were in need. I firmly believe one of the only reasons they were able to accomplish these things was because of the encouragement they received.
Acts 15: 31 describes the reaction of Christians in Antioch after reading a letter sent from the apostles and other elders of The Church: “and when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement.” I have taken up a challenge for the month of August to write at least one note everyday. It is my hope that when others read the words that I write they will rejoice because of its encouragement to go and be more like Christ. Note writing is obviously a lost art for many people, which is why it’s so surprising when we receive them. They are memorable, you read them over and over again sometimes never throwing them away. They communicate value in that a person would take time and care enough about you to use their own hand, at risk of getting a writing cramp, and put ink to paper. When you receive hundreds of e-mails in a given time period, a note stands out. May we all feel more encouraged by the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead living within us! Amen.