Communication

16Nov

6 Marks of Good Evangelism

This post first appeared as a sermon I preached at The Table: a Christ-centered, outward-focused, community of friends (20’s and 30’s) in Austin, TX. You can watch or listen to that sermon by clicking here

When you hear the word “evangelism” what comes to mind?

  • TV preachers?
  • Emotionally manipulative end-of-sermon invitations?
  • Intrusive door-to-door visitors?
  • angry street preachers?

Evangelism done poorly by some does not negate evangelism as a command for all.

Evangelism is also not a spiritual gift that only some are good at.

Some Christ-followers have also criticized specific methods of evangelism, which is fine, as long as you’re actually telling people about Jesus as well. My hunch is that most of us realize that evangelism is just a churchy word for telling others about Jesus. However, I also have a hunch that most of us simply are not doing it.

Some Christ-followers have labelled things like evangelism as legalistic but it’s not legalistic to insist Christians obey the commands of Christ. 

Evangelism is among the final commands given to us by Jesus before he ascends into heaven. (See: Matthew 28:18-20)

When people we love speak their final words, we lean in to hear them and hang on to them. Why have we done the opposite with Jesus’ final words to us?

With all the confusion swirling around evangelism, what does good evangelism look like?

6 Marks of Good Evangelism

1. Friendship

1 Thessalonians 2:8, “So being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”The 1st century Greco-Roman idea of self was all encompassing. It meant something similar to what we mean now when we say “soul” – the very core of who you are.

Notice, too, that Paul notes that he didn’t just want to share a list of beliefs for the intellectual assent of the Thessalonians people. Even before they believed, they had become very dear to Paul and his team.

Do you have friends that don’t follow Jesus? If you don’t, find some new friends!

If you do have friends that don’t follow Jesus, don’t give up on them because they don’t believe at first. Allow them to become dear to you.

 

2. Personal Proof

You know who doesn’t care that you know a few verses from Romans? People who don’t follow Jesus. 

But if they care about you, they’ll be much more likely to listen to how Jesus ha changed your life. Furthermore, they’ll know you’re telling the truth because they’ll see the proof in your life, especially if they may have known you before you started following Jesus.

When describing how Jesus has changed you, speak in positives instead of negatives.

  • Example: Jesus has changed me so now I live for him by trying to think of others as more important than myself.
  • BAD Example: Jesus has changed me so now I live for him by not going to drinking parties.

Both statements should be true of people who follow Jesus but only one is primarily helpful in evangelism. It’s simply a matter of emphasis.

 

3. Saying “Jesus”

Times have changed. When sharing about your faith, if all you say is, “I believe in God” most of America will agree with you even though most of America does not in fact follow Jesus. But you say the name of Jesus – and it becomes more clear who and what you’re talking about.

When then topic of evangelism comes up many Christ-followers cite a quote that many have attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (although there’s rampant skepticism around the source), “Share the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.

That makes zero sense.

Let’s say a Christian, a Muslim, and a Mormon go on the same mission trip. They work on the same roof, pain the same house, help the same person – but none of them ever say a word. If they all looked about the same, how would you know who believed what? – YOU WOULDN’T!

To share the Gospel, you must use words and you must say “Jesus.”

4. Being prepared

The first part of 1 Peter 2:15 reads, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”

Have you ever been in a situation where you knew the conversation was turning toward faith but you weren’t ready? Have you ever felt like God was pushing you to bring him up in a conversation but didn’t? We have to be ready!

Prepare now for a conversation you’ll have SOON. 

 

5. Humility

The second part of 1 Peter 2:15 reads, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” 

“Bad evangelism says, ‘I’m right; you’re wrong; and I would love to tell you about it.’” – Tim Keller

Good evangelism says, “Jesus is right; we’re all wrong; and I would love to tell you about it.”

When you remember that before Christ, you were “dead in your sins in which you once walked” (Ephesians 2:1) you remember just how much God has saved you from. You remember how you did nothing to deserve grace so the only proper response to someone who has not yet experienced saving grace is not arrogance but humility.

 

6. Bible

Like we said before, a lot of times you can’t start here. However, you can never accurately share the truth about God if you don’t open the Word of God.

Click here to see 10 Gospel Passages that are great for evangelism conversations. I would suggest committing a few to memory so that you are always ready (see #4 above: be prepared).

 

What are other marks of good evangelism?

When’s the last time you told someone about Jesus?

12Oct

4 Ways to Pray

I had a brief stint as a Kids Pastor. It was both wonderful and frustrating.  See: Why I Love and Hate Kids Ministry

When I was teaching 3rd-5th graders how to pray, I used the prayers below. They’re simple, one sentence prayers.

I had a hunch awhile back that a lot of adults in church may not be super comfortable with prayer. Prayer can be one of those tricky things in the Church that you know you should do but once you’re around long enough you feel like it might be too late to ask someone to teach you how to pray. See: On Prayer: Pews & Plastic Tables

My hunch was proven right and I started introducing these prayers to adults a few years ago with remarkable results. They are simple yet profound. You can pray these prayers with a community, in a group of 2-3, or just by yourself.

If prayer is confusing to you, new to you, or you’re just ready to try something new, try these 4 ways to pray.

 

1.) God, you are __________________.

(Prayers of Adoration) – telling God how awesome He is.

Examples:

  • God, you are so gracious.
  • God, you are so faithful, even when we’re not…especially when we’re not.
  • God, you are always with us.

Notice: you can finish the prayer with just one word!

Some Biblical examples of prayers of adoration: Psalm 8, 19, 29, 33, 66, 100, 103, 104, 145

 

2.) God, thank you for _________________.

(Prayers of Thanksgiving) – recognizing that every good and perfect thing comes from our unchanging God (James 1:17).

Does your family do this around the table over Thanksgiving holiday? Mine often does and this prayer is simply turning that practice toward God.

Examples:

  • God, thank you for your beautiful creation.
  • God, thank you for family.
  • God, thank you for being willing to discipline your children when we wander from you. 

Biblical examples of prayers of thanksgiving: Psalm 18, 30, 32, 34, 40, 66, 92, 116, 118, 138

 

3.) God, forgive me for ________________.

(Prayers of Confession/Individual Lament)

These are the most under-utilized prayers in my life yet easily the most beneficial.

Examples:

  • God, forgive me for trying to control everything. I know that means I’m not trusting you. 
  • God, forgive me for thinking I deserve better than what you have deemed best for me.
  • God, forgive me for not seeing people how you do, as people equally created in your image.

Biblical examples of prayers of confession/individual lament: Psalm 6, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143

A note: try and be specific. Don’t say, “God, forgive me for my sin.” Name the sin. Be specific. Because of Jesus that sin has no power of you anymore and you walk in freedom!

 

4.) God, please ________________.

(Prayers of Supplication/Trust)

These are probably most of our default prayers. We don’t spend time adoring God, thanking Him, or confessing sin. We often treat God no different than Santa. We swoop in, read off our list of requests, and go on our merry way firmly expecting every request to be granted just as we asked.

These can be prayers for others or yourself. (It’s not bad to pray for yourself!)

Examples:

  • God, please comfort my Mom in her battle with cancer.
  • God, please show me how to make my life count for You.
  • God, please help me trust you even when my emotions say something different than your Word. 

Biblical examples of prayers of supplication/trust: Psalm 86, 143

 

What type(s) of prayer have been beneficial for you?

Has someone ever taught you how to pray?

27Sep

Proverbs and Politics

Lately, it seems like we’ve bought into a lie that our words don’t matter, or at least that’s the only way I can explain how some of my friends, as well as myself, are acting on social media. Election season puts all of us in a bit of a frenzy but it seems like we’re furiously typing things on social media we would never have the courage to say/scream at someone’s face.

Below are 23 verses from Proverbs – a book all about wisdom in practical life. They’re broken up into 5 general categories – don’t miss the last one. It’s the most prevalent and possibly the most dangerous. 

See: How to Read Proverbs

I’m committing to read through all 23 verses before I post something on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Would you join me? Our words matter. Jesus says that what we saw reveals what’s in our heart. Remember, our first allegiance as Christians is to King Jesus. See: God Doesn’t Need America

 

On Putting Trust in Politics, a Party, and/or a Politician

“Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.” – Prv. 1:19

“but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” – Prv. 1:33

“Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice.” – Prv. 29:26

 

On Engaging Political Opponents

“Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” – Prv. 9:7-8

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” – Prv. 10:12

“Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.” – Prv. 14:7

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” – Prv. 15:18

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.: – Prv. 18:2

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles.” – Prv. 24:17

 

On Thinking/Knowing You’re Right and Humility

“Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” – Prv. 3:7

“Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.” – Prv. 3:34

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” – Prv. 14:12

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” – Prv. 21:2

 

On the Power of Words

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” – Prv. 10:19

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” – Prv. 13:3

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Prv. 15:1

“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” – Prv. 17:28

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” – Prv. 18:21

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” – Prv. 27:6

“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?

There is more hope for a fool than for him.” – Prv. 29:20

 

On Lying 

This is by far the most pernicious. Think about it – every time you share an article that you’re not sure is really true but you like because it furthers your own opinion while pushing down your opponent, you’re lying. The Bible often calls that “bearing false witness” and it’s the 9th commandment.

See: Stop Breaking the Ninth Commandment on Facebook

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” – Prv. 6:16-19

“Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right” – Prv. 8:6

“A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.” – Prv. 19:9

 

What verse(s) would you add to this list?

3Dec

The Anti-Vax Mom was Right and Donald Trump was Wrong

Over the past few days I have said the following words/phrases in perfectly normal conversation:

  • ding-a-ling (a crazy person)
  • cattywampus (crooked, out of place)
  • yonder (over there a ways)
  • feeder road (a road to merge on the highway)

Some of these might make sense to and some might not. I use some of these terms more frequently than others but a few phrases that don’t come out of my mouth as much they should are:

  • I’m sorry.
  • I was wrong.
  • I made a mistake.

Those are usually tough things to say to someone because they always mean two things:

1. You’re about to be humbled.

(Notice: a lot of people speak about the value of pursuing humility but not as much about humility pursuing you). Luke 14:11 says, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Sometimes humility finds you, whether you like it or not.

2. You messed up.

Nobody likes making a mistake, but you can tell a lot about a person by how they respond after making one.

What an Anti-Vax Mom Got Right

Earlier this year, the Washington Post ran a story about Canadian mom Tara Hills. Hills and her husband have seven children and were passionate anti-vaccine advocates until all seven of their children contracted pertussis, or whooping cough.

As Hills started to research further she learned how the study she was basing her skepticism on was in fact a debunked 1998 study that falsely linked the measles vaccine to autism. Both Canada and the U.S. have suffered large outbreaks of whooping cough and measles in recent years.

Her children were ordered to home confinement until their antibiotics were completed.

But that’s not why this mom’s story made the news. Plenty of other families feel the same way. It was her loud admission that she got it wrong that drew attention from people on both sides of this issue.

“I set out to prove that we were right,” Hills said, “and in the process found out how wrong we were.”

After years of getting it wrong, quite publicly in fact (Hills was a blogger in the anti-vax community) she boldly admitted what more of us need to: I got it wrong.

What Donald Trump Got Wrong

What the anti-vax mom got right, Donald Trump got wrong.

On November 22, 2015, presidential candidate Donald Trump appeared on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Among topics of discussion was Trump’s November 21, 2015 assertion that he witnessed footage on television of large crowd of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the September 11th attacks.

Trump claimed “I watched thousands and thousands of people cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”

Stephanopoulos told Trump that Jersey City police at the time were aware of the rumor and investigated it proving it false. The rumors of said celebrations were traced back to an Internet claim that was also proved false.

Trump doubled down on his original claim and insisted further the he saw thousands of Muslims celebrating.

A simple Internet fact check proves his claim was incorrect and thus, a lie.

At best, Trump suffered from an exaggerated memory that stems from deciding to react to a tragedy with confidence instead of fear. It’s a noble trait but one that often produces false memories.

But almost fifteen years later, Trump has all the information he needs to respond honestly yet he refuses. He won’t do what the anti-vax mom did, admit he’s wrong and apologize.

It’s easy to point out others successes and failures in this arena but what about your life? What about mine?

I’m still learning to say those phrases. They sting. Often, humility is still pursuing me instead of the other way around but I’m trying to learn from mistakes and get better each day.

I never thought I’d say this but…

I want to be more like the Canadian anti-vax mother.

1Dec

How to Connect With a Younger Generation

It’s one of the biggest paradoxes in my world: often the most qualified adult volunteers in student ministry feel like the least qualified because they think they’ll have trouble connecting with students. Additionally, the younger college students that are typically seen as the best youth volunteers may connect well with students on a relational level but have little maturity or experience to guide them once they do.  See: What the Next Generation Needs from the Church

Maybe it’s not teenagers you’d like to understand. Maybe it’s 20-somethings. Millennials. We might be the most talked about generation except so few of the people talking about millennials regularly spend time with millennials. See: 5 Reasons Your 20’s Matter

Maybe you’ve added someone new to your family and you’re trying to figure each other out. It doesn’t really matter who the person is.

So how do you connect? What does it take to build meaningful relationships with people decades younger than yourself?

Two simple things:

1.) Love

11059600_10153456077491001_6317721647227367480_oMy Grandpa is over 50 years older than me and our lives are very different. Outside of a general love for Jesus, sports, and family, we have very little in common yet I’ve never had trouble connecting with him because I’ve never wondered how he felt about me.

He has always made it abundantly clear that he loves me. He made a consistent effort when I was growing up to be a part of my life. He attended endless baseball games over my illustrious baseball career…and he hates baseball. When we moved 6 hours away almost three years ago he has made it a point to come visit on a regular basis.

He doesn’t need to know what the latest apps on my phone are or who Adele is to love me and connect with me.

2.) Authenticity

This is where older generations most often make mistakes in their efforts at connecting with a younger generation. They try too hard, which younger people see right through and it’s embarrassing for everyone.

One of the things I consistently try and thank my mom for is not being my friend when I was a teenager. She was constantly there for me, but always a parent first. I never confused who was in charge. It’s heart-breaking watching some parents try so desperately to win the approval of their kids or their kids’ friends that they start being a friend first and ditch their job as parents. My mom knew that being a parent was more important than connecting as a friend.

A few months ago, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was trying to connect with a younger generation. You could argue that Barack Obama’s success in doing so was one of the keys that propelled him to the White House. She sent a series of tweets specifically targeted at recent college graduates (early 20s) asking them to…get this…describe in 3 emojis or less how they feel about the national student crisis.

hilary-clinton-emoji-tweet

 

 

 

 

Predictably, the move backfired.

She got thousands of tweets criticizing her woeful attempt at connecting with a younger generation. Several people even compared her to a mom trying to look cool in front of her daughter’s friends.

Here’s the big drawback to this approach: several members of her key target audience were offended they weren’t simply asked the question. Why the emojis? Are college graduates incapable of using words and forming full sentences? Hillary should have simply asked the question like she would have to any other demographic.

To connect with a younger generation, you need to do more than just care for them. You need to be YOU. Be authentic. Don’t try so hard.

Try hard at love. Try hard to be the version of you God made you to be. THAT will always work.

22Oct

Love Your Enemies

The barbershop was like every other barbershop.

The war had gotten bloody, confusing, and anger toward the enemy had been growing steadily for years.

As the barbers cut and shaved and talked, one man getting his hair cut proposed a simple solution to the war protesters who had come to town, “They ought to round up every one of them sons of b*%ches and put them right in front of the damned communists, and then whoever killed who, it would be all to the good.”

This story, as told by Wendell Berry in his novel Jayber Crow took place during the Vietnam War. As the men in the barbershop echoed their passionate agreements, Jayber, the barber, spoke up and said,

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.”

The first man, Troy, jerked his head up and widened his eyes, “Where did you get that crap?”

Jayber responded, “Jesus Christ.” (Matthew 5:44)

Troy said, “Oh.”

Then Wendell Berry penned a cutting indictment on the entire conversation that I, unfortunately, have been a part of far too often,

“It would have been a great moment in the history of Christianity, except that I did not love Troy.”

You see, the verse Jayber quotes might be one of the most difficult Jesus ever uttered, and possibly the most misunderstood and I’m in no way claiming to have it understood.

When Jesus says, “love your enemies” you know what he means? LOVE YOUR ENEMIES. It sure seems like we’ve tried all the hermeneutical gymnastics we can muster to make Jesus say anything except what he actually said.

When Jesus says love I wish he said teach or correct. That’s how Jayber operates and I know the feeling all too well. It’s hypocrisy in its purest form, when a Christian criticizes someone else who doesn’t love their enemies and in the process the criticizing Christian fails in the exact same way.

Love your enemy doesn’t mean teach, correct, convert, change, or hate your enemy. When Jesus spoke those words, he was very aware that those of us alive today would be living in a “drop-the-mic” culture that overvalues one’s abilities to shut down anyone who might disagree with us but it’s time for a change.

It’s time to start taking Jesus seriously.

Love means love, in every language.

29Jun

I Went to Church Anyway

We live in a broken world groaning for redemption (Romans 8:22).

Even though this is always true, it is evident some weeks more than others.

Over the last week or so our country has been engaged in nationwide debate, from inside the walls of the Supreme Court to the virtual walls of Facebook users.

The two arenas of discussion, race and sexuality, are obvious tinder for a digital firestorm because of their universal nature. It makes sense that everyone has an opinion even if some of their opinions do not make much sense.

While I was more pleased with the conversations I had in person last week surrounding these issues, I firmly believe in the purpose and value of engaging in these topics on the mediums we have available. Those mediums have changed and will continue to do so over time but right now, the Internet in general and social media in particular have connected the world in unprecedented ways.

Christians who leverage that opportunity and those mediums to discuss current issues through the lens of a Christian worldview can be missionaries like the apostle Paul, who reasoned with people in the marketplace for days upon entrance into a new city.

While there is definitely wisdom in knowing when to speak and when to be silent (See: Just Stop Talking), Christians should not fear engaging others with their various social media platforms as long as they are focused on getting it right more than being right. It’s true, Sometimes You Need a Facebook Timeout but sometimes you need to speak up.

“Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” – Proverbs 31:8

But what about when Christians cause problems by engaging others in conversations about current issues on social media?

The easy answer is something like, “The diversity of the Christians faith points to a diversity of opinions on various current issues.”

I guess…

But if we’re honest, doesn’t it feel more personal than that?

I wrote about my personal opinions regarding the Confederate Flag last week. The article took off, relatively speaking, as things that are written at the right time around hot button issues do.

I spent most of the next day responding to people’s questions and opinions (both supportive and critical). I didn’t necessarily care much what people felt about my opinions but I did care that people at least listen to the real opinions I gathered from black, Christian friends who are equally proud to be Southerners yet generally had very different experiences than the people I seemed to hear most loudly.

What was most frustrating was not people unwilling to listen to me but people unwilling to listen to them.

Some of these people were not just Christians but Christians in my city, and not just Christians in my city, but Christians at my church.

Most of the conversations went very well, and I was reminded how great the opportunity I have to pastor where I do really is. But some conversations did not go so well…my church might have shrunk last week, and I am okay with that because I honestly believe in what I wrote.

However, like it often does, Saturday night rolled around and my brain switched over to Sunday prep mode. I started running through the morning in my head. Logistics, set list, sermon, volunteers. etc.

One of my favorite parts of Sunday prep is praying for specific people to show up. It gives me chills to see people far from the Church and ever farther from God walk through the doors of our church on a regular basis.

Yet this last week I found myself struggling to want to pray, struggling to want to see some people I sincerely love but who also disagree(d) with me. Honestly, I think I’m right and I think they’re wrong but they feel the same way.

So Sunday morning comes, and I head to church. It would have been an easy weekend for me to miss. I was not scheduled to preach. I could have had a “stomach bug.”

But I went to church anyway. It had nothing to do with my job and everything to do with Jesus.

As I started to pray, even though I didn’t feel like it, a funny thing happened; I started to feel like it. I remembered that, for all the things that can divide us, Jesus is what unites us.

So I went to church. I shook hands and gave hugs and had a tremendous day. I was sincerely glad to see everyone, especially the people who disagreed with me most loudly because I know the list of essentials we must believe to be known and loved by the same God is small:

Jesus came. Jesus died. Jesus rose again.

When I said those words from stage during our welcome time, I meant them with every fiber of my being. That’s what makes us sons and daughters of God. That’s what unites us.

We don’t need to agree on everything. As much as we all wish everyone thought just like us, we actually don’t need to agree on most things but we must agree on the Jesus things.

Everything else is secondary.

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

15Feb

Don’t Should on Me

I thought my pastor friend cussed at me.

We were having a perfectly pleasant conversation, at least so I thought, when all of a sudden she calmly said, “Don’t should on me.”

What?!?

Imagine if you heard that sentence instead of saw it written out.

My friend was halfway kidding but the truth she was conveying was powerful.

Thankfully, she was patient enough with me to explain this punchy little truism.

The conversation we had happened like most do when someone “should’s” on someone.

Person A: _______ that you did was really great. I really liked how you _______ and did ___________.

Person B: Thanks! It was a lot of hard work but I’m glad you thought it went well.

Person A: Yeah! It was good but you really should have __________________.

Person B punches Person A in the face and goes to jail. Friendship over.

“Should” falls well short of constructive criticism. It does not motivate someone to change or help someone see the good done in the midst of falling short.

Especially when used in past tense, should leaves no room to improve. In the scenario above, Person A is helpless to improve the situation Person B described (“you should have___”). Person A does not own a time machine!

“Should” is useless, paralyzing criticism that is most often given by those who eagerly point out problems yet just as eagerly refuse to be a part of creating solutions.

But what about when “should” comes from within? This might be the most harmful form.

Self-inflicted “shoulds” are just as unhelpful as when they come from others.

Whenever you feel a case of the “shoulds” coming on, ask yourself two questions to determine if the feeling really is something that you need to act on or if it’s just guilt you need to kick out of your life.

Guilt and Should are like ugly twins trying to keep you stuck in the past. See: Are You Living in the Past?

1. Is this something I really want to do? (Or am I just trying to please someone else?) 

2. Is it worth it? (You can have the desire to do many things, but what is most important? What one thing is necessary? [Luke 10:42])

Sometimes we do simply need to be told to pick it up a bit. Maybe laziness has set in. Maybe unhelpful patterns in decision-making have set in. See: Chop Wood & Carry Water

Whatever the reason, change for the better is always a good thing. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to create that change.  “Should” is not the right way.

Next time you hear “should” from someone else or from within, simply say,

Don’t should on me.

13Nov

Nothing is Anonymous

When I was in junior high, the girls in our grade created a slam book.

In case you haven’t seen Mean Girls (what are you doing with your life if you haven’t?), the slam book was a homemade scrapbook with a page for each student in our grade. As the book got passed around people took turns writing what they really thought of each other on their respective pages. The results were overwhelmingly hateful and almost always negative. That stupid book caused a lot of hurt in our little world because nobody ever completely figured out who wrote what comments.

It was anonymous. Anybody could write whatever they wanted.

What was hurtful in the slam book, circa-2000 is just as hurtful in the Yik Yak app, circa-2014.

Yik Yak is an app where users can “get a live feed of what everyone’s saying around you.” Yik Yak allows users to post and read other users’ comments based on their location…and it’s completely anonymous.

I was talking to some of my students a few days ago and they were all telling me the same story: Yik Yak is out of control in their school. They told me sobering stories of how students at their school, including some of them, were using it to say terrible things about not just students, but faculty and staff.

I was curious to know the depth of the hurt being caused through this app so I asked several of them, “What is the worst thing you’ve read?”

They took turns telling me stories of students writing and commenting on sexually explicit posts directed towards all ages of people, as high-ranking as members of school administration and as young as girls in 7th and 8th grade.

I understand how Yik Yak could be entertaining but it is hard for me to see much good in it.

Before we go any further, let me just caution you to not buy into the lie that this generation is any more sinful or fallen than your generation or mine. I firmly believe that it has never been more difficult to be a teenager than it is today.

To think that there is a golden age of morality to which we should return is to tragically misunderstand the depth and pervasiveness of sin on all people in all times.

What saddens me most about Yik Yak and Snapchat and other apps like them is simple: they operate under the cowardice of perceived anonymity.

Nothing about them is really anonymous, though.

School districts are cracking down on Yik Yak users all over the country. The authorities can track what is written to the corresponding IP address of your phone, tablet, or computer with ease. There is nothing anonymous about it!

The same is true with Snapchat. Just a few weeks ago, over 200,000 Snapchat accounts were hacked and leaked all over the Internet. Read that last sentence again. Not 200,000 pictures. 200,000 PEOPLE. The images of 200,000 Snapchat accounts were leaked, easily several million images. There are hundreds and thousands of websites and Instagram/Twitter accounts dedicated to hacking and leaking “anonymous” snaps.

Snapchat rather famously has an unofficial API, which basically means any 2nd grader with an iPhone can hack into it through a 3rd party app and Snapchat can claim that it’s the 3rd party app’s security problem, not their own.

I don’t care if you can’t spell Yik Yak or have never heard of Snapchat, it matters.  It matters because our teenagers have bought into a lie that we have modeled for them, that what they do in private doesn’t matter.

John Wooden once said that the true test of one’s character is what they do when no one is watching.

Maybe it’s not with Snapchat or Yik Yak, but you and I have been guilty of thinking we can speak and act in a certain way in private but then speak and act in a different way in public, or maybe you act differently around some friends than others.

Part of the reason our teenagers feel such great freedom to exploit apps like Snapchat and Yik Yak is they look around and see adults living double lives too.

But here’s the reason this stuff pains my heart so much.

Here’s the reason this applies to all of us, digital natives and digital foreigners alike: God sees everything. Seriously.

God sees everything. I don’t mean that in a “Santa Claus, you better watch out” type of way. But think about it. God, on his throne, reigning and ruling over the world and your heart, who LOVES you, sees everything.

Nothing is anonymous in a world created and sustained by God.

“And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” – Hebrews 4:13

“The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; 14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, 15 he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.” – Psalm 33:13-15

For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He watches all his paths.” – Proverbs 5:21

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