A Letter to Like-Minded Believers about Online “Ministry”
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I come to you earnestly searching for a compassionate conversation about online ministry.
Whether you call it “ministry” or not, the voices of Christian leadership online are not going anywhere. Many of us have had conversations recently about the need for discussion, leadership, and guidelines on this issue. Today this article from Christianity Today hit the blogosphere. (Feel free to go read and then come back to join the conversation here!)
CT launching dialogue about this is timely and I think vital to the conversations we should be having within our church bodies and synods. I respect and understand CT’s approach centered on the voices of women in this movement, but I’d like to see this conversation apply to all speakers and writers regardless of their gender. I don’t think this is about women speakers. I think this is about all of the spiritual advisors we encounter online. I‘ve been having private conversations about it for months. As readers, we sometimes end up giving a great deal of authority to the person pecking away at their keyboard on the other side of the screen. Should we? How do we handle the plethora of faith-based media we daily encounter? How can we guard our hearts and minds, but also take advantage of the wisdom and stories that can enrich our lives and our faith journeys? In what ways do we – should we – seek out online fellowship? What exactly is a pastor’s job anyway?
The author of this article from CT rightly challenges all church bodies to begin these discussions and flesh out what is needed for all consumers of and leaders in Christian media. How can we better equip our members? How can we responsibly train and educate our writers and speakers? What role can these ministries play in the daily lives of our members to bring Gospel and Scriptural encouragement to the diversity of the individuals in our pews? Not to celebrate individualism, but to bring fellow sinners and believers together in their common confessions.
I see an incredible opportunity for us to reach people where they are. I’m certain the conversation launched by CT will filter through many a Twitter thread and Facebook post. Within the Lutheran church I pray we can be a part of a reasonable, well-thought out approach that engages people instead of shutting them out as I fear our tradition has at some times done. I might be so bold as to suggest we need to not enter the conversation proclaiming the heresy of female pastors, but instead assume we are already speaking within our tradition. Let’s discuss with patience and humility, with our peers and one another, the practical and eternal implications of online ministry. Let’s enter into the conversation with compassion and much listening as we find out why and how online ministries have impacted the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Within Lutheranism, we stand on centuries of thoughtful tradition. Our confessions guide and strengthen us. We are now in the midst of a new era of communication. Dismissing an embrace of the opportunities that surround us would be petty and short-sighted. Furthermore, I believe it would be to the detriment of the souls of our neighbors and ourselves.
It is with excitement and anticipation I look forward to the conversations that await us. What an honor to get to be a part of a church community who will engage with me and others on the vital topic of ministering to the day-to-day needs of one another. Do you have answers? More questions? It seems to me participating in this conversation is another powerful way we can fulfill our vocations of church member and neighbor.
Stay tuned for a series of posts and voices that tackle the various aspects of this complicated topic.