Prepare for a free advertising spot…

I’m in favor of giving public attaboys and attagirls when somebody treats customers the way they ought to be treated.  Today I experienced just that.  And since it involved technology and web 2.0, I felt obligated to blog about it.

I was doing my taxes online using TurboTax, which I have for the past 3 years.  Being a Monday (just after 5:00 PM EST) in late January, I’d imagine the traffic at their website was going through the roof, with people getting home to a W-2 in the mail and logging on to do their taxes.  So, I was anticipating a slow time.  But it began booting me from the system, and requiring me to log in over and over again.  Eventually their server just gave up, having fought the good fight.  I got a standard “NO SOUP FOR YOU” page when trying to get to my half-finished return.

So, because I was frustrated, I updated Twitter saying “TurboTax’s servers just flipped out and logged me out. I was so close to being done.”

About a minute later I got a tweet (that’s what they call twitter messages) from @TTaxChristine saying “I’m Christine from TurboTax, we’re checking out the issue.”

That’s what I’m talking about.  Web 2.0 to the rescue when Web 1.0 takes a dive.

Thanks, Christine and TurboTax.  Your attention to detail got you a free advertising spot here on the most-read blog published in the greater Erwin Hills area of Asheville, NC.

The Terrifying thought of Christ-centered Laborers.

Thanks to the power of Twitter, and my ever-running search for “campus crusade” I saw this tweet yesterday:

A terrifying description of the Campus Crusade for Christ Club: “We are here to help turn lost students into Christ-centered laborers.” —@gogocosmonaut

To which I responded:

you and I must have a different view of Christ. It’s terrifying that anyone would not want to be a Christ-centered laborer.

To which he responded:

If your life is centered on labor for someone you’ve never met and that has a chance of not being real… That’s terrifying.

At which point, I felt the 140 character-at-a-time limit on our perspectives needed lifting.  Hence, this post. (to which I welcome a response either in the comments or on some other platform—even email)

I don’t know anything more about Nick Wood (@gogocosmonaut) than is revealed online, but from what I can tell about him through a brief perusal of his tweets, He and I share a lot of the same interests.  This isn’t a blog post where I slam the guy.  From his perspective, I’ve never met Jesus, and Jesus has a “chance of not being real.”

I could write a long defense of why I believe in God, but he’s heard it before, and probably has convincing arguments against even my best philosophical positions.  Ontological proofs are not what he wants or needs.  What he needs is to meet a Christian who actually finds their ultimate purpose, identity, and joy in Christ.

Because Nick is absolutely right.  If I’ve never met someone, and don’t know anything about that person, and then proceed to devote my life to them, and call that devotion “labor,” I’ve either lost my mind, or worse.  But, if I were to devote my life to someone like President Obama, or Billy Graham, or my pastor, or even my wife or child, and call that devotion “labor” it would lead to disastrous results as well.

Why? Because, at the end of the day, and at their most basic level, those men and women are flawed, as well. Ever met a parent who hinges all their hopes in life on the success/fame/competence of their child?  More often than not those are crushing expectations for flawed people to live up to.

That’s what’s different about Jesus.  The Jesus I meet in the Bible is perfect. Not swayed by human opinion, not selfish, not greedy, full of integrity, perfect. The type of guy that finds 100 bucks on the subway and gives it to lost and found.  Whether or not the Bible is true (different topic for a different day), the picture you get from the Bible is of a Jesus who never stopped giving himself away.  Devoting my life to a completely (and perfectly) selfless person would lead to me becoming the type of person who increasingly gives myself away.

There are countless examples in the history of Christianity of this principle coming true, from Mother Teresa to Jim Elliot to Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Martin Luther (King and otherwise).  People who saw it as a small thing to stand up against the Nazis, the bigotry of early 20th century America or 15th century Europe, and the horrors of poverty and disease.

If we have this view of Christ—selfless, sacrificial giver—there is nothing terrifying about an army of people walking behind Him and modeling their lives after him.  This world could stand to have a few more Martin Luther Kings who stand up against tyranny, even when there’s nothing but death in it for them.  Even if Jesus weren’t real, as Nick posits, to have a big group of people live like that imaginary man would actually benefit the world.

My fear is that many Christians in general and Campus Crusade staff and students in particular are not living in light of this Jesus, giving guys like Nick every reason to dismiss Christ without a second look.

I would beg folks like Nick to consider Christ.  You’ll always find more than enough Christians to ridicule, and find fault with.  After all, being a Christian means surrendering in the fight to be perfect, and admitting we can’t save ourselves.  But look at Christ long enough, and you’ll find an amazing truth worth devoting your life to.  In light of Christ’s perfect, selfless love, grace, and ultimate control over all the earth, it would be far more terrifying to center your life on fleeting counterfeits like self-actualization, money, sex, fame, power, or control.

Tips for Online Ministry.

One of the reasons I am joining Campus Crusade’s regional team is to help staff and students in our region who have a felt need to be effective in online ministry, but lack the tools to do so.  I’m by no means an expert, but one of my goals is to become just that over the next few years.

From time to time, I’ll post about some tips that I have picked up and found useful.

By far the most powerful aspect of the internet is immediacy.  It all happens in (to use a buzzword) real-time.  That can be a huge help to online ministry (5 minutes until the start of the weekly meeting!  See you there!) or a huge problem (the Campus Crusade freshmen are rappelling off of the science building drinking beer! here’s a YouTube video I uploaded from my phone!).

One of the best things you can do is to always be aware of what is being said about you, online.  Twitter, for example, is tremendously searchable.  I have a constant running search for anytime someone says my name, the name of my ministry, or one of a few other topics in which I am interested.  It allows me to see as they are saying it what they are saying.  And it takes zero effort after initial setup.  I use Tweetdeck and have a column set up for each search.  (I spend maybe 3 minutes a day scanning the searches.)

The other thing that I’ve found indispensable is the use of Google Alerts.  Google might not own the internet, but they’re the sheriff with the biggest gun.  The ability they have over at Google to know what is being said online would make most of us wear tin-foil hats if we thought about it for very long.  I’ve chosen instead to harness that power.  A Google Alert is a once-a-day email (you can set them to whatever interval you’d like) that tells you any time someone says certain words or phrases online.  The power here is that the searches are magnificently customizable. For example, my friend Jeff Hardy might want to search to see what is being said about him online.  But he happens to share the name of a famous wrestler.  Google Alerts would allow him to exclude instances of Jeff Hardy that also contain “wrestler” on the same page.

In ministry, it always seems that half the battle is misconception.  Students think we have an agenda, or that we are insincere, or that we are ignorant and uninformed.  One of the ways the internet can help is by being able to speak directly to those who are spreading those malicious rumors and falsehoods.  You can put out the fire before it becomes too big.  Imagine spending the majority of our ministry energy on things like evangelism, discipleship, and training, instead of dealing with problems that could have been dealt with early and swiftly!

Have you found other ways to hear what is being said about you online?  Comment below.