Posted tagged ‘followers’

Getting Followers

January 15, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    January 15, 2019

                                

Getting a book published these days is as complicated as that Latin final exam I flunked back in college. I was better at “Pig Latin” than I was at Latin, but the college didn’t offer that alternative. 

I’m better at writing than I am at doing all the other “stuff” that publishers are looking for, like establishing your “platform” and summarizing your 100,000 word book in one paragraph. They use words like “hook”, “genre”, and “synopsis” like they were jelly beans that are so easy to pop into your mouth.

Another element they’re looking at is how many “followers” you have! Who reads your blog (Like you are right now!) and how many people would be interested in your book?

And so the quest for more followers happens! Getting followers feels a little bit like panhandling! There’s some pleading involved. All I can say is “I think you’d enjoy reading my blog, so please, please, please be one of my followers!” And on the other side of the sign the words “God Bless!” It’s not like I can offer a discount or a tip on what stock to buy. Almost all of my followers have some kind of relationship with me. 

Jesus had a few disciples and a number of followers. Disciples left their fishing nets and tax collecting table to follow him. There was no turning back. They were all in. Followers listened to his teachings and then returned to their homes and work. They were interested, but their levels of commitment differed, some all in and some Sabbath attenders.

Sounds a bit like church attenders! There are those who are all in with the church’s mission and ministry and others, sadly the majority, who have one foot in and one foot out. They are “the interested”! But they are also interested in sushi, Hallmark movies, and clearance sales at Dilliard’s. 

Commitment is another matter! What are they committed to? Very little! Their interests are fluid and their commitments are minimal! 

So I’m trying to attract followers, who I know are kinda’ following, to impress publishers who will then see that I’m worth being committed to! 

Did you follow that?

Generic Christianity

November 17, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           November 17, 2017

                                         

Starbucks is decorating their stores with Christmas…err, Holiday gifts and ornaments. Although they have a dark roast coffee called “Christmas Blend”, as far as I can tell it is the only reference to the name we place on December 25. They use words and terms like “joy”, “peace”, and “give good” to point to the festive holiday time without saying Christmas.

Starbucks keeps it generic in order to be more appealing…and raise the profit margin. I don’t fault them for this. Although I enjoy my coffee I don’t see it as a spiritual experience to sit on a stool in a Starbucks for an hour…as I’m doing now!

Christianity and the Christian church, on the other hand, should stand for something solid and transformative. The Christian faith is decorated with words like “redemption”, “transformation”, “grace”, and “forgiveness”. They are pillars built on the sacrifice of Christ.

It seems that churches are in danger of becoming generic in their presentation, their terminology, and their beliefs. I’m not talking about churchy terms like benediction, narthex, Eucharist, and sacraments. No, I’m going in a different direction…kinda’! Instead of mirroring Christ, the church too often mirrors culture. Instead of counter-cultural we mostly go with the flow. Instead of transforming we have been mostly transformed…by the NFL, The Bachelor, and CNN and Fox News.

There are encouraging signs, however! The relief efforts of various churches and faith organizations in recent months to help those affected by flooding and hurricanes has been awesome. It reconnects with the early Christians in Rome who would minister to those dying of smallpox. The epidemic that killed as much as a third of the population in AD 165 spared no family. Even the emperor, Marcus Aurelius, succumbed to it. Families would push their sick out of the house and into the street to die alone. Followers of Jesus, however, remembered their Savior touching lepers and healing the sick, and so they willingly became infected with the disease in order to show love and compassion to those who were dying. John Ortberg, in his book Who Is This Man? (page 38) refers to sociologist Rodney Stark who argues that one of the primary reasons for the spread of the Christian faith was because of the way Jesus followers responded to sick people. Comforting the afflicted gets us back to our roots.

Generic Christianity sets up a buffet table of doctrinal sample and avoid…like the prime rib of beef and the peas and carrots. This looks good for me and that has no place on my plate. Generic faith gets customized for my taste. Prayer may have a prominent place but grace gets avoided; worship is appetizing but confession is about as appealing as week-old fruit salad.

Authentic Christianity is life-changing and, perhaps, that’s why it gets avoided. It requires our surrender, our yielding.

The “F” Word

June 26, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       June 26, 2017

My granddaughter recently used the “F” word. Her mom’s eyebrows hit the ceiling! She had used it in reference to Satan. Instead of “Defeat Satan”, or “Stand up to the devil!” she had used the “F” word as a verb in front of Satan. When my daughter’s eyebrows came back down from the rafters she asked her where she had heard that word. It had floated out of one of her kindergarten classmate’s lips, and she had heard it a few other times in other places.

My daughter controlled herself and taught her that there are certain words that are not appropriate to use. In a few years her daughter might ask her mom a follow-up question. “Mom, if it’s not appropriate why do I hear it being said so much?”

The question might cause her mom to have to think about the answer a good bit.

The “F” word is now the over-used expletive that seems to be accepted by many. Robin said, “Holy Cow, Batman!” My grandfather said “Lord, have mercy!” Beaver Cleaver said, “Gosh, Wally!” Now the “F” word is the word of emphasis, the word of anger, and the word that seems to flow fluidly from the lips of many people.

I remember using it one time my sophomore year of high school for no apparent reason in talking to my friend Dave Hughes. I called him the “F” word with the maternal pronoun in front of it. I was having an exaggerated moment of machoism and I thought it would make me seem taller than my 5’2’ stature. I remember his look of dismay because he knew it was out of character for me. My moment of a verbally raised testosterone level quickly passed and I felt stupid. Dave Hughes was forgiving and ended up being my best man about nine years later.

I figured out that the “F” word didn’t define me, or make me seem tougher and meaner. I was who I was, and my vocabulary was prone to stay on the more positive end of the spectrum.

I could put a list of reasons why people seem to use the “F” word more these days, but I’m not sure that would be helpful. I prefer to focus on the “F” words of scripture that mean more to me and are more about hope, promise, and building up.

Words that come to mind are “faith” and “faithfulness.” My faith in Jesus has set me “free” to be one of his “followers.” I hear the other “F” word often used in frustrated reaction to failure. My “faith” however assures me that Christ’s victory on the cross “finished” it! And now I cherish the “fellowship” that I enjoy with the other “followers.”

Don’t think too highly of me, however! I still use the word “Crap!” from time to time, usually after a miss a jump shot playing basketball, but never in reference to someone else’ s character.

Just some “food” for thought! What kind of “fruit” is coming from my tongue?

The Key To the Church…Literally!

May 9, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         May 8, 2017

                           

I arrived with my friends Ed and Diana at First Baptist Church in Simla, Colorado this past  Sunday for morning worship. We parked in one of the “parking suggestions”…that means there are no lined spots to steer the vehicle into. You just park it in the general vicinity!

Thelma, one of the church saints, was standing on the front steps. And then it hit me! I didn’t have a key, and Thelma, who had arrived early to prepare communion, didn’t have a key.

“Do you have a key, Pastor Bill?”

“No, Thelma, I don’t! And I’m assuming that since you’re standing here on the steps that you don’t either.”

“No, I came early to get communion ready.”

“Oops!” I walked around to the area on the other side of the steps that disguises itself as a landscaped garden of shrubs and plastic flowers. In the past it also had served another purpose. A key to the church was hidden underneath one of the rocks that decorated the area. I commenced to turning each rock over and seeing if a treasured key was to be discovered.

Polly came walking around the corner with a cane, but no key.

“Good morning, Polly!”

“No key!”

“Not yet! We may have to worship on the front steps this morning.”

“That would be okay!” she replied. One of the wonderful things about this small congregation is that no one gets bent out of shape when a crisis…like no key…happens. In a town of diminishing population and limited opportunities…life happens! Polly had been gone from the church for years and has recently returned. When she attended years ago she didn’t have to have a came along wth her, but now mobility issues abound. Her church family offers her encouragement for the slowed-down journey.

I came up empty on my hidden key search amongst the rocks. John and Sherry pulled up and we all looked towards them with limited hope.

“Good morning, John! Good morning, Sherry!”

“No key?” they question.

“Not yet!” The probability of worship on the steps was increasing! John and Sherry were okay with that. They’ve headed up a summer experience called “Cowboy Camp” for years. It meets in the midst of someone’s pasture for five days in late June. People from miles away bring their campers and lawn chairs for the preaching, teaching, and music. It’s all outside, so John and Sherry might feel more at home on the steps than in the pews. John’s cowboy hat is an indication of this.

“I wonder if Henry and Mildred have a key?” Thelma asks. “I know they did years ago.”  Henry and Mildred are the ninety-somethings of the fellowship. They are about the dearest people you could ever meet, now in the last years of their journeys. Henry has limited vision and Mildred has limited hearing. Mildred went through a tough time recently when their family dictated that she could no longer drive. It was a hit to Mildred’s independence and purpose. Struggling through each day with limited energy, driving the Town Car around town whispered to her that she could still do things. Taking the car keys away, even though it was a decision made in love and a needed development, edged Mildred towards the pit of depression.

“I think Angie is picking them up today, so we’ll see soon,” Sherry said.

Our growing cluster stood around the steps and chatted about communion grape juice, rain showers, and the Methodists. I was formulating a revised worship order in my mind that could be accomplished on the steps. We could pick out a couple of songs that we all were familiar with and go to town A cappella with them. John’s cowboy hat could be the makeshift offering plate. It was doable!

But about that time Angie arrived with her two kids…and Henry and Mildred.

“Good morning!” everyone greeted one another.

“Any of you have a key?” Thelma asked.

“I do!” replied Angie.

“Praise the Lord!” echoed a couple.

“I’m not sure if it fits the front door or the back door.”

“As long as it fits a door that’s all right,” I chirped.

It fit the back door! Angie’s daughter, Lena, made her way from the back of the church to the front and we all laughed and gleefully chit-chatted our way into the sanctuary.

I thought to myself that whether a key was found that day or not, we still were going to have church…and we were the church!

 

600 Posts!

July 8, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             July 8, 2016

                                              

Today I’m writing my 600th Words from WW blog post. It’s been an adventure! The first post emerged on December 30, 2008. There have been times of writing frenzy, like in June of 2014 when I took on a challenge that wordpress.Com presented of writing a blog post each day for the entire month. Plus, they gave you the subject matter.

I’ve written about death…greatly on my mind when my mom passed away Labor Day weekend of 2013.

I’ve written about grace…and how it so often is lacking, oddly enough, in the church.

I’ve written imagined coffee conversations with Jesus…stressing that things are not always so cut and dried as people think.

I’ve written about personalities…people who have greatly influenced my life in various ways.

I’ve written about how weird people are…or should I say we all are!

I’ve written about stories in Scripture and what they teach me.

I’ve written about the church…my hope for it, and my frustration with it.

I’ve written about life…normal life and life moments that have a sense of sacredness to them, like my daughter’s wedding and car rides with my granddaughter.

I’ve written from a stool at Starbucks, my home study, and a cubicle at the public library. There’s been many occasions where I’ve sat on my Starbuck’s stool, looking out at Pike’s Peak, with no idea what I would write about and then God gives me a thought, an idea, a moment of remembering something from the past…and the words tumble out. With my earbuds in, tuned to the Coldplay station on Spotify, I go at it.

And the thing is, I write and trust that God will take it from there. He’s like the paperboy for my blog. I trust that he hits the driveway to whomever he sends it to, and it doesn’t end up underneath the shrubbery.

A couple of weeks ago someone I least expected told me that she really enjoyed my “Words.” “It is so where I live!” she exclaimed. I greatly appreciated that. I’ve never been one for high academia, as my college grades would attest to! I’m more like “The Hardy Boys”, rather than “The Brothers Karamazov!”

One of my best friends suggested that I try to get money for my blog. He knows someone who does. My mind can’t fathom that. My writing is kind of like my baseball card collection. It keeps getting bigger, but I never sell any. I’m just thrilled that people seem to enjoy reading it. According to WordPress I have 128 followers. I’m not sure what that means, and, quite honestly, I don’t know ninety percent of them. How closely do they follow? Are they more like stalkers who are following me, or readers who are looking for a chuckle in the midst of a ho-hum day?

And so I write as I sip on my Pike Place brew. Perhaps someday I’ll be on The Today Show…not!

What or whom might be the subject for #601?

Fanatics, Fans, Followers, or Faithful

April 11, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      April 11, 2013

I’ve just returned from the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four in Atlanta. What an experience! My son and I thoroughly enjoyed everything but the MARTA train ride after the Saturday night games were over. We now know how it feels to be a cow being herded!

In Atlanta I experienced four types of basketball people: fanatics, fans, followers, and faithful. Each type gives the church some clues about momentum, fickleness, and congregational life.

“Fanatics” were evident for each of the teams. They were people who took on a different appearance for a few hours. A Michigan fanatic dressed up to look like a big banana…or at least that’s what it looked like to me. Another one painted his face maize and blue. A Wichita State fanatic wore a full body gold suit. Fanatics are people who are different for a few hours, before going back to who they really are.

Church fanatics get worked up for a cause or an event, but it is only a surface appearance for a moment or a time, and then they take on their usual nature again. Fanatics get attention, but the energy that they expend usually can only endure for a season. To use a basketball analogy, they are like the slam dunk that gets highlighted, but in the scheme of things is still worth just two points.

“Fans” wear the team colors and show up in the good times. We use the term “fair weather fans.” Fans are loyal as long as they are benefiting from it. If they don’t perceive there being a benefit they get testy, and look for the best possible scapegoat. Fans are willing to invest as long as it’s the popular thing to do. If the team’s success starts sliding fans often head for the exits.

Church fans are committed until there is a conflict. If they don’t care for the pastor, and can’t create enough discord in the congregation to get him ousted, they will head for the exits. Fans are not early adopters of change. They are late adopters, joining in when the buy in from enough people reaches a tipping point. Fans were amazed at the teachings of Jesus, but joined the crowd that shouted for Pilate to put him on a cross.

“Followers” wear the team colors, and check the Sports section the next morning after an away game to see how the team did. They are usually a member of the team’s Facebook page like “the Big Blue” from Kentucky or “Duck Nation” from Oregon. They are more invested than fans. Their car probably even has a bumper sticker proclaiming a team name like “Duke Blue Devils” or “Marshall Thundering Herd.”

“Church followers” are not necessarily Jesus followers. They are loyal, but maybe not for the right reasons. There is attraction to the music, or the location. The pastor could be the focus of their following. A new pastor comes in and it could be a different story. Church followers may follow the trimmings, but not the Core. Fellowship time conversation may revolve around the professional basketball team or the new store that just opened in the mall, instead of it being conversation that flows out of spiritual journeys.

To use another story from the sport’s world, it’s like a professional baseball player who couldn’t figure out how to get off of the I-285 that went around Atlanta. He kept driving around and around, missing the game he was to play in, and could never get to the core…the center…the destination.

Finally, there are the “faithful.” The faithful know that it is not all about them. That the point they are presently at has been paved by many years of tradition, principles, and wise people. The faithful know that valleys happen and mountains don’t go on forever.

The “Church Faithful” know where they have come from, but also know that there needs to be movement from where they are at. They understand the source of their energy and filter the good times and the bad times through Christ. Perhaps, most of all, the faithful are not fickle. They can applaud a good high tide without getting swept away by a tidal wave.

Final Four madness! Memorable even beyond the guy dressed up like a cardinal!