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Social Media Shepherding for the Church

The Twin Cities are home to The Nook (home of the “Juicy Nookie“!), Bethel Seminary (my alma mater), Kevin Hendricks (editor extraordinaire) and the Social Media Shepherds.

While the Juicy Nookie won’t get you anything but a bad case of heartburn, the Social Media Shepherds meet monthly to offer churches direction on communications and social media, and act as a sounding board among churches. Not a bad endeavor, as most churches need quite a bit of guidance in this area fraught with challenges (hence the “shepherd” metaphor!).

One of the challenges churches are facing in the digital age is how to organize all those people in an online setting. What does it look like to be the Body of Christ both online and off? Described as a “group for those who love Jesus and social media,” the Social Media Shepherds meet monthly to strategize different ways to bridge that gap in the church between offline and online. Not a bad bunch to surround yourself with, if you ask me!

Their meeting this Friday will feature The Table Project, a new social platform for churches and ministries that launched in late February. If you’re in the Twin Cities, head on over to Luther Seminary at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, April 18th. Look for Greg or Amy and tell them Justin at sent you!

Want to know more about the Table Project? Check out this primer video and get excited:

PS – I’ll be making a pit stop at the Shepherds’ April gathering. More details to come, but stay tuned to this site and their Facebook group or Twitter feed for more info!

Kick Ash: A Primer to Ash Wednesday

Today marks the start of Lent, the 40-day liturgical season that culminates on Easter morning. Thousands of faithful worshipers will wander back to work, school and home after the noon hour with ashes smeared on their foreheads. Still others will silently think to themselves when seeing these ash-people, “Is it just me or does she have dirt on her forehead?”

Whether you’re the one with ash on your head or the person who thinks they’re seeing things, today marks a big day for the Church of Jesus Christ: We celebrate his death. More specifically, we celebrate our death with him so that we can more fully celebrate being raised to new life with Christ, much like his resurrection after his death on the Cross.

As a lifelong Lutheran, I’ve celebrated Ash Wednesday for as long as I can remember. I’m familiar with the theology, thought and purpose behind Ash Wednesday. Scripture doesn’t command us to celebrate it, it’s simply one of the oldest traditions in the Christian Church that has literally been celebrated since the beginnings of the faith.

Ash Wednesday Fun Facts

That being said, not every Christian is familiar (or comfortable) with the idea of talking about death and letting someone smear what looks like cookout-remnants on one’s forehead.  So we can all get on the same page about this ancient tradition, here are some Lent “fun facts”:

  • Lent means “spring time” in Latin.
  • Ashes are commonly used in mourning rituals throughout Scripture. They signify mourning for one’s sin and repentance from that sin.
  • In the ancient church, Lent was used as a time of preparation for catechumens, or, those waiting to be baptized. Catechumens (i.e. “candidates” for the faith) studied church history, prayed and fasted and celebrated their faith with baptism on Easter Sunday.
  • Ash Wednesday wasn’t officially Ash Wednesday until the 11th century when Pope Urban II rubber stamped the event and made it official. As we all know, if the Pope ain’t happy, no one’s happy!

How to Celebrate the Day

If you’re in the Des Moines area, I’d encourage you to celebrate Ash Wednesday in one of three ways:

  1. Head to Lutheran Church of Hope’s West Des Moines’ campus at noon or 7pm.
  2. Head to Lutheran Church of Hope’s Ankeny campus at 5 and 7 pm.
  3. Join me and Gateway Church in downtown Des Moines at noon to celebrate Ash Wednesday at the Temple for Performing Arts.

Either way, take a steo pout of your comfort zone or continue in the tradition of your youth. Tradition, when connected to the life-giving power of the Spirit, is a powerful agent for change and a historical tie to our ancient roots.

Did you celebrate Ash Wednesday growing up? If so, what do you remember most from it? If you didn’t celebrate Ash Wednesday, what are your thoughts surrounding the tradition?

Top-of-Mind Mondays

  • Is anyone going to Catalyst West this week? I am. Can’t wait. First trip to Irvine EVER. Want to know why I’m really excited? Go here.
  • Rob Bell has gone rogue. Or at least that’s what his critics (read: Calvinists) want you to believe.
  • Lady Gaga becomes more intriguing to me as the days go by. She just released her video for “Born this Way” exclusively online. (Note: This is not for the faint of heart. Use extreme discretion before watching.)
  • Here’s a thought: If you speak more highly about yourself than the community who surround you does, you’re headed for a fall. Get some perspective.
  • I married a very good woman. My wife is all the things I never knew I needed: Smart, sassy, organized and fun. Here’s to you, my Sweet.
  • Des Moines was host to capitalC, led by Chris Kretzu from Gateway Church here in Des Moines. I appreciate Chris’ desire to the see the Church (hence, “capitalC”) in Des Moines come together, free from the fetters of denominationalism.
  • Just had a conversation with Tim Schraeder about a potentially game-changing project we want to bring to CFCC. It’s fun, fresh and will get you in touch with some of the brightest minds out there. Stay tuned.
  • Speaking of bright minds, I’m helping my friend, Drew Goodmanson, gather some data for how people use (or don’t use) church websites. Can you take a look? It’s a short survey and will you have you on your way in no time.
  • My car has been in the repair shop for three out of the past four weeks. It’s almost comical at this point. For those wondering, it’s a Saturn VUE. There’s a reason why they went out of business.
  • Sometimes I feel guilty for buying almond butter that costs $11 per jar. Then I eat a spoonful of Justin’s (not me) Almond Butter and the guilt vanishes. This stuff is like almond crack.
  • Get to know Sam Mahlstadt. If you don’t know his name yet, you will. Soon. In fact, he may come knocking on some of your doors soon, and very soon.
  • Watch this. Right now.
  • What’s the latest and greatest in your world, deviants?

Here’s How to Give People Clean Water

I’d love it if you’d join the team. The deviant team.

I told you yesterday how you could join our team for Gifts of Water, a project my friend Jerry from Dream Year put into motion.

Gifts of Water exists to get clean water into the hands of people who need it the most. Some more details:

  • $10 = the Gift of Safe Water for 1 person
  • Give your $10 by texting WMI to 85944 – giving online
  • Getting 10 friends to give $10 each = 10 more people getting safe water
  • 250 groups of 10 friends giving $10 each gives Gifts of Water to an entire community

Check out this short video to see how you can join Team Deviant and give the gift of clean water this holiday season.

The Sin of Financial Success

Somewhere along the line, generating income became an unpardonable sin within Christendom.

I’ve written on this subject before, but I think it bears revisiting.

I’m going to go on the record, once and for all, that I think it’s acceptable for a Christian to make money. Lots of money, in fact. Let me explain.

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

This is a video from the staff at Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City/Leawood, KS. They shot this video for their 20th anniversary and it lives up to the hype!

It’s a single shot. One take. Tour through the entire building. Using nearly all of their staff.

Impressive. Great job, guys!

Take a few minutes and watch this of video mastery. Isn’t it amazing what happens when a staff works together? “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together in unity!”

If you want to see how they made it, check out the behind-the-scenes video after the break:


Social Media and Your Church

Recently I sat down with Kevin from Church Marketing Sucks to talk about churches and their use of social media.

  • Why should a pastor care?
  • Best uses of social media.
  • Biggest mistakes churches make with social media.
  • How to find time, etc.

It originally appeared on CMS, but I wanted to share it with you in case you missed it. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments below.


This is How I Feel Right Now

These lyrics from Jason Upton’s “Freedom” have been racing through my mind:

Well, we live in a country supposedly Pharaohless
But all over town and in churches abide
Powerful weaklings who practice they’re politics
Stealing from Jesus his beautiful bride
Whether you’re Pharisees, Sadducees, heresies
You best get outta God’s way!

What are you feeling right now? What’s stirring in your mind and heart towards the state of the Church? Towards God? Towards Life? Let’s hear it.

Check out this performance of the song from Jason after the break:


For My Non-Catalyst Homies

Are you sitting at home instead of basking in the glow that is Catalyst? You’ve come to the right place. Commiserate below with me as I walk through some thoughts as to why I’m bummed to not be at Catalyst this year.

Alas, there’s always next year. Right? Who’s with me?

The Next Worship Album You Should Buy

It should be from these guys. And it isn’t even out yet. Sons and Daughters.

Below is the video for “Poor and Powerless” from the group. I had the pleasure of being led in worship by this duo at STORY last week. My wife grabbed their free song and listened to it literally 50 times in a row.

This is the first worship artist I’ve been excited about since I started listening to Jason Upton. That was six years ago. Their album is due out sometime in December. Come soon!


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