Archives For Pastoral Care

Reagan quote

 

In other words: with the increase of power, so comes a potential decrease in intelligence.

Think of the game total war. With the increase of lands and territory comes the difficulty of being able to govern it all. There’s the inevitable unrest as one area complains about higher taxation than the newly acquired lands. Attempts to balance these out are futile. The end result is that I either send in a highly paid army (that I can barely afford to re-position from the borders of my total war campaign) and implement total control or I side with the rebels. In which case I lose power and choose total, civil war.

To be true, the game mechanic is structured to keep things interesting. It bends against even the most kind among the known world’s rulers. All of my glorious intentions to keep my glorious nation (I mean glorious empire) together fell on the sword of the quest for ever more glorious power.

Still, I can’t escape the implication: with the increase of power, so comes the potential decrease in intelligence. Intelligence does not increase with an increase of power or privilege. In retrospect, my glorious leadership of this burgeoning in-game empire was, as I saw it, benevolent. Why on earth would my subjects want to oust me? I improved their material wealth, even though I may have drained other areas, refused a crusade, jihad or two and squashed a few ”insignificant” uprisings, in order to make more and more glorious my conquests. All done for my glorious peoples.

The point is this: even the most utopian of glorious leaderships will fall. Complex politics reflects humanities complexes. It’s what C.S Lewis outlined when talking about the tyranny of self; something he pinpoints sharply in is, 1948, essay called ‘The Trouble With “X.”

‘I said that when we see how all our plans shipwreck on the characters of the people we have to deal with, we are ‘in one way’ seeing what it must be like for God. But only one way. There are two respects in which God’s view must be very different from ours. God sees how all people in your home or your job are in various degrees awkward or difficult; but when He looks into that home or factory or office He sees one more person of the same kind – the one you never do see. I mean, of course, yourself.That is the next great step in wisdom – to realise that you also are just that sort of person […] Unfortunately, we enjoy thinking about other people’s faults: and in the proper sense of the word ‘morbid’, that is the most morbid pleasure in the world.’ [i]

Lewis’ advice on how to combat this is,

‘Abstain all thinking about other people’s faults, unless your duties as a teacher or parent make it necessary to think about them […] Not even God with all His power (for He made it a rule for Himself not to alter people’s character by force. Although, He can and will alter them – but only if the people will let Him) can make “X” really happy as long as “X” remains envious, self-centered, and spiteful.'[ii]

Jesus enters this discussion with the words,

‘If anyone would come after me, let him [or her] deny [themselves], take up [their] cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?’ (Luke 9:23, ESV)

Total War may just be a simulation. Nothing but pixels and a few hours of harmless interaction with history. However, the message of its experience extends out towards knowledge of truths that have been heard and acknowledged here in the comments of Reagan, the admonishing words of Lewis and instruction from God Himself.


Source:

[i] Lewis, C.S 1948 The Trouble With “X”…, 2000, Essay Collection: Faith, Christianity and the Church, Harper Collins (pp.357-360)

[ii] ibid.

Phil Keaggy LIVE event

In order to find suitable songs to kick-start our study through Revelation, I went scrolling around YouTube.

The goal was to mark the end of our successful journey through Luke and Acts; to find something that would also mark the start of a new quest that will take us through the Book of Revelation.

What I found was this performance of ‘John the Revelator’, by Blues Counsel and Phil Keaggy, dated October 2014.The song has been around since at least the time of Blind Willie Johnson (1897-1945) and since then it’s been covered by more than one performer.

I’ve long been partial to the Keaggy version, which appeared on his ’93 album, ‘Crimson and Blue.’ So, I figured what better song is there to get the ball rolling than one which features a bunch of guitarists.

One other stand out that I’m fond of and plan to use in my approach to teaching from John’s letter, prophecy and recount, is Michael Card’s ‘Unveiled Hope.’ Card’s entire album is written and performed with a contemplative closeness to the content of John’s book.

Some songs fall flat, such as Holy, Holy, Holy. Others, however, punch out a sound that reflects the present and future, hope and victory in Jesus Christ. Themes that contribute to the major points of the text.

As I did with Luke and Acts, for my ongoing prep for each session I’m resting a great deal on the Holy Spirit’s direction. Working hand-in-hand with Greg Clarke and John Dickson’s ‘666 And All That, 2007‘ and, Achtemeier, Green and Thompson’s, ‘Introducing the New Testament, Its Literature and Theology, 2001.’

‘While Revelation is a book that discloses and prophesies, it is above all a book that, like the writings and words of all the biblical prophets, intends to admonish, correct, and encourage its readers. John calls for repentance, obedience, faithfulness, and perseverance. This is not a code needing to be cracked; it is a proclamation that needs to be heard and obeyed’
         – (Achtemeier, Green and Thompson, p.558)

 

When it comes to improving context and expression on social media, #hashtags can empower written communication.

For example #hashtags can provide:

 sharp relief…

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Image: AdamRobertsEF, sourced from Flickr 27th May 2014

They do this by allowing improved delivery of the message. Such as providing context, enhancing dialogue and uplifting an otherwise impoverished form of expression. Hashtags allow the author and the reader to reach beyond the limitations of non-verbal, faceless communication.

However, used on their own #hashtags can be:

hashtags

Jasmine Henry, writing for ragan.com, suggests six areas of social media etiquette where businesses (and I think people in general) should use caution when wielding the might of the hashtag.

Jasmine writes:

First, beware of using ‘too many hashtags. Overuse is annoying and can be difficult to read’.

Second, be careful of the ‘irrelevant use of hashtags.’ There’s no need to hashtag every post.

Third, proper social media etiquette requires a limit of only ‘three to four words’ behind a hashtag. This allows for improved readability.

Fourth, don’t ‘over promote a self-made hashtag‘. Be careful you’re not over stating what is obvious to the reader.

Fifth, understand the mechanics behind hashtags. ‘Be considerate of the trend in order to avoid looking like you are jumping into a pre-existing conversation without having something relevant to contribute to that conversation.’

Lastly, be sure that the hashtag relates to the trend. Avoid ‘hashtag sampling, by misusing or miscalculating the contextual meaning within a hashtag trend’

The Church would do well to not overlook the usefulness, significance and potential of hashtags. Their use allows for bridge building as the hashtag mechanics can carry the message further. One outcome suggested by a hypothetical scenario might be when a person in need of encouragement lands upon a ”trend” directing them back to the Gospel, or the sender opening up opportunity for fellowship, responsible care and/or contextual mission.

Some of us might be unaware of this ”etiquette”, since a lot of people are all awkwardly still working out how to use this technology in community. I had some idea, but it wasn’t until I looked more into it that I realised the use of hashtags is actually not a bad thing.

The fuss in using hashtags appears to involve nothing more than concerns about their overuse and the uncertainly of their usefulness, significance and potential.

These are also important points here that can be made about how this relates to pastoral care and evangelism in an online mirco-blogging environment. For instance, hashtags can avoid a passive aggressive tone when presenting shared material. In a pre-emptive sense, used properly hashtags have the potential to defuse rather than ignite misgivings about the Church, the Bible and God.

As long as the mechanics are understood and not hindered by their programmers or our own poorly considered words, the hashtag allows a way for us to reinforce the context of what we are trying to say. As result we have a way to overcome the limitations of faceless-expressionless communication and the obstacle of misunderstandings unique to social media.

 

hashtag Merriam_Webster

Image: Merriam-Webster

 

Source:

Henry, J. 2012 The 6 most irritating ways to use hashtags on Twitter, sourced from ragan.com

Twitter and wisdom are sometimes viewed as polar opposites.

Yet there are  times when you come across healthy reminders like this:

 

Cloud_Tweet_Patterns

Reading Susan Cain’s ‘Quiet’ has jolted to my understanding of what it means to be introverted and/or extroverted.Quiet_Susan Cane

I’m not all the way through it yet, but I have a real sense that her project on personality, which is written like an academic text, has deep value for ministry and pastoral theology in general.

A particular area of  interest for me was that in at least one University in America, based on her observation and research, if you failed to create a significant social network, the assumption was that you had by default, also failed your degree[i]. That is even if you had met the required mark for successful completion of that degree.

I wondered at the implications for students who spend a considerable amount of their learning via the internet, because the infrastructure is geared towards the individual achievement, not so much on how much that community likes you; or worse is pleased with you.

One of the most pressing questions this raised for me was: Does the lack of “physical-networking” factor into to the overall reality of success and holistic achievement?

Cain infers that there are forces at work within society who seek to turn introverts into extroverts. For instance: A higher value is placed on charisma, smile, popularity and the ability to sell-beyond all borders anything, anywhere at any time, whilst still maintaining healthy energy levels and close, well-founded, mutually beneficial relationships.

This uncovers somewhat of a contradiction between what some in academia promise and what reality actually delivers. The former promotes education as the means to opportunity, barely acknowledging the fact that money and status are really the things which feed opportunity. The reality is that when it comes to opportunity, what you might know is superseded by where you stand financially and who you know (or, rather who knows and likes you) socially.

If what Cain has identified is accurately represented across the board, the truth is that money and status are what bring opportunity, education is only a framework for gaining social advantage.

This opens a can of worms for the variables in social networking. Some of which can be very fickle. Cain’s research essentially implies that if a person is not well liked then they will not be well connected or be well supplied with the same equal opportunities as, say someone (the probability is that this person will be an extrovert) who has won over hearts with charm and a loud personality. Although, on balance, Cain does point out that smoke and mirrors can only last so long before the truth wins out.

Therefore the implications for introverts are not all negative. For instance, Cain asserts:

‘while introverts have trouble projecting artificial enthusiasm…it is not a bad thing because this inflexibility can motivate an introvert to speak from their convictions’[ii]

Cain then moves on to make some heavy assertions in order to reinforce her point, stating that enough evidence exists to suggest that if the introverts in well supply on Wall Street at the time before the Global Financial Crisis had been listened to, the G.F.C may have been avoided[iii].

There are numerous amounts of key phrases, examples of studies and key words that make this reading a high calibre resource.

Things like “reward sensitivity”, “high reactivity”, “high sensitivity”, “the extrovert ideal”, “over stimulation”, “under stimulation” and the value, for introverts, in finding a “sweet spot” i.e.: finding balance  between energy drain and energy gain; knowing when to put the book down and head out to a cafe with a friend, and then when to exit gracefully. Recharged and ready.

For now it’s raising a lot of questions about how the church can improve the care of Pastors and that of the community.

Considering all the micro and macro concerns about how various parts of the church have failed (some catastrophically) in its duty of care, Cain is one researcher the church community should be listening to within reason. Granted there has been a lot of reading where I have had to push through, such as her use of Al Gore and his “Global Warming/Climate change” evangelism (“campaign”) [iv], and the findings of evolutionary biologists. Nothing against either of these groups, it’s just that both are scientific areas where I consider myself an agnostic, primarily due to the variables in their conclusions and the militant, political-ideological threads associated with both.

I’ll put together some more thoughts on this once I complete it.


[i] Cain, S 2012 Quiet: The Power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking Penguin Group, p.47
[ii] ibid, p.129
[iii] Ibid, p.155 (Chapter Seven covers this at length providing a very interesting hypothesis on the reasons for the event)
[iv] ibid, p.149

Here is a truth I’ve wrestled with for sometime.

Rarely has it been part of the advice I have received. Usually it is far removed from the ”get over it” – ”move on” – ”it’s probably not as bad as you say”, discounting which arrives the moment you share a concern, or detail a particularly negative life experience that is left unresolved.

healing_signs of life