With Dr. Bruce Hartung
This month’s “Pressure Points” offers several reader responses to previous columns.
Concerning the August column on social media (at http://reporter.lcms.org/?20229):
[Facebook] really is … a giant place where friends bid for connection to each other. Occasionally, it is a desperate bid; sometimes it is sad, but more often than not it’s a way to make a real human connection in a way not possible 20 years ago. I use [it] as a communication tool — all of my weekly newsletters are posted on my page. I am able to share quickly with all the parents back home the photographed antics of their kids away on trips. I am able to counsel friends of … youth who are looking for a sympathetic ear. Does this mean I never visit people in the hospital? Of course not; the ministry of presence and the human touch will never go away. … When I started youth ministry, I had a desktop computer and snail mail. Youth ministry is tons better and easier now. I can’t imagine ever going back.
Another reader writes what follows — also about Facebook.
I would challenge readers (and myself) to see Facebook as a “jumping in” point, a point of entry. I think (it) can help you fill in the gaps between face-to-face meetings with long-distance friends. It can also be something that prompts you to make a phone call, to converse and probe more deeply.
I would also challenge readers to be good stewards of their Facebook time. I have spent many a playdate with my children (and savored the time with them as we’re away from the distractions of home), only to find what I call “disinterested parents” texting away (or Facebooking) the precious time they have with their children. Facebook, iPhones and [other] technology can easily be the idols that crowd out that small, still voice of the Spirit.
I am glad for the positive uses of this part of God’s creation. Frankly though, I have been stunned by some of the negative postings on Facebook by some of our church workers — especially related to the recent elections, to our elected officials and to other political processes. If we lack respect for those in office and contribute to a culture of disrespect, how can we expect to maintain respect for the offices church workers hold? So, perhaps we can use social media to respect folks, put the best construction on things and engage in positive social networking as the readers quoted above have done.
Concerning the October column on vocational change (http://reporter.lcms.org/?20395), this response is from a reader who was “let go” through a reduction in force:
Our organization (Crown of Compassion Ministries) provides encouragement, comfort, an “ear to listen to the pain” and a connection with others who have experienced downsizing — whether it be teacher or pastor. Please let your readers know about this [ministry], especially those who are hurting at this time. [Go to] www.CrownofCompassion.org [or call] 414-678-1445.
We need folks who are willing to step out and provide a gathering place for people who have had common experiences. I believe this is what the body of Christ is about, as we receive the gifts we have through each other. In the Christian community, we all have an opportunity to speak directly with each other about our concerns and our relationships.
The January column on bullying in congregational and church life (http://reporter.lcms.org/?20704) has evoked a very significant response, often in communications of several pages. We will take this topic up again in the next column. Please keep communicating about this.
Bullying is essentially operating from a position of power to intimidate, control, threaten or even hurt someone else. It substitutes power for reconciliation, authority for earnest conversation and engagement. As another reader opined:
“Congregations have no ‘right’ to fire their pastor, any more than a pastor has a ‘right’ to hold office ‘over’ them in a bullying fashion. As sinful flesh, no matter what side we’re on, we’re going to seek to justify our own actions.”
Perhaps a beginning step is to first look at our own behavior, rather than that of others.
The Rev. Bruce M. Hartung, Ph.D., is professor of Practical Theology and director of the M.Div./Alternate Route programs at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted Feb. 12, 2013