Living in a Constant State of Motion

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Lee Hinson-Hasty is curating a series identifying books that Presbyterian leaders are reading now that inform their ministry and work. Why are these texts relevant today? How might they bring us into God’s future? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Erin Hayes Cook

Put away your Bible cassette tapes and overhead projectors: the future is now. Journalist and author Thomas L. Friedman pauses his life to hear the cultural significance of busyness in his latest book, Thank You for Being Late. What he hears is not what you expect. Friedman realizes that our technological innovations move faster than our society and institutions can adapt. We are left feeling exhilarated and left behind all at the same time.

Friedman interviews everyone from the CEO of Google X research and development lab, Eric “Astro” Teller, to his hometown’s mayor. What humans need to develop in this age of accelerations is dynamic stability. Teller points out, “there are some ways of being, like riding a bicycle, where you cannot stand still, but once you are moving it is actually easier. It is not our natural state. But humanity has to learn to exist in this state.” Yes, humans are adaptive creatures but we have never had to adapt so quickly and with such versatility.

Through Friedman’s colorful and thorough research, I’ve learned what many of us knew but could not put into words. The institution of the church needs to teach her leaders, people in the pews, and potential community members how to develop their adaptability skills. We no longer move at the pace of the printing press. It’s Twitter’s fault. How can we learn to share the gospel when the vehicles of human experience change so rapidly? Be ready to be moved by the Spirit wherever she blows. And get rid of the overhead projectors. I’m sure Apple will come out with an app for it next week.

Send this book to your pastor friends and those considering ministry. Anyone who enjoys a detailed read interwoven with human story will appreciate it. However, Thank You for Being Late would not lend itself to a book study in my opinion. If you’d like to use it as a teaching tool, I would suggest putting excerpts in a bible study or topical discussion.

Erin Hayes-Cook serves a multicultural PC(USA) church in the small city of Rahway, NJ. She believes her call is to be bridge between cultures and generations where she currently serves. Outside of ministry life you will find her at the CrossFit gym or looking for a new recipe.  

Pitfalls of Technology and Social Media

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. For January and February, MaryAnn McKibben Dana is curating a month of reflections on technology, faith, and church. Join the conversation here or on Facebook

By Steve Lindsley

The look on her face was something along the lines of unpleasant surprise. But moreso, disappointment. I was confused. We’d been talking about scheduling a day for me to visit her and the other fine church folk at the retirement home. I’ll be right back, let me get my calendar, I had told her. And I’d come back and sat down and plopped my laptop on the table in between the two of us, ready to schedule away.

She looked at my laptop like it was the golden calf. An idol. Maybe that wasn’t too far from the truth.

Get that out of my face! she shot back. I thought she was kidding, until I realized that she wasn’t. I got a mini-lecture from her about how rude it was to stick “that thing” in between the two of us. A few days later, she would apologize to me for her gruff manner. But I told her that wasn’t necessary. Because she was exactly right.

I am a self-professed tech geek. I go very few places without my trusty Macbook. At church, it is subjected to endless hours of checking email, researching and writing sermons and worship liturgy, church social media, and on and on. My right pants pockets all have a noticeable rectangular impression from my cell phone. I’ve been preaching off an iPad for years.

And I use social media religiously. Pun intended. I use it for church purposes almost as much as personal. In fact, the line between the two are often blurred. We have a church Facebook, Twitter, Instagram; and I’m the primary curator of all three. But even on my personal accounts, I’m almost always posting church stuff. I do this intentionally, because I realize the importance in today’s world of the church being visible “in the marketplace;” and that we live in a society that exists as much virtually as it does physically.

I’ll be the first one to swear that technology and social media are critical tools that the church should make full use of, and my personal practices certainly subscribe to that ideology.

So why did I begin this blog with a story about an older lady who laid into me for sticking a computer in her face?

Because – and those of you who know me are going to wonder if my blog account has been hacked – we in the church have got to be careful when it comes to technology and social media.

Technology and social media are tools, but that’s all they are. Just tools. Tools to a greater end. And the thing is, we have lots of tools in the church. We have buildings, programs, ministries, bulletins, Sunday school curriculum. None of them are the reason we come together. They simply help us do so and point us to that reason – which is to be the body of Christ and help build God’s kingdom on earth.

My experience with this dear saint of our church was a pretty blatant example of how technology and social media can get in the way of our mission of body-being and kingdom-building. Literally, a piece of metal and plastic stuck in between two people. I should’ve known better. But it makes me wonder: in what other ways might we inadvertently drive a wedge in between with our fierce devotion to posting that pic on Instagram, getting that tweet in, updating our church’s Facebook page?

The tools of ministry are great, and can be a ton of fun too. But they should never supplant or replace the critical element of human connection, where true ministry takes place. I think of Jesus and the woman at the well. He met her where she was.

The church should strive to be like that in everything we do – and, in so doing, make sure none of the wonderful tools we have at our disposal inadvertently get in the way.

Now pardon me while I go update my Facebook status.

Steve LindsleySteve Lindsley is a singer-songwriter and pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC and a member of the NEXT Church Advisory Team. Connect with him at his website

Building Connections at the Online Church Leaders’ Roundtable

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. For January and February, MaryAnn McKibben Dana is curating a month of reflections on technology, faith, and church. Join the conversation here or on Facebook

By Kyle Hite

Mark Twain said, “There is no such thing as a new idea.” Why, then, do we spend so much energy trying to prove him wrong? As church leaders we are continually working to stay fresh and alive, but who says it has to be “new”? The beauty of NEXT Church is a willingness to be open-source, to share what has been tried including the successes and failures, in hopes that what once was old can be made new. Creativity is not exclusively the invention of something new, but the willingness to venture outside of the norm. To foster an arena of creativity I suggested we have an online conversation with a swath of colleagues from around the country. Technology, in its best form, can expand the reach of our relationships and open new horizons. This “roundtable”, as we have termed it, would not have the usual “expert” to present an idea, but experts on the ground to share our attempts at creativity and hopefully spark the creative juices in one another.

Gathering together across our geographical boundaries defines the connectional nature of our tradition. We often speak of being “connected” with our colleagues but remain in tight circles with those who represent similar theological and social perspectives. This homogeny can stifle creativity. Unfortunately within our denomination of late, the only time we converse with those who differ from us, is when there is a vote to follow – and we all know how that turns out. The roundtable is a way to cross boundaries, spawn ideas and support one another in our common pursuit.

When we join together each month, every person around the “table” brings their satchel of goodies and a story of success and failure. The participants briefly introduce themselves and then we jump in. We have learned a lot over our time in this new medium. For starters, musicians and educators do a better job keeping the conversation going. Second, we church people can really multitask as some have participated while commuting, or laying on a beach or playing with their children on a playground. Third, there are some really brave people out there pushing the boundaries and pioneering new models of ministry.

These discoveries reveal the resiliency of a people on a mission. If the roundtable does nothing else, it exposes the strength of our worshiping communities and the work of our church. Through the roundtable, I have met people I would not otherwise have met. I have seen from a new set of eyes and though it is beautiful where I sit in Greenwood, South Carolina, it is a blessing to see the beauty in other worlds as well.


To read more about the Online Church Leaders’ Roundtable and sign-up for the next one, click here! For examples of the sort of resources are shared, check out these posts that came out of the November roundtable on advent. 


Kyle HiteWhen not hosting the NEXT’s Church Leaders’ Online Roundtable, Kyle Hite serves as the Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Greenwood, South Carolina. 


How Do We Stream Church?

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. For January and February, MaryAnn McKibben Dana is curating a month of reflections on technology, faith, and church. Join the conversation here or on Facebook

By Rocky Supinger

I’ve got an iPod Classic that I never use. It has 160 gigabytes of memory, so my entire digital music, movie, and photo collection is stored on it, and there’s still, like 50 gigs available. But it sits neglected in a drawer while I stream music on my phone, movies on Netflix, and store all my photos on Dropbox.

photo credit: via photopin (license)

photo credit: via photopin (license)


You may say I’m a streamer. But I’m not the only one.

The streaming masses are disrupting the cable television business, the music industry, and even Hollywood (Sony Pictures made $15 million streaming The Interview before releasing it in theaters). And as if Amazon hadn’t put a big enough dent in publishing already, it recently announced a subscription service that, you guessed it, streams ebooks.

I love this. The streaming trend has transformed my relationship with media from one of consumption directed toward ownership (and, thus, storage) of a commodity to one of consumption directed toward the experience of that commodity with no need to store it. It’s a more shared experience of media, since the songs and shows I’m watching aren’t owned by any of the listeners and viewers–they’re all on some server somewhere.

It’s also a more social experience, since, as an example, the song I’m streaming on Rdio is  displayed with the icons of my friends who have also listened to it. I can easily recommend songs to friends, and the service continually informs me of what they’re listening to.

I wonder how a streaming mentality will impact will our churches’ relationship with worshipers and neighbors. It’s clearly spreading to the analog world of cars and houses–Airbnb lets people share a room; Uber and Lyft a ride; RelayRides the very car. The option to “stream” these commodities, rather than own them, is increasingly attractive. So how do people stream church?

Given the deferred maintenance costs weighing down many church buildings, aren’t there advantages to sharing a building without the obligations that come with owning one? And if we don’t own the pews, them maybe we needn’t own the Bibles and hymnals in their backs–the bible and the new PC(USA) hymnal are online; they can be streamed.

And what about our leaders? Must we own them by installing them in particular churches? Or  might at-large presbytery membership for Teaching Elders begin to function as a leadership streaming service, not just for churches that can’t afford installed leadership, but for everyone?

We’re probably not ready for these ideas yet, but the streaming world is forcing our hand, I think. Let’s start experimenting now with sharing and streaming services at our churches for the sake of our neighborhoods. After all, it’s not our church to begin with. It’s Christ’s, the server. We’re just streaming it.


rocky supinger (472x640)Rocky Supinger is associate pastor of Claremont Presbyterian Church in Claremont, CA and co-director of this year’s NEXT Church National Gathering. Connect with him at his website, YoRocko!.

Pastors and Social Media

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. For January and February, MaryAnn McKibben Dana is curating a month of reflections on technology, faith, and church. Join the conversation here or on Facebook. This post is based on one originally posted on Columbia Connections on January 22nd, 2015. 

By Adam Walker Cleaveland

For as many years as I have been writing or talking about social media and the church, I have been pretty adamant that pastors should only have one Facebook account. See, I wrote about it here.

There were many reasons why I took a pretty hardline approach to this. For one thing, I know myself and I know I would forget which account I was signed into – and post the wrong thing to the wrong group of people.

But it was more than that. I believe in authenticity and transparency when it comes to being a pastor in the 21st century. And yes, I’ve sat through those pastoral care classes in seminary and know about power dynamics between clergy and laity. Yes. And I remember cringing in those classes when a few students would start ranting about how pastors can’t be friends with their parishioners…and I think it only gets more challenging now with social media.

social media


I have always tried to be pretty much the same Adam on Facebook and on my blog, as I am in Session meetings and in the pulpit. I believe that authenticity and transparency are important for ministry in the 21st century church.

And sometimes that makes things challenging. When I started my blog, Pomomusings, in 2003, it became a place for me to think, out loud, to try on different theological positions and to rock the boat a bit.

Now, there are some people who enjoy having their boat rocked. And there are certainly others who don’t. I’m sure there were times when some folks had issues with some of my views, or my language, or my way of sharing something online. And sometimes, those folks were members of the churches I served. And generally, we were able to have some really good conversations because of those interactions.

Based on these previous experiences, I just assumed that authenticity and transparency were values that most churches viewed as important as well. Unfortunately, because of too many things to get into in a short blog post, that hasn’t worked out all that well in my current call.

There were questions about the types of articles I was sharing. Were they “balanced enough” and “fair”? Was it really okay for a pastor to share things that imply what their politics might be on certain issues? When is it okay to post articles and links about controversial issues, and when is it not okay?

Knowing that this was causing some serious angst in my parishioners, it caused me to rethink how I’ve viewed social media and pastoral leadership.

How well should a congregation know its pastor? Can social media be a space where pastors can share their political views, and share things that are important to them, in the virtual presence of parishioners? How does all of this translate itself to the question of how pastoral or prophetic a pastor is in the pulpit?

For me, the solution was found in tweaking Facebook privacy settings and Friend Lists and being much more intentional about choosing who (from my church) saw what status updates, tweets and photos. I also think this experience has helped me to see something that is totally obvious: what works in one congregation doesn’t necessarily work in another.

It’s better for my ministry to share less on social media with members of this church. That doesn’t mean that I’m having to “silence” myself. I can continue to share online as I had been, but I just “filter” who sees what – and that gives me flexibility and space I need. I can still have meaningful conversations in person about some of these hot button issues; it just works better to keep those offline with this community.

While I have somewhat changed my thinking on the topic, I still encourage pastors to have one Facebook account and to be as transparent and authentic as they can. But I have a greater understanding why some feel the need to have two accounts.


10251921_10152736900070498_1386465092307869785_nAdam Walker Cleaveland is the Associate Pastor at Winnetka Presbyterian Church, Winnetka, Illinois, and has been blogging at Pomomusings since August 2003. He lives in Chicago’s North Shore with his wife Sarah (also a pastor), their son Caleb, and a lab-pit named Sadie.

Virtual Worship

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. For January and February, MaryAnn McKibben Dana is curating a month of reflections on technology, faith, and church. Join the conversation here or on Facebook.

By Jessica Tate

Our church has just started to livestream its Sunday worship services. A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to take advantage of it and participate in the worship service from the comfort of our couch.

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 11.04.27 AM

Some things were exactly the same:

  •  We were five minutes late. (Apparently we can’t really blame the metro.)
  • Though we were removed from them, we felt the energy of the children during the conversation with children.
  •  We enjoyed the anthems and hummed along with the hymns, singing when we knew the words.
  •  We prayed.
  •  We listened to the sermon – more up-close-and-personal than we are when we’re halfway back in the sanctuary.
  • Our offering had been given online already, just like usual.

Some things were different:

  • We didn’t get to chat with our pew-mates, meet someone new, or catch up with friends.
  • Seeing only the chancel area on our screen made worship seem more formal than it does when we’re in the room, surrounded by people who move about, sneeze, cough, shush children, and what have you.
  • Normally on the way home, my husband and I share tidbits about who we spoke with, what activities are coming up in the life of the church, what we’ll have for lunch. This time, we spent a good bit of time reflecting together on the sermon –what we’d each heard, what moved us, how it challenged us.

The only moment that was awkward was communion. We prayed the liturgy along with the congregation, and then watched as they streamed up to the table to eat and drink together. At one point my husband looked over and said, “should I go get some bread?” We didn’t, but I felt it, too. We were missing something.

This little reflection isn’t intended to offer a verdict one way or another on the validity of livestreaming one’s worship experience. Watching online can’t take the place of actually showing up in the same space together, but it did provide a point of connection in a week when we otherwise would have completely disconnected. For a city like ours where people are stationed around the world for various amounts of time, live-streaming worship could be a very meaningful tie to a church family they would otherwise completely miss. I wondered if those homebound members for whom we pray every week might watch – and if their spirits might be lifted, hearing their names prayed over week after week; they are not forgotten.

Clearly, a long and deep debate can be had about virtual worship and the incarnate worship and community experience to which we are called, but I am more and more convinced that in a busy, diverse and increasingly, online culture, a touch point is a touch point. To the extent we can continually connect – in whatever means – the more ability we have to live out our call as Christ’s community.

Jessica Tate1Jessica Tate is the Director of NEXT Church.


Technology, Faith, and Church

social mediaEach month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. For January and February, MaryAnn McKibben Dana is curating a month of reflections on technology, faith, and church.  Read more