Pastor's Comments

Pastors Comments

When our grandchildren were visiting last month, we noticed how advanced they had become in their reading, writing and electronic skills. We also learned that the time spent on developing the art of cursive handwriting in school, does not keep step with tapping your fingers on a keyboard. We also noticed that a note, postcard or letter to the parents back home has been replaced by messaging on a cell phone or an electronic pad with the simple push of a “send” button. And if you don’t want to send a message, Facetime and Instagram have replaced Polaroids. However, in what has now become a tradition, on their last day, we assemble a scrapbook of photographs taken during the week for them share back home with their parents.

Today, as I am writing this article on a portable laptop as opposed to a Smith Corona typewriter, I am beginning to feel ancient, as if I grew up in the Stone Age with the Flintstones. And speaking of the LC Smith and Corona typewriter, I have a very old one in my office, once used by my mother. And wouldn’t you know it, during their visit, after the worship service, the first thing the grandchildren want to do is come into my office, insert paper and bang on the keys of that old typewriter. This year, the youngest wrote both of us a note about how much she was enjoying her visit. During their first visit to Chestnut four years ago, when they first laid their eyes on this old black typewriter, they did not even know what it was.

Today within the church, the sharing of thoughts and ideas through words and pictures is continually being developed in what is being called The Digital Reformation. It is believed the first system of writing developed after the middle of the fourth millennium B.C. in Mesopotamia, most likely by the Sumerians, aiding them in their administrative and economic tabulations. However, the actual development of writing was birthed from a pictographic stage – i.e., the use of pictures to tell a story. The Egyptians later adopted principles of the Sumerian writing system, moving forward with hieroglyphs and highly-stylized cuneiform signs. Over time, writing surfaces have included stone, metal, clay, linen, wood and bark, papyrus, leather and parchment. I am reminded of how Jesus wrote in sand. Today, we use screens.

In relation to Jesus commissioning of the 11 disciples in Galilee, he said to them, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28: 19). This text has been referenced as the Great Commission, launching the teachings and works of the early apostles and the missionary journeys of the apostle Paul to spread the gospel into the world. From this teaching, missionaries have traveled the globe living and working with individuals for the sake of Christian conversion. With the combination of word, parchment and ink, the spread of Christianity grew when John Wyclif translated the complete Bible into English with the New Testament being published in 1380, followed by the entire Bible in 1382. Perhaps the most famous and transformative means of communicating the scriptures occurred around 1450 with the Gutenberg Bible, the first major book printed using mass-produced movable type. Today, sources indicate there was a printing of somewhere between 160-185 copies of the Gutenberg Bible. The last sale of a complete Gutenberg Bible was in 1978 for $2.2 million. Today, an authentic Gutenberg Bible might sell between $25-35 million.

With the invention of the printing press, there have been marvelous literary classics written to convey the inherent mystery and challenges of the Christian faith. The experience of these writers has remained influential to many Christians seeking an authentic and faithful witness in discerning the presence and call of Christ. These works have been in circulation for a long time, dating back to the Confessions of Augustine of Hippo. Other classics of the faith include The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton, and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, to name a few.

Without a doubt, the Great Commission from Jesus to the disciples has changed with the advent of social media. Through web sites such as our own, www.chestnutmemorialumc.org, along with Twitter, Instagram, blogs and apps, the written word and photographs can now spread across the globe in seconds. Certainly, faster than a boat in Galilee. It is absolutely amazing. During my last annual review with our Staff Parish Relations Committee, I was asked and encouraged by the committee to consider becoming more visible in relation to social media. I have to admit, I have been somewhat resistant given all the noise out there and the misuse of these tools. Additionally, I have also given thought to the effect of social media upon the well-being of one’s soul, wondering about holiness, while working at keeping and disciplining an authentic spirituality. How does social media affect a believer, one seeking to maintain a quiet and personal witness, void of self-promotion, boasting or following streams? I can assure you, at the monastery I visit, they really do not want to see your cellphone, let alone hear it! And if must use it, you are asked to go outside, away from the residence, much like a cigarette smoker would while indulging in a puff without anyone looking. The monks discourage the use of electronic devices while on retreat, in addition to bringing in newspapers or magazines. It is a place of prayer, contemplation, keeping silence, a call toward reflection and discernment while reading the scriptures, and worship while listening to the monastic chants.

We have come a long way from Gutenberg to Zuckerberg. As in learning from our grandchildren and certainly our youth at church, it’s a new day and era within Christendom. Pope Francis is even on Twitter, and his encouraging words are kind. Many of our United Methodist connections are on Twitter such as the United Methodist Women @UMWomen with 12k followers, General Conference @UMCGC with 8,403 followers, UMCommunication @UMCommunication with 22.2k followers and UMCOR @UMC_UMCOR with 18.7k followers. Currently, I am following a few of our church members on Twitter and thus far there are four followers on my Twitter page; Chappy Chapman @ChapsChapman, and a few more on Instagram at Chappy Chapman under the username of chaps_chapman.

Recently, I discovered a book titled Click2Save. The authors of this book are also on Twitter @Click2SaveBook with 76 followers. This site is referenced as The Digital Media Bible, a practical guide to social media for ministry. The authors note: “People don’t want to buy what you are selling. They want to know who you are. What would it mean to your church or other faith organization to have an entire cohort of people who, even for five minutes a day, were interested in gathering to pray, comment on scripture, discuss the needs of the world in light of their faith? I am sure Jesus has many followers on Twitter. In sharing the Great Commission, would he not encourage his disciples by saying the world is just a click away?