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4 Things a Conference in Las Vegas Taught Me About the Church

by Joani Schultz


What do Las Vegas, the church, and the National Association of Broadcasters have in common?

Not much. Unless you’re like me and you go to trainings that on the surface appear to have nothing to do with your job.

My husband, Thom, and I absorb conferences like sponges. We’re voracious learners, eager to soak up tidbits from unlikely places for our work and the church. We recently attended a gargantuan techie convention in Las Vegas called NAB. There I gorged myself on classes while Thom scouted the convention floor for new cameras, gadgets, and all things cool in the digital world.

I not only discovered a ton about blogging, social media, and YouTube, but my discoveries also sparked ah-ha’s for the church…though I doubt the speakers knew what was going on in my head.

Justin Seeley (Justinseeley.com), an engaging presenter who blogs, trains, and connects with Lynda.com (an online training resource), made some points that got me thinking. Though Justin made these points in connection with the world of social media, they’re gems about the church world as well. So I thought I’d share at least four of them with you.

4 Things to Ponder

1. “Numbers don’t matter. Relationships do.” What? I thought social media was all about racking up huge numbers of likes, followers, and retweets. When Justin, a social media guru, said relationships are what matter, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus. Jesus wasn’t all about the number of likes he could amass. Rather, he desired engaged followers, people willing to give their lives for their friends, followers dedicated to real love. He was interested in relationships that matter. Not numbers.

So often our churches fixate on the ABCs: attendance, buildings, cash—all the stuff that’s easy to measure. Stories of real life-change are harder to measure, but they’re the secret to revealing God’s relevance. So tell your own God stories in the context of relationships. Then watch what happens!

By the way, as I was writing this blog, an article appeared in my inbox: “Why Vanity Metrics Are Worthless (and What Really Matters).” How crazy is that? Or was it a reminder from God that I should measure what matters most?

And I know what really, really matters most. You do, too.

2. “I want what I want when I want it.” That may be the digital narcissist talking, but it’s not new to the digital age. God knows us better than we know ourselves, and he grants us 24/7 access. Our message to the world as Jesus followers needs to be: Our connection with God is not limited to an hour on Sunday morning. It’s full access, all the time.

3. “Social media shouldn’t be used as a mouthpiece—it’s about two-way communication.” In other words, to have an impact, we talk with, not at.
We Christians have a nasty reputation for talking at people, not with them. In our book Why Nobody Wants to Be Around Christians Anymore: And How 4 Acts of Love Will Make Your Faith Magnetic (also on Amazon),  we quote Barna Group research from the book unChristian. This research shows that most non-Christians say they view Christians as proselytizers. They think we don’t care about them, that all we care about is getting them saved. My weekly conversations in Lifetree Cafe (lifetreecafe.com) with people of all ages and spiritual stripes have shown me that talking with people is a much more effective way to share my faith than talking at them. Authentically caring, two-way relationships are the foundation for sharing faith in any meaningful way.

4. “Don’t feed the trolls.” There’s no question that social media can fuel anonymous hatred. And if we let it, it can control us. Justin shared some of the ugly comments (I can’t even repeat them here) he received on social media. The anonymous jabs came from students in his class the day before. He wisely told us, “Move past human reactions. Rise above the nonsense.”
Justin says “thank you” a lot. That’s his method of starving the trolls.

Jesus turned the ways of the world upside down. One of his most radical commandments is to pray for our enemies—to love them, in fact. Maybe we could start by saying “thank you” more often.

5. I began by offering four things to ponder. Here’s a bonus: NAB hardly ever mentioned what the initials NAB stand for. Which got me thinking…How often does a church use code words or initials that the uninitiated have to work to decipher? (I know at Group we’re guilty of insider language. I pity the new staff person who has to learn the shorthand codes around here.)

Another reason NAB doesn’t spell out National Association of Broadcasters? Well, um, broadcasting today is passé. Even in the Christian publishing industry, the initials CBA have been changed to ICRS. Do you know what that means?

And what about churches that have deleted a denominational reference from their names? Could it be that denominations have become passé and no longer relevant?

Something to ponder.

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