Let's be honest: Technology has changed the way we live. It's changed how we live so much that we're planning a message series in early 2020 that will speak into this area of our lives. We need God's grace and truth when it comes to following Jesus in a digital reality.
I want to be clear that not everything about technology is good. But, disciples and leaders live in reality... and the reality is that technology has also changed the way we do ministry. For the most part, it's a very good thing! Today, I want to share three realities about technology and one exciting solution to be looking forward to in the next few weeks here at OSLC.
REALITY #1: oslc.com has become our "front porch".
If you're like me and you have a question - what do you do? We Google it. And, Google leads us to websites. A big reality is that our website is just as much to connect with a changing world searching for answers as it is for those already connected to the unchanging God. Simply put, oslc.com is the front porch for people seeking real answers about faith and life. Every week, we see hundreds of people log onto oslc.com and facebook to engage with sermons, teachings, and seek answers to their questions... our prayer is that God's Spirit leads many of them to move from screen-to-screen to face-to-face. Research shows that people who do not regularly go to church will visit your website and make a decision even to give it a try long before they grace the presence of your parking lot. We're finding that many of our first-time guests have been on our website long before worshipping for the first time.
REALITY #2: Digital Platforms have changed the way we follow up with people.
Remember the days of knocking on doors of newcomers? I remember going with my dad on newcomer visits, every Sunday afternoon (I understand that Pastor Wildermuth did that here at OSLC, too!). They weren't super deep conversations... we just wanted to say, "thanks for coming", give them information about what we do as a church, and invite them back. Wow, how have things changed! What used to take hours of driving, developing materials, not to mention people who were willing to serve in this way - now takes a few seconds through a Facebook or Text Message. Every week, a team of people make traditional phone calls as well as send text messages, facebook messages, and emails on Sunday afternoon following up on prayer requests, guest visits, and respond to other questions people have about faith and life.
REALITY #3: Technology has brought the world together.
No doubt, technology has reshaped the world. Just a few years ago, the only people who had access to you were the people physically around you. Now, everyone has equal access. The geographic divisions we've seen in churches in the past will not be the same in the future. Besides, the urban and suburban tween spends just as much time on their tech as their rural counterparts... about 4.5 hours a day. (Teens are about 9 hours a day and adults are about 3.25 hours a day.) Technology is where people are... whether we like it or not. The good news is that Jesus is there, too. Every week, this fall, real people have joined together online to discover Christian Teachings both live and on-demand. More digital resources and content is being developed to help you and all people connect with the unchanging God. Share it! It's a great thing.
AN EXCITING SOLUTION
So, where do we go from here? We know that technology is here to stay. We know people are already on their devices. We also know Jesus is real and present as ever in an increasingly disconnected and changing world.
One solution is to offer full-access to our Sunday morning services. The full-digital LiveStream Experience will begin on November 10. What does that mean? It means that we will be streaming our entire 9:30 a.m. service from beginning to end. People who engage through this platform will have the opportunity to share prayer requests, complete a connection card, respond generously, and experience the same teachings and messages as we do in-person in Tacoma. Our goal is that this is a resource and supplement to a life of loving God, loving people, and living like Jesus - not a replacement.
Thanks to our entire team and especially Matt Kees and Gerod Bass for working on this (long before I arrived!). It's exciting to see God use ordinary people for His extraordinary mission. When you see them, ask them about how tech and the gospel are making disciples who love God, love people, and live like Jesus... and tell them "thanks" for their commitment, work, and service.
How do you know Jesus is alive in your life?
That’s a great question.
So many people I know desire to feel alive in Jesus... growing in their faith... experiencing spiritual breakthrough... and yet feel so stagnant or spiritually bored.
Let's be honest, there is no shortage of spiritual distractions. From busy schedules to work benchmarks and from technology and media to the overwhelming number of ways to grow in your faith - there is no doubt some of us settle for status quo. I know for me, it's easy to say, "I'm fine" without being honest that I desire so much more.
Now, there is a reality that our faith can stagnate, decline, and even die. If you doubt me, check out the Story of the Sower. But, I’m an exceptional optimist. I believe that anyone can grow in their mustard-seed size faith. Jesus told a story about that, too.
So, how do you know Jesus is alive in you and that He's continuing to grow in you?
While that’s tough to answer universally, there are some patterns I’ve seen so often that they’re worth naming. It's important to note that the absence of these signs does not mean you do not have faith or that you have a dying faith... I'm simply saying that these are some patterns that I have seen in living faith. And, sometimes when we don't feel like Jesus is alive in us, we lose sight that living faith is more than just a feeling... it produces fruit.
So, here we go. These are gut checks, so get ready…
Those are four signs I've come to notice in my life that Jesus is alive in me. . . what signs have you seen in yourself that Jesus is alive in you?
Love you more than you know. See you Sunday!
When I look out from the platform on Sunday morning, I see you. I see you as a person, not a product. Since Jesus is our mutual older brother, I see you as a sibling. I see you as someone dearly loved by God. I see you as someone who I get to love. I also see you as someone longing to make a difference in someone else’s life. I see you.
You know what I don’t see? I don’t get to see the investment of time, prayer, and relationship you make into the lives of others the remaining 167 hours of the week. It might be in your marriage, your family, your workplace, your school, your neighborhood or community, or your Life Group. Maybe you don’t see that either. . . or, at least don’t intentionally think about it, often. But, let’s be honest – most of you spend a whole lot more time living like Jesus with other people than you do with me at church.
Let’s face it. You and I wouldn’t be engaged in a growing relationship with Jesus if someone didn’t invite and invest in us. For me, it was David Bell.
David always gave me a high-five at church (even when I go home, I get one!). He found me every Sunday after worship and made sure to ask me how my week was going. He seemed genuinely interested in my lame job at Pizza Hut. . . and yet, more interested in whether or not I was going to join him and a group of 6 other guys at Coney Island for brunch after the service. He led a short devotion or bible study with us. He dropped in on my concerts and games. He convinced me to go to summer camp. He remembered my birthday. He gave me some of the best college advice, ever (change your major at least 3 times before you lock into your career). Dave did this every week for 6 years. That’s 312 times between junior high and my first year of college. And... us 7 guys got to meet his now wife before he even knew he was in love with her! When it comes to our relationships, that's what consistency over time begins to look like. Even when he or I were out of town or not at church, he’d make a point to call me on Sunday afternoon. Needless to say, Dave invited and invested in me as a person before he spoke a word to me about Jesus.
I knew that Dave loved and cared for me before he taught and challenged me to grow.
And, isn’t that just how Jesus works, too? Jesus asks Peter how fishing is going. “Not so well”, Peter replies. Jesus tells Peter to put his net back into the water. (You can imagine Peter thinking, “really” in my 7-year old’s sassy tone of voice.) Of course, Peter does it and we know the next words out of Jesus’ mouth were, “follow me”.
You see, Jesus engaged Peter in a way that Peter understood: “how’s was fishing last night?”. He listened. Jesus invited Peter to follow him. And for the next three years, Jesus invested everything He had in Peter. Jesus taught Peter everything He knew. . . showed him everything He did. . . Jesus encouraged Peter, corrected Peter, and stuck with Peter – even when Peter didn’t stick with Jesus. Jesus invited and invested in Peter as a person before he spoke a word to him about Himself.
We all need someone to invite and invest in us… and someone to invite into our lives and invest in for the long-haul. It’s how God designed us to be. It’s who Jesus saved us to become.
So, here are three ways you can get started inviting and investing in someone else:
We see people more outside of church than at church. And the best way to see people is how Jesus sees people – harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. Translation: Jesus sees people longing to make a difference in someone’s life because He, the Good Shepherd made the biggest difference in yours.
Invite. Invest. I can’t wait to see you on Sunday.
Love you more than you know.
Meet Pastor Tim
Tim Bayer has served as Our Savior's Lead Pastor since September 2019. He also serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Concordia University - Irvine, a National Leadership Facilitator and Resource, and a Community Mental Health First Aid Instructor. Tim studied sociology, psychology, and theology prior to earning his M.Div at Concordia Seminary - St. Louis. He has also is a candidate for an Ed.D (ABD) in Transformational Leadership. He is married to Beth and they have three young children. Together, they enjoy exploring the outdoors, experiencing culture, and pizza and movie nights.