how the internet influences faith

Category : God, faith, taking action

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There was once a time when the Catholic Church had a monopoly on information.  At least religious information.  But thanks to Martin Luther and the printing press that monopoly is long gone.  In that moment an explosion of thought, innovation, and not surprisingly, faith occurred.  For the first time, people were able to have open access to the Bible.

For centuries, though, our thinking was still influenced by the people immediately around us: our teachers, our family, our friends.

But that’s not the case anymore.

Thanks to the internet, people are once again being flooded with a staggering amount of information.  I recently saw a study that said each of consumes, on average, 34 gigabytes of information.  That’s not in a year, or a month, or even in a week.  That’s per day.  That’s 7 DVD’s worth of stuff for those of you scoring at home.

Just by the fact that you are reading this is enough to prove all of that.

Now none of this is new.  The internet has been around for a long time.  At least by technology standards.  The real focus of this post is that despite all of this information most of us don’t take advantage of it.  We are content to learn passively.  And I think that’s a shame.

The three biggest sources of influence on my theological life come from my home church, Greg Boyd, and Erwin McManus.  Without the internet I never would have been exposed to these thoughts, let alone been transformed by them.  But their influence is unmistakable on my writing.  My faith is deeper.  My convictions stronger.  And my passion for God fuller.

Of course with knowledge comes responsibility.  We can’t simply absorb more information and become “smarter” Christians.  We have to do something with our knowledge.  And that means serving.  It means loving our enemies.  And it means being vulnerable.

It also means we can no longer blindly follow faith.  We have to know what we believe and why we believe.  Knowledge is a double edge sword.  Especially on the internet.  A little bit can be harmful.  It can confuse us, misdirect us, and even convince us of things that aren’t true.  (There’s a reason conspiracy theories thrive on the internet!)  The web is filled with people waiting to knock your faith out from under you.  Knowledge is the best way to stand strong.

There was a time we were limited by region, money, and who we knew personally.  But that’s not the case anymore.  The internet really is the great equalizer when it comes to building a deeper relationship with God.  I hope you take advantage of it.

being a credible witness

Category : faith, living a life of faith, taking action

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I know posting on R3 has been a bit light the last couple of weeks.  That’s partly intentional and partly unintentional.  And depending on the day it’s hard to tell the difference!

The last few weeks have been unusually busy for me.  Which means I’ve needed to make some deliberate choices.  If you’ve been reading R3 for any length of time you know the prime question we look at is simply, “what does it mean to live out a life of faith?”   In each post I try to answer that question.  But this isn’t just an intellectual exercise for me.  This is something I am committed to doing.  If you’re going to believe in God, why wouldn’t you want to live out a life that reflects those beliefs?

As the Irish Evangelist, Gypsy Smith once said, “There are five Gospels.  Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian, and some people will never read the first four.”

I agree with that.  For many people the only time they get to see God, is when I reflect God in my actions.  The more I live out a life of faith, the more they will see the impact God can have on their life.  And so I’ve made a conscious effort to spend more time with friends and family.  Which, sadly, means I’ve had less time to spend writing.

Something had to give, and for the last few weeks, I chose to give up some of the writing in favor of building into people in my life.  Fortunately this won’t last long – the lack of writing that is.  I should be back into the groove starting next week with the typical Monday, Wednesday, Friday routine.

But in the meantime I’d challenge all of you to consider that Christianity is more than simply knowledge, it’s about action as well.   Greg Boyd recently said in a sermon, “There this a widespread assumption that Christianity is mainly about believing certain things…if you believe those things well then you’re in, if you don’t, well then you’re out….as though God’s greatest aspiration for all of creation was to raise up people who have the right opinion about things.”

So this week go out and do something.  Be a credible witness for Christ.  Live out a life of faith in such a way that people can’t help but ask “what’s going on in your life.”  Go.  Be the church.

who is God?

Category : God, different, faith

 

I was pondering something the other day: have you noticed that God is never described by the stuff he has?

He’s never described by his sweet baseball card collection, or his Steeler bobblehead memorabilia.  He isn’t even described in terms of the kingdom he rules.  (When’s the last time you read an article about Bill Gates that didn’t tell you how wealthy he was?) 

Instead God is defined by the characteristics that make him who he is: love, patience, compassion, justice, truth.

But when someone says to me, ”who are you?”  I usually respond by telling them what company I work for, my educational background, maybe where I live.  I rarely, if ever, describe my personality or character traits.  I even quantify my life in terms of stuff.  Whether it’s readership at R3 or who my friends are, I’m always trying to use material things to define myself. 

But that shouldn’t determine who I am and what I’ve done. 

Greg Boyd says that Christians have one job in this world – to look like Christ.  If that’s the case, maybe we need to spend more time defining ourselves by our characteristics and less by the stuff we have.  For me that looks like worrying less about defining blogging success as pageviews, and more about impacting people’s lives. 

What does it look like for you?