Digital Formation


I love technology. But I also hate technology. Technology can be incredibly fun and useful. Technology can be amazingly distracting and even destructive. Technology is not going away. So how will you choose to engage it?

I’m thinking through this stuff because technology keeps challenging my life. For the next two months I’ll be teaching a class at Fuller Seminary that I’ve taught for the last seven years called “Spiritual Traditions & Practices.” The last time I taught the class in Orange County I had 25 students. This time I have 6. In fact, it’s the last time I’ll probably ever teach the class because it’s not being offered any longer. More and more classes are being offered online or as “hybrid” courses that are taught at least partially online. This month I’ll begin two months of training in what it means to teach these things online. I like technology . . . but I’m not sure I like this.

There’s something about the ability to look into a person’s eyes, see their expressions, and hear the inflection in their voices when they ask questions. I think there’s something about sensing  a professor’s passion. Really getting to know the wisdom behind a professor’s knowledge. There’s something called “presence” that just can’t be translated into the digital world. I’m not sure what to do with that.

SOULeader is also in the process of getting training in “Social Media Management Systems” that will allow us to expand our ministry reach through the many social networking platforms that exist today. I like social networking. But now it’s become another thing we have to “manage.” How do you feel about that? Can you feel the tension?

One of the things we try to instill in the leaders we works with is balance when it comes to technology. I’ve begun calling this our “Digital Formation.” You probably didn’t even know you were being formed by your computer, your smartphone, and the other technology that surrounds you every day. But you are. We all are! And there’s a tension.

So maybe we can all pray for each other as we live in the midst of “the technology tension.” Pray that we might form it more than it forms us. Pray that we might use it for good and maybe more importantly that God’s goodness can shine through however we happen to be using it. And in the meantime . . . thanks for reading this digital blog.

The Influence of a “Present” Friend

He always sat in the front row of my Fuller Seminary class. He paid closer attention than any of the other students. He was always “present” – not just in attendance, but in his spirit of engagement in everything we did as a class. While I usually work hard to encourage the students – he seemed to go out of his way to encourage me!

On the last night of the class, he invited Darlene and I to a retreat. I’ve been invited to many things over the years, but somehow this invitation was unique. It seemed like there was something I would find at the this retreat that I couldn’t find easily in other places. Sure enough . . . walking out of the first session at the retreat, Darlene said to me, “Who are these people?”

Most of us are starving for the kind of relationship where someone takes the time to be with us. I don’t mean just a scheduled appointment, but the kind of quality time where they are not looking at their watch, phone, or over your shoulder for the next most important person who might come along. We hunger for someone to be present with us. To not be in a hurry. To actually look into our eyes. To listen to what we say and not rush to what they’re going to say. To empathize with what we’re feeling.

In this day and age it might be to believe, but that’s exactly how my student – and now my friend – Jon lives his life. But what I admire even more is the commitment he’s making to do it with all of his time and energy! He’s not even finished with Seminary, but next month he is making a transition from being on the staff of a mega-church, with all the security and comforts that come with it, to becoming a full-time friend to leaders. Spiritual leaders, family leaders, government leaders . . . you name it. Why?

This week we spent three and a half unhurried hours together, just catching up and talking about how leaders need a friend. They might lead and influence hundreds or even thousands of people – but might have no one who is just a friend to them. A person who is not there to get something from them. A person without an agenda. A person who is just there to love, support, offer a listening ear, and be open to whatever God might say or do.

That’s what our SOULeader Ministry Team is about. We desire to be that kind of friend to leaders. Often, lonely and hurting leaders who don’t have anyone close enough or safe enough to share what’s really going on in their lives. My student-friend Jon has given me a renewed vision of what this looks like. And now he’s moving out into a brand new type of ministry where he’s going to do this every day. May his tribe increase! And . . . in case you don’t have a “present” friend like this . . . I hope this story encourages you to go find one.

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