This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Jim Teague
FPCE director of communications.
This morning, I was in a store and approached the cashier wearing a mask and rubber gloves* and carrying a bag. If I had done that in June 2019, it’s likely the police would have been called long before I made it to the front of the line, let alone out the door. But today I barely received a glance. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, my appearance might have seemed excessive, but it was hardly worth a second look.
This morning, I was reading from the book of Colossians, and in Chapter 3, the Apostle Paul tells the church the following:
“5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.”
Imagine what would happen if I stood on a street corner and yelled “Stop fornicating! Quit your impure thoughts and deed! Quit seeking after wealth and all the latest goodies the world has to offer!”
At best, I would be ignored. I might get a few folks with stronger personalities riled up enough to argue with me. I’d say it’s doubtful I would attract like-minded individuals let alone committed followers.
But Paul uses one of scripture’s magic words at the beginning of his exhortation to the Colossians: Therefore.
I’ve learned that whenever I see a “therefore” in scripture, I need to stop, back up, and re-read what came just before it.
Here is what comes before that in verses 1-4:
1So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Paul has reminded the church of where Jesus is in their current situation, and of their position as those who have accepted his free gift of grace, and of the future promise of their place with God in eternity. As a result, his encouragement to put off earthly entrapments seems not only reasonable, but logical.
And his exhortation to avoid sin wasn’t shouted from a street corner, but rather shared in a letter to those he had developed a deep, lasting, committed relationship with through visits and correspondence.
Context is everything in communication.
One of our goals for communications at First Pres is to increase our social media among those who don’t regularly encounter us (or possibly any church) in their daily lives. Last week we posted a video of Rev. Amanda Golbek inviting folks to join us as we investigate what a church community can look like. This week, we’re sharing about how the end of our own stories haven’t been written yet, as long as we are still alive.
We all know COVID-19 has been a sorrowful, mournful time. For many church communities, including First Pres, it has meant isolation, disconnectedness, and a dual existence online and in person.
However, it has also meant our services and some events are available online through live streaming, through Zoom meetings, and through recordings. This opens our doors to many to get to know us who might never have considered coming to visit in person. We can become known for our awesome worship, our thoughtful prayers, and our powerful preaching by anyone who comes across us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Twitter.
There are certainly limitations to building relationships this way. It will take time for us to become truly known by them, and it will take courage on their part to make the leap from watching on a Sunday to joining us in person one day. But, as Paul said, our savior is in the most influential place in the kingdom and he makes all things possible.
Part of what we will be doing this summer is sharing very brief (60-90 seconds) videos of stories of how God has shown up and taken the primary place in our lives. These are just snippets, glimpses really, of course, but they can be really powerful and very meaningful to those who are looking to belong somewhere and looking to know – genuinely know – they are loved and cherished by the one who knows them better than anyone else ever could.
In order to accomplish this, we are turning our efforts away from some of our internal communications. We have, as we announced last week, stopped sending out Tuesday News & Notes. We are also going to pare down the Thursday eNews.
What this means for you is that you will want to be visiting https://firstpresevanston.org/ to find the latest, most up-to-date information we have about upcoming events. If you are a ministry leader, we will want you to take an increasingly active role in communicating to your volunteers and group participants.
If you are active on social media, we would appreciate all the likes, shares, and positive comments you can muster. I know I struggle with putting any effort into my personal social media accounts, especially when there seems to be so much negativity and bad news. I try to think of it as sprinkling rain, even just a few drops, on parched soil. I am hoping and praying it results in growth I can celebrate about later.
So, to put this all into context (see what I did there?), we will be sharing more about who we are on social media, encouraging our leaders and members to interact with our website and our social media as much as they can, and praying like never before that God would bless these efforts!
Looking forward to seeing you in-person AND online!
FPCE Director of Communications
* I was buying a baked good and the bakery counter required patrons to wear rubber gloves to select items from the bakery case.