May 4, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
This is the fifth installment in the Life for Leaders devotional series I’m calling: “Life in Lockdown.” You can find the other devotions in this series here.
In the last two devotions in this “Life in Lockdown” series, I’ve been reflecting on Paul’s creative and critical use of one form of technology, namely, letter writing. I’ve explained that Paul didn’t simply adopt the letter writing forms and conventions available to him. Rather, he used them in new ways, ways that reflected the newness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In this time of history, as we are living in a lockdown owing to the novel coronavirus, we need to imitate the example of the Apostle Paul. Yes, this might include sending letters to people we care about. But I’m thinking of imitation in a broader sense. Like Paul, we ought to employ the technologies available to us. And, like Paul, we ought to do so in a way that is both creative and critical.
Let me offer an example from my own use of technology. In 2003 I began blogging with a short review of The Da Vinci Code. Soon, my blog started getting thousands of visitors, many who would comment on what I had written. I discovered that commenters often did not feel the need to be kind. Cruel and combative words were acceptable in blog comments (and later, in social media). I needed to figure out how I would respond to someone who wrote something mean. Would I punch back in the same way? Would I ignore them? As I thought about this in light of my faith, I remembered what Jesus had said about walking the second mile and turning the other cheek. On that basis I made a commitment to being as gracious as I could be online, even with those who were malicious in addition to being critical. I rejected what seemed to be the common way of rudeness, choosing instead the way of Jesus.
Another example of technological innovation comes from my friend Chris. Chris is a pastor, a relational person who enjoys being personally involved with his congregants. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, Chris was suddenly unable to relate to his people in his preferred mode. But he quickly adapted, using Zoom for Bible studies, small groups, and church meetings. He also used one of the most common of technologies, his phone, to call people in his church family. Each day of the week Chris makes several calls just to check in on people. They appreciate his care and he appreciates the community he experiences.
Another friend of mine is doing fairly well during the lockdown, in part because she gets along nicely with the family members with whom she lives. She is not especially lonely during the lockdown. But my friend is also keenly aware that others do not have it as good as she does right now. So she thinks of people she knows who are apt to feel lonely and reaches out to them. Depending on the situation, sometimes she calls. Sometimes she texts or emails. Technology gives her the opportunity to care for people who need a special touch in these unusual times.
I mentioned in the last two devotions another novel use of technology. Next week my colleagues Michaela O’Donnell Long and Tod Bolsinger will be featured in a De Pree Center webinar on “Leading in Uncharted Territory.” Click here for more information.
Let me share one final example, this from my own life. As I’ve thought about our life in lockdown, it occurred to me that many people are not praying with others these days. We Christians often pray together when we’re physically together in worship, a small group, a mission team, or even a church meeting. But we don’t tend to pray as regularly through email, texting, phone calls, or video conferences. So, following the example of the Apostle Paul who shared his prayers through letters, I’ve been praying in new contexts. When I get ready to finish up a phone call, for example, I’ll often ask, “Would it be okay if I prayed before we hang up?” I find that people are usually pleasantly surprised by this question. Just today a man I spoke with on the phone, someone I did not know before this call, not only agreed that I should pray but also felt moved to join in after I was done.
If you begin to think creatively and critically about how you can use technology in your life, I’m sure you’ll come up with lots of possibilities. If you try some new experiment, I’d love to hear about it. You can share it with me directly via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by adding a comment to this devotion on the De Pree website. We can all learn from each other in this time.
Something to Think About:
Have you experienced some new use of technology in the last couple of months? What happened? How was this for you?
As you think of what it means to be part of the body of Christ in the midst of a lockdown, how might you connect with and care for other members of the body? Yes, it’s good to reach out to your friends and family members, for sure. But there may be others in your sphere of influence who are easily overlooked. How might you connect with them through technology?
Something to Do:
Think of someone you know who could really use human connection today. If you can’t think of anyone, ask the Lord for help. When a person comes to mind, pray about the best way to reach out. Then do it.
Gracious God, thank you for the technology that allows us to connect with others even when we are physically apart. Yes, sometimes this technology can be annoying. But we are especially aware these days of how it enables us to be together in ways that would not have been possible only a few years ago.
Give us creativity in the way we employ the technology that is available to us. Also, help us to think critically about what we’re doing. May all that we do be informed by the gospel and guided by your truth. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the The High Calling Archive, hosted by Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: God and Technology and the Common Good
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.