Thursday, December 6, 2012

Book review: Real Church in a Social-Network World - Leonard Sweet

Real church in a social-network world is an exclusive e-book by Leonard Sweet.

Contrary to what I have thought initially, this e-book is not directly about how the church should respond to the explosion of social medias today but rather it is a compilation of articles previously released books by Leonard Sweet and they are on how the church has lost sight of reaching the current generation of TGIFs as he called them (T = Twitter, G = Google, I = iPhone and F = Facebook; I guess Samsung isn't going to be very happy with this acronym :) but that's beside the point), thanks to the influence of these media.  I have never personally thought of social media as inherently bad, a internet tool is an internet tool, it is morally-neutral just as an axe is morally-neutral. As such, it is the misuse and abuse of the people that is the problem here. In fact, the church should thank God for the explosion of these tools for the advancement of the gospels throughout the world.

In fact throughout these chapters, you will find that there are very little references to these social media. These chapters can indeed standalone without any particular reason to be tagged under a big heading of "social media" except for the introduction. I guess these slightly inter-related chapters are pulled from different previously released books and tied together under the label of "social media" in a newly written Introduction section.  And because these chapters are from different previously released books, you may find them to be slightly disjointed.

In any case, nonetheless, I still find some good challenging lessons in these chapters:

Chapter 1 - talks about our fixation with our beliefs and doctrines so much so that as Leonard puts it, we have the issue of "sterile orthodoxy" when really biblical truth should be a balance between orthodoxy and orthopraxy.  Or as he put it in chapter 2: "We may be doctrinally correct, but we have become spiritual cadavers". If right teaching supplies the complete answer to the life of faith, then why hasn't our society sold out to God? What's missing (in the church and among believers today) is the right relationship, a deepening relationship with God. Jesus didn't call his disciples to regular discipleship because Jesus is not a regular guy. Regular discipleship would mean staying in Jerusalem, found a religious school, studied the words and works of their master, carefully screened and admitted only the most promising students. On the contrary, Jesus commanded ensured that the disciples would go out to the people, not sit and wait for an interested few to come to them.

Chapter 2 - is about what it means to follow God. To follow means to move alongside. You can't follow Jesus and still stay where you are, or remain the same person you are. Following denotes a movement, leaving where you were, and always finding yourself in a new location - the place where Jesus wants you to be. It is interesting to note that in Gen 18:1-15 that in the middle of his prayer, three strangers appeared to Abraham who were later found out to be angels bearing a message about the future. What if Abraham says, I can't open the door because I am in the midst of prayer. A prevailing wrong notion among Christians is the notion that non-Christians have no meaning and that everyone outside the faith needs to "get a life". But it is wrong for Christians to assume that only they are the ones on the planet who have meaning. Life is not about "go Google yourself" but "go Google God". " As Leonard says"
When many outsiders look at the "lifestyle choice" of Christians, who spend their lives sitting in the same pew, singing the same songs, reciting the same words, smiling at the same people, listening to the same thoughts, and building bigger barns that all look the same, they scratch their heads in wonderment that anyone in his right mind would want to choose that kind of life."
Chapter 4 - is about being authentic. As he says: "Authenticity is not about being more relevant but about being more Jesus. Do you speak with a Jesus voice?" The church has often taught evangelism as a meeting of two antagonists - one righteous and right, and the other dead wrong. The point of this type of evangelism is to win an argument. Evangelism has also been taught as a spiritual sales pitch! Somehow the church has lost touch with the meaning of good news. I don't know winning an argument would really be seem as a good news for our friends.

Note: "I received this e-book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review."

Download FREE chapter one here.

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