In case you haven’t noticed, social media has taken over the world. The aliens have landed and they are named Twitter, Facebook, Podcast and Blog. If your church or business is not thoroughly engaged with these alien lifeforms, you are already behind the times. Only some crazy good BBQ joint with brisket to die for that has relied on word-of-mouth for 4 generations is immune. For now.

So, like any respectable 20th century church, First Lutheran in Houston has ventured out into Facebook and (occasionally) Twitter and now a podcast. The reality is that every church is visited online before it is visited in person, and the more content the church can make available, the better. The First Lutheran Podcast, which includes a podcast produced at KPFT’s studios in Houston as well as ministry material (sermons, lectures, debates, etc.), is an attempt to help visitors know us better before they ever visit us.

But all of the ideals aside, I wanted to share thoughts on this new world of social media. And because lists work well online, I’ll make one.

1. Social media has many benefits. But they don’t replace Christian community. All the learning you do via social media, including the podcast, cannot replace the actual fellowship of believers. Additional ways to learn are great. But the Christian community is lived out best in person, not online. (That’s boilerplate pastorspeak, but it had to be said.)

2. The problem with social media, and indeed the consumer-driven approach to church generally, is that the host is often expected to be open in ways that pastors usually are not. Because no one has an attention span anymore – thanks a lot DVRs, video games and PowerPoint! – the idea of long posts with big words doesn’t work and a podcast that doesn’t move fast can be boring. (My personal goal for the podcast is that no one will listen to it at 1.5x speed on their phone. So sometimes I talk so fast I practically pant.) This pressure puts an extra burden on pastors to be something they may not be: open, outgoing, larger-than-life kinds of personalities. Do your best to allow a religious podcast to stand on more traditional merits, not the entertainment value it may offer, because pastors and social media are a strange combination indeed.

3. The scariest thing about a podcast like this, or writing a book for that matter, is that there seems to be an endless number of folks saying the same things already. Finding one’s niche in this world of commentary is extremely tough and competitive. Pastors have the added burden of being intentionally non-competetive with others doing the same kind of work. (At least they should be. Although the truth is that pastors and apologists are competitive and often dismissive of each other. Sad, but true.) I have committed to not entered compete mode with other shows or pastors, not worrying what has been said already and by whom, and striving to use my peculiar gifts for the podcast. So my guests will hopefully be from a wide range of Christian perspectives and, if I can find some, not even Christian at all.

4. Finding the line between evangelism and self-promotion is hard. There are days when I would be perfectly happy to never speak to anyone, never have a public voice at all, save the pulpit. I do not want to be self-promotional in any way but to only know Christ and him crucified. Yet, to do evangelism means to be in the public square. This blog post gives you, the listener, explicit permission to reprimand me if I demonstrably self-promote rather than make the case for Christ.

5. The technical challenges of actually doing a podcast are still being worked out. I’m so lucky to be able to record the show in KPFT’s (90.1 FM in Houston) awesome studios, with actual microphones, headphones, a telephone call-in board, etc. But I’m by myself and pushing all the buttons while talking. So forgive me if I get distracted when I need to hit a button, or if the fade-out music is too loud. We are so used to high end audio and video that the show will not sound as polished as what we’re used to…at least not yet.

6. The linguistic challenges of actually doing a podcast are still being worked out.  Have you ever heard of “dead air”? It keeps me up at night. Have you ever heard yourself say “um” about a hundred times/minute? Hard habit to break. Have you ever failed totally in the art of the segue? I have, too! Free speech is a wonderful right given by the constitution. But it’s tough in actual practice.

Anyway, those are just a few “inside” thoughts on the podcast. I hope you’ll give it a shot. My promise is that I will constantly push to make it better and better.

Thanks, Pastor M.