I was asked to post this online, so here it is, a handout of the last third of my presentation today on the Internet, the theology of its usefulness, and its beneficial use for pastors and laity today.
Part 2: The Use of the Internet
Tips for Pastors
In my time as a pastor and writer on the Internet I have developed some personal tips that I would like to share with you today:
- Never forget your primary callings of husband and father, as well as your vocation as pastor of a flock.
- Always seek the approval of your congregation before beginning writing online.
- When writing, write for a generic audience (you may write about specific things, but keep a generic feel to it).
- You are not your reader’s pastor, when private issues arise from them, be sure to point them back to their God given pastor.
- Never, no not ever, not even once, should you say or write anything that would hurt your congregation. (note Dr. Fickenscher) Remember, someone from your parish may be reading. This means that at time issues may be “hot” to discuss online but you may have to remain silent in order to not harm your congregation or members.
- Being critical has its place, but we should also commend what is good.
- Realize your words are public and permanent.
- Lead by example. If you offend and there is cause for apology, be the first to do so, remember public offense requires a public apology.
- Keep track of the amount of time you spend on the internet. Regularly review your usage and how that impacts your other callings.
- Feel free to engage other pastors, especially in a time where circuits seem broken, but continue to be a part of those broken circuits – our Lord does wonders with broken things. When having to suffer through things the internet can provide time and opportunity for virtual mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren.
- Be discerning on what should be a private conversation versus a public reprimand.
- If a layman contacts you with concerns about their pastor, point them to the appropriate authorities, the circuit counselor, the elders, DP, etc.
- Remember the distinction between public and private. And don’t cause the private to become public.
- When approached by someone interested in Lutheranism, try to find a local congregation to point them to.
Tips for Laity
Here are some of my tips for laity on the Internet. Please note that if you are writing on the Internet, many of the “tips” for pastors will also apply to you.
- Always remember your primary vocations as husbands, fathers, wives, workers, parents, ect. Make sure your internet use is not detracting from your real life. Don’t seek your fellowship from online friends. Realize the gift of the Christians physically being present in your life.
- Test the spirits to see if they are from God. Check with the Scriptures and Catechism. Keep the good throw out the bad. Find, mark and avoid heretical websites.
- Keep your pastor in the loop. Share the things that you are reading with him.
- Realize whatever is said online is both permanent and public and there is no such things as truly anonymous posting.
- Use the private nature of the internet in all its best ways. If you are lacking in knowledge of the Scriptures, Confessions, ect, use it to fill in the gaps. (example of Bible 101)
- Realize that people can pretend to be someone that they are not. Just because someone says that they have the answers does not make it true.
- There are open mockers of Christ and His teachings. They will troll, or show up just to derail good discussion. The Devil is a master of distraction. Sometimes it’s best to just avoid the heretics.
- Don’t be afraid to use the Scriptures when engaging others, including pastors. Pastors can err, too!
- Share good resources with those around you. Pay particular attention to catechetical and evangelistic resources that may be useful to share with your neighbor.
- Be cautious about things that seem new and innovative.
- Don’t let the internet take away from good works for your neighbor.