20-something tall black bellhop: I challenge you, right now, to a salsa dance-off.
70-year-old short Latino bellhop: Go get a radio.
Father to little daughter: You are the most beautiful girl in this photo… and I’m not biased. (daughter smiles)
Father: Do you know what “biased” means?
Daughter (rolling her eyes): Yes, it means that you like both boys and girls.
Little tourist boy: Mommy! Look, that lady is a Nazi!
Frazzled tourist mom: What? Oh… Honey, that nice lady is hailing a cab, not Hitler.
The voyeuristic pleasure we get from these conversations is not only their hilarity, but the fact that they were situational, meant to flitter away like bubbles in the park. The participants never expected anyone to write them down and immortalize them on the Internets.
This started me thinking on the overheard Gospel. Often at coffeeshops (where I used to write my seminary papers), my ears would perk up whenever I heard a theological conversation. I listened to marital counseling, anti-mormon tirades, and agnostic ponderings. Occasionally I joined in. I wouldn’t have written down the conversations, and the discussants never intended to either.
Until the internet came. C. Scott Andreas expounds:
Unlike conversations over coffee that pass into the air, dialogue in the blogosphere can be searched and referenced by others in the future.“A Networked E-cclesia” in Wikiklesia: Volume One
The ripple effect of our words and our proclamation of the Gospel is much wider than before. What is said locally on the streets of New York becomes a global-selling book. What we say on one blog can be referenced by another blog on the other side of the globe. Indeed, before a person is told of the Good News of Christ…chances are that she has overheard the Gospel already!
The lesson here? We must act in Christlike ways at all times. In all our actions, we are to speak the truth in appropriate ways. When I was struggling with this blog with a pastor colleague, my colleague said to me “Whenever I post, I make certain that I would be comfortable saying this publicly to anyone.” And it is good advice: because ANYONE can READ THE BLOG!
While we laugh when a risque photo causes a supermodel to lose her crown, or when John McCain hates bloggers, or over the conversations of New Yorkers…we must remember that the Overheard Gospel is just as immortalized on the internets. Google indexes everything. Even your blog posts. I read my old ones from 6 years ago and am aghast at how I worded things…I was really mean!
- There’s the quote “You may be the only Bible the person you meet today ever reads.”
- I think there’s an internet-age addendum: “You may be the only Bible the person you don’t meet today ever reads.”
So in all things, allow peaceful language and powerful encouragement to fall from your fingers onto the screen. A random google search may bring someone to them in a time of need, and what you say may forever impact them. What possibility in such few words!
Thoughts? How has the much longer lasting ripples of the internet affected the way you do ministry or talk about God/politics/hamsters?