Seeing you seeing me

Twice in the past week I have had discussions with people about the impact of my online presence on the construction of my office. For those of you familiar with places such as the Googleplex and the same company’s Zurich headquarters, this does not mean that I have replaced my chair with a bouncy ball and now exit the office via a fireman’s pole! However, what these online contacts do for me is to effectively remove the walls of my office. The updates I receive in real time via my Twitter feed ensure that even whilst engaged in the traditional pursuits of the sermon-writer, I am kept aware of things going on in the world, both near and far. This is how Jim Gilliam wandered into my Pentecost sermon, and this is how an internet broadcast conference in Singapore shone a light on the page of 1 Corinthians 12,  to give just two recent examples.  Two years ago, when fewer Christians were familiar with the little blue bird, a Christian blogger wrote about ‘five reasons why you should join Twitter.’ Whilst I agree with all of them, I would now want to place far more emphasis on the way that these ‘external’ contacts interrogate the preacher and creatively disturb the sermon-writing process.

Last night I was talking to a parent of young children who said that he was so glad preachers engaged with the online world because it meant that as his children grew up they would not step into a church which had slipped out of contact with the real world. As an example he cited the Sunday after the Japanese earthquake when the congregation were given up to date prayer requests from a church inside the earthquake zone via Twitter. The transparent walls of the office give a far-reaching view across a needy world.

Of course, at risk of stating the obvious,the other aspect of an office without walls is that people can see in as well as out. The kind of connectivity which allows me to see what is going on in the world also allows the world to see me as I work. Digital connectivity brings a transparency to the creative process which demystifies the whole thing and allows a preacher to discuss not just the finished product but the unfinished struggle of the sermon. This is a largely unexplored element of the circular preaching cycle.

According to some the traditional residents of a goldfish bowl have such short memories that by the time they have swum all they way round it they have forgotten about the place where they started and therefore it all seems new and fresh again. If that is the case then I’ll probably write this post again soon! In the meantime, I leave you with one of my favourite adverts of all time. Maybe this is the goldfish bowl I am talking about: