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The Power of Obscurity

For the past month, Francis Chan’s book, Letters to the Church, weighed on my heart. His comments on social media and obscurity occupy my mind. In fact, as WorldVenture’s social media presence continues to grow, so do the conversations. Someone said social media is like someone’s personal paparazzi. In America, the temptation is to use our social media to become known as pastors and leaders, even as individuals in our communities, but what if obscurity is best?

Rick Warren and Francis Chan are celebrity pastors. Francis Chan’s Facebook fan page has 17,000 likes. Rick Warren’s Facebook post has 101 comments. According to Grand Canyon University, Francis Chan spoke to a packed stadium. That stadium seats 7,000 people.

The more well-known you become the fewer options you have in digital discipleship. Obscurity is key. People who work regular jobs (or are retired) with a couple of hundred social media friends can more successfully do digital discipleship with training and guidance than a celebrity pastor, and should; but when pastors hear about this vision God has placed on my heart, they think I am adding to their overpacked schedules. The opposite is true and more difficult.

For too long, the American church congregation has let the pastors and missionaries do discipleship. My pastor even said, “My job is to equip YOU.” A missionaries job is to equip national leaders that equip local Christians (basically working themselves out of a job). As I work with a church to develop a new way of discipleship and mentoring, I am reminded how little time pastors and missionaries have, and see the potential of an equipped church working in cooperation with their missionary agencies.

Churches focus on numbers on Sunday. Social Media marketers focus on stats, visits, likes, reactions, and comments. Each number is a face with a history. Each person we invest our time in can potentially complicate our lives. It can even be dangerous. Success isn’t a large congregation or 17,000 likes on a Facebook page.

Success is in how those numbers are being discipled, encouraged, and held accountable in their walk. My question when reading stats like 30 or even 30,000 was baptized is:

  • Who is walking with them?
  • Who is discipling them?
  • And who is discipling the discipler?

Someone with zero Bible knowledge mentoring someone else with zero Bible knowledge reminds me of Matthew 15:14, “Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

“Just 11 percent have read the entire Bible, and the majority (30 percent) of Americans surveyed have read no more than several passages or stories. Even more shocking is that only about a third (36 percent) would describe the Bible as true, while 56 percent describe it as “a good source of morals.” (Influence Magazine, Jan. 2018)

Pastors like Rick Warren, Francis Chan, and our own pastors provide us with knowledge, and on social media, content (or they should) that we can use to share our faith walk online and disciple others. Those pastors are in the spotlight, but you can enjoy and embrace obscurity to share the Gospel and mentor others on and offline. Embrace obscurity. Embrace courage. Follow Jesus.

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