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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cloud Culture

 "A person finds joy in giving an apt reply - and how good is a timely word."
That verse is from Proverbs 15:23 and these two guys have written a little book with a big message that embodies that verse so well!

Growing up on the heels of globetrotting parents, Bryce Conlan had visited or lived in more than a dozen countries before age 16.  Whether feeding the homeless or starting a new enterprise, his life is marked by the message of God's grace and the incredible love Jesus demonstrates for us.
After graduating from high school Bryce moved to Chicago where he pursued a degree in Audio Engineering; which to his surprise was far more engineering than audio.  In 2008 Bryce began work on what would later become Big Swell Media, a full service media production company located in Chicago.  Bryce loves being in front of crowds and eagerly pursues every opportunity to teach on the gospel of grace, the finished work of the cross, and healthy marriages.  He lives in Chicago with his wife Dana.  
As a songwriter and musician, Chuck Giacinto has penned songs with Grammy and BMI Award winners, and has performed alongside many multi-platinum artists.  Today, he serves as a staff pastor and worship leader at Grace Community Church in Streator, IL.  
Giacinto earned a degree in graphic design from Illinois State University and a doctorate in pastoral theology.  In 2006, following time spent in China where he and wife Lynette adopted their youngest daughter, the couple formed Adoptive Music, a record label specializing in adoption-themed music.  Chuck and his wife have three children and reside in Streator.

Giacinto and Conlan's book is Cloud Culture:  Walking the Walk & Typing the Talk - Christian Living in the Social Media World.  This little book (only 120 pages) published by Seven Leaf Press may be the most practical and timely book I've read all year; and I've read a lot of books this year!  Giacinto and Conlan write with practical insight, humor and the familiarity of a long-time friend.  You will laugh in one paragraph and be deeply challenged in the next.  But even their "challenge" is given not in a preachy or judgmental way, but with a desire that you as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ use wisely the amazing an nearly world-wide platform of social media to connect with people and make Him known.

Below is part of an interview that was conducted with Giacinto and Conlan.  Hear their heart in writing Cloud Culture:

So, what is Cloud Culture about?  
Cloud Culture is about social media, but I don’t want that to scare anybody off because this isn’t a techie, computer-oriented book at all. We feel that social media, at its core, is about two things: communication and relationship. We believe God designed us with a need to know others and to be known by others and Cloud Culture, while it addresses current social sites, is really about how to develop deep personal relationships in this new and evolving landscape, and, ultimately, where our faith fits into that.
So, this is like a social media “code of conduct” per se?

Rather than a code of conduct, we want the Church to have the vision to see the possibilities and limitless opportunities available to us through social media. Cloud Culture is not intended to show you how to “do” social media. We want to start a movement, a movement that sets a foundation for relationships and communication that honors God and allows the Gospel to seep out of our lives in a real, organic way.

Why now?
Well, we feel this book could come out next year or five years from now, and still be relevant in terms of its concepts, regardless of how the landscape of social media changes. But because of the void there has been regarding a real conversation in the Church about social media, along with the approach we wanted to take, we felt a sense of urgency to be on the front end of this conversation. 
How does social media look different for a Christian versus a non-believer?

In one respect it looks the same. It’s how we communicate. It’s literally our lives and relationships on display. Where it looks different for the Christian is that we strive to hold ourselves to a higher standard and even consider how what we say will affect those on the receiving end of our posts. Are they just acquaintances or people we want to impress or stay in touch with? Or do we really SEE them, as God sees them? Are we open to reading between the lines to see people’s need and to realize that we have been handed these amazing tools that no previous generation could have dreamed of to communicate with the world? Cloud Culture isn’t really a formula. However, it is an encouragement and a reminder that you are in a relationship with God, and, if THAT relationship is strong, it will naturally spill over into social media in a real and genuine way that a formula can’t produce.
At one point, you write that it’s important to realize that our words, comments, links, and posts go out and become part of other’s daily lives—a gift and a responsibility. Do you think most people think about this when updating their Facebook?

No, I (Chuck) don’t. In my experience most people just shoot from the hip. Imagine you have all of your Facebook friends and Twitter followers in one room together and you get up in front of your audience of hundreds and say, “Now that I have your attention, I want you all to know…I’m eating a really good sandwich.” OK, there’s nothing wrong with that of course, but what we want our readers to realize is the size of the audience you have at your disposal every day. If you could say something to them all, what would it be? And the reality is you CAN do that! Social media is literally an outlet and a platform for you to speak directly into people’s lives every single day.
I’m sometimes truly surprised at what people post on Facebook—even fellow Christians. What should a Christian consider before posting a blog, a tweet, or a Facebook status update?

Always consider your audience. One of the marks of a Christian life is self-control and that means that sometimes we don’t say that thing we want to say for the benefit of others. This can be wildly difficult, and we discuss it at length in Cloud Culture. It’s so important. Another thing to consider is context. Many of the problems, disagreements and offenses via social media or texting come out of our abbreviated new sentence structure and the loss of context for the reader can be painful. So we really need to take a second and reread our postings. Taking a few extra seconds and using a few extra words for example could bring a lot of clarity to the recipients of your post.
In Cloud Culture, you write that we should strive against using social media as only a platform for voicing our beliefs and opinions. What do you think about bloggers, and particularly those who spend the majority of their time calling out what they believe are problems in the Church?

Well, it is certainly a place and a platform to express ourselves, and our views, etc. That’s part of the beauty of it. My concern is that we don’t want to get lost in all of the noise as just having another set of opinions or beliefs among many. Ours is not just one more set of opinions out there. It’s the Gospel of Christ. And because of that, we have to remember what social media is about at its core…relationship and communication. So Cloud Culture isn’t about being good at technology; rather, it’s about being biblically grounded in terms of relationship and communication. As believers, when we’re sincere and good at both, that will come out and resonate in a real and honest way. As far as the problems in the Church or disagreements, we want people to realize that what we post has a very long shelf life. Long after we may have resolved a situation, it still lives out there. As Christians, more than anyone, we should realize the power of our words.
You talk about Christians being ambassadors of Christ. How does that look on a practical level in the social media world?

(Chuck) It looks much the same as in our real lives because that’s what people are watching unfold on social media--our lives. I’ve been married for 21 years, and if there was no trace of my relationship with my wife in my social media, well, that would speak to some real issues. So, how can we conduct ourselves daily in social media and have our relationship with God nowhere to be found? And not forced or fake, or out of a sense of duty, but a natural reflection of the place the relationship holds in our lives.
What are some practical ways to reach people through social media without simply just posting daily Bible verses?

One thing we can do is work at fostering real relationships within our networks. Another thing is to reach out with a private message when we can see that someone is struggling. There are other ways too - less public ways. For example, what if everyone reading this today looked at their Facebook friends list or Twitter followers, then picked one person and prayed for them today, and did the same tomorrow. It’s a quiet act, and maybe no one would know, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it’s a remarkably powerful. Imagine if we could get thousands or perhaps millions to do this on a daily basis.
In Cloud Culture, you write, “It’s a true sign of maturity and Christian character when you can restrain yourself from leaving remarks that will only fuel the online conversations which are neither edifying nor productive.” How does a Christian handle this type of temptation?

You know, it’s not easy. There are certainly things worth defending. But it does require some discernment. It’s easy enough to misinterpret each other speaking face to face. But when typed or texted, and we abbreviate and condense our thoughts, there is again a real loss of context, which makes it very difficult to communicate well this way. Sometimes the most constructive thing we can do is to choose a different path. Pick up the phone and talk, or speak face to face. There’s an amazing amount of healing that takes place when someone takes the time to call and resolve the issue personally rather than the quick text message of tweet. Sometimes skipping the new convenient route for the old fashioned one is the wisest choice.
What do you think social media will look like in the years to come?
It’s almost impossible to know, and I’m sure someone is already hard at work imagining and building the next big social media platform. But I am sure of two things. First, it’s not going away. Social media only stands to get bigger and hold a bigger place in our lives and culture. And second, whatever form it takes, whatever it looks like, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or the next big thing, it is still…at its core…ultimately about communication and relationship…and how we “do” both. And because of that, what we are setting out to accomplish with Cloud Culture is to lay down some principles that aren’t limited to any current or popular platform that could be out of date or out of business tomorrow, but instead we want to establish a standard as Christians for how we communicate with each other, how we relate to those around us, and ultimately how we represent the cause of Christ.

If you are a blogger, use Twitter or Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest or any other form of social media, whatever age you are, then this book is for YOU!  The enemy would love to continue to use the internet to harm many (and in many cases he does).  As a believer, Cloud Culture gives you a clear wake-up call to a monumental opportunity to literally reach the world for Christ.

Thanks to Debbie Lykins and Side Door Communications, who graciously sent me a complimentary copy of Cloud Culture for the purpose of review, I have a copy of the book to GIVE AWAY to one of my readers.  Leave me a comment answering this question and you will be entered to win your own copy of Cloud Culture.

What is your favorite form of social media to use and why?
The give away will run until Monday December 3rd.  Please leave a way I can contact you in your comment in the event you win!!