The Power of Slacktivism

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Illustration: I Like Facebook by Caris Tsevis, on Flikr (Creative Commons).

The Power of Slacktivism: Inviting Thousands to Take their Next Step

By Shane Bennett

I love to help people take baby steps. You know, like moving from “I truly detest foreigners” to “I’m not terribly fond of foreigners.” That’s a win! Granted, it’s a small step in a journey like the one from here to Saturn, but it’s a step.

I think that’s why I’m a fan of “slacktivism.” You’ve heard of it, eh? It’s a made-up word, combining “slacker,” a person who avoids work or effort, and “activism,” vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change. I love Wikipedia’s take on slacktivism:

“The word is usually considered a pejorative term that describes ‘feel-good’ measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it take satisfaction from the feeling they have contributed.”

So you click, like, share, or retweet, but you don’t really do anything. Or at least so it seems.

Three Reasons to Give This a Try

I would like to see us, those who carry a torch for the nations, provide a gazillion opportunities for the people in our networks to like, share, and retweet. Here’s why:

1. It works.

Consider the biggest slacktivist campaign so far, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Despite the stunning observations that not everyone donated, that the campaign wasted clean water so much of the world desperately needs, and that money spent on ice and such might have been given to ALS research instead, and you’ll find this equally stunning point. You probably already know it. Donations to ALS research rose from the typical US$3 million average to over $100 million! I don’t know about you, but I can come up with a plan or two that would benefit from a 3000% increase in funding!

2. Baby steps (can) lead to bigger steps.

To be honest, this point is debatable. A frequently cited study on slacktivism questions whether or not clicking, liking, and sharing actually lead to donating and volunteering. I know my own journey toward commitment to the world looked more like tip-toeing into the pool than cannon-balling into the deep end. But some people will take the plunge. I certainly want to pitch opportunities for people to move to Karachi. But I also want to help thousands of people take their next step, however small, toward blessing the nations.

Sometimes that step is as simple as liking a status, nodding, and thinking, “Yes, this is the kind of thing I’m into.”

3. Big nets catch more fish.

While the work of clicking “like” on a Facebook post will not change the world, it does help spread the word. And as awareness spreads, the likelihood of connecting with someone who is ready to take action increases. As Caitlin Dewey, writing for the Washington Post, says,

“Despite the oft-repeated claim that awareness does nothing, it almost always does something—something small, perhaps, but something measurable.”

Four Things to Do

So how can we put this into action?

1. Offer easy ways to respond.

Commenting on the 2014 Cone Communications Digital Activism Study, Alexis Petru says,

“Organizations should still continue to offer individuals more passive online actions, including ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ content, but they should also suggest more action-oriented activities like giving feedback and committing to change their behavior. The survey data demonstrates that most Americans want to do more to help their favorite causes, Cone Communications said, but they need organizations to channel this desire-to-help into specific actions that make an impact.”

2. Encourage creative engagement.

Elsewhere, Jacqueline Herrera adds that far more important than a simple ‘like’ is inspiring individuals to upload their own photos, thoughts, and shares on social media in order to emotionally connect with others, thereby creating engagement and organic word-of-mouth in a domino effect.

3. Learn from those who’ve seen it work.

As you think about how to activate your slacktivists, keep in mind some of the key points which Clicktivist.org says made the Ice Bucket Challenge go crazy:

“The timing was right: It landed as a piece of good news in the midst of a summer of depressing global and domestic events. It provided a fun and kindly counterpoint to a sober season.

“It used peer pressure, (mild) humiliation and guilt. By tagging you in the post the challenge calls you out in front of your friends. You can ignore it but then you’ll look bad. So you’re peer pressured and guilted into participating. Some people would prefer to call this social proof.

“It was authentic. This is the one that would be the hardest to replicate. The ice bucket challenge just felt authentic and not like it was cooked up in the back room of an office or that it had been focus grouped. I mean that’s because it wasn’t but still, you get the point. It was simple enough that anyone could have thought of it or started it and that’s something that people liked. They were on an equal playing field and not being directed by an organization.”

4. Don’t forget about the most powerful response, prayer.

One final thought. As followers of Jesus we have the opportunity to converse with the one who’s running the universe about how things are going. On the one hand, C.S. Lewis reminds us, “It is much easier to pray for a bore than to go visit him.” So prayer is slacktivism. But then Oswald Chambers asserts, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” Somehow, in kindness and mystery, God invites us to join him in shaping the future. As we ask people to retweet and share and like, to give and send and go, we can also offer the immediate response of prayer. Watch a video and pray. “Like” an Instagram picture and pray. Retweet word of a humanitarian crisis, pray, and invite all your buds to pray as well.

The growing Syrian Circle is a brilliant example of this. It mobilized thousands of people to pray for Syrians during the past month. Check it out for ideas and further prayer.

What about in your church? Your organization? How can you provide “right now” response mechanisms that will potentially lead slactivists to greater involvement?

Finally, can I invite you to join me in practicing some slacktivism mobilization by ransacking the website of a new initiative I’m involved in? Go to CareForCatania.com and read, pray, share and let me know what’s broken!

Practical Mobilization

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeIn This Issue:

  1. Waiting for the Kingdom: A Brief Advent Meditation
  2. A Year of Practical Mobilization

About Shane Bennett

Shane has been loving Muslims and connecting people who love Jesus with Muslims for more than 20 years. He speaks like he writes – in a practical, humorous, and easy-to-relate-to way –  about God’s passion to bring all peoples into his kingdom.

» Contact him to speak to your people.

 

Waiting for the Kingdom: A Brief Advent Meditation

winter trees

By Shane Bennett

Life includes a whole lot of waiting. We wait for the first snow, and then we wait for spring. We wait for someone to reply to our email, respond to our text, answer our question, or return our gaze. We wait for the baby to be born, roll over, say a word, take a step, tie its shoes, go to school, learn to drive, graduate, get married, and give us grandkids so we can watch the whole agonizingly beautiful process all over again. We wait for the doctor’s report. We wait for that breath that will be our last.

We also wait for a progress report, report card, yellow card, yellow light, and for the people with 13 items in the ten-item checkout lane who are paying with a check. I don’t know about you, but I wait for stuff to arrive from Amazon and say, “OK, Bezos, where are the delivery drones you promised?” I wait for people to take their turn in Words with Friends, for Mumford and Sons to release another album, and for 99% Invisible to drop in my podcast queue.

Those of us who love Jesus wait for his return and for the fullness of his kingdom on earth. We wait for God to keep his “blessing all families” promise to Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 12:3 and to answer the prayer Jesus prayed in Matthew 6:10 that his Father’s will would be done and his kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven. We wait for the fulfillment of the promise of Matthew 24:14, where Jesus says the gospel of the kingdom will be preached among all peoples as a witness to all nations before the end comes.

Do you, like me, sometimes get tired of waiting for the kingdom? Even though Jesus launched his ministry by saying, “Repent, believe, for the kingdom of Heaven is here,” if you look around, you see lots of non-kingdom stuff going on. Sometimes I need look no farther than my own heart. Other effects are more distant, but no less gut-wrenching, as when kingdom workers in Kabul perish in the midst of their work and others in Aden are killed after months of captivity.

I hear Peter’s words in my head: “They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:3-4).

Can I say to you (while I’m saying it to me): Don’t give up waiting for his kingdom. Even as we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus, may God renew our faith and hope for the fullness of the kingdom which the babe was born to bring. Stay strong, the kingdom will come. God’s purposes will not be thwarted.

What to Do While We Wait

We have a couple of dogs, and we let them live in the house. That makes “going outside” just about the most amazing experience they can imagine. When someone opens a door, pretty much any door in the house, the dogs are instantly there. Since they’re not allowed to go out before the humans do, they’re given one of two commands: “Wait” means hang on until I get through the door, and then you can leap into your joy. “Stay,” on the other hand, means you don’t get to go outside this time. I imagine something like this goes through their little canine brains: “Oh man, we can’t go outside. Now all we can do is lie here and wait for him to come back. Our main challenge is to try to keep from eating out of the trash can.”

Our waiting is more like the first command: an anticipation of joy. In his book With Open Hands, Henri Nouwen describes the work we have while waiting:

“You are Christian only so long as you constantly pose critical questions to the society you live in, so long as you emphasize the need of conversion both for yourself and for the world, so long as you in no way let yourself become established in the situation of the world, so long as you stay unsatisfied with the status quo and keep saying that a new world is yet to come. You are Christian only when you believe you have a role to play in the realization of the new kingdom, and when you urge everyone you meet with holy unrest to make haste so that the promise might soon be fulfilled. So long as you live as a Christian you keep looking for a new order, a new structure, a new life.”

Wait well, my friends. Ask for the kingdom. Battle apathy and despair. Ardently follow your kingdom passion. Love your enemies.

Enjoy Christmas for all you’re worth. And from time to time, pause to gaze at the wee babe in the nativity scene and remind yourself, “My, but that boy is going to change the world.”

A Year of Practical Mobilization

Did you miss any of our 2014 Practical Mobilization articles? Check them out through the links below or browse all the Missions Catalyst archives.

January:

  • Three Models for Connecting with Like-minded People in the New Year
  • Subversive Mobilization: Help Tell the Story

February:

  • The Jonah Juxtaposition: Why People Gravitate towards God’s Global Purposes and Why They Run Away
  • Subversive Mobilization: Best Practices with Megachurches

March:

  • Ten Mistakes Mission-focused People Make (and Four Bonus Mistakes!)
  • Subversive Mobilization: Turning Short Term into Long Term

April:

  • Passing on Prayer: Practical Ideas on Praying for the World

May:

  • How to Look for a Spouse When It Looks Like You Have Few Options
  • Subversive Mobilization: Crowd-sourcing Urbana Workshop Topics

June:

  • 75 Ways to Put Your Money to Missional Use

July:

  • 21 Easy Ways to Introduce Your Friends to the Nations (and Five to Make Sure They Stay Away)

August:

  • A Dozen Ways You Can Summon and Release the Next Generation of Global Christians

September:

  • How to Be Sure You’ll Never Mobilize Your Pastor for Missions
  • Subversive Mobilization: Starting a Church Missions Team

October:

  • Hold Onto Hope
  • Subversive Mobilization: You Can Quit Anything on a Thursday

November:

  • Driven from Home, but Loved by Jesus: Reaching Refugees with the Abundant Love of Christ
  • Subversive Mom-bilization

Practical Mobilization

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_large

In This Issue:

  • Driven from Home, but Loved by Jesus
  • Subversive Mom-bilization

About Us

Missions Catalyst is a free, weekly electronic digest of mission news and resources designed to inspire and equip Christians worldwide for global ministry. Use it to fuel your prayers, find tips and opportunities, and stay in touch with how God is building his kingdom all over the world. Please forward it freely!

About Shane Bennett

Shane has been loving Muslims and connecting people who love Jesus with Muslims for more than 20 years. He speaks like he writes – in a practical, humorous, and easy-to-relate-to way –  about God’s passion to bring all peoples into his kingdom.

» Contact him to speak to your people.

Driven from Home, but Loved by Jesus

Reaching refugees with the abundant life of Christ

By Shane Bennett

It was still dark when our team leader rousted us out of bed and said it was time to go. I shrugged on some clothes and with the others slunk out into the early morning coolness of Irbid, Jordan. We were there for the summer (a summer long ago) in order to learn about the city’s cultures and wonder with God about his kingdom coming there. On this particular morning we were off to attend early prayers at a mosque in a Palestinian refugee camp.

We sat at the back of the room and watched as a few people arrived, prepared, and prayed together. When the pre-dawn faithful filed out, they greeted us warmly and one young man invited us to his house for breakfast.

Another brief walk in the dark took us to his small, concrete block home. He woke his sleepy wife and soon we were enjoying steaming tea and delicious watermelon. He shared stories of their lives in challenging times and situations and I was struck both by their suffering and by their hospitality in spite of it.

Something began to form in me that morning. As watermelon juice dripped down my hand, love from and for refugees began to flow in my soul.

Today more than 50 million people are displaced from their homes. If these refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people had their own country, only two dozen of the world’s countries would have a larger population. This is hardship, pain, and desperation on a scale I cannot imagine. It is also opportunity for the gospel which we dare not overlook.

I want to care for refugees because the gospel, as embodied in Jesus, is for people in the most desperate of situations. Jesus not only taught us but showed us that he came for those with little or no hope, the homeless, the dispossessed, and the overlooked. Caring for refugees is the way of Jesus. I assume this is a reminder and not a new thought for you. But I know I often need reminding of who this Jesus is and what he is about.

I also want to care for the displaced because they often represent peoples I deeply long to see introduced to the good news of Jesus, like Syrians, Somalis, Afghans. These are some of the most under-served peoples on the planet. And their homelands are some of the most challenging places for potential ambassadors to visit or live. Yet we now find them in great numbers in places that are readily accessible: Jordan and Turkey, Athens and Berlin. Churches that could not imagine sending their people to Pakistan or Ethiopia might be open to them going to England or Belgium.

And finally, reaching out to refugees is an investment in long-term peace. It’s an example of Wendell Berry’s admonition to plant sequoias. Talking about how believers should respond to ISIS, a friend asked recently, “And are there logs in the eyes of those of us who claim the way of Jesus as the way for the whole world? If the church had done its job of sharing Jesus in the Arab world in years past, would we have this issue? If the boys who are now men in ISIS, ten years ago, had heard and received the good news of Jesus – would they be doing what they are now?

We can’t go back and be there ten years ago, but what about today? Where are the future fighters for ISIS (or whatever) right now? Some of them are languishing in the refugee camps of the world. We have some decisions to make. If Jesus’ pledge that he came so we might have life and have it abundantly is true at all, it’s true for the world’s refugee population. Is it possible that a huge outpouring of love in the name of Jesus might stem the tide of future violence?

(Watch an amazing TED talk from Melissa Fleming, head of communications for the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, inviting us to care for refugees in ways that go beyond simply meeting the very basic needs of life).

So what can we do? As mobilizers, what can we invite our friends, our churches to do? Here are some of my ideas along with an invitation for yours.

1. Advocate

Learn a little then get the word out. Let people know the heart-wrenching need and the unprecedented opportunity for the work of Jesus. Write, speak, update your status, tweet, blog, make movies or more.

2. Invite

If you live among or near refugee populations, develop ways for churches to provide helpful services then invite them to come and serve refugees.

3. Pray and Give

We can support and pray for people, like my friend Wendy in the UK, who are reaching out to refugees (or, in Wendy’s words, “loving the overlooked”). We can get informed and pray for God’s kingdom to flourish among refugees. And of course, we can invite others into our prayers.

Go

Join or form a team with a great mission agency like Frontiers to provide long-term presence among a stabilizing refugee population. Or come with me to reach out to the burgeoning mass of refugees in Catania, Italy, my new favorite city. I’m looking for dozens of individuals along with six to eight intrepid churches who will consider a 3-5-year commitment to bringing the abundant life of Jesus to refugees there from North and East Africa, the Middle East, and beyond.

What else can we do? I’d love to hear your thoughts, your ideas, and how Jesus is leading you to respond to the greatest number of displaced people that we’ve seen since World War II. This is the day. Let’s do something epic.

Feel free to forward to a friend you’d like to see caring for refugees.

Subversive Mom-bilization

“The hand that rocks the cradle, mobilizes the world” (or something like that). I’d like to learn and write about moms on mission, particularly who, how, and why (and when!?!?) moms mobilize. Do you know any stellar examples? Books I should read? Blogs to peruse? I’d love your input on this. Watch for the January edition of Practical Mobilization to help unleash moms on the world!

Practical Mobilization

cropped-Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_large.png

 In This Issue:

About Us

Missions Catalyst is a free, weekly electronic digest of mission news and resources designed to inspire and equip Christians worldwide for global ministry. Use it to fuel your prayers, find tips and opportunities, and stay in touch with how God is building his kingdom all over the world. Please forward it freely!

About Shane Bennett

Shane has been loving Muslims and connecting people who love Jesus with Muslims for more than 20 years. He speaks like he writes – in a practical, humorous, and easy-to-relate-to way –  about God’s passion to bring all peoples into his kingdom.

» Contact him to speak to your people.

Hold onto Hope

13178045623_577c206d9a_oBy Shane Bennett

Month after month, year after year, beyond the bounds of a decade, every “prayer and praise” list on my friend’s missionary letter started with this request: “Please pray with us for one family to follow Jesus.” This friend is one of the best people I know. He worked hard, pursued friends relentlessly, learned a tough language, and held on for a long time with a young and growing family. A border dispute between his home country and his adopted one resulted in his visa evaporating and his return home without a single family having followed Jesus as a result of his labor. Not one.

How do you hold onto hope through that? I don’t know. My friend is a much better person than I am. But hold on he did. And now, as a silver lining to the devastatingly black cloud over sections of the Middle East, he’s getting reports from among the people he was serving. Ones and twos reading the Bible. A dozen baptized this week. Families beginning to follow Jesus. Not just one, but many!

When Hoping Is Hard

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (Proverbs 13:12).

If you find yourself in the first half of that famous proverb and honestly wondering if the second half will ever happen for you, you are not alone. If you find your vision for God’s purposes taking on water and threatening to slip below the waves, you are not alone. If you wonder if God’s kingdom will come, if the good news of Jesus will ever make it to thousands of remaining unreached peoples, you are not alone.

A pastor friend of mine once confessed, “If I were ever to leave the faith, it would be because it’s been around so long and the world still looks as it does.” I can relate to that. I wish that the impact of God’s kingdom was already more pervasive.

Sometimes I walk among groups of people in my own country and see the sadness on their faces and bodies bent with worry and pain, and I wonder, “Where is the kingdom? When will it come?” And mind you, it’s not lost on me, this is in America; one of the healthiest, richest, opportunity-laden cultures in history. In many places, people struggle for day-to-day survival in ways I’ll never understand. Where is the kingdom?

I don’t want to be one of the scoffers Peter quotes in chapter three of his second letter, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4). But sometimes hoping is hard.

So what can we do? At the risk of being trite, may I float out four things that help me?

1. Hold onto the Bible and a smart God.

Peter goes on to say, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

God knows what he is doing and his timetable is not mine.

2. Encourage light where ever you see it.

For years I’ve prayed for reunification of the Koreas, that doors would open and the hope of the gospel flood the North. As I write, something new is afoot on the peninsula, maybe something huge. So I’m strengthening my hope by praying that today will be the day, that this is the answer to so many people’s prayers.

Where you see the smallest smoldering spark, encourage it to flame with the breath of your prayers.

3. Trade up on your hope.

Sometimes, perhaps in an effort to defer heart sickness, we only allow ourselves small and anemic hopes. I wonder if God finds our hopes too small. Maybe we should go after something bigger than not being “left behind.”

Can I share a big hope brewing in my heart? I’m scheming and dreaming for a huge move of God among immigrants and refugees in the Italian city of Catania. In the midst of great suffering and despair, I’m asking God to raise up six to eight churches who will focus their efforts over the next three to five years on sparking disciple-making movements among refugees in Catania.

If that sounds like a fun sandbox to you, hit me up for the dream sheet.

4. Follow Jesus with some friends.

Rarely will everyone in your posse find themselves without hope at the same time. As Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”

As you can imagine, it’s smart to build your posse before you really need them. And when you’re full of hope, let it leak out on them!

God will accomplish his purposes: From the audacious “blessing to all families” promise to Abraham to the kaleidoscopic worship John sees in Revelation 5:9, what God has promised, he will do. Don’t give up. It doesn’t look exactly like we’d hoped, but it will end up better than we can imagine.

Photo: Long Chung, Flikr.

Subversive Mobilization: You Can Quit Anything on a Thursday!

The provocative and winsome Bob Goff, author of Love Does, famously asserts that you can quit anything on a Thursday! And he does. Reportedly Bob quits something every Thursday. I wonder what he’s quitting today?

His logic is that you can’t get the really good stuff into your life if your life is already stuffed with other things.

Makes sense to me. So what should I quit today? TV? Writing the Practical Mob column? I considered quitting Facebook, but then I thought maybe I should invite you to be my friend there.

Here’s what I am quitting. First the easy one, then the harder one:

1. I’m quitting the Christmas gift edition of Practical Mobilization that has occupied my December slot for the past five years. Thank you, Thursday!

2. I’m also going to quit thinking and acting like people who think differently from me are dumb. They may be wrong. And heck, they may be dumb, but I don’t want to assume that, and I certainly don’t want to imply that in conversations with others.

So how about you? It’s Thursday. What are you going to quit?