Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World by Karen Ehman is a helpful book for face-to-face encounters with some emphasis on serving online. It is has craft ideas (gift tags), recipes that can be made for other people, social media ideas, and Scripture to guide us in being more other-centered. At times, it felt a bit redundant, but you can get many different ideas from its pages on how to serve online. Here is our take on this book based on our vision for encouraging people to serve online:
- Don’t be too judgmental on those who share acts of kindness. Social Media is about influence. People use it to sell books, promote their businesses, or their ministries. A poorly worded status about an act of service can quickly become judged for an act of narcissism (or “look at me”). Be careful how you word it. You want to share acts of kindness to encourage and inspire other acts of love. Experience has taught us that, when people don’t know what is going on in a ministry, you are more apt to lose funding and interest in that ministry. Life can drag us into pockets of apathy and disbelief. Let’s remember the reach of social media and encourage each other to love others through this tool.
- Choose God first, family second, and jobs or ministry last (pg. 43). The book talks about choosing her son over a desired speaking engagement. Ministry opportunities abound, like serving online. There will never be a lack of need for service and skipping one or two because your family needs you won’t hurt your ministry. “Establishing our priorities with God’s guidance and then living in a way that reflects these priorities will sometimes mean making tough calls,” says the book. Balancing the online life and the face-to-face life is a dance. You step back when family needs you and step forward when people need to be served online. We suggest putting the phone down when someone is speaking to you (or turn it over so as not to be distracted by the notifications) and make eye contact. Ignore texts and notifications, even phone calls, to give that person God has placed in front of you 100% focus. Mostly show, not tell, your faith online.
- Honor others above yourselves (pg. 46). “So often we forget that relationships aren’t easy. They require loyalty and steadfast devotion,” the book says. Online relationships require much more than a “like” or a comment. Some of these conversations in private can take up the length of a lunch hour. A friend needs you. You are right where you are supposed to be, engaging your friend online, and learning what listening looks like online. Some might ask, “Why not pick up the phone and call?” Instead of asking that question, participate in the conversation. If a phone call is necessary, it will happen. Not everyone welcomes that phone call. Hearkening back to an older book, understand someone else’s love language when you are engaging with them.
- Get out of your social circle. When reading this book, it was written from a mom perspective. The book talked about how her kitchen island became a center of social get-togethers. A single person was mentioned. Assumptions were made that single people or married people without kids are apt to hang around others who have kids. Some city or town cultures accidentally exclude people who are single or married without kids. People gravitate naturally towards people of the same thinking, race, and even family set up. In light of the subject of this book, follow her suggestions to think and act outside of your social circle. Small talk is painful. Trust takes time to build. Awkward silences are a major fear. Overcome those fears and get beyond your point of view. Sit with someone new at church. Learn a language or use Google translate. Don’t let cultural barriers impede you from experiencing godly friendships. Not everyone can relate to a nursing mom and the emotions of nurturing. We can understand getting a cup of coffee with someone or spending time online with someone.
- Be aware of “lumping” (pg. 50). Wherever you go, don’t let it be said of you that you weren’t generous as a Christian with your time or money.
- Why hashtags can be a great tool to connect with others outside your comfortable circle (pg. 38). The book talks about different hashtags people use to, “…grab all the gusto we can. After all, we only go around once, right? We might as well live it up and accumulate all of the material possessions or memorable experiences that we can. Just look at the popular hashtags in social media. #yolo stands for ‘you only live once.'” Use #yolo to show acts of love or kindness and point them towards God. A hashtag is great for generating conversation. The book continues, “And #fomo reminds us of our ‘fear of missing out.’ After all, we don’t want to be left behind.” Use #fomo to inspire people. Hashtags do not have to be secular in nature or belong to a certain grouped conversation. Join in the conversation and turn people from living like a secular or a secular person to living as a restored person in Christ.
- Don’t do what everyone else does (page 209). The copy and paste posts on Facebook are getting old and unimaginative. The book’s suggestion about preparing a post is a great idea. Instead of saying, “Top Ten Things I Appreciate About You,” just talk in regular talk. “I love you as a sister because…” You can use Hootsuite, a social media scheduling app, to write a bunch of posts like this up and schedule them out during the week. You can still do organic posts, but scheduling saves time and keeps your profiles interesting while you are at work. Who knows though if your friend online may need to hear that scheduled post at that exact time?
- Be kind. Candace Cameron Bure endorsed this book saying, “With all the criticism and combativeness we witness online and in person, Listen, Love, Repeat is a breath of fresh air.” In her book about her time on Dancing With The Stars, she talked about that same meanness when people judged her online for her costumes. Like in the mission field, trust must first be established before we can speak truth into someone else’s life. Every person needs to take a mission’s course to truly understand how to reach people in our world for Christ online. We have no right to tell someone like Candace or Karen Ehman how to live their lives. We don’t have a relationship with them. People need to know they can trust you before you are allowed to share the Gospel, much less be critical. Plus, we don’t always have the full story when seeing a status. A tweet is 140-characters. No one reads more than a paragraph on a Facebook Status. We’ve become headline readers without investing the time to learn more. Learn to be discerning on what you share, how you comment, and how you engage privately or publicly online. We will make mistakes. Give the same grace to others that you expect for yourself. Create a kitchen island experience on your Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, or Google+.
Listen, Love, Repeat has some good ideas. Cataclysm Missions encourages the Christian online world to balance their online and face-to-face world. Ignoring one or the other is not helpful for the Great Commission and won’t help us grow as a person. Being other-centered as the book states takes intentional actions and is time-consuming. It isn’t easy, but the mission field is all around us and it is online. Be the friend you wish someone had been to you.
***Book given by publisher to review***