Turning off my phone.

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I love twitter. I love the access it gives us to bite-sized chunks of humour, theology and news. I love hashtags and retweets. I love being able to click a hashtag and get a window into the lives of individuals and wider culture. It is a wonderful invention.

Recently twitter has been awash with two hashtags in particular (well three if you include #Ihateflappybird). These are #neknomination and #raknomination. Let me expand for those who are unfamiliar. #neknomination is a drinking game, the hashtag will lead to videos of someone ‘necking’ their drink and accompanying the event with some creative act, often something unsafe or risky. They then publically nominate someone else to outdo them. In short; stupid.

RAKnominations grew up as a response. Rather than use the nomination to drink too much and risk injury the RAKnomination is used to video oneself performing Random Act of Kindness followed by challenge for someone to outdo that act. What a wonderful idea with potential to have huge effect in the world. It is becoming cool to be kind. Awesome.

I love to celebrate those who show kindness. Anyone who finds it within themselves to do something good in the world is worthy of some appreciation. So keep being kind, keep showing mercy, keep being generous. My twitter feed this week has been full of churches, youth groups and individual Christians RAKnominating one another.

I was thinking about this phenomenon this morning and my mind stumbled back to Matthew 6. This happens to me a lot because I think Jesus’ teaching in this passage has a lot to say to some of the trends that we encourage in church culture these days. Here is a reminder of two highlights from the teaching;

‘When you pray, pray in private and God will hear you.’

‘When you show kindness do it in secret, don’t let one hand know the good the other is doing.’

Challenging words for me personally. When I was leading Conversations in York I loved nothing more than to tweet about our generosity or our prayer for the city. I loved nothing more than celebrating our mercy. When I lead teams to Cambodia I spent time showing the world what we were doing. I conveniently forgot Jesus ever said this.

I wonder how Jesus would feel about RAKnominations as a trend within churches. I think He would love the kindness, He would celebrate the mercy, and he would encourage greater generosity. I do wonder though if we would suggest we put our phones away and log out of twitter. I think he may challenge us to go further with our kindness but to draw back from the internet.

Let me say it again, I want to celebrate the kindnesses people are showing, but I wonder if we can do better. I wonder if we can nominate other people by text or by private message. I wonder if there is something much more powerful about an invisible act of kindness.

So what do you think; am I being ridiculous or is there something in this?

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8 thoughts on “Turning off my phone.

  1. Love your blogs Dave, well done for being challenging whilst also holding on to love and grace – it’s harder than it looks!!

    As always in Jesus discussions doesn’t it come down to the heart behind the behaviour?! Yep some people are enjoying the limelight a bit too much, some people would never do something so generous if it wasn’t public. But some people are using this trend to glorify God, and to fight the culture of neknominations.

    Matt 5 says something slightly different:

    14-16 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

    I think there is a time for people to do something publicly when it glorifies god and displays god’s people as so totally counter-cultural that people will sit up and listen.

    • Hannah, thanks for your kind words.

      I love that passage you quoted. I thought about it too this morning. I think I maybe approach it differently to you though. I read a lot of the RAKNominations from Christians today that say things like ‘lets amaze the world by how generous we are.’ or ‘lets shock people with our kindness.’

      Whilst again I want to celebrate their heart, I think Jesus was actually in Matthew 5 encouraging a pointing at God, the words attached to videos are often saying look at us. I don’t think this is thought through or done for an attention seeking reason, just unfortunate.

      I also think we should allow our acts of kindness to be celebrated and publicised by the receiver of kindness, not by the giver. ‘Let your light shine before all men, be kind to everyone you meet, in all moments, at all times’ and ‘do your acts of kindness in secret are not opposites.’ ‘Shout loud about your own kindnesses’ and ‘be kind in secret’ do clash though.

      Again, I can’t say this enough. People being kind is awesome, more please. I don’t want to question the sincerity of anybody. I agree with you, the heart matters more than anything, but we can always deliver the actions of a good heart in a greater way.

  2. Tom O'Dair says:

    Hi Dave. I’ve just read Alex’s post on facebook, then this blog. This is a genuinely fascinating debate. I don’t know if you’ve seen my video I posted last night. Here it is if you haven’t:

    I came to #RAKnominations an interesting way. I had the idea of doing it (I was going to call it ‘Bless and nominate’) before I saw any ‘RAKnominations’. Then I saw the first one in South Africa on the independent, and another rubbish one that someone linked to me when I mentioned it to them. Then I filmed mine on friday night. I wanted to try to do ‘big one’ because I wanted to do something to challenge other people to bless people in a big way. Then over the weekend the friend who was cutting my film for me told me about ‘RAKnominations’, so I had to refilm the start and the end and they had to cut the bit out when I explain about ‘Bless and nominate’. It’s kind of funny… I actually thought I was a little ahead of the curve! I even grabbed a twitter handle @blessnomination and had to delete it yesterday!

    I was one of those people who said ‘Let’s shock people with our generosity’ in my video.

    You two are definitely right, it is all about the heart.

    But Dave you are also right, a well-intentioned act can be unhelpful… especially on Social Media. I hope mine wasn’t.

    As I write this I’m reminded of how Jesus often heals people and asks them not to tell anyone (although I think there is a good reason for this, such as not attracting the authorities attention… or something like that?). Maybe that is another example of keeping things private?

    I’m also a bit surprised. A few hundred people have watched me pay for 5 rich students to have a luxury meal. But Jesus fed 5,000. Are we ‘shocked’ a bit too easily? Some people genuinely were by my video, they texted me to say so.

    Is it more loving to film something to prompt others to bless and practically love other people? Or is it more loving to keep it private because sharing a good act is bad and unhelpful? We would probably accept these RAK stories if someone told them in a talk, and we couldn’t ‘like’ and ‘share’ it, but just retell the story.

    Also, can’t God work good through selfish and evil acts? Judas betraying Jesus? Jesus very death?

    This hasn’t been a coherent response, More of a thoughtful meander 🙂

    I think what I really think, is that Christian Culture could do with being a bit more public, a bit more daring, having fun taking a few risks. Seeing people be bold and publically acknowledge God is releasing and encouraging for others. If we aren’t judging the videos, and therefore aren’t judging attention-seeking, then is there a problem? Maybe it still contributes to an unhelpful culture? But wouldn’t self-seeking people do that anyway by other means? I think that we look at people doing good acts and say ‘what bad and unhelpful people’, and God looks at people sinning – the dirty and wretched and unquestionably guilty – and says ‘what an incredible person I have made. I love them.’.

    I think I would rather use any courage I have to try and change something, and bring a tiny bit of God’s kingdom, than …. well… I’d rather do that more than anything!

    Anyway, thank goodness for grace, and that we aren’t the judge! Sorry its so long

    • Hi Tom,
      Thanks for replying. I hope you don’t feel gotten at. I knew you briefly and think you’re a great guy. Your heart is to see people meet Jesus and to see the lives of those around you changed. Not for a second do I think that you did this to make yourself look good or to gain some kind of spiritual applause from your peers. Please never stop trying to change the world dude, you’re doing a great job.

      I haven’t watched your video, I will do though. Promise

      Please don’t also hear that I think that any acts of kindness is a bad thing to do. Of course it isn’t but I do always want to see how we can be the best we can be, sometimes that means balancing out bible verses that don’t completely resonate with what is happening at the time. I also want you to know that I am nothing more than hypocritical when I write about this, I can sometimes carry a dualism in regards to self-righteousness that would make your eyes water.

      Here are some thoughts on your reply. What you did was as you say loving. Generosity is a great thing, give generously. I do wonder though if I would measure whether something is best by the rhetoric of ‘what is most loving.’ I feel that is immeasurable but can we follow Jesus teaching to shine like a city to all men, i.e. a place of safety and home, without broadcasting (please don’t hear that word as unkind, it is meant in the most basic meaning)

      As for stories in sermons, yes we hear a lot, I would much prefer to share a story about someone else’s kindness that my own. In fact often I become uncomfortable sharing my own kindnesses, the good in me is of Jesus, He is good.

      As for God working through selfish and evil acts, yes of course, but that doesn’t make them right. I don’t think what you did was selfish or evil, not at all.

      Jesus did do very public things but we are not Him though our actions serve the same purpose, Jesus miracles were to show that He was the Messiah. Our actions are to draw attention to Him. I think this is why we are called to serve those around us in private because that nullifies the risk to bring attention to ourselves and leaves any publicity in the hands of the person we blessed.

      I think something to bear in mind is this, there is something that jars with me about using someone else in our witnessing without their knowledge. There is something that makes me feel happier about leaving the sharing of the story up to them.

      Yes, please please use any courage you have to share Him, draw people’s attention to Him.

      Tom, you are great, keep being great, and keep serving Jesus. You are making a difference.

  3. Tom O'Dair says:

    After thought: yes, Jesus taught about private acts, but didn’t he also do many extremely public and provocative acts? Deliberately?

  4. MF says:

    This whole hype is ridiculous. The whole premise of RAKnomination (which is getting so heavily discussed it actually made me cringe to write) is that someone has 24 hours or whatever to go and do a kind act.

    How the hell are you choosing to go and inspire people to be kind to one another if you are being told to do it by someone else?! No you are participating in a game. a nice game? yes. A game that might get some likes on facebook and someone saying you’re great? yes. The likelihood of someone going out to commit a similar act without being filmed? slim to none.

    Also Tom, Dave already answered that point

    “Jesus miracles were to show that He was the Messiah”

    I think an secondary point to this is that Jesus doesn’t ever state that he is the messiah in a declaration format. He lets his light shine for itself.

    I have no hate in either direction, i think this game makes for some interesting videos. People do just need to chill the hell out and let people get on with how they think God is calling them to be a bit better than they were the day before.

    Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

  5. tash says:

    Hi Dave,
    Really challenging blog. I agree with alot.On a very simple level, I think I can become lazy and complacent as a Christian. Having people remind me that the world doesn’t revolve around me, and that it only takes a few seconds to look beyond my own little world very encouraging 🙂

  6. Sarah Lunn says:

    Brilliant blog Dave, food for thought. Currently leading a youth group and wondering how I could turn the NEKnominations around. I have only today found oug about RakNominations and thinking for our youngers, this is a really positive public idea for them.

    Will keep thinking!…

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