Beginning this Sunday, June 21, 2020, we will meet in the courtyard next to our auditorium at 9:30 a.m. for a casual outdoor worship service. Please bring your own chairs or blankets to sit on. We recognize that many people will not be able to join us in person, so we will continue to offer our online service option and will try to have a streaming version of the live service available on Facebook as well. In case of rain we will meet in our auditorium. Please let us know if you have any questions.
Join us this Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. on Zoom for a time to connect and pray together. If you have never used Zoom, it is relatively simple. The first time you connect it will need to have you set things up, so allow a couple of minutes for that, but it won’t take too long. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would be interested in participating.
The Christian and Missionary Alliance will be hosting a virtual Maundy Thursday prayer service and a Good Friday service. To register for the prayer service and to find more information about the Good Friday service click here. Easter service will be posted to our Facebook page, this site, and our Youtube channel.
Thanksgiving has come and gone and we are officially in the “Christmas season”. It seems that as every year passes the Christmas season becomes longer and longer. As someone who loves Christmas this has some obvious pros. Decorations go up sooner, there seem to be more pre-Christmas celebrations, and the stores start playing some of my favorite Christmas songs (yes I am one of those people who loves department store Christmas music). Unfortunately one of the things that gets forgotten in the every expanding Christmas celebration is Advent. The goal of Advent is not to expand the Christmas celebration but rather to prepare us for it. One of the dangers of surrounding Christmas with a fog of advertisements and “Holiday cheer” is that our focus becomes exhausted and confused. Christmas Day almost feels less significant and impactful because we have been doing Christmas for over a month. Advent’s aim is to sharpen our focus, prepare our minds and souls, and direct our passions towards longing for Christ’s return as we celebrate His incarnation. Traditionally Advent has been a time of fasting and prayer. There are many ways that we can fully participate in the Advent season that will magnify the Christmas celebration, but here a few suggestions on how you could incorporate fasting and prayer this Advent season.
Deliberately abstaining from food or other things that we would normally indulge in is a historically significant and spiritually powerful way to focus ourselves on God’s work in our life. Fasting encourages the formation of discipline and serves as a powerful reminder to turn our focus towards God throughout the day. This Advent season consider picking one thing from which to abstain for a set time and use the time saved and the focus sharpened for prayer or Scripture reading. The thing you give up does not necessarily have to be food. It could be social media, hot showers, a favorite beverage… the list goes on and on. Whatever you chose to give up, it should be something that is pleasurable enough to be missed but not so burdensome that it is not realistic. A tip I have found helpful is to be very specific about the fast. Pick a specific day of the week or a specific time of day to make the most of the fast. Maybe you decide to abstain from hot showers on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Use the discomfort as a reminder to say a morning prayer. Or if you skip lunch on Tuesdays make a plan to read a portion of Scripture during the time you would normally spend preparing and consuming your meal. A Bible study plan I have found helpful during Advent is to read through the Gospels but skip the portions that describe His birth. This can help to direct our attention towards Christ’s ministry, death, and resurrection so that when Christmas arrives we have our minds focused on the reason that His birth is so significant.
Advent is a great time to direct our prayers towards thanking God for the incarnation and asking Him to prepare us for His return. One of the things I have found helpful is to choose a recited prayer to do in addition to my spontaneous prayers. This shakes up my normal prayer routine and reminds me daily that this is a special season to foster gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice and encourage anticipation for His return. This is also a great time to ask God to strengthen our relationships with friends and family. Christmas often times provides plenty of opportunities to spend time with friends and family. We may have some family members or friends that we don’t see eye to eye on in every situation. Recently I saw a large amount of articles, which offered instructions of how to get the upper hand in social and political debates during family gatherings. I love a lively discussion and debate but sometimes these disagreements can begin to drive a wedge in our relationships. We can get so focused on the ways we disagree that we begin to treat those we love as opponents in an ideological face off rather then as people we love despite our disagreements. I am not suggesting that we eliminate these discussions or completely ignore our differences. I am suggesting that we pray for our family and friends and specifically for those who we disagree with. It is amazing how praying daily for people can be used by God to grow our love and understanding for them. It can help remind us that even those who we vehemently disagree with are created in the image of God and therefore warrant our love and understanding.
Hopefully you will find some of these suggestions helpful this Advent season. I pray that God will work in all our lives to increase our gratitude for His life, death, and resurrection, and to fill us with anticipation for His return.
Author: Nathan Phillips, Associate Pastor at the River Alliance Church
“Know the Game”
The First Principle of Social Media Use: Know the game
Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
“Advertising is the world’s oldest profession.” – Christian writer, thinker, and theologian Peter Kreeft
Most tech companies sell your eye-balls. Not your actual eye-balls (this isn’t Minority Report), but your attention.
Google, facebook, snapchat, instagram, youtube, CNN, weather.com, all of these places want you to use their services. They want you to watch videos, leave comments, read stories, and look at pictures. But ever notice how you never pay these places?
That’s odd, isn’t it? How does a business that doesn’t charge for their products make money?
The truth is that the businesses do charge for their products. However, their products are not their platforms. Facebook news feeds, instastories, snap stories, youtube videos- these are not the products of tech companies, they are the platforms.
You, my dear reader, are the product. Or, more specifically, your attention is the product.
Social media, like most forms of modern media, are funded by advertising. This advertising is more lucrative than most traditional forms of advertising, because it’s highly targeted. Every like, comment, piece of profile information, and bit of browsing history is tagged, stored, and catalogued by tech companies to build a behavioral profile of you. How accurate is this profile you ask?
Accurate enough that if you switched devices, created new profiles, and started your online footprint over from scratch, the major tech companies like google, facebook, and other major advertising online databanks would know who you were within three to five days. Your behavior profile and personal information is incredibly valuable to these companies, because it allows them to sell ads to other companies that are tailored specifically to people like you.
The companies that want to advertise to you will pay the large tech firms and online data companies good money to get ads in front of you. Each time you see an ad, the website that the ad appears on gets paid to show you that ad. That’s how “free” websites like Instagram work- they sell other companies the right to show ads that are designed to appeal to people like you.
Okay, you may be thinking by this point, I already knew this.
Most people already know that large tech companies are collecting their data to sell them ads. What they fail to realize is the concept that you, the user, are these companies product. The ramifications of this are important, because if companies can sell your attention, then the more attention that they get, the more they can sell. Experts call this the attention economy.
Think of it this way: the goal of most businesses is to grow revenue (to make more money next year than the year before). For a while, web companies did this by getting more people online. But we’ve pretty much maxed out internet users. Those who are going to get into the game, are in the game. So you want to continue to grow revenue, what options do you have?
· Increase price
· Increase users (from other sites)
· Increase time users spend on your sites
The third is by far the easiest. Companies like snapchat, google, and facebook pay large amounts of money to behavior scientists, psychologists, AI programmers, and old fashion advertising experts to find ways to get you to spend more time and attention on their platforms. They do this in a number of ways, the most common are infinity pools, behavior algorithms, inciting outrage, and playing on desire.
Ever notice how you never get to the bottom of the page on facebook, instagram, or snapchat? There’s always more feed to scroll through, links to click on, or (if you’re playing a video game) side quests to run down. These are called infinity pools, and they play on our natural human tendency to be curious and explore. Companies use infinity pools to grab your time and attention without you realizing how much you have spent, because in your mind, you’re still discovering more data, not spending time trying to get to the bottom of an infinity pool.
Ever get some fantastic youtube recommendations and spend hours watching videos about experts theorizing how a Star Destroyer would fair against the UNSC Pillar of Autumn in a fictional spaceship fight? Just me? Okay. Well if you have had that experience (or a similar one), you have fallen victim to a behavior algorithm. A computer program has just used all your personal info that we discussed earlier to predict what kind of content would most likely grab your attention and allow you to be shown more ads. Youtube is a brutally effective example of this, and the reason why it is the most popular social media platform at the moment.
Outrage and desire are two other ways that companies can manipulate you to spending more time on their platforms. We are naturally interested in things that make us emotional, either positively or negatively. Media companies have known this for centuries (if it bleeds, it leads after all), and, in a modern sense, this is why you see certain stories (whether true or not) go viral.
Next week, we’ll talk about how you can counter some of these strategies to make yourself less manipulatable.
Again, the goal of this series is not to have you never spend any time on the internet. The goal is to make sure the time you spend is firmly under your control, and not spend because you are being manipulated. Your time is given by God to you to steward. You will be accountable for it one day. Use it well- don’t let it get stolen from you. Be wise as serpents. Know the game.
Author: Samuel Schmitt
After the Service whoever is interested is welcome to meet up at Dunn Brothers in Chaska to have an open discussion about theology. There is no agenda just bring your questions to the table and we can search the Bible and work together towards a better understanding of God and His working in the world.
Celebrate the Eve of the Birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Eve, December 24th, at 7:00pm. It will be a time filled with Christmas worship songs and Scripture reading.
This year The River Church will be celebrating Christ’s birth with a Christmas Eve Service on Saturday, December 24th at 4:00 p.m. We will not have our regular worship service on Christmas morning. We will be back to our normal Sunday morning time of 9:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day with a time of sharing and communion.