I was a little surprised yesterday when I received a Facebook message titled “Thank You!!!” from a “shirt-string friend”, someone I knew only through her membership in a local Bible literacy initiative I had been webmaster for.

I was more than a little humbled when I opened it and read that because of a paper I posted online, her life had changed and she was now training to become a pastor.

Seriously? I am constantly taken aback by God’s power and how he exercises it in odd ways.

It turns out, this friend had felt called but thought she was too old to enter the ministry until she read my paper (see post Pastors… Is Seminary the Best Education) about a program intended to enable people just like her to become pastors. I took on the topic with the goal of maybe improving how the church handles non-traditional candidates. I certainly didn’t expect it to change anyone’s life directly.

That’s not the only social media serendipity story I’ve experienced. In fact, I was just thinking the other day about how often that very thing seems to happen.

My family worships with Church of the Beloved, an amazing missional community in Edmonds, Washington. We would never have ended up there. It’s a 30-minute or more drive each way, when there’s a Lutheran church down the street. But Ryan Marsh, the pastor (incidentally also in the TEEM program that I studied), saw on a missional social networking site that I had moved to the area and messaged me to say “Hey, you should come see what we’re all about and the ministry opportunities here.” I visited and it has been an amazing match: the first church I’ve been a part of in a long time where my family I walk away feeling fed and like we’re contributing both on a regular basis.

Third example: my almost-internship. As a diaconal ministry candidate in the ELCA, I need to have not only a certain number of internship hours, but an applied ministry project that relates to my specialization (lay empowerment). When I began my blog and Twitter at faithfulchange, one of my personal Twitter followers who I didn’t know firsthand took a look and messaged me to say we should meet.

It turns out he’s (@youravgpastor) an intentional interim pastor working with a church in another part of the state. One of the projects they’ve proposed is a series of celebratory days of worship that intentionally lift up and support members of specific professions or fields. For example, their first month they focused on healthcare workers.

So I was sought out as a consultant/intern to help congregational leaders discern how to really bring in, connect with, and support these distinct groups of people in a way that they might walk away not only with more of a sense of what the church at its best is, but also the sense that we as God’s people are behind them in prayer and potentially in material ways.

It would have been great, except that with budget cuts everywhere and me serving coffee, no one could afford to pay for my gas to get down there, even though this might have been a workable proposal to double up with my candidacy process.

Regardless, the point is that all of these were amazing bits of God-intervention, serendipity, or whatever you choose to call it that would not have happened by traditional means of networking. I just plain would never have met these folks and very cool missional work might not have happened.

My question for those of you reading this or reading my posts on another network is this: do you have any similar stories, times when seemingly chance online (or offline) encounters have shown God forth or been the tools of Her work?

At least from my own experience, this is a largely unacknowledged arena for God’s unexpected power to hit us upside the head. I’m curious about you.