Monday, December 28, 2009

Avatar - You Can Fly, You Can Fight, You Can CAW CAW CAWWWW!

Not since the invention of pornography itself has a director achieved the level of disparity between the visual experience of an audience and the story itself as James Cameron has accomplished in his latest film Avatar. I would be remiss not to warn you of potential spoilers in the next few paragraphs, but if you have been part of the movie-going public for the past three decades, nothing I can write is capable of spoiling Avatar's altogether predictable story.

Fundamentally, Avatar is Cameron's retelling of the 1991 Robert Williams classic "Hook" with heaping portions of FernGully: The Last Rainforest, Dances With Wolves, and Capitalism: A Love Story thrown in. In Hook-like fashion, Jake Sulley (the only name you will remember from the films long list of forgettable characters) is forced to interact with a seemingly inferior people-group that is facing down an evil, but technologically superior, race. After a beautifully-shot montage, Jake becomes aware that although the blue tree-folk appear to be developmentally delayed with nearly every respect to their society, their hippy-ish qualities are appealing and deserve his protection. Unfortunately for the blue people, the audience could not be more apathetic about their plight; Smurfs garnered more emotional investment from viewers than these people. In Dances With Wolves the audience found itself pulling for the frightening-in-the-first-hour-but-lovable-in-the-second-hour native-Americans; in Avatar, however, the audience did not seem to care who lives or dies as long as the victor promised more awesome 3D action.

Again, borrowing from Hook, Jake-the-outsider challenges the alpha-male of the blue people and becomes the leader of the blue people, although we later discover that Jake has access to some kind of high-explosives or something, so that could have had some influence on his political ascendancy. There is no Tinkerbell character per se, but all of the blue people have glow-in-the-dark features that make them less Tinkerbell and more Black Eyed Pea.


Avatar


Not Avatar

Much like Rufio, leader of the Lost Boys, the former alpha-male of the blue people (who has a name, but nobody cares what it is) recognizes Jakes true heart and heroically sacrifices himself for the cause. Cameron fails to include inspiring lines like "Looky, looky, I've got Hooky" and "You can fly, you can fight, and you can CAW CAW CAW crow." And, yes, Avatar's dialogue would have been improved with lines such as these.

The story surrounding the marketing of this film is that Cameron has had the desire to make Avatar for the past 30 years, but technology is just now capable of allowing him to see his vision attained. I find this hard to believe considering the heavy-handed preaching the audience receives about the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A religious people lives on top of vast amounts of a valuable mineral deposit called "unobtainium" (seriously) and this primarily caucasian military-industrial complex invades their land in order to obtain the "unobtainium." The following phrases are actually used in the film: "shock and awe campaign," "we will fight terror with terror," and the blue people call themselves "martyrs" at one point. With marked efficiency, the military, whose stereotypical leader spends the entirety of the film wanting to blow crap up, achieves a swift victory striking the political heart of the blue people which causes the warring clans of blue people to unite in order to aid the clan who was attacked. Outgunned, the blue people form an insurgency because, as one of them explains "We know these mountains better than they do."

Cameron is not satisfied to simply lecture his audience about the Iraq war; he uses his film as a platform to push his environmentalist and anti-capitalist agendas. The evil capitalists (who, we are told, "destroyed their world" such that in their world "there is no longer any green left" presumably because the evil capitalists so thoroughly raped mother nature back on earth) viciously attack the blue people who appear to function within some sort of utopian communal monarchy. Cameron's lecture culminates in a scene in which a giant pollution-spewing tree-chomping machine tears through the jungle that is a shot-for-shot remake of the Hexxus from FernGully: The Last Rainforest.


Capitalism

The most frustrating aspect of the film is dropping $15 to see a movie that incessantly preaches about how evil capitalism is. In this case it is especially maddening because James Cameron's films have earned in excess of $3 BILLION not including Avatar. Yeah. He despises capitalism. Can't you tell?

In the end, Avatar is full of eye candy, but, like candy, the calories are empty. The visuals are the best I have ever witnessed in a film, but the plot, dialogue, and characters are uninspired and yawn-worthy. I would recommend seeing this movie simply because each shot is so beautiful and the 3D effects are superb, but if you decide to see it, make sure you go to the theater because you will be disappointed watching this one at home.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Saitek Eclipse II Keyboard Spacebar Repair

My Saitek Eclipse II keyboard had a couple of pieces break. The space bar became very wobbly. You had to push it exactly in the middle or it wouldn't register a keystroke. So after searching around to see if there was some way to fix it, I came across this blog that described how he contacted Saitek, and they helped him out.

So I contacted Saitek and they sent me some replacement parts. The video below shows the repairs. Big thanks for the great customer service from Angelo at Mad Catz/Saitek!

I highly recommend their products and the customer service was outstanding!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Droid's Newest Ad Calls iPhone "Tiara-Wearing Digitally-Clueless Beauty Pageant Queen"

I've enjoyed watching Droid go after the iPhone almost as much as I've enjoyed the Verizon vs AT&T ads. (I love seeing head-to-head capitalism at work!) Here's the newest Droid ad which targets the iPhone as a style-over-substance device and positioning the Droid as the performance phone of choice. How the two phones actually match-up remains to be seen as the iPhone has a 2 year head start, but Droid may have a chance against the smartphone juggernaut.

The cult of Apple will be out in full-force defending their favorite toy. Will the noise of the Apple fanboys be enough to hold iPhone's ground or should we expect to see Apple directly counter-attack the Droid a la the Mac vs. PC ad campaign?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Freaky Arrow I Saw While Driving

I was driving past a fast food restaurant and I saw this crazy arrow on their drive-through lane.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chrome OS Looks Very Nice

It's still in it's early stages, but this video of a demo of Chrome OS is very promising. It looks and feels like working within a browser (Google Chrome, natch) but with a little Apple-ness thrown in.

It's an 11 min video, but if you don't have that long, make sure you watch the first couple of minutes just to see the 7 second load time on this baby, which they claim they are trying really hard to cut down even further.

Windows killer? Leopard killer? Not hardly. But for the average user who wants a simple interface and a very natural computer experience, this could be a very nice option.



Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Atlanta Flood

Atlanta Flood…Relief

Posted using ShareThis

Atlanta Flood

Atlanta Flood…Relief

Posted using ShareThis

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Two Online (And Free) Conferences This Week

This week my 9-month-old son, Malcolm, and I will be participating in two different conferences. I know what you're thinking, "Taking a 9-month-old to a conference? What's wrong with you?" Well, they're both webcasts so we'll both be participating from our living room!

One is called "The Nines" which begins tomorrow at 9:00 am (get it? 09-09-09 at 09:09). The list of church leaders speaking at this event is too long to list here, but trust me, it's a powerhouse group of people. How will so many speakers get a chance to speak? Easy. They each get 9 minutes, naturally! I believe registration is still open for this event, if you have time to participate in even a portion of it.

The other is called "The Forum" and is the result of a partnership between LifeChurch.tv, Southeastern University, and 316 Networks. It is a two-day webcast conference with talks from loads of leaders from ministries, new organizations, and businesses.

So be sure to follow me on Twitter and join the conversation if you're participating in either of these events.

Monday, August 31, 2009

3 Reasons Twitter is On the Verge of Breaking Big... Or... You Know Dying Completely

Tonight I was out with some new friends talking about the virtues of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites when I said this sentence, "I have the feeling Twitter is here for the long run. I think it will really start to break big soon."

Booting up my computer I see this article pop up on Tech Crunch: Why Don't Teens Tweet? We Asked Over 10,000 of Them.

The article is good. You should definitely open it in another window and read it. But the conclusion of the articles is

-SPOILER ALERT!-

"Most teens don’t use Twitter because it doesn’t enable them to do anything they can’t already do elsewhere, which is the same reason most adults don’t use Twitter. It has nothing to do with any teen-specific concerns like texting plans or safety. It comes down to something more simple: delivering value beyond Facebook and MySpace — a competitive moat that Facebook is bridging one move at a time, from the Everyone button to the acquisition of FriendFeed to the centrality of the stream itself."
Which tells us that...

1. Twitter Does Not Offer Anything Sufficiently Unique


Immediately the thought came to mind, "How do people describe Twitter to the non-twitter user?" Almost universally I've heard, "It's like updating your Facebook status, but you only get 140 characters to do it."

And the crazy thing is, Twitter seems to be aware of this fact, as evidenced by the Twitter App on Facebook that lets you update your Facebook status via Twitter. So it's no longer "like" updating your Facebook status; it IS updating your Facebook status.

If the marketplace really views Twitter in this way, then as much as it pains me to say it as an avid Twitter evangelist, I'm afraid Twitter needs a course correction before it finds itself marooned on the shores of the ever-growing borders of Facebooklandia.

But if it becomes marooned like FriendFeed did, the Twitter bosses probably wouldn't mind too much considering Twitter would go for far more than the $50 million FriendFeed cost to Facebook.

2. Businesses ♥ Twitter... and are Confused by Facebook

You see, Facebook isn't all a bed of roses though. As far as I can tell Twitter has given brands something that Facebook has yet to deliver: a reliable means to connect businesses with their consumer base.

You might say, "But Facebook has pages!" To which I say, You're right, but the pages interface is weak and pages offer little means to connect with users without coming across as spammy.

Consider this:


Zappos
Twitter - 1.2 million followers
Facebook Page - 2,200 fans

Google
Twitter - 1.4 million followers
Facebook Page - 37,000 fans

Southwest Airlines
Twitter - 530,000 followers
Facebook Page - 76,000 fans

Twitter offers businesses a relatively easy means to connect with a passionate base and Facebook does not. If Facebook wants to put the death nail in Twitter it must become more business-friendly.

3. The Twitter Business Model Still Not Clear
Last year Facebook brought in $300 million in revenue, but Twitter has only recently developed a revenue stream and stands to post only $4 million profits. (By comparison, DigitalWorshiper.com has produced precisely $0 since Q1 2008.)

This does not indicate that Twitter lacks a bright future; it just means the future is not clear for Twitter yet and right now, Facebook is laying the financial smack-down.

So is Twitter on the ropes? Probably not yet, but I think Twitter will need more than five smooth stones to take down the Facebook Goliath.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wireless Electricity is a Game-Changer

I've always said that the greatest invention of my life will probably be the development of widespread wireless electricity. Imagine no more batteries (or constantly recharged batteries). Imagine your iPod never running out of juice. Imagine your laptop being truly wireless all the time.

Eric Giler, CEO of WiTricity may have the solution.



As for that "bundle of wires" beneath your desk; wireless electricity will really only get rid of about 3-5 of the wires (monitor, CPU, and peripherals), but the vision for mobile devices is brilliant!

My next big idea? Contact lenses with a HUD that gives you information on demand. Or even does something like this.







Tuesday, August 25, 2009

5 Ways to Avoid Sharing the Gospel Ever Again - Part 5

5. Create a Christian Alternative for Every Facet of Life

A long time ago, there were Christians in the world. Do not be alarmed! They were in the world, but they were not of the world. We modern Christians have learned the dangers of being of the world so well that we have taken ourselves out of the world completely. Let's run down the list shall we?

We work at Christian businesses,
watch Christian movies,
listen to Christian music,
hang out at Christian coffee shops,
go to a Christian mechanic,
shop at Christian stores,
eat at Christian restaurants (shout-out, Chick-fil-a!),
read Christian books,
wear Christian clothes,
only drink things Christians should drink,
only say words Christians should say,
have Christian friends,
work out at Christian gyms,
visit Christian websites,
listen to Christian podcasts,
show our kids Christian television (while we watch Lost),
attend Christian day cares (assuming your mother is a heathen and thus, works. (totally joking there.))
go to Christian schools (or for the truly pious, homeschool)
go to Christian colleges,
play in church sports leagues
go to Christian dances creative movement classes,

But there is one place that we have not been able to successfully Christianize, and I think you know where I'm going with this. Why do we have to commute every morning with the world? Isn't that a temptation to sin? I mean, how am I supposed to be Christlike when everyone is cutting me off in traffic? Can't they see my Christian bumper sticker and know that I'm really in a hurry because Jesus needs me to get somewhere soon no matter how many pedestrians have to be hospitalized? I'm on a mission from God!

That's why I propose Christian highways. It would be like the HOV lane, but instead of having to have another person in the car, you have to have at least 5 Christian bumper stickers and a minimum of 2 must make a joke about people going to hell.

I propose we call it the HOmM lane for "Heaven on my Mind." Or maybe the "Fastlane to the Father." That way we can be a witness to the lost people around us and never have to interact with them again!


This is part 5 of the 5 part series "5 Ways to Avoid Sharing the Gospel Ever Again." In order to dispel any confusion out there, these posts were satirical. I have nothing against any of the Christian cultural things we do, we just need to step outside the bubble sometimes when we're not on mission trip in a foreign country and notice that there is a dying world all around us.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

It Should Work Correctly Now


I know what you're thinking, "He spent a month 'changing' the design only to land back right where he started?" Well, that's kind of the case, but I fixed some of the coding that was giving the template problems before and I kind of like this template the best of those that I've found, so I'm sticking with it.

Let me know if it ever freaks out and I'll try to stay on top of it.

(Image source - Flickr user Carlos.Guerrera)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Design Changes Still in the Works

I've been working on this when I have time for about a month, but I'm still not happy with this blogger template because it won't allow me to add gadgets on the side-bar. So now I'm looking at another template.

I know it's not cool to constantly be shifting the layout around, but the limitations of blogger combined with my complete lack of web-design skills necessitate the amateurish approach to this.

Don't worry, I'll keep updating, but the aesthetics may be lacking until I get this worked out.

In the meantime, subscribe to the Digital Worshiper feed so you won't miss anything again.

Update: I'm even more dedicated to this now because my wife saw me tweaking the site in FireFox and she said, "That looks much better than it's ever looked. Usually the words are all jumbled at the top." Knowing she uses IE I realized there is a problem between browsers. Chrome was also making it look funky.

Sorry for the jumbled mess it's been the last few weeks. I will get a new layout up soon and will get it all tested so we won't face this problem again. (Hopefully!)

5 Ways to Avoid Sharing the Gospel Ever Again - Part 4

4. Only Speak in Sentences that Can be Cross-Referenced in the Bible (And Say the Reference)

The best part about this approach is that it actually accomplishes two Christian life-goals at once: 1) Making yourself look far more biblically literate than anyone else in your church
2) Never having to share the gospel again.

This one takes some practice, but I promise it will help you never speak to another non-Christian again, if you just think about a few common circumstances in which you will need to draw upon your superior biblical prowess.

Example 1: You've wrapped up the 2 and a half hour service at your church and spent the next half hour dissecting the worship leader's choice to sing the alternate tune to "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name." Now your friend says, "Hey it's 1:30 and I'm getting hungry. You want to go grab some lunch?" A normal person might say, "Yeah I'm starving, let's go to that new Mexican place." But you're not a normal person, so you reply with, "Man does live by bread alone. Matthew 4:4."

For bonus points, just use the King James Version.

Friday, August 14, 2009

5 Ways to Avoid Sharing the Gospel Ever Again - Part 3

This is part 3 of the 5 part series "5 Ways to Avoid Sharing the Gospel Ever Again." Here is parts 1 and part 2

3. Use a Deceptive Tract (Bonus: Leave it as a tip at lunch!)
Have you ever seen those tracts that looks like a $100 bill but is actually a gospel tract? You will need a bunch of these because non-Christians love it when you trick them into reading your paraphernalia.

For bonus points you can leave it in the place of a tip at Sunday afternoon lunch because the waitress is clearly a sinner in need of salvation, or she would have asked off on Sunday to go to church.

She also really likes it when she glimpses a $100 bill on the table where a tip should be only to discover that the Jesus who she blames for her bad lot in life has just had His followers come into her restaurant and refuse to pay her for her hard work.

Don't get me wrong; tracts are great, but I think they need to be used properly. Leaving one as a tip in a restaurant doesn't cut it. Saying something cute like, "I gave the waiter eternal life! Isn't that enough of a tip?!" is just ignorant and cheapens the sacrifice Christ made on the cross. And if the waiter was already a believer before you came in the restaurant, your tract didn't provide them with eternal life; it ripped them off to the tune of 20% of your the cost of your meal. And if they weren't already a believer, the odds that they actually read the tract are slim.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

5 Ways to Avoid Sharing the Gospel Ever Again - Part 2

This is part 2 in a series, so don't forget to read yesterday's post.

2. Only Attend Church-Sponsored Events
We Christians have discovered that the way to meet non-Christians is by having a well-known Christian speaker come to your church, like the fictitious Reverend P. J. Underwood, known for his brown tweed sports coats, characteristic mustache, and his five hour sermon series on Leviticus chapters 1-3. (If there's one thing that draws people to your church, it's the book of Leviticus.)

If Rev. Underwood is unavailable, you can always have a Bible Study. And make sure you call it a Bible Study when you invite the community to it. We wouldn't want to have to set up any more folding chairs than we would on a normal Sunday morning.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

5 Ways to Avoid Sharing the Gospel Ever Again - Part 1

I saw that a church in my area is having a one-day evangelism training coming up in a few days and it got me thinking. Is the church's lack of evangelism due to the fact that we don't know how to do it? Or is it, as I suspect, that most Christians don't know anyone who's not already a Christian? Just in case there are some Christians out there who still associate with people who aren't saved, I thought I would give them some helpful tips on how to avoid sharing the gospel ever again.

1. Only Consume Christian Media
If there's one sentence that will kill a good conversation with your non-Christian friend it's this: "No I never saw the evil Lord of the Rings trilogy, but did you see Fireproof? It was soooo good." The odds that your non-Christian friend saw Fireproof are about as slim as your Christian friend having not seen Braveheart.

Are you confused by the multiple station memory buttons on your car radio because there is only one Christian station in your town? Have you ever found yourself using the terms "Kirk Cameron" and "good actor" in the same sentence without employing the phrase "is not?" Do you only watch TV shows that were on 15 years ago because somehow time cleanses those programs and wholesome-ifies them?

Then you are on a good track to never share the gospel again.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of "5 Ways to Avoid Sharing the Gospel Ever Again"

Monday, August 10, 2009

LifeChurch's Vision for Digital Missions

Craig Groeschel is speaking on LifeChurch.tv's vision of digital missions this week. If you're at all interested in Digital Worship, and I hope you are, make an effort to visit one of their online experiences this week.

One of the things Craig always says is, "In order to reach people no one else is reaching, you have to do things no one else is doing." This idea fits perfectly with Gary Hamel's talk at the Leadership Summit last week. In case you missed it, go read my notes on Gary's talk and I think you'll see what I mean.

A few facts from his sermon:

  • 1.8 Million downloads of YouVersion, the iPhone Bible developed by LifeChurch staff.
  • 1 of every 27 iPhones in existence has YouVersion on it. WOW!
  • The chat room for their online campus translates text on the fly to the local language. Brilliant!
  • LifeChurch.tv bought Google ads for church online and discovered that people don't Google "church online" very much, but a lot of people do Google things like "naked ladies," so they bought Google ads for terms like "naked ladies."

If you can't make it to one of the online services this week though, I've included the notes from this week's message below.

Update: I guess the Google ads worked because near the end of the service a group of trolls who claimed to be from 4chan (to which I refuse to link) decided to come to church. As a friend of mine said, "LifeChurch still has a few kinks to work out in its live chat."


BEHIND THE CURTAIN—1

DIGITAL MISSIONS

MISSION: TO LEAD PEOPLE TO BECOME FULLY DEVOTED FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST. 45 Then (Jesus) opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Luke 24:45-47

WHAT IS THE CHURCH?

1) CHURCH IS A COMMUNITY OF BELIEVERS.

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42

2) CHURCH IS CALLED TO BE OUTWARDLY FOCUSED.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nationsMatt 28:19

Church: ekklesia (ek-klay-see'-ah); called out ones.

3) THE CHURCH’S MESSAGE NEVER CHANGES BUT ITS METHODS MUST CHANGE.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Heb 13:8

TO REACH PEOPLE NO ONE IS REACHING, YOU HAVE TO DO THINGS NO ONE IS DOING.

NEW WAYS TO TAKE THE GOSPEL TO ALL NATIONS

1) YOUVERSION.COM

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. Rom 10:17

2) FREE MESSAGES TO ANYONE WITH INTERNET.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32

3) CHURCH ONLINE.

For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. Matt 18:20

One year ago:362,000 digital touches cost 32 cents each.

Last month:880,000 digital touches cost 8 cents each

Immediate Applications:

1) Go to www.youversion.com for instructions on how to download the Bible to your phone.

2) Visit www.lifechurch.tv and worship with people from around the world at Church Online.

3) If you’d like to give to Digital Missions, go to www.lifechurch.tv, click on your campus, then click on “give” and you can help impact lives around the world.

Discussion Questions:

1) Did you have any experiences with church growing up? How has your vision of the church changed?

2) How did you come to Christ? If you’re not a follower of Christ, why are you not?

3) How can you use youversion.com, free messages, and Church Online to minister to someone you know?

The Leadership Summit - Gary Hamel


Gary Hamel (Ranked #1 Most Influential Business Thinker in the World (WSJ))
Manage Differently Now
Takeaway (for me):

Are you changing as fast as the world around you?
Churches aren't losing market share to the world due to ignorance. It's apathy.
Organizations lose relevance when the rate of internal change lags behind the rate of external change.
Don't be a prisoner of precedent.

The world is becoming more turbulent fast than businesses are becoming resilient.

"Success is often times a self-correcting phenomenon." <-- Love this!

Conquer Denial
Every organization is successful until it's not dismiss rationalize mitigate confront Most of what we do today is rendered irrelevant by the future Learn from the successful deviants Challenge your orthodoxies - Compare you churches to others in the area (what are we all doing identically?) - What hasn't changed in your church in the last 3-5 years? Idea: Open-source sermon - let everyone contribute to it beforehand

Consider Alternatives to top-down structure: Look at Gore's (makers of Gore-Tex) structure
- Leaders arise naturally in the corporation. (How do you know you're a leader? Call a meeting and see if anyone shows up!)
- Anyone can say "no" to any request at any time
- Peer reviews are actually peer reviews and determine employment variables

Mobilize, connect and support!
Example: Linux, Wikipedia
Consider the challenges of producing an operating system that is open source, or a browser (Firefox), or an encyclopedia.
We will not get better at changing lives until we get better at changing churches.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Leadership Summit Notes - Bill Hybels


Speaker: Bill Hybels
Leading in a New Reality
Main takeaway (for me): Leaders must be willing to make and lead their ministries through major adaptations in the new challenges that the economic crisis will continue to bring us for years ahead.

Hybels began with the illustration of a ship's captain looking over the wave reports and deciding whether to make a voyage. If the waves are relatively small and consistent, then he will go out. But if he sees a rogue wave on the charts he will not. The economic collapse was the rogue wave that hit all organizations last fall.

All organizations are affected by an economic rogue wave.
The normal we all knew and loved has left the building.
Leaders know that these rogue waves force new creativity.
These draw something out of us that calm seas never teach us. Storms require constant attention at the helm.

4 Lessons Learned Through the Economic Crisis

1. Philosophical
"Let's be the Acts 2 church to one another."
I don't think anyone is coming to church looking for a mild dose of God.
Told stories of Willow Creek increasing mercy-type ministries to people within the church and community.

2. Financial
Being the Church in an economic downturn is actually complicated. Revenues are down, but needs are increasing. How do we manage this?
Jack Welsh "Cash is king." (He made a joke where he corrected Jack saying, no "Jesus is king" but explained what Welsh meant financially.)
Healthy cash reserves give leaders what the need most: Time
Many church boards have never discussed their financial strategy beyond, maybe, the budget.

Told an approach Willow Creek uses. 3 buckets A, B, and C. All programs and budget items are written on slips of paper. If we lost 50% of our budget what would we drop? place those slips into bucket C.

If we lost 75% of revenue, what would we drop? Bucket B

What would we never ever stop doing? Bucket A

This is a way to prioritize your programs and budget, and it helps staff understand why choices are made the way they are.

If staff reductions are needed
- Give MONTHS of notice
- Give CLEAR and ACCURATE reasons (if it's financial, say so. If it's performance, give feedback and direction before termination, but explain WHY.)
- Be generous in severance

Simple budget
50% Salaries
15% Ministry Budgets
15% Facilities, debt, utilities
10% Gifts
10% "Winds of the Spirit" ready to go where the Spirit leads

During tough economic times people WANT to hear about money from God's point of view
People will still give even in a recession if the vision is white-hot

3. Relational
Hab. 3:2
God consistently works through people who are fully his.
Are we developing back-up people for the key leadership positions? Are the right people in those positions to start with?

4. Personal
My life is unsustainable. The pace at which I'm doing the work of God is destroying God's work in me.
Leaders need to be replenished daily. The best think you can bring your team is a "full bucket" every day.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Leadership Summit Short Update

What a great day! I heard some fabulous speakers and took tons of notes that I'll share with you later tonight. Thank you to the great people at Willow Creek and Chase Oaks Church in Plano, TX for hosting us. I can't wait to get back and see what God has in store for us all tomorrow.

Check back later this evening and I'll have more specific details about the things God stirred in me during the Leadership Summit!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Roman Catholic Church in England Concerned About Overuse of Social Media

Reuters has this story in which the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England expresses concerns that social networking and email may contribute to major social disorders and even suicide.

Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster said,
"I think there's a worry that an excessive use, or an almost exclusive use of text and emails means that as a society we're losing some of the ability to build interpersonal communication that's necessary for living together and building a community."
I wonder if this same discussion took place when print media gained in popularity. "These books are going to isolate people. Excessive use will keep them from hearing the stories told aloud. People may never leave their homes because of these books, and social relationships will begin to decay."

I doubt it, but it seems like the same argument if you ask me. What do you think?

Bonus: I'll be at the Leadership Summit August 6-7. If you're in the Dallas area and are attending the conference send me a tweet and let's try to meet up.
http://twitter.com/gabesmith

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thank You, Flip, for Your Software Update

For everything that I love about the Flip Mino HD, one thing has been lacking in the FlipShare software. Everything with Flip seems to be so simple and intuitive, but sometimes that gets in the way.

The original FlipShare software that my Flip came with downloaded your HD videos into your My Documents/My Flip Video Library folder. (Why not just the My Documents/My Videos folder that Windows already has by default? Who knows?) This was okay, but not great when I had the SD version of the Flip, but when I got the HD version, my video files became noticably larger. Up to 6 times larger, in fact. (30s SD video = ~5 meg, 30s HD video = ~30 meg)

The problem with the version of the software I had originally was that FlipShare had no option to change the default folder where these videos were placed. Needless to say, with a new son, the hard drive was filling up fast.

Don't get me wrong. I have plenty of hard drive space, but the partition that has my default My Documents folder is on the primary partition, which is for the programs I use all the time and I keep it pretty clean. I also have a 100 gig media partition and a 500 gig external hard drive which holds my entire iTunes library including almost every video TED has ever released on their podcast.

The only work-around I found was to manually copy the files from the Flip or the default folder onto my external drive and then delete the original files from the camera or the default folder.

But Flip heard the cries of their people and had mercy upon us!

Now you can set a target directory for your Flip videos and utilize the much-improved FlipShare software to manage your ever-growing video library.

Here's how to do it.

1. Click Edit and choose Preferences.



2. Then select the Library tab and click Change Location.



3. Pick your desired folder and click OK.



4. It will take a few minutes to move all of your videos to the proper folder, but when you're done, you can use FlipShare and not fill up your primary hard drive!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Links to Resources from Church 2.0 in Dallas

I want to provide a list of the resources people mentioned at Church 2.0 in Dallas. I've tried to divide them by category. If you notice any that I missed, please leave a comment and I'll get them added.

Social Networking
Twitter
Facebook
LinkedIn
MySpace - As I recall this was only mentioned in jest. :)

Churches that you need to know about
Fellowship Dallas
Church of the Highlands
Lifechurch.tv - Swerve Leadership Blog
Corageous Church - Shaun King's Blog


Missional Thinking
Laundry Love Project - Read about Jonathan Blundell's experience with this in the Dallas area.
Just One - How a simple trashcan can help give your church (or family) a missional mindset.
10,000 Doors - Locate needs in your area using Google Earth.

Books
Servalution - Dino Rizzo
TBA Book Summaries - It sounds like Cliff's Notes for Christian books. I haven't had a chance to look into it yet.

Dallas Church 2.0 People you should follow on Twitter - I know I didn't get everyone, so I apologize in advance. If I missed you, please let me know and I'll get you added to the list.
Greg Atkinson - Church 2.0 organizer, blogger
Chris Johnson
Trent Brown
Michael McMinn - Youth ministry, wild facial hair, great tweets
Shawn Kemp
Michael Kelling
Joe Slaughter
Jonathan Blundell
Mark Linder - Podcaster, blogger
Charles Ulibarri - Missionary
Wes Cohoon - Church planter - Broken Church
Joel Halpin
Phil Morgan
Scott Finch

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Busy week

Today I visited the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington and all I have to say is = o!

Here's a video to show you just how = o!


Tomorrow, I'll be going to the Church 2.0 get-together with Greg Atkinson. If you're going to be in the Dallas area, come over to Fellowship Dallas and join us! (Apparently, Fellowship Dallas got a new website since I last checked it. The new one looks very cool!)

It's free, so no excuses! Register for Church 2.0 here.

Then we have family coming in from out of state, so we're going to be quite busy over the next few days. It's a good way to be busy though. Reconnecting with family (although we all have Facebook now, so it's almost like we just pick up where we left off.)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

New Layout

I'm working a new layout for the blog since my old one would just stop formatting for some reason and the problem was getting worse and worse.

Anyway, I'm going to be working on it, so if things look a little weird for a while, that's what's going on.

Thank you for being patient. I'll let you know once I have everything squared away on the site.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Church 2.0 Dallas

If you're going to be in Dallas on July 23, Greg Atkinson is going to be leading a Church 2.0 discussion at Fellowship Bible Church Dallas. It's a free event, so come on out if you can!

Here's a link to the Facebook event for more information.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Shock! Facebook Actually Does Help Friendships!

This evening I ran into a friend of mine who I used to see all the time, but haven't lately.  I walked up behind him, tapped him on the shoulder and said, "It feels like it's been forever since I've seen you!"

He replied, "I know, but it doesn't feel that way." 

This is a guy who almost always leaves me a comment on Facebook status updates and pictures. He actively engages with the Facebook community.

Sure social networking can have it's stalker-types who only get on to click around trying to see people's pictures and read about their lives without having to be involved in the network. But social networking gives you whatever you put into it.

If you're in ministry, especially with youth or young adults, social networking is practically a must. Find out what network your people are involved in (these days it's probably either Facebook or Twitter), and get involved with them there, as well as in person. Even if you don't see results immediately, the payoff will come.

I understand not having the time that other people find for it, but invest a little bit in social networking, and the impact can be huge.

Now if I could just get my friend to join Twitter.... hmmm.....

Thursday, June 25, 2009

(Un)Surprising Findings on Megachurch Attendance

I say (Un)Surprising because some of the findings correlate to almost any cursory look at a megachurch on a given Sunday morning. Leadership Network has released a study on megachurch attendance. Here's a quick run-down of the findings.
  • Young and single adults are more likely to be in megachurches than in smaller churches.
  • Nearly two-thirds of attenders have been at these churches 5 years or less.
  • Many attenders come from other churches, but nearly a quarter haven’t been in any church for a long time before coming to a megachurch.
  • Attenders report a considerable increase in their involvement in church, in their spiritual growth, and in their needs being met.
  • Forty-five percent of megachurch attenders never volunteer at the church.
  • New people almost always come to the megachurch because family, friends or coworkers invited them.
  • What first attracted attenders were the worship style, the senior pastor and the church’s reputation.
  • These same factors also influenced long-term attendance, as did the music/arts, social and community outreach and adult-oriented programs.
  • Attenders can craft unique, customized spiritual experiences through the multitude of ministry choices and diverse avenues for involvement that megachurches offer.
One of the surprising things I saw in the study was this
"Even one of the mainstays of megachurch programming -- participation in small groups of different sorts -- is engaging only 60% of attenders. Forty percent of attenders said they do not participate in any small group. This is interesting given that in our national research the percentage of megachurches saying small groups are central to their functioning rose dramatically in less than a decade. In 2000, just half (50%) of the megachurches said small groups were central to their strategy for Christian nurture and spiritual formation. By 2008, that number had risen to 84% of megachurches affirming the centrality of a small group strategy. Yet, this increased emphasis on small group ministry does not appear to havemotivated a large percent of attenders to active involvement in these groups."
60% participation in almost any facet of the church seems like pretty strong participation, especially when earlier in the study 11% of responders claimed that the megachurch they were attending was not their "church home." So you can knock 11% of people out of the potential small-group-attender pool.

Another interesting finding is shown in this table.



I think any church would be ecstatic to have 27% of their people inviting 6-10 people per year to church. In a church of 100 people that would be 162-270 new visitors each year or 3-5 visitors per week.

The question is, why are megachurch attenders so eager to invite friends to church?

For more information here's the full study (.pdf).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Church of England Gives Free Beer for Father's Day

Mother's Day in many churches brings all sorts of recognition of the role that mothers play in in each of our lives. Usually the moms receive some kind of flower as a small way to say, "Thank you" and "We love you."

Try giving a flower to a dad who comes to church about as often as the church comes to him, and you might find that he begins to see the church as a place only for women or sissies. That being the case, maybe the Church of England is on to something here.

St. Stephen's church in Barbourne, Worcester passed out bottles of beer on Father's Day this year as a message symbolic of the "generosity of God." Other churches participated in the celebration by handing out beer and one church included bacon rolls.

The Ven. Roger Morris said, "Posies of flowers are given to mums on Mothering Sunday and we wanted to give a laddish, blokeish gift to the men. A bottle of beer hits the mark. The whole of life is to be celebrated in church."

The decision is not without controversy in Britain, but it's nothing compared to what a church in America would face were it to make a similar decision.

Those of us on this side of the pond have a culture marked by the temperance movement, but England, and Europe in general, tends to be more open to alcohol consumption. (Many churches in America still use grape juice in communion all the while claiming to be "Bible" churches. Hint: the Biblical celebration of Eucharist did not included Welch's.)

If you doubt my comparison at all between the British and American views of alcohol, allow me to add this tidbit:

"Men at St Stephen's church in Barbourne, Worcester, will be handed bottles of beer by children during the service. A prayer will be said for the fathers before the gifts are distributed."
How does that sit with you?

As much as I think the church in America needs a healthier and more balanced view of alcohol, I'm not sure this is the way we should approach it in our churches considering the ferocity of the opinions present in most American churches.

I do know of one American church who has a ministry named after St. Arnold, the Patron Saint of Brewers and Hops-pickers, which is a men's ministry that includes discussing theology over beer once a week. If your congregation is okay with it, I think this is totally cool. Other congregations probably wouldn't be so willing to embrace this type of ministry, so it's probably not for every church.

Anyway, it's something that makes you think, and that's always fun.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

3 Reasons Twitter is for Missionaries

Okay, I'll admit it: I'm HUGE into missions, missionaries, and everything that surrounds them. But, as anyone who's connected with missions will tell you, communication is not always the missionary's strong suit. It's not that they don't try, it's just that they're so busy and so far away that communication tends to slow down over time.

It's a two-way street too though. People back home tend to slowly forget not remember the missionaries they support financially and via prayer.

Enter Twitter.

Twitter is missionary's newest, bestest, most user-friendly communicate-with-your-supporters tool that web 2.0 has ever given us.

I know you're thinking, "Well what about MySpace and Facebook." MySpace and Facebook require two things many missionaries don't have in great supply: 1) time and 2) reliable high-speed internet.

1. Twitter Requires Minimal Time Committment
Facebook, as we all know, is basically designed to be a giant hole into which you throw as many waking hours as possible each day. Facebook is good, but unless you have time time to devote to it, the user experience is not all that beneficial. And unless you're a 13 year old girl, MySpace just isn't where you need to be anymore. Its time has passed.

2. Grab a Cell Phone and Go!
I've known missionaries from all over the world. Some of them have great high-speed internet connections, and others have to crank a generator to keep the computer functioning and only get dial-up internet from time to time. Thus Facebook may work for some missionaries, but twitter only needs an internet connection for the setup and maintenance. The rest can be done via cell phone and nowadays cell phones are as pervasive as Coca-cola.

3. Short Frequent Updates
Many times missionaries work for hours on update newsletters at the end of the month trying to remember everyone they talked to and how much time they spent doing this or that. With Twitter you're constantly updating supporters about what you're doing. So when newsletter time comes around, they can focus on the big stuff and point people to twitter to get the day-to-day updates.

Don't get me wrong, Twitter has some pretty glaring problems. For example, why aren't there groups? Or maybe a "Follow this conversation" option between two people? And it is notorious for showing the "Fail Whale" when the servers are overloaded.



But Twitter can be a missionary's best friend and a lifeline to friends and supporters back home.

Also, it's totally cool.

If you haven't already done so,http://twitter.com/gabesmith! Shout out to @txfilmgeek for bouncing around these ideas about missionaries and twitter over coffee the other night!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

THE List of Internet Campuses

Digital @ Leadership Network has this very nearly complete list of internet campuses.  There are countless internet-only churches that are not represented here, but as for physical churches with online campuses, this is probably the most complete list I've seen.
Are there any internet campuses that aree missing from this list?

Have you visited or do you attend any of these internet campuses? What has your experience been like?
 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Full-Size Noah's Ark

The Wall Street Journal has this article linked from Drudge.

It's the first ever ark that has been built as big as Noah's actual ark. Instead of animals, this ark houses a restaurant, resort hotel and a children's museum.

The article says that the ark sits on 270,000 square feet, but it does not say what the overall square footage of the ark itself is. Any guesses?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

How Obama Won the Online Campaign

I typically avoid all things political on DigitalWorship if I can help it, I felt compelled to share this with you.

My buddy, Mark Brown over at Brownblog linked to this paper by Edelman describing how Barack Obama won the online portion of the 2008 presidential campaign.

Mark leads a SecondLife church and has great thoughts on leveraging the internet to connect people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I highly encourage you to add his feed to your blog reader.

Barack Obama Social Media Toolkit by Edelman

What stands out to you from this paper? What do you think the church could learn from this information?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

11 Characteristics of Successful Churches - 7. Church of Pastors

Be a Church of Pastors

One of the buzz terms in Christendom today is "Incarnational Living," but I'm afraid a lot of people don't really understand what that means. (I've read books and blogs on the subject and I'm not sure if some authors know what it means really!)

If people were really living "incarnationally" I think we would see churches of empowered individuals doing ministry where they are. They would be serving those around them not only in Christian circles, but among the lost and the broken.

We, as ministry leaders, need to show people how to serve others and how to contextualize the gospel.

Ministry leaders should rally the people behind the purpose of glorifying God by sharing the gospel and serving the community instead of simply being the always-on-call counselor.

They should not be merely a chaplain for the masses, but a champion of the mission.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Church Tech Camp: Dallas

Last week I had the phenomenal opportunity to attend the Church Tech Camp: Dallas. It was kind of funny because a lot of the people in the room knew one another from twitter or facebook, but had never met in person! On more than one occassion, I looked at someone trying to figure out how I knew them only to realize that I had already been following them on twitter for months.

Anyway, there were so many ideas flying around the room that I couldn't take it all in, but I was very impressed with the way this group of pastors and minstry leaders are using web 2.0 to connect with people who are part of their ministries and to connect with people around the world.

Lots of great comments stood out, but I was impressed with some of the ways Paul Watson of www.reachingtheonlinegeneration.com described the challenges and addressed the questions of leveraging the web to facilitate the creation of community.

He said that we need to consider using technology in three ways:
1. To develop deeper connections with those we already know in the face-to-face context.
2. To develop relationships with the loss that results in face-to-face interactions
3. To develop relationships with geographically diverse people that may never meet otherwise.

I think these three uses are beneficial when considering connecting with people online, but I would make number 3 up there a little less restrictive. Online technologies can help us connect with people not only separated by geography, but also those separated by social spheres or generational spheres.

One of the best quotes of the day came from someone I would like to give credit to, but I can't remember his name. If you remember, please let me know.

He said, "We've got to stop making the physicality question our focus."

In other words the idea that physicality is somehow connected to being a part of a community may be on its way out. Technological advances will certainly help us achieve stronger relationships online, but as it stands, you can have some pretty darn good relationships with people you've never met in person.

My wife and I both have friends who live in other countries and have never met in person, but consider them good friends nonetheless. I would expect these types of relationships to become more numerous and even mainstream in the years ahead.

I also took part in a good discussion with Brandon Donaldson, Internet Campus Pastor at LifeChurch.tv, about creating online communities and online churches. He offered some great ideas and tools to use for starting online churches and online small groups.

We live in exciting times and it was great to share that excitement with a group of great thinkers at Church Tech Camp: Dallas last week.

Monday, January 5, 2009

11 Characteristics of Successful Churches - 6. Proper Branding

Proper Branding Cannot be Underestimated
Chili's Logo

When you think of Chili's restaurants what do you envision? Initially I think of a relaxed place to have an enjoyable lunch. Secondly, I think of The Office. ("Chili's is the new golf course" according to Small Businessman Magazine.)

Starbucks Logo

Starbucks does the same thing. When you think of Starbucks what comes to mind besides their near saturation of locations nationwide? Warm earthtones, a place to sit and chat, and social awareness.

Both Chili's and Starbucks work hard and spend a lot of money to create an image that reflects their values.

Churches can learn a lot by looking at how businesses communicate with their customers and use that to communicate better with their congregants and visitors.

Branding happens on two levels. A philosophical level and a physical level.

Philosophically, you must determine your church's values and create communication that reflects those values. If a church is primarily traditional in worship style and uses tradition teaching methods such as a Sunday School program, it would be disingenuous to create communication that gives the impression that the church is fast-moving and cutting edge. At the same time a church with services that look like rock concerts should not cast itself as a down home good ol' boy church. (Those are southern terms in case you're not familiar.)

Physically, the production of all communication should be uniform across the organization. When you go into a Chili's the colors green and red stand out. Giant chili peppers are so prominant that they will haunt your dreams for weeks. But the point is when you leave, you will remember Chili's. Some churches do this very well with crisp professional logos and graphic designs.

The 21st century Christian and non-Christian alike are market savvy and will respond to proper branding in communication because it is the language they know and speak. But well-designed branding doesn't happen by accident.

Question Screen BeanGone are the days when printing a flyer using Microsoft Word and some clip art will effectively communicate what's happening at your church and where your church is headed for the next 10 years. I'm not sure those days were ever around really, but now, more than ever, communication needs to look as good as you can afford to make it. I mean look at Mr. Screen Bean on the left there. Look how stupid he looks. If you're in a ministry, let's make a pact to never use Mr. Screen Bean again. And if you're not in ministry, but are attempting to communicate with fellow humans, I beg you to join us.

Remember this: If the person doesn't read it or hear it because of poor design, you did not communicate it properly and communication did not happen.
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