Saturday, October 11, 2008

What Are You Known For?

I was scanning the stats on DigitalWorship traffic, and I came across something very interesting.

Irving Bible Church and Jackie Roese are by far the most googled terms that have brought people to the site. Mostly thanks to Justin Hentschel's contribution and the discussion that was going on among Christian bloggers about Jackie preaching at Irving Bible Church.

But the next favorite terms that have brought traffic was not something cool like "virtual church" or "ministry to millennials." At least I could be proud of those!

The most third and fourth most popular search terms that bring people to Digital Worship are:

"Deep Fried S'mores" and "Chocolate-covered strawberry waffle balls"

If you searched those terms and found us here, please know that if my browser didn't have a history feature, I would be googling those terms all day every day!

But also know that it is my hope to share the amazing things churches are beginning to do to engage with and serve people through digital means. If you're someone who has never felt comfortable in a church or you've just never found a church where you feel like you fit in, please know that there are lots of different churches out there that are not like you visited with grandma (and a lot that are if that's what your looking for!).

If you need help finding one, leave a comment I will help you find a place just for you whether its the old-school church with a steeple or a place in the virtual world like Second Life or one of the online church campuses.

So poke around this blog a bit, even if it's not exactly what you were searching for because you may find exactly what you need.

Friday, October 10, 2008

"Virtual" Ministry

If you get a chance, head over to Mark Brown's blog and check out a blog post I wrote for him called "The New West."

Mark is currently leading an Anglican church in Second Life and asked me to write a little something for him. I encourage you to explore his blog a bit and see what kind of unique opportunities and stuggles have arisen with this "virtual" ministry.

Also note above that it's the word "virtual" that is in quotes not the word ministry.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The New West

Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau were a pair of pioneers. You may not know their names, but they changed the world every bit as much as two of their more famous brethren; Lewis and Clark. They may never have ridden in a covered wagon, or crossed the rockies while carrying their boats, but their contribution to the world has fundamentally impacted almost everything that most of us do on a day to day basis. These men set out to find a way for nuclear researchers to share information more easily. In the process, they invented something known as the World Wide Web.

Ever visited a website or a webpage? Yeah they came up with that.

Ever used a web-browser? They invented that too.

The didn't strike a vein of gold like the prospectors of old. They tapped a vein of information that has been yielding it's riches for the last 25 years. And in the process they opened the door for commerce and knowledge to sweep around the world in seconds.

During the dot-com boom of the last decade, the potential of the internet was often compared to the California gold-rush where many came seeking their fortunes in the untamed new environment. Many succeeded and many failed.

The Old West
The westward expansion of the United States during the 1800's brought with it all types of people beyond those who were looking to dig in the ground for precious metals. Many doctors, lawyers, and teachers, as well as the lonely and those seeking a new start made the movement west. And where they went, they brought their beliefs with them.

Praise by Proxy
The churches in this period were very simple when compared to cities of the east coast or of the cathedrals of Europe. Many, if not most, church meetings took place without the presence of musical instruments. However, as time progressed, one frontier church saved up the $250 necessary to purchase an organ, which was close to the $300 annual salary of their pastor. The church and others like it were criticized by Methodist preacher, Alfred Brunson, as being "in the habit of praising God by proxy [with] a thundering organ and a select choir to do their singing. As might be expected in such cases the services were cold and formal, nothing of the life and spirituality of religion being visible."

The first adopters, in this case, were those who, at great sacrifice, began to employ what would later become staples of church services. Brunson's words recorded above could easily be said today, only they would not come from the more conservatively-minded church-goers, but from those who are more liberally-minded.

This is not an attempt to stoke the fires of the so-called worship wars, but to illustrate the following point.

Beyond Independence
The internet is no longer the place for the early adopters. Sure, there are those who will remain on the fringes participating in the read-only web: searching Google, checking email, and reading Wikipedia. And there are those who dive deeply into the read-write web (Web 2.0): Uploading videos to YouTube, editing Wikipedia, participate in the so-called blogosphere. These are merely the Independence, Missouri of the internet, if you remember from the classic game, Oregon Trail.

Virtual Worlds - The New West
So where to the early-adopters move now? Some have suggested that microblogging, such as Twitter, are where things are moving. But this still feels too close to civilization for me. I believe Web 3.0 may bring us into virtual worlds, the likes of which we have yet to truly see so far.

Take a look at these numbers if you are not sure.
  • 11 million people pay US$10-$15 per month to play World of Warcraft
  • 15.4 million registered avatars exist in the Second Life universe
  • US$100,000 is the most expensive virtual item ever purchased (an asteroid in Entropia Universe)
  • Sweden and the Maldives both operate embassies in Second Life

To put these in perspective for you, World of Warcraft serves as the virtual home for a group of people larger than the nation of Cuba! Don't forget that they each pay monthly fees to make it their virtual home.

Second Life hosts more avatars than the nation of Cambodia!

These virtual worlds may be a representation of what the next generation of the internet has to offer. They are the New West. There will be those within the Christian community who will not accept the type of ministry that is beginning to take place in virtual worlds. Just as Brunson illustrated for us, the early-adopters are rarely accepted, but what was cutting-edge yesterday, is the norm today and the passe of tomorrow.

Most importantly, we must remember that behind each avatar or screen name is a person. Many of whom are seeking escape from painful lives by living their virtual lives. These new worlds offer us a chance to connect with them and to share the good news of Jesus Christ with people our "normal" churches may never have the opportunity to reach.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I haven't written in a while, but I'm working on a few new things that I hope to share with everyone soon.

Also, I started teaching an ESL class and I am enjoying it. I'm getting to practice a lot of Spanish and they are getting to practice a lot of English, so it's a pretty good time.

Don't worry. I haven't disappeared. Keep checking in and drop me a line on Facebook or Twitter!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Living TV-Free

While some of you already know this, I thought I would share something very personal about myself.

I never watch television.

Before you close your laptop in digust because of this seemingly over-pious statement of my ability to live without something that many people feel they can't live without, please hear me out.

My decision is not one of piety, but one of necessity. You see, I have a perfectly functioning 27" widescreen HD-ready television sitting in my living room. The problem is that I have yet to find an antenna that will give me much more than a snowy signal, which is surprising as I live not 10 miles from downtown Dallas. The other option is getting cable or satellite, which is not really an option because my wife pays the bills! (and earns the money).

So I have discovered over the past couple of years that with a normal DSL connection and a functioning computer one can stay as entertained and informed as the next person, although it does take a bit more effort to do so.

3 Words: Hulu-dot-com
The major networks offer full-episodes of the most popular TV shows on their websites. They are uploaded anywhere from a few hours to a few days after the original broadcast. If you don't find the show on the networks website (or even if you do) go check out Hulu offers full episodes of TV, and feature length movies for free, online, when you want to watch them. And no, this isn't some kind of website that hosts the videos on some floating barge in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in order to escape international copyright laws and taxes. That would be Google.

Why it's better than regular TV: Oh let me count the ways. There
are fewer commercials with the online broadcasts. And when a show abandons you, you can abandon it. I'm looking at you Lost. And you don't plan social activities around when "your show" comes on. That's just stupid nowadays.

Fair and Balanced Reporting
Ever watched MSNBC and thought, "Wow! That's pretty biased reporting." Apparantly those attending the RNC Convention agree. So you turned over to FoxNews and thought, "Wow! So is that!" The internet offers you a middle road or allows you to put your feet in both partisan pools in order to recognize the middle-ground. Both FoxNews and CNN offered uncut, unedited live feeds from both the RNC and the DNC conventions without any "commentators" to get in the way of the broadcast.

The problem with that type of coverage though is that it was done the same way for most of the Olympic games on NBC. You don't realize how stunningly boring it is to watch gymnastics or archery without the announcer telling you about how this young lady's family all came down with smallpox, but she continued to shoot her bow and arrow in spite of the disease to make it to Beijing in 2008. As you can tell, I made up my own hearstring-tugging stories to make the sports more interesting.

Oh! And Michael Phelps is over-rated. (But I'll leave that for another post.)

Why it's better than regular TV: The lack of commentary does make things better in that the discussion isn't skewed by usually pointless discussion they have during political events, but it does make it more interesting. The thing that really makes it better is that you can watch video of world events as they happen in real time rather than wait for the news to get around to showing it. And, like the TV shows, it is commercial-free most of the time. Now that's 24-hour news coverage!

Why does all of this matter?
People in your churches and ministries likely finding ways that technology bends to their will and allows them to have lives that remain fully connected and completely free to live life. Try to think of some ways you can connect with people that reaches them in their timeframe.

Or you can communicate with your lowly blogger using this same theory!
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