Saturday, April 22, 2006

Wired For Ministry by John P. Jewell

The director of instructional technology and distance learning at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary is John P. Jewell. He has written a book called Wired for Ministry: How the Internet, Visual Media, and Other New Technologies Can Serve Your Church by Brazos Press. I have meandered through the pages since Christmas when I received the book as a gift from my oldest daughter. For the most part this is not a book about innovation in technology but about integration. Jewell has taken the well-known processes for implementing technology in a way that fits the needs of learners and has tailored these processes for the church. Often he does this through describing a church and its members and what they want to do. Jewell then describes decision-making and planning process that would yield a solution that is focused on ministry and not the latest gadget. The processes he describes are done through the stake holders in the church and focus on ministry of the church. A theme often repeated, as it should be, is that the technology used by churches must fit the audience and fit the ministry goals of the church. When troubleshooting or technology setup bleed over into the actual class or worship time, the technology is more of a distraction than an aid to ministry.

Jewell focuses on more than setting up a website and running MS PowerPoint during a worship service. Even so, he does focus on the education functions of the church more than organizational aspects of the church such as church management software. He could have also developed more how Christian educators and pastors could use research tools better. Not only do I think he could have given recommendations for websites or software that would help in lesson or sermon preparation, he could have discussed the pit falls associated with such use of technology during the preparation phases.

Jewell is more liturgical in his approach to Christianity than Evangelical. He does not focus on the Evangelical mega-church but the small to medium sized liturgical church in the Mid-west. Since most of the churches in the U.S. are small to medium sized, he has chosen a good audience for his book. In fact he discusses at an appropriate level why the large church model of technology use should not be the model for the medium to small church. A large church can higher trained specialists while the small to medium sized church must use volunteer church workers. The small church is limited by budget, training and power structures. While these limitations do exist, Jewell rightly points out they should not preclude the use of appropriate technology in ministry.

Most software engineers gather user data to focus their development efforts to meet customer expectation. Jewell assumes a committee form of government in the church and that it can be tweaked to gather the right kinds of data for decision making. While the committee form of church government is common and valid for many churches, that is not a universal. My own experience is that people get their decision making paradigms from either work or family. I have seen people with a blue collar background being asked questions and they not respond with their input what they think the leader wants to hear. They are working off of the paradigm that they are there to support the boss. If there really is no boss, they will identify who the boss should have been, then watch to see what that person wants. Sometimes this sort of thinking will lead to a person who has this mind set to be very cooperative until you tread on their domain. Some churches with this sort of mind set will look to the pastor to make all the decisions or some lay leader. Implementing technology when this mind set is present, the process must be adjusted so that it takes into account the decision making process of the people. If it is a committee just go with it. If the church is used to a more top down approach, then educating and getting buy into decisions through the formal or informal power structures is a necessity.

Jewell does an excellent job of discussion the implementation of technology within the small to medium sized church. One of the areas that I might quibble with though is his definition of evangelism. He seems to equate marketing with evangelism. While marketing of the church is important, it is not the same as proclaiming the good news of the gospel. In order to see a good discussion of evangelism and technology you might try the Internet Evangelism Day or Effective Web Ministry.

I highly recommend this book. For those of you have not ever connected with people from a more liturgical background, don't worry, they don't bite. For those of you wondering what I am talking about, don't worry, it is not a big deal. If you want to borrow my copy of Wired For Ministry just ask me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Singleness of Eye

I have been doing some real soul searching lately. One option for ministry I had been praying about is being a tent maker. For those of you who don't know, a tent maker is one who has a job and is participating in ministry at a level that is usually considered a full time job. The term comes from the ministry of the apostle Paul who worked as a tentmaker while ministering in Corinth. (Acts 18:1-3) The past few years I have been busy trying to raise my family, serve my country in the Army, work in the church and get my M.Div so that I can get ordained. I see that I just bit off more than I could chew. Now that I have retired from the Army, I see that I had just exhausted myself trying to do too much. It just did not work. I have been praying about what I should do in ministry. I can see that tentmaking is not something I think I can handle. Self assessment is good.

Related to this issue is how my mind works. My job in the Army involved continually learning about new technology. I often deal with learning by absorbing myself into a subject. So much so that being a continual learner in information technology and trying to study for my M.Div. were really hard for me to balance. My characteristic of having a narrow focus has been something that I have known about for some time. It is both a blessing and a curse. I had not thought about it having implications for career choices. So for the most part, I don't think being a tentmaker would be a wise ministry choice for me.

Monday, April 17, 2006

NPR : An Explosive Pair: Take a Mentos, and a Diet Coke...

You might find this funny. Follow the link.

NPR : An Explosive Pair: Take a Mentos, and a Diet Coke...: "What happens when you put a handful of Mentos candy into a bottle of diet soda? As many fans of Web video have found out, the results are pretty explosive."

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Is Proverbs 16:9 A Proof Text For Spontaneity?

"The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps."
Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)

I have heard a couple of people quote this Scripture lately and I suspect that they meant to specifically address me in their quote. Perhaps, or perhaps not, it does not matter. Whether they meant it to be a hint that I needed to change my style or not, does not matter. I do need to examine the Scripture and examine my own life. Self-examination is always appropriate. In a sense what I hear them say is that detailed planning, or perhaps at least my style of detailed planning, is bad and spontaneous decision making is good.

First thing I would say is the dominate message of this proverb is that God is the one who gives success or not. It is not the case that there are so many variables in calculating the outcomes of our actions that it is impossible to determine what will happen. It is that God is actively, intelligently guiding history and specifically in each man's life as to bring success and failure to his actions. In other words, God is doing things that effect your and my success. This being the case, this give light on how to interpret the first part of the verse. So now we can move to that.

The first part of the verse is not discussing whether people should or should not plan. It is describing a common human activity. This verse is not discussing whether plans are made in a detailed way, a spontaneous way, a anxious way or a calm way. It merely states that people commonly in their heart make plans. If you were to say what type of planning the person was doing, you could only characterize it as coming from the heart. Perhaps some more mature Hebrew scholar can help me out here, but I'm reading the ESV which really does not address the style issue.

The way I have heard the verse quoted though implies that the verse is some how against using detailed objective data to make decisions. I think it is a misinterpretation of this verse and robs it of its true intent that says God is active in our lives. The application of this verse is not that we should be spontaneous in decision making, nor is it that we have a sense of fate, what ever will be will be. What is clear is that God is moving in our lives and we should recognize his hand of blessing or his defeating our efforts. When we are carrying out our plans, we should seek God's blessing through our prayer life, through godly living and through faith.

In summary, to baptize a certain style of decision making through this verse is really to miss the point of the verse. It is not the style of decision making that is addressed here, but the fact that God is active in all of our actions.

I see using Proverbs 16:9 as a way to baptize a certain decision making style as a grave error in interpreting the text, not that it promotes heresy, it just misses the all important point of God being active in our daily lives. On the other hand, I do think I have made plenty of errors in decision making and sometimes because I have mulled over them too long. I have also made the other error which is having made decisions too quickly and not thought through my plans. Probably my greatest errors have come from following my sin filled heart of having not prayed over my decisions. Yes, there are plenty of things to criticize me over.

From a human point of view detailed planning has value as does spontaneity. It is not that one is good while the other is bad, it is the case that we should use the one that is appropriate to the circumstance. When you want a decision that you can later build upon, then you should use detailed planning. If the decision does not affect other long term issues, you can experiment. But again, here I'm just expressing my point of view and not expositing Scripture.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Dawn Treader: Notes From The Pigfest

Apologies for my lateness, you might want to check out this post over at Dawn Treader. He discusses discussion while thowing in the summary of several held at a Pighfest. Though it was a little unclear to me whether a pig was the meal, or just celebrated, or perhaps metaphorical. Check him out.



The Dawn Treader: Notes From The Pigfest: "I opened the Pigfest with a Thomas Aquinas quote that 'civilization is constituted by conversation.' Jefferson, and many others through history, understood the importance of mixing hospitality and conversation in advancing ideas and thought."

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Silence

I have recently been spending my time in my writing doing just pure journaling. I have written a journal for years. In fact I started blogging to take my journaling a new direction. I had a couple of issues I have been thinking and praying about and I just needed to think them through without an audience. I did not really want to take all of my readers through my processing of issues. But now that I feel I have some answers I am willing to share those issues.

DO I BECOME A FAITH MISSIONARY?
I really have a desire to preach the name of Christ among those who have not heard it. In my opinion, reaching the Muslims, Buddhists, Chinese, Animists, and Hindus is strategic for Christianity. However, for most people who do this in a significant way that means being a faith missionary. I heartily support other missionaries with my finances and I think they are doing good things. As I have prayed about this I do not think this is where God is leading me.

DO I BECOME A CHURCH PLANTER?
Again I have a desire to preach and not work on another man's foundation. Even so, I'm not sure I have the leadership skills commensurate with the task. Planting a church takes more energy than I have had in recent years. My heart has grown faint as I have gone through trials. Though my heart has grown faint, I have refused to give up. Courage is continuing to act despite fear. I am continuing to move forward, I just don't know exactly what forward looks like. I continue to prepare for ministry and hope that God will bless my efforts to serve him. I just don't see it as likely that I could plant a church. Not every leader is cut out the same way and since I work slowly and faithfully, I don't think I have the speed that it takes to be a church planter.

DO I GET ON STAFF AT A LARGE CHURCH?
I think I would welcome this but I don't think I will pursue this. Getting on staff at a large church would be good from a the aspect of developing my gifts under the tutiledge of a more mature pastor. However, it might off put preaching as a primary ministry indefinitely. Once I got on staff somewhere my personal loyalty would probably keep me there almost indefinitely. Since I'm in my forties and it will be a few years before I can finish seminary and move on with full time ministry, I need to be selective in where I go and what I do. I really could not use a position as a stepping stone very well, I don't think. It is really not in my personality to give up on a church.

WHAT DOES THE PROCESS OF ELIMINATION GIVE ME?
Since my desire is to preach and lead, I don't have a lot of options. I think the process of elimination leaves me with a small church. Ideally I would like one that has potential for growth and lead that church to its next stage of development. I'm praying that God will give me a church in which to preach and lead.