You Might Need To Upgrade Your Church's Digital Presence If...

Yesterday I had the opportunity to emcee a panel discussion for the Jacksonville Baptist Association focused on best utilizing technology in the church. To begin the session I shared a list compiled by some of the panel members and attendees in the same vein as Jeff Foxworthy's "You Might Be a Redneck If..." jokes.

So, here are just some indicators for pastors and church leaders who may need to upgrade their digital footprint.

1764490_53c26c257a_z
Photo credit: Nico Kaiser via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-SA

You Might Need A Technology Upgrade In Your Church If...

  • Your church MySpace page is up-to-date.
  • You still have a Friendster account.
  • When you check for email a woman's voice on your computer says "You've Got Mail!"
  • Your email address is @hotmail.com
  • You are waiting for someone to invite you to use Gmail.
  • You just discovered Vine...and now it's gone.
  • You still browse the internet through Netscape.
  • You have AOL CDs in your office with "10 Free Hours"
  • You still pay by the hour for internet.
  • You still think in baud rate when it comes to internet connectivity.
  • You're knocked off the internet when someone in the house picks up the telephone.
  • You still illegally download stock footage from Google Image Search.
  • All the images on your church website are stock photos of models with watermarks on them from the company that actually owns the images.
  • Your church website uses textures like leather, flowers, or stone as a background.
  • You hear someone talking about Snapchat and you think they're referencing a scene from West Side Story.
  • You still call a hashtag a pound or number sign.
  • You still type www in your internet browser before the website name.
  • Your church site automatically plays music when opened.
  • Your church site has a splash page before opening up.
  • Your church site is basically a brochure online (i.e. no video or links).
  • Your church site isn't formatted for mobile devices.
  • Your church app does nothing unique from your website.
  • Your site uses Comic Sans font.
  • You still have a box of 3.5 inch (or even 5.25 inch) floppy disks in your office.
  • You write blogs that are way too long, thinking people actually read them (Ooh, wait...never mind.)
  • Your church's guest WIFI has a password that has so many characters, even Robert Langdon couldn't decipher it.
  • The last time you updated your church website, it was still hosted on a GeoCities page.
  • You upgrade the look of your church website, but choose COPPERPLATE as the font because you think it looks trendy and new.

Oh, there are more, I'm sure. Feel free to leave some additional ones in the comments below.


Does Your Church Needs Rebooting?

Years ago, when I was in college and working at IBM as an intern, I learned much about personal computers and how they worked. I had to...job security. There were numerous times I would be called in by the executives in the building to come to their offices and fix their computers. The PC was still a fairly new machine and for a corporate culture that was built and relied on mainframes, learning the world of the PC was a shift for many long-time employees.

Nevertheless, I learned quickly that the first and often the best fix for the desktop computers was to simply turn off the machine, wait about thirty seconds, and turn it back on. The rebooting of the computer often reset the software and memory to a point that speed was regained and work could continue.

Computers have changed dramatically over the years, with the advent of smaller, more powerful microchips and, of course the move toward mobility with smart phones and tablets. However, even now, and maybe especially now, the simple rebooting of the machine is often needed.

On a Mac or Windows-based PC, the ability to "multi-task" by having multiple programs running at once is both a great help and at times, a great hindrance. Sometimes the computer (or phone) will slow down and cause the user great distress. Often this is remedied by closing programs that are open and running in the background. For the iPhone, it's a simple double-click of the button and a swipe of the app. It's simple, but does wonders.

It is my assertion that the local church can become much like these computers and phones at times. We, too, have many programs running. The larger the church, the more programs. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with these various programs, but over time, churches have shown a tendency to do more because it's the "right thing to do" but fail to increase resources to keep the work at a high level and productive. In computer terms, we are running more programs but have not added any memory, or maybe storage space, to the machine.

4044350622_bf95250787_b

And we become bogged down.

We are considering this reality here at our church, and it is illustrated clearly when I look at our planning calendar and see markings and events on just about every day of the year. Some program is doing something, somewhere, in the name of the church (or at least using the resources of the church.) 

I think it's time for a reboot.

It's almost impossible to truly reboot a local church, especially one that has property and has been in existence for decades. To turn everything off for a season will cause great distress. However, maybe distress is what is needed?

Ministry programs are good, but as the old saying goes "sometimes good is the enemy of best" and as many church leaders know, despite our best efforts, "sacred cows" tend to appear over time.

One pastor stated at a conference that "Sacred cows make the best hamburger." He elicited a laugh from the crowd, but most pastors just wondered how this could ever happen.

Summer is a good time to reboot.

For our church, the school calendar pretty much runs the family calendars of our community. Therefore, the eight weeks or so of summer become a down-time for many families (or a short-time in which to cram any vacations or get-aways.)

While we still have the typical summer events on the calendar (VBS, camps, mission trips, etc.) we are cancelling our mid-week gatherings on Wednesday evenings. Some are shocked because in the Baptist world, Wednesday is like "Sabbath, Jr." but truth-be-told, over the past three years, the attendance on Wednesdays has been so low, the people basically voted to not come, by...not coming. 

If I could, I would probably cancel everything except Sunday morning worship this summer. It would be risky because our church culture is so set, but I know a reboot is needed. 

What happens when you reboot?

For a computer, programs and memory gets reset. For the church, leadership should take the time set aside during the reboot to evaluate every program and ministry offered by the church. It is during this time that "sacred cows" can be put out to pasture. It is at this time the hard questions such as "Should we even be doing this?" should be asked and then when the church is turned back on...some of the programs don't reappear. In other words, some programs need to be uninstalled.

Most pastors I know would love to do something like this, but find each week to be jam-packed with meetings, study time, visitation, etc. and the needed evaluation and restart never happens. We're just too busy. That's the problem with a continually running machine. You are always working to keep the machine running.

Dangers

  • Finances may suffer. Here's a practical reality, if you reboot some programming, giving may suffer. Just because your church isn't meeting on a certain day (or days) does not mean the expenses cease. In a consumer-based culture where people pay for their luxuries and activities, the unfortunate reality is that some feel as if they're "paying for their spiritual fix" weekly. Therefore, the risk of losing offerings is very real. However, this should not drive the decision. Just be aware.
  • A good idea vs. a God idea. Far too many of us pastors read about what some other church has done and then attempt to do the very same thing. While what was done at another local church may have been God's perfect plan for them, it may not be for you. Therefore, rebooting your church over the summer or some other time may just be a "good idea" and not "God's idea" so tread lightly and pray fervently.
  • The congregation doesn't "get it." Just because something makes perfect sense to you as a pastor and leader, the fact is that most in the congregation are not privy to the inner workings of the organization and would not automatically understand. So, communicate clearly and do so over and over again, BEFORE pulling the plug.

Does your church need a reboot? Perhaps. If you're on the verge of personal burnout, there's a good chance the church is as well. So goes the shepherd, so go the sheep. Giving permission for people to slow down is not a bad thing.

Reminders

Even if you stop doing some church events, remember that the Great Commission and Great Commandment never get put on "pause." The church is not the building (we keep saying that even though we don't act like we believe it) so this may force leadership to truly equip the saints for the work of the church, in their families, communities, workplaces and even on vacation.

Oh, one final warning. Sometimes when I would reboot a computer, it would not come back on correctly. That was an indication that a more serious issue needed to be addressed. Is it possible to reboot a church and find some things not coming back online? I believe so. In these cases, church health is the issue and when you recognize a real problem, you're better positioned to deal with it. 

Okay. I'm logging off now. I think I need a personal reboot.


Your Church Website Looks Too Churchy

Yesterday, I was serving as an assessor for new church planters in our network. During a down time, while church planters were working on their assigned projects, another pastor came to me asking advice related to church websites. Now, I'm no HTML guru, and not an expert at all on websites, but I do maintain our church site (a never ending struggle) and so he sought my advice.

He is serving as pastor of a church that meets on the campus of another larger church in the area, and while his ministry is featured on the main church's site, in his words "The site is terrible!" He is seeking to create a new website that is more engaging and practical and quickly accessed. You know - user friendly.

Lightstock_69219_small_david_tarkington

Our Site is Too Churchy

I directed him to the online web page creation software I use and showed him some of the ease and tricks of the setup, but then he stated this, regarding his mother church's site - "I've brought up some ideas, but to no avail. Our church's site looks too 'churchy'."

There's really no way to make a church website not appear "churchy" to a degree, without using digital bait and switch methods, but I knew what he was talking about. He wasn't referencing the blatant Christian message on the site or the fact that "church" was on the site. He was talking about the navigation and terminology used, and the fact that it looked "old and irrelevant." 

Yes, we're now at a point where digital media, websites, apps, and even embedded widgets and videos can be dated. If your site looks like it was created in the year 2000, it's dated. If it looks like it was created in 2012, it's dated. If it looks like it was created last month...well, that's probably okay.

So, here are some of the things we have tried to do to keep our site (firstfam.org) up to speed and "relevant." 

  • Keep the home page dynamic. Change the elements every now and then. Social media is constantly changing, so take a lesson from that format. Update graphics and color schemes if possible, but always keep new, upcoming activities and events on the main page. I read a book (a real, paper book) when websites were new regarding what to do and not do and even way back in the early 2000s, the author stated that if the website looks the same ALL THE TIME, why would anyone ever come back? Good point.
  • Not everything should change. While there are event updates and theme changes at times, certain elements should remain constant, if for no other reason than to not frustrate regular visitors. A couple of elements to keep in the same place would be links to sermons, schedules and online giving options. If you start moving around the online giving link (and yes, you need to have online giving) where users cannot find it quickly, you will cause frustration and some will just cease to give at that time. This does not only affect the church, but the giver as well. It's hard to be a "cheerful giver" when the offering plate is always moving (and I'm referencing the online link, but I guess the physical offering plate moving would be frustrating as well.)
  • Use video. Most online web builders allow for embedded video and even use as a background feature. However, in most cases, when using video as a background, it will not work on mobile sites, so don't rely too heavily on that. It's just an aesthetic. Also, if you embed YouTube or Vimeo clips, realize that if the clip is longer than 3 minutes, it will likely never be viewed. Now, if you're uploading videos of sermons or teachings, people expect those to be 30 minutes or so, but promo clips and announcement clips must be short.
  • Use good, legal stock photos (or photos of actual members if they allow you.) If you use stock photos, invest a little and check out LightStock.com. Good, church-based, non-cheesy stock photos are valuable. There are also other free stock photo sites out there, but be sure to check usability and references. Basically, STOP STEALING photos off a Google image search and putting them on your site. It's unethical, wrong, and likely will just reveal that you're either too cheap or lazy to find quality images. Oh, and do not use stock photos that come with your office software suite. Everyone has those. They're cheesy. They make your site look like something a ninth grader put together for a PowerPoint report the day before it was due. No offense to ninth graders. They are more digitally connected than me.
  • Make sure links work. Most work on my site, but it's an arduous process.
  • Take advantage of calendar links through things like Google Calendar, so you're not strapped with updating sites in various places. Our church's Google Calendar is designed as the "public calendar" of events (not the internal one that is full of room reservations, maintenance requests, etc.) and is updatable on my iMac or through Google Calendar online. Automatic updates are key!
  • Ensure your schedule is up to date.
  • Use good photos of staff and leadership team. We're still working on this. Part of our issue is that not all of our pastors (well...me) have good photos available. It's often due to the subject matter. Ha ha. Nevertheless, and this is just my opinion, posed, "professional" photos taken in a studio or in front of that grey background, where everyone is sitting in the same position, wearing a church shirt with the embroidered logo on the front is cheesy to the nth degree. No offense, but if your staff is full of real people who look like they enjoy life, you may just be able to connect with real people who live outside the church bubble. 
  • Avoid "churchy" terms. If you don't know what I'm talking about here, your website is the least of your worries.
  • Avoid plastering the pastor's picture on every page. Mine is on three (probably one too many, but one is just a link to our church podcast.) I know a church that has the pastor's picture on EVERY PAGE! To a first time visitor, that just seems a little narcissistic, or creepy, especially if each picture is a different one from a posed setting at a photographer.
  • If you have music that begins playing on your site when opened...DON'T! Nothing is worse than being at work and checking a church website and having some song begin to blare. Oh, it may be "evangelistic" to some, but it is really annoying to most.
  • No splash page. Just start on the home page. It's easier and quicker and that's the point. Splash pages are so 2012.
  • Keep everything to one screen if possible. We have broken this rule, but are working to fix it. If you have to scroll down too much (maybe two screen sizes is okay, but beyond that, it is not) your page is too busy.
  • No cute animated GIFs. Looks so early 2000s. Spinning titles that look like they were made with Microsoft WordArt look terrible and are embarrassing.
  • Simple menus are key. 

Oh, and have someone else look at your site and try to navigate it. Just because something seems logical to you, does not mean it's intuitive to the majority of people. I have discovered this often. 


A Look Back at Predicted 2011 Church Trends

On January 1, 2011, church consultant and founder of Auxano, Will Mancini posted and article on his blog titled "Vision and Strategy Church Trends for 2011 and Beyond." Mancini's writing is always challenging and in most cases he's been right regarding trends and church and culture analysis.

Will-manciniI thought it would be interesting to look back at his predictions and see how many of these items have truly trended (not from a statistical analysis viewpoint, but from a totally unscientific view based on my opinions.

So, here are Will's trends, as he listed them with my 20/20 hindsight:

TREND #1: Expect Increasing Diversity of Opinion on What Good Vision and Strategy Look Like. 

Over the past few years, I have attended conferences and viewed webcasts featuring authors, pastors, leadership consultants, denominational and corporate leaders all focused on the same thing - vision and leadership strategy. In each case, the information gathered was helpful, but as Will stated, there are so many diverse opinions and plans, that it is easy to be overwhelmed with the options. Therefore, it seems that the danger many pastors face is hitching their vision and strategy wagon to one idea and then changing gears after the next book or conference has come out. There are many opnions on how to cast vision and develop strategy. This reminds me of the story (maybe true) when D.L. Moody was asked which translation of the Bible was best and he responded "The one you read." In this case, it may be the best vision and leadership strategy implemented in the local church is "the one you use."

TREND #2: Articulating the Biggest Picture will be the Leader’s Greatest Asset Like Never Before.

For years, even under my leadership, church members and staff members have made statements like "We're not even sure who we are or why we do what we do." That can be a hurtful statement if one keeps his feelings on his sleeve. However, beneath this statement was a declaration of frustration that I needed to hear. Unless the church (and especially the leadership team) understands the big picture - the "why" of what we are doing, the ministries, activities, events, community actions, etc. become little more than things that keep the church looking busy and eventually leads to burnout and shallow service.

TREND #3: The Digital World and Social Media will Open New Possibilities for More Churches.

Churches are behind in this area, and always will be. However, that doesn't mean that we must remain disconnected and refuse to utilize the tools available online and through digital media. At one time, cost of equipment and fear of technology kept many churches out of this realm, but with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites, there are no longer any excuses for churches to not have an online presence.

We now have a Director of Social Media who is responsible to continually keep communicating through social media sites as well as seek new venues to help the church find an online presence.

Just having a presence on social media isn't enough and the technology keeps changing. Who knows what the next five year holds, but the church needs to be prepared to step into this realm, not just to be trendy, but ultimately to fulfill the BIG picture vision (TREND #2) of reaching people.

Our church members and attenders are already engaged online. We now have wifi throughout the church and use the YouVersion Live Bible for notes during services. Our app is available free online, but as with websites, unless there are regular updates and new options, these will not be regularly used.

Online giving used to be a no-no in our church, but once instituted, it has consistently grown as a viable option for giving tithes and offerings and especially for registering for camps, mission trips and events. I believe in the next five years most of our giving will be online. 

TREND #4: Visioning and Spiritual Formation as Disciplines will Merge More Visibly.

I have begun to see this develop in our network. There's still quite a bit of the corporate visioning in place, and with value, but the focus has shifted.

TREND #5: Small Will Continue to Be the New Big

It's interesting that within the last ten years or so, at least two churches in our county sought to reach more in the community by using a 1980s "Field of Dreams" strategy where "If we build it, they will come" became the apparent theme. As of this writing, each of these churches faced dramatic downward spirals in giving and attendance (due to various reasons beyond just entering a building program) and ended up with newer, bigger buildings, mounting debt and ultimately merging or partnering with other churches just to survive.

While this isn't always the case, (Celebration Church Jax) new, bigger buildings don't seem to impress people as they apparently did decades ago. 

At the same time, we have seen a dramatic increase in our network of church planters and new starts. Some of these new churches are meeting in homes, in schools, workplaces and even in other church's buildings. Some would be described as "ethnic churches" (which, I believe we will eventually see the end of the racially divided church designator soon) but most are multi-ethnic, designed to glorify God by connecting with the unchurched. 

Through multiple, smaller plants, we are seeing more engagement in the community and local churches (at least, that's my perspective.)

Within the church, we are seeing a growing increase in small groups that meet off campus, in homes or restaurants. Rather than begging people to come to the church, we are seeing a greater trend of the church going to the people.

Overall, I'd say that Will Mancini is right. These trends continue to impact the church in our culture. May the church continue to be as the men of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32) and know the times and impact the culture for Christ.


Don't Take It Personal When I Unfriend You on Facebook

I tried this once before and then was inundated with "friend requests." I was strong for a season, but eventually "accepted" many of the requests.

It's an amazingly challenging step to click the "Unfriend" button on Facebook.

Why? Because before the creation of this social media juggernaut, a friend was just that. . .a friend. It was a noun that described a personal relationship that was intimate and stronger than just acquaintence. Jesus is a "friend of sinners" and that was and is a powerful statement.

UnfriendNow, we live in an age where "friend" is a verb. It's something you do. You can friend someone and even (here's the new term) unfriend someone. It's not that big a deal, really. It's just a click of the button on a computer screen or phone, but it feels hurtful.

Nevertheless, I'm about to "unfriend" a bunch of people. What's strange is that most of those, if not all, are actually my friends.

So, why am I doing this?

I think Michael Hyatt explained it best in his blog. . .

Until now, my “friend policy” (if you could call it that), was to simply accept any and all comers. I figured, the more friends the better. The problem is that this resulted in a huge amount of noise, not to mention added workload. I grew weary of all the friend requests, invites, and notifications.

It also made me think long and hard about my vocabulary. Like many people, I had begun to use the term “friend” in a very loose way. The first thing I did in re-thinking my strategy was to tighten up my definitions of key terms:

    • Family: These are the people who are related by blood or by marriage. I have occasionally been too loose with term, too. I have used it to refer to close personal friends or even the “Thomas Nelson family.” But I don’t think this is accurate or helpful. It creates the illusion of something that is not true. From now on, I am going to use this word as it was intended.
    • Friends: These are the people I know in real life. They are people I have met face-to-face, enjoy being around, and interact with in real life. (These three elements are key.) Frankly, a few of these relationships started off online through Twitter. Over time, they grew and developed. Regardless, I have a few deep and significant friendships. But if I am honest, I don’t have many. I only have so much time available.
    • Acquaintances: These are people I have met online or off. I may know their name or even their face. We may even have been friends at some point in the past, but we don’t have an ongoing relationship. We only know one another at a superficial level, and that’s just fine. We just have to be clear that these are not our “friends.”
    • Fans: These are the people who know my public persona or my work. This is also where people get confused because the relationship is not mutual. For example, I am a fan of Chris Brogan. We have even met once. I know lots of stuff about him, because of his blog andTwitter posts. This creates the illusion of intimacy. If I am not careful, however, I could fool myself into thinking I have a relationship with Chris. I don’t. I’m just one of his many fans.

So with those definitions in mind, I set out to re-think my approach to Facebook. Basically, it’s pretty simple. I have decided that I will only use my Facebook profile for family and close friends. I don’t want an inbox that is flooded with sales pitches and invitations to things I don’t care about.

However, realizing that more people are on Facebook than Twitter and that at least five percent of my blog traffic comes from Facebook, I decided to create a fan page for everyone else who wants to connect with me.

To read Michael's full posting, click here.

For the record, the "fan page" title is now a "public figure page" and I believe it's a better signifier.

Like most people, I have too many online identities (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.) and while social media is here to stay, and can be an effective ministry tool and interpersonal connector, I must once again pull back the reins.

So, I'm unfriending some people.

Yes, I'm clicking the button and will most likely anger some people. I know some will wonder why they're not connected on my personal page any longer. They'll feel slighted. I'm sorry. Really, I am. But. . .it's happening. 

I'm not breaking up with you.

Funny, huh? But, that's the emotion some equate to an unfriend.

So, who will be connected on my personal page?

Well, my family, close friends, and those who serve in ministry (missionaries, pastors, church planters, and family members of such.)

For those who wish to connect, and I hope you will, please go "Like" my Public Figure page.

Here's the link - www.facebook.com/pastor.david.tarkington.

You can even message me there. I'll get it (if I remember to check that inbox) and respond as quickly as I can.

By the way, even if we're unfriended, we can still be real friends.

Oh, and I hardly ever use my personal Facebook page anyway.


Beauty Restored: The Rescue of Porn Star Crissy Moran

IMG_1-1-656x225
As you know, we have scheduled Crissy Moran to speak during our 9:15am & 10:45am worship services on Sunday, September 22 at First Baptist Church of Orange Park. I blogged about Crissy's story back in 2008 and connected with her via email about the potential of having her come back home to Jacksonville and share her story.

The right time to have her here didn't work out. Perhaps it was just scheduling? Maybe it was the need for Crissy to go a little further in her journey with Christ? It could be that the church in Orange Park just wasn't ready yet to address this? 

Honestly, how many Baptist churches set aside a Sunday morning service so a former porn actress and model can share her story? Based on the emails of encouragement I have received once we announced this, the answer is "Not many. . .if any."

The years went by and recently, I felt God leading us to reconnect and see about having her here. 

At FBCOP, we have been speaking all summer about the elements of a Gospel-centered church. One element of a church grounded on the Gospel, focused on Christ and set to expand the Kingdom is the evidence of "Many God-stories." While God-stories are everywhere, as we grow and journey together, the evidence of these moments become clear.

God-stores are stories of transformation. They're stories of redemption and hope. They're stories of peace and comfort in the storms of life. They're stories that do not always work out as we would plan, but in God's plan work to bring Him glory.

I talked with Crissy yesterday about the upcoming service in September. She's nervous. Jacksonville is her home town and . . . well, it's hard to come home sometime, especially when sharing a story like hers. Her mother and family are so very supportive and they will be here. It will be a good day. It may not be easy, but it will be good. It will be good because Crissy will be able to express how God has redeemed her. We'll talk about her past. It's part of the story, so it cannot be ignored, but we will focus on the redemption.

Her story is about a wounded young woman from Jacksonville. It's a story about seeking love and acceptance. It's a story of being hurt and feeling helpless. It's a story about believing lies for so long the truth was unrecognizable. It's a story of a little girl lost. . . then found.

Crissy left Jacksonville back in 1999 for the glamour of Los Angeles. She soon became one of the top adult actresses in the industry, making around $14,000 a month. Money, fame and parties were the norm. In the world's economy, she had everything anyone could ever need. Yet, on the inside, she was empty. Something wasn't right and she knew it. She just didn't know what it was. She didn't have the capacity (and no one does) to fix it. Then, she met Christ, for real. This was not a "religious" experience. It was a moment of rescue, of redemption, of cleansing, an elimination of condemnation and an invitation to life and true intimacy.

There's so much more to her story and she'll share more in September. 

I smile as I remember what she told me yesterday. Crissy said, "I just never dreamed it could be like this." That was a statement of joy and relief. She was giddy as she explained the love she's found in marriage (married just a few months ago) and how God is using her and her husband in newfound ministries. It's still all new, but it's evident - God's not through with Crissy. She never dreamed or desired to be "in the ministry." There's pain in her voice as she references the past, but she knows that God loves her and is Healer. She also desires that no other young woman fall into the lies as she did. She hates that men have been duped by the Enemy with addictions and lies the porn industry propagates. She wants to be used by God to help others.

It's a God-story. It's powerful and it's still being written.

DETAILS ABOUT OUR DAY WITH CRISSY

WHEN: Sunday, September 22, 2013 at 9:15am & 10:45am

WHERE: First Baptist Church, 1140 Kingsley Avenue, Orange Park, FL 32073 (www.opfirst.org)

TOPIC: Redemption Stories. Crissy will share via "interview" with me about her story. The topics will not be presented in a crass or "shock-filled" way, but due to the subject matter, we have extended children's small groups & children's church activities in both hours up through grade 6. While some may desire their junior high & high school students not hear this information, may I respectfully suggest that you allow them to be in attendance. I spend time each week on a junior high campus. Believe me, they (students) know about sex, internet porn and other things I won't address here. They get a skewed version of all of these issues. The church is speaking about the issues in a biblical, truthful way. 

WARNINGS: I have been asked if broaching this subject is a good idea since so many men struggle with internet porn (and the number of women dealing with this issue is increasing dramatically as well). The alternative to not addressing the issue is to do nothing. Friends, that's been done for decades by most churches and, well, we see how well that strategy has worked.

A note about Crissy and the internet. She has ONE official website. However, there are many out there that claim to be her's. A number claim to be her "new" site. These are bogus. They are owned by former boyfriends, producers and porn distributers. Unfortunately, the legal contracts Crissy signed years ago were pretty airtight. In other words. . .she doesn't own her images. The sad truth is that once a picture is put on the internet, it's there forever. This, too, is a great message and warning for our internet and social media savvy students.


Using Dial Up Internet

Dial up internet access.

DialupYes, this still exists. I'm trying to do some work on an old Windows XP computer that uses Netscape Connect as the internet provider. It connects via dialup. I can hear that old modem sound of the phone being dialed (of course it starts with *70 to turn off call waiting) and then the static, more static, more, more, more. . .a little more and then a voice that says "Welcome. You Have Mail." Yes, AOL owns Netscape Connect.

I have just stepped back in time.

Now to find a PC that will run this 5.24 inch floppy disk.

 


Concerns About Facebook Lead to My "Public Figure" Page

Facebook has grown immensely over the years. While some are prophesying of the social media giant's inevitable downfall (i.e. Friendster, MySpace, etc.) the fact remains that Facebook is still a big player in the social media world.

Facebook-like-buttonThe fact is that many of the original target users have now forsaken the site for other entities such as Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. However, many still check Facebook daily.

That being said, I have noticed recently some things posted on Timelines and friend's pages that just don't sound right. Knowing the "posters" as I do, I believe the comments to be tongue in cheek and attempts at humor. Nevertheless, they never quite sound that way.

Why?

Because the nuances of sarcasm and humor are not necessarily translatable in typed text (even with cute "smiley faces" and "thumbs up" icons added.)

Since often "inside jokes" are shared on Facebook that the commenter and the page owner understand and no one else, misinformation and misunderstanding are the natural result.

That being the case, I am going to use my personal Facebook page less and less and rely on a "Public Figure" page for linking my blog postings, updates and announcements. Truth be told, I'm not very fond of this option, but I am at a perplexing crossroad here. As the pastor of First Baptist Orange Park, I must do all I can to protect the integrity of the church and the mission of Kingdom growth. I don't like the "public figure" title because it seems to make more of me than I am. I wish there was another title. At least you don't become my "fan" when "liking" the page. That's even worse.

Since no one can be online all the time (though some of you make me believe you are) the potential of hurtful or at a minimum, misunderstood comments and postings on a personal page ending up on someone's News Feed is there.

So. . .if you choose to stay connected via Facebook, go to my "public figure" page. Click here for the link.


What the Church Can Learn From Steve Jobs

Some of you will find it difficult to admit that church leaders can learn from a man like Steve Jobs. In fact, just the title of this post is making some of you angry. I'm sure some are looking up verses of Scripture even now that affirm why I should never even attempt to make the claim this title boasts. 

Steve jobsAs many of you know, from reading his biography and other reports, Steve Jobs was not a supporter or believer in the Christian church. He was a seeker who abandoned the teachings of the Bible when his Sunday School teacher could not answer a question regarding the suffering in the world. He engaged in the liberal lifestyle and drug culture of Reed College. He became a dabbler and follower of New Age mysticism and his eccentricities of the "all fruit diet" and not bathing for many days as a young entrepreneur are well known.

Even though he was known as a demanding boss and very difficult to work with, his entrepreneurial spirit and leadership at Apple Computers has become iconic. 

I was watching a video presentation by Guy Kawasaki today. Kawasaki worked for Apple during the 1980s and then again in the mid-1990s first as the Software Evangelist and later as the Chief Evangelist. (Nice titles, huh?) He claims to be one of the few people to have been able to work with Jobs twice and survive. He is now an author and speaker and developer of numerous websites. One of my go-to sites is Kawasaki's www.alltop.com. Kawasaki speaks globally in different settings. He has spoken to leaders in the corporate and education world as well as at Catalyst to church leaders. Kawasaki's faith is evident and his ability to keep his finger on the pulse of culture is helpful for the church.

It's obvious that he has much respect for Jobs. When Jobs died last year, Kawasaki developed a list of "12 Things I Have Learned from Steve Jobs." I watched his presentation of this at TEDx at the Harker School in San Jose.

While watching this presentation, even though focused on the tech industry and business, I discovered some things that can be helpful for church leaders.

Here are the 12 things. . .

  1. "Experts" are clueless. That's a pretty harsh statement, but it's based on the fact that in industry, there are those who with past experience and age are elevated to the position of expert. Just because there is much wisdom in experience, there are times when the "experts" miss the point. He uses examples of Thomas Watson of IBM who declared in 1943 his view that the world would have a demand for a maximum of five computers. He also references Western Union's internal memo that declared the new device known as the telephone to be a loser and therefore not worth investing into. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: This is a stretch, but throughout church history, and especially in the past century or so, there have been some who have declared their "prophecies" of the future of the global church. Some have been dramatically proven incorrect. Sometimes it's a holding onto the past that leads to this, but mostly, it's a lack of discerning the Spirit's lead. There are far too few "men of Issachar" today who truly understand the times. However, there are some "experts" who seem to have their finger on the pulse of culture and without forsaking any of the message of the Gospel have been instrumental in leading the church to reach postmoderns and others to come. Lesson learned - just because someone has written a book and self-declared their "expertise" does not mean they are right. Trust the Spirit and the modern-day "men of Issachar."
  2. Customers cannot tell you what they need. Kawasaki states that "Apple market research" was nothing more than the right side of Jobs' brain. Jobs made it clear that if you asked the customer what they wanted, the answer would be simply "better, faster and cheaper." The customer would only ask for better "sameness," not revolutionary change. Customers can only describe their desires in terms what they are already using. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: People know they have needs, but they don't always know what those needs are. Even good Christian people in the church. Often the perceived need is a better choir, an organ (seriously!), better ministry options for the kids, a more comfortable gathering place, a new pastor, etc. What people need is revolutionary change. This is deeper than church talk. This is referencing the transformational change that only comes from the Spirit of God. So, go ahead and do that "church member survey" but you will not discover what is truly needed. You'll likely see things that have absolutely nothing to do with the Gospel and tranformed lives. You will see things that hearken back to the "good ole days" or a ministry model perfect for the 1950s (or 1990s - by the way, even the 1990s are outdated now.)
  3. Jump to the next curve. Big wins happen when you go beyond better sameness. Watch the attached video for a great illustration regarding ice (from harvesters to ice houses to refrigerators.) WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: I'm reminded of Reggie McNeal's book The Present Future. One of the statements in this book was that the church is answering the questions correctly. It's just that we're answering the wrong questions. It's time for a jump. We do not need "better sameness" but revolutionary change. The world is shrinking. The church must not run from the technology that enables us to communicate globally or support financially missionaries with the click of a button. It may seem honorable to discount the internet and hold tightly to that leather-bound King James Version Bible. I just wonder what we'll say when God asks why we didn't use the things He gave us fully so that more could know Him?
  4. The biggest challenges beget the best work. The biggest challengers of Apple, this little startup company with a new type of device called the personal computer were giants known as IBM and then later Microsoft. The challenges were great and many other companies came and went in the 1980s and 1990s. Apple saw the challenges as a chance to be better. (This is very hard for me to admit, since I used to work and love IBM, but it's true.) WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: Well, there are the David and Goliath elements here, but when thinking about the local church, it's a good reminder that the Enemy and the world are against the Gospel. Some cower to this. Some resort to creating "holy huddles" that protest everything. These churches become known, not for the transformational love and grace of Jesus Christ, but for the fact (or at least the appearance) that they are against everything. Some churches worry about the future, forgetting that this is a sin. The odds may be against the local church, but the victory is secure. This must be remembered. Any church that loses this focus becomes little more than a club. 
  5. Design counts. Kawasaki states that Jobs drove people nuts with his Type A design demands. He stated that "some shades of black weren't black enough" and other detail things that most would say "What's the big deal?" Jobs was a perfectionist. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: The church must remember that the work we do is not for ourselves, but for God. He is the focus. He is the audience. Therefore, why would we offer anything less than our very best? Some churches just offer crumbs at the altar. God deserves the entire meal. The little things matter. Just thinking practically, since our God is perfect and holy, we should care for all that He has blessed us with so that those who do not yet know Him are not distracted by incomplete stories, poor planned events and left-overs. Details matter. It's not about becoming obsessive. It's about offering the best.
  6. You can't go wrong with big graphics and big fonts. For Apple, this was made clear during Jobs' regular presentations at Macworld and other gatherings. He would stand in front of a huge screen, usually with one large graphic image and few words presented. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: Fix your PowerPoint (or MediaShout, or other presentation programs for worship). Find some 16 year old that understands that clear and simple is best. Oh yeah, clean up the website while you're at it. No one wants to read paragraph after paragraph on your site (and, therefore, probably not on this blog either.)
  7. Changing your mind is a sign of intelligence. Apple did a 180 on it's announcements about app development for the iPhone and iPad between 2007 and 2008. It was the right shift. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: Times change. Programs change. Communities change. Churches change. What doesn't change? The Gospel. The Message. Don't say "We're doing this program until Jesus comes" from the pulpit. I've heard that said. Guess what? We stopped doing the program in two years. Why? Because it was time to change. There was a shelf-life for the program. It had served it's purpose. Oh yeah, sometimes you change because you realize you were wrong. God's never wrong, but we do not always listen well.
  8. "Value" is different from "price." Apple products have never been the cheapest on the market. Why then does market share increase? Because the products are quality and have value. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: Ministry is not easy. It will cost. It will cost time. It will cost money. It will cost friendships sometimes. It will cost some relationships (Luke 14:26). However, all of these are worth it. The Gospel is worth it. There is value in the Gospel. It is not cheap. Christ's sacrifice was not cheap.
  9. A players hire A+ players. Jobs would say that A players should hire A players, but Kawasaki one-ups him here. If a leader only hires players who are not as gifted and effective as oneself, the organization suffers. If A players hire B players, then B players will hire C players, C players will hire D players, etc. What happens when you get to Z? WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: Staff well. Too often pastors and ministers are "hired" for reasons other than the call of God and the excellence of the ministry needed. Poor hires lead to weak ministries which lead to frustrated leadership teams and disgruntled church members. 
  10. Real CEOs demo. Jobs always showed how to use the products on stage at the trade shows. He didn't have someone else do it for him, when he was able. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: Pastors must live out what they preach. Delegation is great, but many pastors do not fully understand what it is. Delegated leadership is not telling others on the staff or in the congregation to do something the pastor would not do. I have seen this and it's poor leadership. Pastors cannot tell others to share Christ if they do not model it first. Real pastors demo.
  11. Real CEOs ship. Sometimes the product wasn't fully complete, but Jobs would ship it anyway. It was always ready, but in most cases not fully developed. That's why there continue to be new iterations of Apple devices. Do you know anyone who still has the original iPod? You know, the bulkier white one with the monochrome screen? It was good. It was ready, but not fully developed. That's why there are newer versions of these devices and others released each year. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: If you wait until everyone in your church has been trained in evangelism before you begin to share your faith, you will close your doors soon. If you wait until everyone is fully engaged missionally, you will miss the moment God has given you now. Understand the challenge. Prepare and continually refine, but "ship." Don't remain in the church building. The Great Commission is about action. Real pastors lead their churches to engage. . .to "ship." Refine and release new editions (new believers) as you go and grow, but go and grow!
  12. Marketing boils down to providing unique value. Items need to be unique (not refined sameness) and valuable to impact the market. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: Our message is the most valuable one in the history of the world. It's a message of hope and life. It's the Gospel. It is never changing and cemented in Jesus Christ. The method for delivering the message. . .well, that's ever-changing. The challenge for the church is to follow God's lead into newer methods of delivering the never changing message. If the church does not embrace this, we are doomed to replicate what the church of Europe is now experiencing  - closed buildings, fewer believers and a culturally dying faith. (Oh, by the way, it's not hopeless even in Europe. I believe God is going to do a mighty work among the atheistic post-Christian culture there. It's never happened in the history of the world, but then again, our God has mastered the impossible.)

BONUS: Some things need to be believed to be seen. Here's Kawasaki's quote: "When you are jumping curves, defying/ignoring the experts, facing off against big challenges, obsessing about design, and focusing on unique value, you will need to convince people to believe in what you are doing in order to see your efforts come to fruition. People needed to believe in Macintosh to see it become real. Ditto for iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Not everyone will believe—that’s okay. But the starting point of changing the world is changing a few minds. This is the greatest lesson of all that I learned from Steve. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: I love this parallel. Faith is believing what we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). A visionary pastor must believe that which God has revealed. There's no room for "Show Me" faith.

I recommend you follow Guy on Twitter at @GuyKawasaki 

Read more: http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2011/10/what-i-learned-from-steve-jobs.html#ixzz1qjfQtCkB


"Is Steve Jobs in Heaven?"

Jobs When Steve Jobs' death was announced, though expected, it still shocked many. Jobs was a unique man. Some have called him a visionary. He's been described as the "Edison of our time." Apple stores now double as memorial sites as flowers and cards are left at the doors. I've seen "iSad" on numerous signs and Facebook postings lamenting his death. He certainly was very intelligent and creative.

I hope you will join me in praying for the family of Steve Jobs, his wife and children especially. Pray for the dear friends who have lost a loved one.

I posted earlier in the week a simple link to Facebook from the Apple website that stated "Steve Jobs 1955-2011."

I put no other statement, comment or link with this other than the link to the Apple website. I found it interesting that within just a few hours a dialog had begun in the comment section about the impact, humanity and spirituality of Steve Jobs. Some clearly stated that he was not a believer in Christ. Others were offended that someone would dare judge someone as not being a Christian whom they had never met. The dialog was getting . . . well, nowhere productive, so I ended up deleting the post completely.

On Friday morning at one of our local junior high schools, the question of legacy and life and death came up, so Steve Jobs came up once again. One of the junior high boys asked point blank, "So, is Steve Jobs in heaven?"

Hmmm. Great question. This led to a wonderful discussion.

Steve Jobs is going to be greatly missed in this world. He brought many computer innovations, not to mention the entertainment of Pixar films, to the world. I worked at IBM for a number of years and our theme was based on Thomas Watson's message of "Think." We all had little signs in our offices with the "Think" plaque attached. I still have mine.

Jobs, and Apple came along and introduced a similar, but different theme of "Think Different."

I'm not sure how many outside the computer industry caught that as a response to IBM and the PC, but we did.

Jobs and Apple pushed the envelope. The Macintosh was so different than the PC-DOS based systems out there. Computer mouse? What's the use of that? GUI (Graphical User Interface) was another innovation. Now, these are standard.

When I was at IBM, Jobs was not at Apple. He had been fired. That seems crazy nowadays to even imagine. Apple fired Steve Jobs! They hired a CEO from Pepsi named John Sculley. Under Sculley and subsequent leaders, Apple almost faded away. It's hard to imagine that Apple was at one time headed down the same path as Compaq and Gateway and a host of other computer companies that were poised for greatness only to be relegated to the class of "also-rans." Here's a good article from Bloomberg BusinessWeek on the Sculley-Jobs relationship. (Note the suspenders and bow tie that Jobs is wearing. Obviously before he determined the black shirts and jeans would be his trademark uniform.)

117px-NeXT_logo.svg During this time, Jobs founded NeXT Computers. This was an interesting company. It partnered Jobs with Ross Perot (yes, that Ross Perot) as Director. Though short-lived, NeXT had profound impact on the computer industry. 

Of course, most of you know that Jobs was brought back as CEO of Apple and under his visionary leadership led Apple to become one of the strongest corporations in the world. Even in a world facing economic downturn, Apple is growing. 

It's also interesting to note that many of the Wall Street protestors against corporations have stated that Apple "is different" and they like Apple and Jobs. 

Anyway, back to the question from the junior high boy and the comments on Facebook. With all that Jobs has done for technology and entertainment, the question remains about eternity.

Many have viewed Jobs commencement address at Stanford University back in 2005. Knowing that his time on earth was coming to a close, he sounds prophetic regarding life and living it to the fullest. 

One of the most repeated quotes from Jobs is this:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. … Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

It echoes the statement from Solomon as recorded in Ecclesiastes 7:2

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.

Funerals and death are great reminders of what matters in life. The parties, feastings, fear of embarrassment and failure, etc. melt in the presence of a casket. Death is the destiny of all. The living should take it to heart.

While I pray that Jobs came to understand that life is eternally available only through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I have seen no indication publicly that he ever accepted this. Jobs was a very private man, so perhaps he did come to Christ. However, there are numerous stories that lead one to believe he held more a New Age or Buddhist view of life and eternity. Still, we will not know this side of heaven.

This we do know.

The life God gives us here on earth is short. Whether 20 years, 56 years or maybe even 100, is so very short when compared to eternity.

The things we do in this life matter. I appreciate Jobs and the things he was able to do. As I write on my iPad, listen to music on my iPod and watch Toy Story, I am reminded of his giftedness and innovative mind.

Yet, just as other great innovators left some wonderful toys and tools for generations to come, the truth of the matter is that a man is not defined by the stuff of this world. He is defined through a relationship with the Creator of it all. The greatest Innovator and Creative Mind ever. 

Simply put, what one does with Jesus Christ is what really matters.

So, as my young friend asked "Is Steve Jobs in heaven?" The answer for Jobs is the same as it is for everyone else, "Only if he received Jesus Christ's sacrifice as payment for his sin and became a child of God."

Not sure how to do this? I was going to link you to a site called "The Kristo" but it requires a Flash plug-in. Since Jobs did not like Flash and iPhones and iPads do not run the software, I thought better of it. Therefore, check out this site here. Take the time to read this and if you have any questions, feel free to contact me.