TECHNOLOGY & Why the secret is accessibility, not control. #MinistryMattersMagazine @BobWhitesel #ORGANIXbook #GenZ

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Modern Miscue: Seek to control networks.

The modern leader has lived most of life in a realm of “command and control.”  Command and control is necessary in crisis situations, such as warfare or firefighting.  For Baby Boomers born after World War II, the command and control way of leadership became a popular leadership style in business and the church.

Modern leaders of this generation believe the way to succeed is to control through power, rewards, and punishments.  Slow cycles that grew out of an agricultural economy began to affect business principles, where the agricultural approach of “command and control” began to be applied to the business world. Like breaking a horse, “The worker must be trimmed to fit the job,” Frederick Taylor famously intoned. Subsequently, modern leaders bristle at the thought of losing control.  When wrestling with the freedom found in emerging networks, the modern leader tends to try to exert control through ownership. In the ever democratizing world of electronic communication, control through ownership is increasingly difficult.

Modern leaders attempt to take possession of networks that shape them.  In business, this often means controlling access by charging a fee and thus reinforcing a modern notion of ownership. In the church, we may do this by restricting access to those times and places the modern leader deems fitting.  Former Silicon Valley executive Rusty Rueff noted, “Movie theatres have long tried to control mobile phone signal in their movie theatres. They say it is because it disturbs people.  Really, they don’t want teens text-messaging their friends that the movie is dreadful.” From the days of passing notes in church, to text-messaging a friend far removed from the church sanctuary, church leaders have also tried to limit the location and occasion of electronic communication.

Millennial leaders who have grown up in the expanding world of communication networks, view these networks as public property.  And, to restrict access or monopolize them seems tyrannical.  Modern leaders may recall similar unfair restrictions.  At one time, restaurants and businesses charged a fee to use the restrooms. Charging a fee or otherwise restricting network access should seem just as illogical to leaders today.

Millennial Attitude: Networks should be accessible

Rueff, who serves as an advisor to the president at Purdue University, recently showed a picture of a classroom at that university.  Of the almost 100 students assembled, every one was sitting behind a laptop computer.  “Think of when this will happen in your church,” Rusty Rueff, the former Silicon Valley executive, said.  “What do you do in church?  Is there a place for those who want to communicate with laptops?  Or would an usher ask them to put their computer away?”

Immediate, Even Critical Feedback.  In a millennial world where unfettered networking is routine, millennial church leaders are starting to accommodate instant feedback.  Some young churches have an “ask assertive environment” where those who disagree are encouraged to state their differences of opinion, even during the sermon.  Millennial congregations such as Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis regularly invite questions or challenges from the audience during the sermon. Even millennial megachurches such as Mars Hill Church in Granville, Michigan, sometimes welcome a congregant on the stage to ask the preacher questions during the sermon (since the audience is too vast for everyone to shout out a query). Leo Safko, author of the Social Media Bible calls this “a fundamental shift in power … no longer does the consumer trust corporate messages … they want to be educated by, hear their news from, and get their product reviews by people they know and trust.”

At recent conferences I keynoted, participants were given a keypad so they could rate the presentation and/or their understanding of the content in real time. Even now increasingly smaller smartphones allow electronic feedback as presentations unfold.  Though modern leaders might initially resist such quick and honest feedback in the church, the day is not far off when immediate, even critical feedback will be visually displayed in our churches in much the same manner that words are displayed to a song.

Fact checking and further research.  Allowing laptops and smart-phones into churches may at first seem disruptive, but it will enhance understanding as it allows checking of facts and further research on a topic. I remember sitting in college classes, balancing a three-inch (or so it seemed) textbook on one knee, while holding in my left hand a large diagram of the human organs.  Amid this balancing act, I tried desperately to write what the professor was stating. Today, multiple items sit neatly on computer desktops where only a flick of a mouse pad is required to separate sources or conduct further research.

Nurturing Accessibility

The accessible church describes a church that is accessible via as many social networks as possible.

The accessible church creates networks that reach out to those in need.  Meeting the needs of the disenfranchised is a priority among millennial leaders. Expanding network access should not be limited to just Christians who attend a church, but to those outside as well. One congregation in Edmonton, Alberta started a church plant in an Internet café. Unexpectedly, the free Internet access they offered met the needs of a large Asian-American community in the neighborhood that did not have computer access.  As a result this accessible church in an Internet café created an ongoing network with a growing Asian-American community.

The accessible church fosters instantaneous research and feedback at teaching venues, including during the sermon.Because Christianity is an experience- and knowledge-based faith, access to information can foster a better understanding about God. The accessible church can offer Internet access at teaching times such as during sermons, Sunday school, committee meetings, etc.  Many modern leaders bristle at the thought of laptops and Smartphones being used during church, but so did professors several years ago (only to lose the battle).  At one time sound systems, video projectors, guitars and even pipe-organs were banned from many churches. Though uncomfortable at first, new ways of communication and exploration will emerge, first among these cutting-edge millennial congregations, and eventually among everyone else.   When speaker Stan Toler speaks to younger audiences he often uses instant messaging so attendees can ask their questions via a Smartphone while he is still speaking.  He then displays their questions on the screen and answers them during his lecture.

The accessible church provides on-line communities to augment its off-line fellowship. Online communities “felt the connection and affinity they experienced in these groups fully justified their designations as a form of community.”  Online communities often enhance off-line friendships. A church offering a 12-step program can create an online group in which participants can dialogue between meetings. Groups, committees, Sunday School classes and small groups can create, share and edit documents via Web-based word processors, such as Google Docs.  These online documents allow collaborative work (such as designing a Bible study) prior to face-to-face meetings. Online communities can allow those who have special needs or limited time/resources to still feel like full participants in the community.  In the same way that Robert Schuller continued a life-long ministry to drive-in worshippers because a physically-challenged lady’s husband requested it, online communities can engage people who might be challenged in their ability to physically connect with a church.

Leaders having little experience with online communities may wonder about their cohesiveness, value and permanency, but those who have seen them in action know that increasing accessibility to the church community only enhances the faith experience.

This article is excerpted and adapted from Organix: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church, Chapter 6, “Networks.” Used by permission and it can also be found in Ministry Matters magazine.

#GCRN2018

SOCIAL MEDIA & Many Church Services Are Now a Sea of iPhones. And Clergy Members Think That’s Great.

by Ruth Graham, Slate Magazine, 6/12/18.

… Until recently, many churches were that rare 21st -century phenomenon: the organically analog space. In the early years of the iPhone age, they remained tucked away in purses and pockets, and it was vaguely taboo to peek at them during the worship service. But walk into most churches on Sunday morning now, and you’ll quickly see how much that has changed.

…The most significant shift is the rise of the Scripture app, which for many Christians has replaced hardback or leather-bound Bibles that often approach 1,000 pages. YouVersion, a free non-commercial app that has more than 1,000 languages and translations, was one of the first free apps available when Apple’s app store launched. The app has now been downloaded more than 323 million times. (Other scriptures have their own apps: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Gospel Library app includes Mormon teachings.) YouVersion founder Bobby Gruenewald says he developed YouVersion because he wanted an easy way to read the Bible during the course of the day. But it soon became obvious than many people were using it during worship services. Usage more than doubles on Sunday mornings, Gruenewald says, and new installations of the app spike then, too. “Initially there was a bit of tension,” he recalled, when pastors were prickly about seeing people using their phones in the pews. But in recent years, he said, the complaints have mostly stopped.

… Some clergy members now actively encourage phone usage. “I feel like if the church isn’t using technology, we’re telling Gutenberg, ‘We don’t want your printing press,’ ” said Jim Keat, the associate minister of digital strategy and online engagement at the Riverside Church in Manhattan. He spends Sunday morning live-tweeting events at the church, including snippets from the sermon and prayers. Keat dismissed the idea that phones are problematically distracting to churchgoers. He pointed out that people have been tuning out in churches long before phones existed. And technology, unlike idle daydreaming, can be a vehicle for tuning in, too. People who have stayed home for any reason—illness, shyness, fear, pain—can use social media to peek inside the church doors and be reminded of what’s happening there.

Read more at … https://slate.com/human-interest/2018/06/many-church-services-are-now-a-sea-of-iphones-and-clergy-members-think-thats-great.html

INTERNET & A Mature and Biblical Response to Trolls & Cyberbullies #HaleyBodine #ChristianityToday

“We Are the Light of the (Cyber) World: Let’s Act Like It” by Haley Bodine, Christianity Today, 1/10/18.

… internet troll is a person who intentionally posts inflammatory, divisive, or otherwise upsetting messages and comments online with the goal of inciting quarrels and provoking emotional response. A cyberbully is an individual who attacks another person or people group directly, using shame, threats, and intimidation.

According to a recent study conducted by YouGov, 28% of Americans admitted to online “trolling” activity. The same survey showed that 23% of American adults have maliciously argued an opinion with a stranger, and 12% admitted to making deliberately controversial statements.

Most of us have witnessed this type of behavior. A new Pew Research Center survey found that 41% of Americans have been personally subjected to harassing behavior online, and even more (66%) have witnessed these behaviors directed at others. Nearly one in five Americans (18%) have been subjected to particularly severe forms of harassment online, such as physical threats, sexual harassment, or stalking.

This is a major behavioral problem, especially when 70% of Americans still claim to be Christian. If we profess Christ as King, we have a high calling to demonstrate character fitting for children of the Living God. We are to live as a sent people everywhere we are, including the cyber realm. Antagonistic, divisive, abusive, attacking, or otherwise harmful and destructive words have no place in the online lives of anyone who says they are a follower of Jesus…

Here are four things to ask yourself before posting anything online:

Will my words be useful for building others up (Eph. 4:29)? The power of life and death are contained in the tongue (Prov. 18:21)…

Is my post truthful?

Will my words reflect the character of Jesus? Before posting anything, we should run our words through the filter of the fruits of the spirit. Do our words come from a place of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? We will never regret choosing to withhold words that do not pass this litmus test.

Do my words honor the image of God imprinted on the people who will read them?Contentious online arguments and dissension will probably never cause someone to change their view on a hot topic issue. When we post our thoughts online, we must keep people as the priority, not our positions…

Read more at … http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2018/january/we-are-light-of-cyber-world-lets-act-like-it.html

ASIAN AMERICANS & They Rank First in Internet Use #AsAm News

by Randall, Asian American News, 3/2/16.

Asians and the internet

English-speaking Asian Americans are more likely to have technical devices than other ethnic groups.

Pew Asians and the internet report 2016

English-speaking Asians have flocked to the internet like no other group of people, according to a new PEW report.

The popular narrative says that Euro Americans “lead in technology adoption while other racial or ethnic groups struggle to keep up,” says the analysis. However, the PEW study says English-speaking Asians are more adept in the new technology that exceeds the rest of the population, including Whites.

The PEW analysis qualifies its report by noting that they did not poll non-English-speaking Asian Americans. A 2012 PEW survey found that 63.5% of Asian Americans say they speak English “very well.”

For several years, many Asian Americans have suspected they had a larger presence on the Internet much higher than their relatively small numbers in the general populace . But until now, there hasn’t been any hard data to support this thesis.

Not surprisingly, the next group in the categories were Whites, followed by African Americans and Latino Americans.

RELEASE: Almost everything about Asian Americans

Here are some of their findings for the English-speaking Asian Americans:

  • 95% use the Internet. It is not even close. In second place, only 87% of Euro Americans use the Internet.
  • 84% have broadband at home. The gap here is even wider. Only 72% of Whites have broadband.
  • 91% own have a smart phone. 66% of Whites own a smart phone. When including less advanced mobile phones, Asian American usage jumped to 98%.

Researchers surmise that Asian
Americans’ tendency to have higher education and higher income contribute to higher use of high-tech devices.

Hopefully, the findings will convince PEW surveyors to include Asians in their other research about the Internet use and social media.

Read more at … http://www.asamnews.com/2016/03/01/asian-americans-rank-first-in-internet-use/

COMMUNICATION & A Historical Timeline of the World Wide Web

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Christians know we have an important message to communicate. And in 1989 a new communication tool was initiated by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee, with names considered for the project including “The Information Mesh” and “The Mine of Information.” Known today as the “World Wide Web” or just the “Internet” here is a timeline year-by-year with visuals and video.”

World Wide Web Timeline, by Pew Research Staff, 3/11/14.

Since its founding in 1989, the World Wide Web has touched the lives of billions of people around the world and fundamentally changed how we connect with others, the nature of our work, how we discover and share news and new ideas, how we entertain ourselves and how communities form and function.

The timeline below is the beginning of an effort to capture both the major milestones and small moments that have shaped the Web since 1989. It is a living document that we will update with your contributions. To suggest an item to add to the timeline, please message us.

1989

  • original-proposalThe World Wide Web begins as a CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) project called ENQUIRE, initiated by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee. Other names considered for the project include “The Information Mesh” and “The Mine of Information.”
  • AOL

1991

800px-First_Web_ServerThe NeXT Computer used by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN. (Wikipedia)

42% of American adults have used a computer. World’s first website and server go live at CERN, running on Tim Berners-Lee’s NeXT computer, which bears the message “This machine is a server. DO NOT POWER DOWN!” Tim Berners-Lee develops the first Web browser WorldWideWeb. Archie, the first tool to search the internet is developed by McGill University student Alan Emtage.

1992

Read more of this intriguing article at … http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/03/11/world-wide-web-timeline/

INTERNET & Why ‘The Internet Of Things’ Will Be Huge, And Drive Tremendous Value For People, Businesses & the Church!

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “The ‘Internet of Things’ or ‘IoT’ is an emerging term to describe how the Internet will control everything from the lights at your home, your reservation at a local restaurant and even your education. And while some people fear this the way we’ve always feared new communication tools (e.g. the radio, telephone and television) there is an upside for the church: the church is positioned to provide one of the most robust face-to-face environments for a world that is increasingly electronic in its communication.

The church must recognize & fill this need, by providing helpful and attractive environments for people to meet face-to-face, talk about life experiences and work together to discover God’s purpose for their life. With the world increasingly losing opportunities for face-to-face interaction, churches have the local facilities and the seed bed of a community that can meet tomorrow’s need for face-to-face relationships.

This is exactly what John Wesley discovered when small groups (called class meetings) proliferated during the Industrial Revolution in England. People were moving to the cities and losing their family relationships. One of the important aspects of Wesley’s “method” and Methodism was that the class meetings or small groups provided a new family structure for people who were losing family ties due to mechanization.

With the increasing influence of the ‘Internet of things’ it is time for the church to study Wesley and his methods again!”

Read more at … http://www.businessinsider.com/growth-in-the-internet-of-things-market-2014-1

SEMINARIES & Their Future: My Interview w/ #OutreachMagazine #Forecast

Rphoto 5ecently I was asked by a writer for Outreach Magazine to talk about the future of seminary education.  Since, I’ve written on this since the 1990s, I’m often asked my thoughts.  Here are my (unedited) replies about what I think the future seminary will look like:

Outreach Magazine:  What shifts or trends are you seeing in culture, in the Church, or in your students that challenge you to change the seminary experience for today’s students?

Whitesel:  Christian leaders today want accessibility, practicality and economy. That is why we designed our seminary from the ground up. We are like a church plant, we started with a clean slate. And that is why we’ve been able to be so innovative. All of our courses our team taught by a theologian and an application (praxis) professor. That is probably why we’ve grown in a little over four years to over 400 students.

Outreach Magazine:  How are seminaries meeting the needs and challenges of emerging leadership?

Whitesel: Many seminaries are experimenting with online education. But often there’s a great deal of pushback from the professors and even the administration. Seminaries have not historically been organizations that embrace innovation.

However our seminary, because it is a new and growing young seminary, has established innovation as one of our founding principles. And, we are part of Indiana Wesleyan University with over 10,000 students that has utilized online education for over 15 years. So we have an experienced with online education that most seminaries just don’t have. That’s allowed us to led the innovation of tomorrow’s education of seminarians.

Outreach Magazine:  Anything else you could say about this?

Whitesel:  You didn’t ask this, but here is a good question: “what will the seminary of the next 20 years look like?”  I believe it will use virtual reality to bring to life some of the great historical seminary minds, either through holograms or video. You will be able to have George Ladd appear in your class on New Testament theology, and then have Geoffrey Bromley appear in your course on church history. Those were two of the famous professors from Fuller Seminary in the 1970s. And so the seminary professor of tomorrow will be more of a curator. I’ve already begun to do this by curating http://www.ChurchHealthWiki.com with almost 500 articles on church leadership and growth, curated for tomorrow seminarians.  So the future the seminary will be much more virtual and relevant with videos of historical and contemporary theologians – but curated for their practical insights by practitioner professors.