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

CAMPUS & More missional ideas from my multi-campus church tour.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 6/17/18.

Today I’m analyzing a campus of #NorthviewChurch in Westfield, IN. As you know I’m often disappointed with how venues and campuses create a disconnected and inauthentic feel to their satellite locations. And this is never more true than during a video sermon.

#NorthviewChurch avoids thus misstep and fosters the feel of a live presence by having a screen on a stage that creates an image that is life-sized (not too big or too small) of the preacher on the stage. In fact, from the back of the auditorium (where I was sitting on this busy Father’s Day) it almost looked like the preacher was live.

This requires:

  • A middle camera that does not change perspective during the sermon. The same shot stays on the stage, creating the feel of a live presence. The side screens however (where the lyrics for the songs are projected) can be more of a closeup image and can often change perspective. However, the central camer which is creating the feel of a live presence of the preacher should not change shots.
  • The screen on the stage sits at floor level. This gives the impression that the preacher is speaking live on the stage and at its center.
  • The edge of the screen is black and the stage area behind the screen is dark. This adds to the feel that you are not looking at a screen but at a person that is live on the stage.
  • The sound emulates from the screen area. Some venues that have speaker arrays hanging from the ceiling may need to adjust the speakers to foster the feel is the voice emulating from the stage
  • As with most campus visits, the announcements, worship, etc. works e live.

 

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

TECHNOLOGY & Bad predictions made by technological optimists

In 2014  Bill Gates offered a prediction:

By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world. Almost all countries will be what we now call lower-middle income or richer. Countries will learn from their most productive neighbors and benefit from innovations like new vaccines, better seeds, and the digital revolution.

From the litany of bad predictions made by technological optimists, Gates would have done well to recall that in 1959 CP Snow had made a similar one, albeit with a longer deadline:

This disparity between the rich and the poor has been noticed… Whatever else in the world we know survives to the year 2000, that won’t.

These statements suggest great faith in the power of science to cure social ills. Needless to say, the gap between rich and poor has grown since Snow’s day. Poor people have got better-off thanks in part to the benefits of science and innovation, but the rich have benefited more, and the problems of poverty persist. Tackling grand challenges means going beyond what Evgeny Morozov calls ‘solutionism’, in which problems are redefined by technologists to suit the tools they have available.

Read more at … https://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2014/dec/19/against-excellence

SCIENCE & Why Technology Won’t Solve Poverty (but the Church might)

The Moon and the Ghetto

by , The Guardian Newspaper (UK), 12/19/14.

In 1977, economist Richard Nelson posed a question that remains central to science and innovation policy: how is a rich country like America able to put a man on the moon, but is unable to solve the problems of its own ghettos? In September of this year, after the excitement that came with the launch of India’s latest space adventure had subsided, even those unfamiliar with Nelson’s work asked similar questions. The Economist wondered ‘how a country that cannot feed all of its people can find the money for a Mars mission’.

The first answer to Nelson’s question is that science and innovation are tied to social choices. There are good reasons why the Indian government should choose to invest in ambitious hi-tech programmes while also working towards public health just as there there are good reasons to challenge their balance of priorities. The discussion is a legitimately democratic one.

The second answer to Nelson’s question is that the problems of space and the problems of poverty are qualitatively different, demanding very different approaches. Space missions are about technological problems with technological solutions. It is normally clear whether or not they have succeeded. There is far more disagreement about causes and cures for ‘wicked’ problems of poverty or climate change. Science alone cannot give us the answer.

Earlier this year Bill Gates offered a prediction:

By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world. Almost all countries will be what we now call lower-middle income or richer. Countries will learn from their most productive neighbors and benefit from innovations like new vaccines, better seeds, and the digital revolution.

From the litany of bad predictions made by technological optimists, Gates would have done well to recall that in 1959 CP Snow had made a similar one, albeit with a longer deadline:

This disparity between the rich and the poor has been noticed… Whatever else in the world we know survives to the year 2000, that won’t.

These statements suggest great faith in the power of science to cure social ills. Needless to say, the gap between rich and poor has grown since Snow’s day. Poor people have got better-off thanks in part to the benefits of science and innovation, but the rich have benefited more, and the problems of poverty persist. Tackling grand challenges means going beyond what Evgeny Morozov calls ‘solutionism’, in which problems are redefined by technologists to suit the tools they have available.
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One need only look at neglected diseases to realise the disparity between scientific research and human needs. Early policy reports identified a 10/90 gap – only 10% of the world’s health research funding goes to 90% of the world’s disease burden. Thomson Reuters found that the disparity is even more stark when we consider published research. The number of papers on elephantiasis and intestinal worms, which together affect more than a billion people, is less than a tenth of the figure for diabetes and HIV/AIDS.

With a rising tide of public science spending, it is easy to overlook social choices about how money should be spent. But even as spending on university science grew in Europe and the US through the 90s and 2000s, budgets in strategic areas like agriculture, defence and energy were allowed to ebb away. As Nanoscientist Richard Jones argued in a recent lecture and in a policy report last year, the effects of this shift for innovation in energy have been disastrous. Just as our awareness of climate change was demonstrating the need for new sources of green energy, the UK and others were cutting off major sources of innovation and expertise. We are spending next to nothing on energy research because nobody is taking responsibility for it. As science budgets across the world flatline or decrease, hard choices about priorities can no longer be avoided.

Wishful thinking and scientific excellence will not counter neglect. We need, first, to acknowledge that there are problems with systems of funding, reward and recognition in science and, second, to encourage new models of inter-disciplinarity, so that different perspectives can negotiate problems and innovate with various responses.

Read more at … https://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2014/dec/19/against-excellence

 

 

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/

TECHNOLOGY & Should We Use New Technology? Paul Didn’t Need It … Or Did He?

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/11/15.

A student once asked this very important question:  “Do you think that technological and leadership resources really serve to articulate, unite, and fulfill (God’s mission)?  How does that question and its response line up with the greatest missionary movement in history – that of the early church in Acts?  At that time, the gospel reached the “known” world without the use of laptops, airlines, email, and much dinero.  I really struggle with this, for it seems that as technology and prosperity have increased, so has apathy.”

I replied that when I look at the radical way Jesus and His disciples taught in the Apostolic period, I notice that they broke significantly with ineffectual traditional ways of teaching and learning that the Pharisees had codified.  Jesus used parables, open-air sermons, power evangelism (demonstrable works of the Holy Spirit, such as healing, etc.), personal encounters, as well as object lessons with prostitutes, tax-gathers, Gentiles, Romans, etc.  All this is to say that Jesus was not bound by the traditional methodology, but yet was consistent with traditional theology.  Thus, today with the advent of laptops, the internet, movies, TV, satellite radio, podcasts, etc. etc. I think Jesus and His disciples would not eschew these methodologies, but crucially embrace them.  This is what a good missionary does.  He or she “sifts” a culture to discover which parts confirm Biblical teachings, which parts are morally neutral, and which run counter to the claims of Christ.  It is the first and second categories that can provide conduits for the Good News.

The challenge is significant, but this is why missiological training is necessary.  Yet, a seemingly easier route is to simply ban all modern technologies, linking them to rising apathy.  However, the parallel rise in apathy and technology may not be causally linked. To think so without empirical evidence is what philosophers call the Fallacy of the False Cause.  Thus, I suggest that we be wary of what I label the fallacy of technological seduction (modifying this term from ideas put forth by Edgar H. Schein in Organizational Culture and Leadership, Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2004).  By this mean that technology can subjugate us in two ways: to not utilize it when valid, and to utilize it uncritically.

I want to get leaders thinking like missiologists.  I want them to expend their energy and brain-power to critically engage a culture and win it to Christ.  And, I hope these thoughts have been one small part of that process.

PS  I’ve noticed that Christians are often early adopters of technology.  When I shared this with muy colleague, Professor Russ Gunsalus who is earning his Ph.D. in American Studies from Purdue University in W. Lafayette, Indiana, he said this has historically been true (a point I was trying to make above).  Professor Gunsalus said that because Christianity is based upon effectively sharing knowledge that is why Christians have also historically been early adopters of technology that enhances communication, such as the printing press, etc.  Good food for thought 🙂