Sophistication Through Simplicity

MacBook Air Desktop

I didn’t just post a picture of a black square, this is actually my desktop. I love the clean, simple, and yet still very sophisticated… desktop, home screen, written code, verse, prose, lyric, file structure, office, room, company, house, life… etc (could be I like this so much because life in reality is actually very messy). This term, sophistication through simplicity, has come across my desk several times over the last few weeks, and it’s a phrase I have attempted to develop throughout every aspect of my life for years now. The main reason of course is that this really seems to be how Jesus lived out his earthly ministry. Scripture is so complex, packed full of highly technical arguments and situations, yet, the stories of Jesus’ life are simple enough for any child to understand. The verse on my various desktops in the graphic above about Jesus in John 1.14 is one of the most complex and sophisticated statements ever uttered, yet it’s so very simple.

There are so many ways I try to live this out, and one is being very aggressive at keeping my digital life organized, my desk clean, and to only allow those things which are most important to be most visible. That’s one reason why I really love using an Apple product over a Windows PC or an Android device (I have all the above and use all of them for different things, so I’m not totally Apple bias). Apple just makes it so easy to be digitally organized and in our modern day is a secular company that has spent 30 years perfecting sophistication through simplicity, something Steve Jobs took to its extreme. There are many different ways to achieve this, but a disorganized digital life (to me) is no different than a messy living room, or a house full of junk I don’t need.

I can’t think of a time in my life when I have ever been this busy, a time (or season if you will) when I am being pulled in so many different directions all at once. None of those directions are necessarily “bad” so to speak, but I find the busier I get, the more I have to simplify, organize, and focus on specifics. And that’s why I love the concept of sophistication through simplicity. It allows you to stay focused, remove distractions, and focus on what’s important.

10 Reasons To Learn Social Media if You Are a Christian

Scott Fillmer on Facebook

I decided to start a series of sorts on social media and how we the people of the church body use, don’t use, or outright diss the majority of the world at this point. I’m hereafter coining this series of sorts as the SMFT (Social Media, Facebook, and Twitter) discussion. Part of the necessity of this discussion comes after reading some of Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival by Leonard Sweet (or @lensweet), which I would highly recommend to anyone, but should almost be required reading for anyone born prior to 1985. I have written on this many times before, but I do so now mainly because there are still some in the church today who continue ignore this medium, which has now become the most powerful tool in the world to connect with other people.

Much of the premise behind Viral is to bring the older generations of believers (that is those born prior to about 1985) into the fold of understanding in the world we live in today. It is far easier to say “I’m not part of the world, the culture, the depravity of our society,” and ignore everything our world has become, even though we do still live in the world. We are supposed to be the salt and light to the world, not to be just the salt and light to the baby boomers. Many of us do ignore the power of social media in our calling as Christians to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).

How in the world can we make disciples if we don’t know and understand the different forms of social media like Facebook and Twitter? So you say I’m on Facebook, got that covered… well, I would say Facebook is the most closed, the least evangelically available social media tool there is. You can close yourself off in Facebook by locking every aspect of your Facebook account and never be heard from again, what type of witness is that? Did you know that most younger generations are moving away from Facebook at this point (partly because we are now on there). It’s extremely important to get beyond Facebook and into other areas like, Pinterest, Foursquare, FlickrSpotify, YouVersion, Kindle Books (yes it’s social), blogging, texting, and various avenues on Twitter.

[On a side note… if you are only on Facebook, you are not a part of the social media revolution, this is basically pseudo social networking at best. I say this because Facebook is close to reaching saturation levels. Facebook has become like the telephone or cable TV of the 80’s. Once everyone is on there who wants to be on there it’s growth is all but flatlined. I don’t mean if you aren’t on there yet, you shouldn’t get on there, and fast, but If you are only willing to get into one single social site, I would not recommend it be Facebook, I would first make it a smart phone, where you can learn how to access everything the world now takes for granted.]

So, if you are a believer, and think this social media thing is going to go away, I’m sorry, it’s only going to get more and more ingrained into the very fabric of the world we live in. In another 5-10 years it will encompass the world’s population, except for those who ignore it’s existence. For us the church to ignore social media is akin to the church ignoring electrical power and the car when they were invented, choosing instead to stick with candles and horses.

10 Reasons To Learn Social Media if You Are a Christian

  1. Jesus would have used this media (this is a later post, but I will show from Scripture why this is the case)
  2. We are called to disciple the world, and the world is connected via social media
  3. If you don’t learn the basics, instead of you teaching your kids, your kids will be teaching you at some point
  4. By the time you are ready it will be too late (it’s already quite late as it is)
  5. Your target audience are all sitting right there waiting for your witness
  6. How many people in your neighborhood have your talked to (witnessed to) lately?
  7. Door to door is dead. Buried… and greatly frowned upon in our society. Social networking is the norm.
  8. The disciples used every tool to their advantage (they wrote books and distributed them)
  9. The Bible is the greatest social media tool every created, it’s meant to be socially shared
  10. Because there are lost people who do not know Jesus and you may be their only connection

So there you have it. That’s just a start. I didn’t put a lot of references, or other specifics as to where my ideas came from, I will put those in future SMFT posts, and those 10 reasons are just off the top of my head, I’m sure there are a ton more. I beg the church body to not let itself become irrelevant in such an overwhelming way as to not be able to reach our world today. We make disciples by investing in people’s lives, and more than any other time in the history of the world, we have access to more people, to discuss the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with more people, than any generation who ever lived before us.

The Priority of the Church isn't the Alter Call

Over the last several years I have been asked to answer, from many different perspectives, “What is the purpose/priority of the church” and “What makes a true disciple?” (this post is the first question). Most of the time the answer to this question comes from what our culture says, and not from what Scripture says, but it’s not all that hard to answer the question properly from Scripture.

To answer that, this post is filled with two-by-two’s. There are two questions posed to answer the question about the church, two photos representative of the answer. The text standing for a formal seminary conclusion, and the photos representing a tangible aspect of that answer. I love the photo above, at least to me, this is the result of the work of the church, that is, the love of Christ, sent.

Which habits of the early church are still practiced today?

We read about the earliest formation of the church, and what they consistently practiced, in the first few chapters of the book of Acts, specifically in Acts 2.42-47. This is one of the first summaries given to us in the book of Acts.  As a summary, they were first and foremost devoted to the Apostles teachings (Scripture), fellowship (Gk. koinonia or participation and sharing), breaking of break (the Lord’s Supper and larger fellowship meals), and prayer (in houses and the temple). These would be the priorities practiced in the earliest church body. In addition to those, verses 45-47 give us a little more detail as they were selling their possessions, attending to the temple, and praising God.

One difference between the church in Acts 2 and the church as it proceeded through history is how many times it has now fractured into another set of beliefs or understandings (denominations), yet still being a part of the same body of believers. In Acts, they were said to have been “together, and had all things in common” (Acts 2.44), but it didn’t take long before differences started to tug at the church. This can be see as early as Peter in Acts 10, but today we almost have to define the church first since some churches seem to not have any understanding of Acts 2, let along put any of these items into practice. With that understanding, a true body of believers will still consistently practice all the items in Acts 2. Most churches who hold Scripture as inerrant will be consistently devoted to the Word (the Apostles teaching), fellowship, the Lord’s Supper, prayer, the church building itself, and to small groups (meeting at the home). If there was one among the list in Acts 2.42-47 that is most neglected today it would probably be “selling their possessions” and making sure the brethren lack for nothing. This is more of a nationalistic thing today (meaning it’s different in each country), and in the U.S. the church has given way to the government as the “helper” of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Is the priority of the church to engage the laity in ministry and witness?

The priority of the church must be the summary outlined in Acts 2.42. This is what the earliest tradition stated, which was founded on the immediate resurrection and ascension of Christ who put this summary in place. Therefore, the priority of the church should be (1) being devoted to Scripture, (2) fellowship, (3) breaking bread, and (4) prayer. In short, this means the church is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ” until we reach maturity in faith (Ephesians 4.12-13). The question above combines two pieces (ministry and witness) that the author of Ephesians doesn’t necessarily make in 4.12-13, though the importance of being a witness for Christ is made in other areas of Scripture. In this context, the priority of the church, as seen in Acts 2 and Ephesians 4, is to use the spiritual gifts given to the saints, to build up the saints, so they can then go out beyond the church and become effective witnesses.

In essence, that means the church is not necessarily here to bring in scores of the unsaved and the faithless so as to then convert them from within the church. The equipped saints are to be working as witnesses, and then bringing in those who have responded to the call of Christ in their life.  This practice of alter-calling has been a long-standing use of the church, but it shouldn’t necessarily be the priority if the church is to follow the example given to us by the book of Acts. The best way to do this would be to discover, develop, and use the spiritual gifts given to us as listed in Ephesians 4.11; Romans 12.6-8; 1 Corinthians 12.7-10, 28-30; and 1 Peter 4.8-10.[1]

The last set of two in this post are the actual photos themselves. The photo above is the church, in fellowship and worship, and the photo at the top is the result of that love.

[1] Darrell W. Robinson, Total Church Life: How to be a First Century Church in a 21st Century World (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishers, 1997), 108.

The Earthquake and Evangelical Thoughts on the Unreached in Japan

I have been trying to think of something intelligent to say about the earthquake in Japan but seeing the news and the pictures coming out of that country just leaves a person almost speechless. It’s different than Haiti of course, and you don’t see “text to donate” messages being flashed all over the place (why I’m not sure), you barely see the donate to the Red Cross for that matter.

Since our news cycles seem to rotate in and out so fast today, the coverage of the Japan earthquake will soon diminish to nothing but another historical fact, and they will move on to who’s winning the NCAA March Madness tournament or something else newsworthy like Lawmakers Pitch Gov’t Takeover of Driving Age (FNC) or The moments that make us fat (CNN), both of which were on the front page as of this writing.

But for the time being, news, for the most part, is still coming fast and furious from Japan. What the earthquake did do was, along with many other stories, bring awareness to the evangelical movement in Japan. A recent article from a magazine out of Korea called Konnect, titled A Personal Message from Dr. Michael Oh: The Everyday Tragedy of Japan gives some sobering statistics and offers a Christian perspective of the current events.

Japan is the largest unreached nation in the world. In Japan they are reporting upwards of 1100 dead so far. Again, it is very possible that that number will multiply 10 fold. But every 11 days an equal number of Japanese (1100) take their own lives. In hopelessness they turn to suicide. Every day is a tragedy in Japan for those without Christ.

Honestly I really had no idea the Japanese people were one of the most unreached developed nations in the world, no did I know they dealt with such a horrible suicide rate. Perhaps it’s because the source is out of Korea where the evangelical Christ movement is extremely different than here in the United States, perhaps we in this country are too involved with the four walls of our own country to notice, or both. According to Operation World on Japan, there are about 2 million Christians among a population of almost 127 million people.

If nothing else turns your heart towards the people of Japan it would be the photography coming out of the earthquake. Some of the photos are so incredible it’s just hard to comprehend from a vantage point of Auburn Alabama. The shot at the top was provided by GeoEye showing an area of Natori, Japan on April 4, 2010, left, and March 12, 2011. (GeoEye/Associated Press) I like the photo coverage from the Boston Globe on their blog called “The Big Picture“, which is sort of a pool from many photographers.

For some of the shots on the earthquake see: Japan: New fears as the tragedy deepens, Japan: Vast devastation, Japan: earthquake aftermath, and Massive earthquake hits Japan.

I Have Now Joined the Ranks of Church IT?

I received something yesterday that I haven’t received in almost 15 years (other than from myself), from a man I respect more each day as we begin to work together.  A paycheck.  It was really kind of strange actually.  Over the past almost 15 years, Deb and I have owned our own business and worked for ourselves, and pretty much worked when and where we needed to as the business dictated, until December 2008.  As of December, I have accepted a newly created position as the IT Director at Cornerstone Church, and started a new direction and routine for my household.

Joining the staff of a church, mission, or ministry and being able to serve, as a career, is something I have wanted to pursue from almost day one when I became a Believer.  As usually is the case, my timing is not always God’s timing and some 15 years after making my commitment to Christ, the time and place have come together in Auburn at Cornerstone.  I have been given the general task of “Leading People to Know and Serve Jesus, through technology” and I am so excited about the opportunity to serve, have so much to learn, and can’t wait to see what God has in store in the years to come.

Being an IT person, I have followed many other church IT people over the years, and now that I am a part of it, I would love to hear from or connect with other staff that are in the same position or fulfilling the same roles as I will be in the months to come. Two posts in particular that really got me thinking about what this job will eventually mold into is Zac Smith, the IT Director at NewSpring Church, The Perfect Job and this post that shows a great example of the relationship between church IT, communications, and media, Relationship between IT, Communications & Media.  I also appreciate the example Jason Powell (the IT Director over at Granger) has shown me as my wife and I prayed about this job and what possibilities IT has within the church.

Jason has taken the leadership role within the Church IT Roudtable group (and I hope to become a more active participant). There was a lot that went into this decision in my own household and a lot of it had to do with the unbelievable staff that is already in place.  I will be changing some of the ways I present my blog, (some of the topics are now going to be more related to my postion of course) with a mix of personal, photography, and work related content, so I hope you will stick around and see what else the Lord has in store.

The Church Body and the Internet, Part 1

The question about interactions between the Church and the Internet came up recently so I wanted to touch on a few basics of this topic. I am going to post several parts to this topic over the next month or two, so I consider this to be an introduction to the topic itself, not a conclusion.

Of course I am going to touch on the importance of a website, social networking sites and their effect, content the Internet contains that may keep us in line or cause us to fall short, the list can go on forever I think, but I will try to stay focused.

Living on the Internet

For the last 15 years my wife and I have earned our living through the Internet in one form or another, so when one discusses the church and the Internet today, it touches on a basis for something I am extremely familiar with and a place I generally spend most of my days through work, and as with most today, many other things from paying bills, entertainment, and overall general information.

I recently wrote a short piece on the importance of a church to have a website, called Does a Church Need a Website? After writing that post, is now acts as a spring board for this topic, so it was kind of strange for me to hear a message directly speaking about the Internet and the church a few weeks ago.

Does The Church Use the Internet Effectively?

I have watched the growth and changes the Internet has gone through, since the early 90’s, from a Believers perspective, and I did then, and do today, think it is one of the most underutilized areas of the church, and a place for enormous witness potential that lies in wait.

By underutilized, I don’t mean having or not having a website that shows worship times and directions. I mean having a witnessing presence to meet and address the needs of individuals on a personal level, the way it is described through Acts 1:7, a local, national, and worldwide reach, in a way and medium that is used and understood by our society. A way that probably each generation of Believers and potential Believers to come will be far more familiar with than your average baby boomer (nothing against them).

* Acts 1:7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Yes, there are many who come to Believe through traditional methods, and all those are important, but one can not ignore the Internet as a great channel to reach others. It doesn’t have to be someone around the world. It can be, but you can reach out to local people as well. There are many that are comfortable communicating through the Internet today that will not respond to traditional means for one reason or another.

Communication is the Anchor Today

I think it is important for us as a church body to recognize this, use the resources available, train the personnel, and actively communicate with people in a manner that anyone under about 40 would expect. This is not just email (and this is important), but through facebook, youtube, twitter, blogs, and whatever communication method is being actively used.

It doesn’t mean we are to engage in unethical behaviors, or compromise our beliefs in any way. What it does mean is that we should reply to emails, actively seek out those ways that Believers and possible Believers communicate in today’s world, and be ready to engage people in ways The Church may be neglecting.

Of course, you always have to look for some worldly examples (since we do actually live in the world right now), but where none are perfect, there are some that have an Internet presence that come to mind, like Ragamuffin Soul, check out his latest post, The Little Church Down The Block, and maybe Stuff Christians Like (for something a little off topic I guess), with his running list of truths (see latest #186. You down with O.P.P.? Whoops, I meant G.O.D.)

There are countless others, those are just two that come immediately to mind when I think of Believers using the internet for God’s Glory. Stay tuned for part 2, coming soon. What about it? What ways does your church communicate in today’s electronic world?

So Don't Confuse Me With the Facts

Jesus is the TruthWhen we were in town yesterday I came across this granite rock with this really cool quote and had to take a photo of it while I was there.

I am sure they would have preferred I purchased said rock, but I just wanted the saying, so out came the phone.  I had come across this before but it struck me when I read it again. At first, my thoughts were how this applies to “others” but quickly realized that this is really how many of us Believers think sometimes when we are listening to a well prepared message, scripture, or perhaps more importantly, other people.

I think we can often be close minded to the realities and situations of people that we come across each day. Everyone’s situation or current circumstances are different, we each have our own story, and no one else knows exactly how it brings us to this point today. We don’t agree with “it” (whatever it is) perhaps, but we should try to look at each situation and circumstance with the love of God in our hearts, not our normal judgmental ways. What do you think? Only a thousand ways to take this but it was something I wanted to remember past this week, so I had to write it down.

I had a pastor that use to tell me, there is basically one single Truth (Jesus) and that was non-negotiable. After that, everything is up for discussion and interpretation. How wrapped up in our own pre-conceived notions of how things should be are we as Believers?

Any thoughts?