Stephanie Gray – Abortion: From Controversy to Civility

The following video comes from Talks at Google and includes what I consider one of the most eloquent and cogent arguments for life and for discussing the pro-life/pro-choice debate with civility and grace instead of anger and combativeness.

Her book Love Unleashes Life looks quite interesting. On her website she explains where the title came from. She was travelling in Romania and met a newly born girl who was never held, loved or shown any attention and she was “blank” and “flat” emotionally. When Stephanie’s mother picked up the baby and started to show tangible love, the child woke up after a time and care. And she said the idea that her mother’s love released the child from a prison of isolation. “Love unleashes life!”


cleanstylus surface pro 3

Theotek Podcast #025: A Germ Infested Group of Guys

When we started the Theotek Podcast last year, we never thought about the kind of episode we present to you this week. When I invited our guest, I never expected what this week’s show turned out to include. I’m glad it turned out like it did, with big thanks to Tuan Dam our guest who helped make this episode an inspiration.

We welcome Tuan Dam of Cleanint, a company that started out making products to help hospitals overcome germs. This includes the Cleanpen and Clenstethoscope. They solve a key problem in medial places. Germs cause disease and anything we hold with our hands gets germs. Clean your pen and stethoscope and a lot of the disease-causing germs go away.

The Cleanpen prevents germs in schools, hospitals, offices and anywhere that lots of people will use your pens.

Tuan branched out into tech with the Cleanstylus, a holder for the Surface Pen that fastens to the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and now the Microsoft Surface 3. That’s how I came in contact with him. He pitched the product to me for review at GottaBeMobile, and I agreed to take a look. I immediately loved it and included it in my list of the best accessories for the Surface Pro 3. They also make one for the iPad. It’s the best accessory for the Surface and Surface Pro 3 that I own, excluding the Surface Pen and the Type Cover.

We didn’t know that Tuan Dam’s company’s began and exists with an incredible mission that’s more than making products for medical professionals and now educators (crumb munchers have germs too). Tuan leverages his company’s influence to change lives for the kingdom of God. He calls it Missional Business. I call it fulfilling the Great Commission the way Jesus intended. I hope you will watch or listen to the most electrifying episode of Theotek Podcast to date and support Cleaning for the kingdom and because it’s leader is a kingdom minded business man.

cleanstylus surface pro 3
The Cleanstylus for the Surface Pro 3 solves a big problem. It replaces the horrible pen loop Microsoft included in the package that comes off too easily.

Our show also covered the release of Logos Cloud, a new subscription service that comes on the heels of Logos Now, which we covered in a previous episode. Read more about it in an article already posted.

You can listen to the audio version of this week’s episode using the built-in player below, or by subscribing to it on iTunes or Stitcher radio. It also shows up in most mobile podcast listening apps.

mike elgan from twit

What a Tech Podcaster Can Teach Pastors about Leadership

Mike Elgan, the news director for Twit.tv wrote an article about the lessons he’s learned about leadership while serving as the anchor of This Week In Tech’s daily tech news podcast. I read the article and decided that his lessons apply to pastors too. Here’s what a tech podcaster can teach pastors about leadership in the local church.

mike elgan from twit
Mike Elgan’s on the left.

I recommend that you read Mike’s article over at Baseline, a business site that focuses on technology and its use in business. He shares his six lessons about leadership. Let me start by quoting them below and then we’ll talk about how his lessons as the news director at Twit can apply to leadership in the local church.

  1. Embrace rejection.
  2. Let people own their own ideas and information.
  3. Never stop evolving.
  4. Embrace checklists.
  5. Start with the best partner you can.
  6. Serve the customers you want, not just the ones you’ve got.

That’s an interesting list and already most pastors can probably already see how they apply to our role as leaders in the church.

Embrace Rejection in Leadership

image credit: Tilemahos Efthimiadis on Flickr

Pastors face a lot of rejection. Lots of people will reject a pastor including…

  • People we talk to about the Gospel – they’ll reject Jesus’ gift of grace.
  • Disciples reject taking the next step in their growth – change is hard and changing my sinful habits is the hardest kind of change imaginable. Some of the best church members don’t want to grow in their discipleship because it means they need to stop sinning in one way or it means they need to start taking risks to follow Jesus and our leadership.
  • Churches will reject potential pastors – you’re not educated enough, smart enough, old, young, skinny, or attractive enough. You’re not married to the right kind of spouse. The experience you have doesn’t match what they want. You get the idea.
  • Visitors reject us – someone visits one Sunday or many Sundays, but then they leave. You preach too long or your music’s not right. The seats are too firm or the temperature’s too cold/hot.
  • Members reject us – I won’t do that job or I won’t come back because of what you or someone else said/did.

It’s easy to become gun-shy and avoid rejection by avoiding the risk. We close in and quit trying as hard. You can never avoid all rejection risk, but you can reduce it. As a result, we stop growing and so do the people in our churches.

Let People Own Their Stuff

give credit where credit is due
image credit: Nisha A on Flickr

Another way to say this is, “Give credit where credit is due.” However, it’s more than that. I can take credit for things and often deserve it. However, as my Church Grown prof said in Seminary, “You get what you praise!” Sometimes I should give away the praise because giving it to another person means they will feel encouraged and keep giving. Others will see the praise they got and subconsciously or consciously want it and follow their good example.

In other circumstances, we owe other people credit. I remember hearing about a pastor who preached a series of sermons. The congregation loved it and it was a hit. However, one person felt like they’d heard or read it somewhere. After a Google search, the person found that most of the content wasn’t original. The ideas, the stories and even the themes came from someone else. The pastor didn’t get fired over it, but he lost some respect.

Give credit. Most people don’t mind a pastor borrowing ideas to present a good message, but they do mind dishonesty. A simple statement like, “I read a book and it inspired me. I want to share what James MacDonald said in this book, so the next four weeks we’re going to look at how he handled marriage in that book.”

Don’t do this every week, but it’s okay to borrow occasionally. If you’re doing it more than once out of every six or seven sermons or Bible studies, then you’re probably being lazy.

Never Stop Evolving

Early in my ministry I read a lot more than I do today. Let me correct that. I read more books than I do now. Today, I find more helpful stuff online in short stints. However, I still read a lot … every day!

Don’t quit growing and changing. We’re not talking about changing ethical standards or moral beliefs. Keep the fundamentals fundamental. But evolve in how you present, lead, relate and reach out. Grow more knowledgable, stronger, more humble and more confident.

The best way I know of to do this is with other people. I try to surround myself with smart, talented, creative people. This includes people in ministry and outside. I can learn from a tech journalist and a ministry mentor.

Speaking of mentors, do you have one? Good ones are hard to find. Find one. They’re worth so much, if they will love and invest in your life.

Partner with Great People

This one’s out-of-order compared to the list from Mike Elgan. It continues the previous lesson in leadership. People help you grow and putting talented, godly, creative, humble and energetic people around you will help you grow. If you praise them, they will join you in your efforts.

A great book about working with people comes from John Maxwell, leadership guru and former pastor. Be a People Person talks about how to work with, get the most out of and inspire people. Grab a copy and read it, mark it up, find someone to talk with about it, and learn what he’s saying. It’s a great book on partnering with great people.

Embrace Checklists

image credit: Mufidah Kassalias on Flickr

I’m not good at his and need to learn this lesson myself. My checklists usually stay in my email inbox, the Reminders app on my iPhone, iPad or Mac, or just in my mind. I’ve not done a good job of organizing them into one daily checklist. I need to.

Mike Elgan says he learned this lesson when he took lessons on how to fly. Pilots live by checklists. They do a preflight checklist that they have to methodically follow or someone could die.

So, here’s a few areas I need to start making such lists.

  • Sermon prep – there’s a list of tasks a good preacher should do for every message and I often forget them, like praying before I start or testing my message for faith-building language instead making people feel guilty until they obey.
  • Ministry planning – too many times I’ve showed up at a meeting about a particular project with only a mental checklist. Recently I made a checklist for such a meeting and it was one of the most productive I’ve led in a months.
  • Family time – bring the checklist home and set goals for spending the right time with family doing the right things.

Serve the Customers You Want, Not Just the Ones You Have

We don’t serve customers, but we do serve people. The concept’s the same even if the terms don’t match.

How do we “serve the customers” that we want in ministry? If you do all of your teaching at a surface, overly simple level, then your people will remain simplistic and never grow. Instead dig deep and take them along for the ride. Show people the meaning of the text and why you believe it means that. Then show them how they can find that same meaning without you. Empower people to do hermeneutics even if they don’t know what that is.

Expect things of people. Don’t assume the worst of church people. Assume they will give you the best, and then expect it of them. People will surprise us.

You get the idea. Imagine the kind of church members you wish you had, and then start treating the ones you have like they are those kinds of people. They will surprise you and become stronger, more committed, more knowledgeable and more faithful. And you might find some that already were, but never could prove it because no one expected it of them.

get connected online

Online Church?

Church today takes on many forms, from the traditional collection of members meeting regularly in a building to house churches that gather in a living room or even churches in coffee shops, restaurants or other public places. But can a church go online and still keep the biblical requirements for church?

Paul Alan Clifford from Trinity Digital Media talks about what it takes to properly put together an online campus in a recent episode of his Tech No Babel show. Watch it below and then see what the Bible requires for a group to claim the status of church listed after the video.

6 Requirements for Church

It’s an interesting idea and a traditional church pastor like me struggles with the idea. How can you do church without a building and a regularly Sunday morning worship serviced where people gather in one place to sing, pray and listen to preaching or teaching from the Bible? That’s not the list the Bible offers for the requirements for church.

There’s no one passage that neatly lists them, but here’s what I think the Bible says a church should look like.

  1. Pastoral Leadership – Ephesians 4 talks about how God gave the church equipping gifts, including pastors and teachers. Without a pastor, we don’t have a church. Some churches lose their pastor, but they look for a replacement and often call an interim until they find one. An online church must have an equipping pastor.
  2. Community – In Hebrews 10:25 we read that we should not forsake the assembling of the community. Can a group of people engage in community if they can’t see one another face-to-face? I have a group of friends that I’ve never met in person, but they’re still important to me. I’ve shared private prayer needs with them. I laugh when they tell jokes. I feel the pain of their struggles. We are friends and fellow believers. We share community. Why can’t people do that online for one another in a church?
  3. Disciple-making – Jesus commanded all people to go and make disciples in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Any online church that’s not effectively teaching people to observe all that Jesus commanded them isn’t a church.
  4. Evangelism – As a part of making disciples we’re told to “do the work of the evangelist” in 2 Timothy 4:5 meaning we as believers must share the Gospel with others. Without evangelism you don’t have church.
  5. Ministering – Some people call this service or care-giving. Whatever you call it, its loving others and meeting their needs. The early church appointed deacons for this purpose. Without people sharing and meeting the needs of others, you don’t have a church. Deacons organize this, but everyone’s responsible to minister to the other members of the church and their community outside the church. This, more than possibly anything else, grew the local Jerusalem church in the early days of its history in Acts.
  6. Worship – This seems like the easiest one to fulfill online. After all most online churches stream “worship services” to their online community. Are the viewers really worshipping? Viewing a stream seems quite passive. If the online participants worship, then they can claim to have a church. If not, then it’s not. I’ve watched streamed worship services and it feels like watching a TV program, not actively participating in a church. It seems like the easiest element to fulfill, but might be the hardest.
get connected online
Media Credit: Sharefaith.com

The Answer

As I look over the list above, one thing stands out; many churches fail to measure up to the Biblical requirements of church whether online or offline. How many churches fail to make disciples, effectively share the Gospel, never really meet needs and don’t sincerely worship. Instead they’re performing a series of habitual activities that resemble worship but without any power?

If a congregation doesn’t include these six things, then it’s not a church. If it does, then who cares whether all the people meet in the same building or online.

what is a church
Media Credit: Sharefaith.com

How to Do Online Church

As Paul Alan Clifford says in the episode of Tech No Babel posted above, a dedicated pastor can help the online campus achieve the status of church. That’s not possible for some churches. Adding new staff for this group may not make sense financially. However, they could add the duties to someone already on staff. This only works if the person prioritizes the online members. Their needs can’t tumble to the bottom of the to-do list every day.

Getting a volunteer whose mature and needs some experience is a better solution for an online church pastor. Maybe a church has a person whose got the gifts and skills to become an effective pastor, but not the training or theological education. Here’s a great way to let them learn on the job as an apprentice of the church’s pastor. Serve as the online pastor and meet the needs of the online attendees by calling on the online members through digital means. Pray for them and even teach them through a YouTube channel or video chat.

Second, setup a way for these members to enjoy community. Use Google Hangouts or Skype. Find some way for them to get together regularly for online fellowship, prayer and even group Bible study online. If possible, schedule some in-person time for those living close to one another.

Finally, encourage them to minister to people’s online needs for the sake of the kingdom. Tech savvy members can volunteer to help people with tech needs. This is the digital version of raking leaves for a senior citizen. In the process they’re sharing the love of Christ in a tangible way. They can also share prayer needs in a private moderated online forum of some kind like a Facebook Group or a Google Community on Google+.

Who Should Attend Online Church

Despite all we’ve said, I don’t think its a good idea for a person to make an online church their exclusive church. People need a hug sometimes. So who should attend one of these online churches? Here’s a few. Add your own to comments below.

  • Shut-ins – train them to use the tools and even get them a computer or tablet to make it possible.
  • Temporary attendees – people away at college, in the hospital for an extended time, or shut-in temporarily make great candidates for an online campus.
  • Potential members – someone might want to get involved with a church, but they don’t want to commit yet. They could find the church’s website and get involved in a non-threatening way. This person may be extremely shy and threatened by interaction with people they don’t know.
  • Inmates – Paul had a great ministry to people in prison since he found himself in one a few times. A church could do the same digitally.
  • Sunday workers – many people work on Sundays and can’t attend our services. Get them involved online so they can still grow until their job changes.