Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What will you do if...?


This was the caption beside the two photos above. I’m making no apologies for publishing them or for offending your sensibilities. These are the realities in which our world is embroiled. While we live sheltered lives in our comfortable homes, with the weather being the greatest threat to our comfortable western lifestyles, much of the world is being ravaged by earthquakes (three in the last month, with the Chile earthquake registering as the third most powerful in recorded history), and people are being slaughtered for simply professing to be Christians. For all its barbarism, we might as well be back in the dark ages and the Spanish Inquisitions, or in the Coliseums of Rome!

The Middle belt of Nigeria has always been a volatile hotspot for unbridled religious fervor and intolerance. These precious souls being randomly slaughtered were also created by the hands of a loving God, yet their senseless deaths will go unheralded and may not even warrant a mention in the late night news in the Western hemisphere. You see, the West has nothing to lose by standing on the sidelines and letting this crisis play itself out. If you’re a praying person, then Nigeria needs your prayers now. We have a dying president, an ailing economy, an impotent legislature, and a religious crisis all wreaking wanton havoc on our beleaguered nation all at the same time. More than just your prayers though, Nigeria needs the collective voice of the nations to stand up and speak against these atrocities.

If we don’t draw attention to the evil that is being perpetrated, we might as well be willing participants. The needless pain and devastation of the Rwandan genocide isn’t that distant of a memory. Let’s not allow another such scenario again on our watch. Let’s be a voice and a resistant force to the needless and senseless violence that is so blinded by hate and intolerance that it cannot distinguish between militant opposition and an innocent child. Will you be a part of the solution? If so you can begin by copying this to your twitter account, or linking it to your Facebook or your blog. Imagine what could begin to happen if millions joined forces and began to act?!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Smartphone Church?!

I absolutely love my new Motorola Droid and I can unequivocally say that it’s without a doubt the best phone I’ve ever owned. It pretty much does everything short of tuck you in and read you a bed time story, and the way technology is going, someone will probably soon design an app for that too! I get why they’re called smart phones as they’re literally a mobile office/assistant/communication center/media center in the palm of your hands. Here’s what I like best about smart phones though: the fact that they’re an open source platform. This means that any creative ‘Joe Schmo’ can design an app for them and make it available to users of the phones any where in the world.

For protagonists of open sourcing, its success is clearly demonstrated in the over 140,000 apps so far developed for the iphone. As an aside, I must admit that the drawback for owning an iphone or a Droid rests in the fact that they are exclusively available from AT&T and Verizon Wireless respectively. That’s actually why I never owned an iphone and purchased an ipod touch instead. I’m a loyal Verizon customer and have been for over 15 years, so the fact that the iphone was “married” to AT&T precluded me from owning one. I’m convinced that this is one reason why Blackberry smart phones have been so successful (since they’re available through multiple phone service providers). But enough about smart phones before the really smart people out there figure that I have no idea what I’m talking about, especially since this post is actually meant to be about the Church and what we can learn from smart phones.

What if the Church adopted a similar approach to impacting people’s lives? What if we embraced the idea that, to be relevant and beneficial to the people we’re trying to reach, it might actually be a good idea to listen to what they have to say about what their needs are? What if we actually practiced the concept of allowing people to belong before they believe? What if we didn’t become exclusively “married” to a single expression of practicing our faith, but instead embraced the diversity of ideas that represented the diversity of people seeking truth? Wouldn’t it be amazing if we allowed people to become part of our faith communities, bringing new and creative ideas about how we could better impact the larger community that we’ve been called to serve? That would be open sourcing at its ultimate! Remember that open sourcing allows you to develop an app and allows me to come along and modify it (creating version 2.0) so that many of the kinks are worked out, allowing it to function better.

Don’t misunderstand me to be saying we should embrace a pot-pourri of doctrines, because that is absolutely not what I’m suggesting. The Bible is clear on what the doctrines of Christianity are. What I am saying, and what I’ve often said is that the message is sacred but not the method by which we disseminate it. There are significantly more creative people sitting in our churches whose talents are going to waste while we struggle to do what would essentially be akin to child’s play for them. The partnership of Apple and AT&T recognized this fact when they built the iphone, and so they allowed independent developers to produce apps that would make their product better. The developers didn’t rebuild the iphone, they simply created apps that were compatible, and enhanced its performance and productivity. To ensure that they managed the apps as effectively as possible, Apple made all apps available only through itunes. The same can be said for the Droid as all apps for the phone are available only through the Droid “Market.”

Somehow, I don’t think that Apple/AT&T or Motorola/Verizon could have come up with all the ideas for apps that are currently available for their phones if they hadn’t invited, and indeed welcomed, the participation of open source developers. This may well have made their products less efficient and less useful to the market they were actually targeting. Because they allowed open sourcing, independent developers designed apps that they needed as well as apps that their friends told them they needed. This way, the market demand determines the success of the app (it’s kind of like the free-market approach to small groups) So, what possibilities exist if the Church embraced the same idea, and allowed people to become part of our faith communities, even while they’re still searching for answers? Why, they might actually help us develop strategies to more effectively reach our larger communities. Heck, they might simply improve on already existing ideas and help us create “outreach 2.0.” Whatever the case, a smart phone approach to building a faith community and embracing a multiplicity of ideas (or apps) might actually move us from stagnation and the scrap heap of irrelevance, to having a visible and relevant presence among the people we’re trying to reach with our message of love. After all, Jesus did suggest that the way to eternal life was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” If we listen intently enough, we just might hear the voice of the community (developers) telling us how they need to be loved.