Category: Technology and the Church

Multisite Minus the Big Screen

In just a few weeks, New Life will open a new location near the center of our downtown district for people to gather and worship. When most large churches open new locations, the sermon is from the lead pastor and is shown via video with some very cool technology making that possible. In this season at New Life, we are exploring another option. We will have a very real and present human teaching the Scriptures.

I am not here to pick a fight with all my pastor friends who have video campuses. There is certainly merit to each approach and I certainly respect the innovation and technology that allows some of our best communicators access to growing audiences. But I do think our approach has strengths that need to be considered, too.

1. We are giving young communicators a chance to grow

I remember all the chances I got while in my 20’s and early 30’s to actually study and preach a sermon. Mostly, it was on street corners on Saturday mornings, or at rescue missions right before lunch, or at some small, rural church led by one of my relatives. But they all were opportunities to learn, to fail and to ultimately grow up. Preaching and teaching, like any other skill set, requires reps and it is hard to get 10,000 hours of needed practice when there are fewer and fewer openings on the preaching calendar.

2. We get the privilege of studying together

Our model of campus expansion calls for each campus to preach from the same text each Sunday, allowing for some differences based on life lessons and personality. This means we have the privilege of studying together. Yes, it is a privilege. Since I have started this with a group of young leaders, my overall study time has been reduced by at least 30% and my preaching has gotten better, or at least, my wife says so. Together, we can read more Scriptures, study more commentaries and have better exegetical debates than if the burden of study rests on just one person. Plus, the unity that is forged in these collaborative study sessions is very powerful and only helps on Sunday in the pulpit.

3. We get to pastor people right in front of us

There is an unmistakable bond that happens between the teacher of the Scriptures and the listener each week. I want to look people in the eye and pay attention to what God is up to in the room and I cannot do that effectively by video. I love when the Holy Spirit alters my course in a gathering because of something unique happening in the hearts of people. Then in the next gathering, I don’t sense those deters, so I follow my outline with equal effectiveness. Somehow, for me, I need to be in front of people to be at my prophetic best.

We are just starting this journey and I am very thankful for a talented team of communicators at New Life that makes experiments like this possible. I may very well use technology to primarily communicate at future campus sites, but for now I really like the relational path we are on together.

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How to take a day off

The sabbath was not a suggestion. Moses included it in his top 10 and Jesus completely redefined this ancient practice to the Jewish culture who had made it a chore instead of a blessing. But, let’s be honest, most of us do not know how to take a day off without feeling guilty, restless or insecure. As a young pastor, I seldom chilled for a entire day and it almost cost me my marriage, my health and my ministry. Today, I am better at it. Here are some thoughts and suggestions to help all of us unplug and recharge our lives.

1. Tweet less or not at all.

2. Don’t look at your Facebook inbox.

3. Go on a date with your spouse.

4. Go outside and take a walk. The sun recharges our bodies more than we think.

5. Unless it’s family or one of your close friends, do not answer your phone. Voicemail is a great screening tool.

6. Don’t drink cheap coffee.

7. Talk about anything but work stuff. Note to pastors – church stuff is work stuff.

8. Wear clothes you would never wear to work. I have an awful set of t-shirts I wear on my day off.

9. Do something that makes you smile or laugh. If nothing comes to mind, read something from Dave Barry.

10. Spend time reading the bible. If you’re a pastor or teacher, do not read the text you plan to teach on Sunday. Read for yourselves today and not for others.

11. Hit yourself on the kneecap with a hammer each time you read an email from work. After a couple of emails, you will be forced to lie down and rest.

12. Spend some time completely alone. Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. We should too.

May our souls be restored and our joy return as we trust that God can do more in our lives in six days than we can accomplish in seven days on our own. The sabbath requires faith and obedience, but the rewards are incomparable.

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Every Story Matters

What is your story? What has God done in your life lately? Would your story be encouraging to someone else if they heard about it? Would your story build someone’s faith and give them the courage to keep praying? Most likely.

A couple of Sundays ago, a man named Dale told his story to our entire church. He had been homeless and alone until he met a New Lifer while walking downtown one Saturday afternoon. They became friends and fast forward a few weeks, Dale accepts Christ, finds a place to stay, and makes New Life his new church family. He lost wife about a year ago, but she diligently prayed for Dale to follow Christ, even as she lay on her death bed.

Sitting in the crowd that Sunday was a young Air Force airman whose wife was praying for him to make the same decision. At the end of the talk, he came down to the front and prayed with one our team. After the gathering, he found me outside and told me when heard Dale’s story, he knew he needed to change his life. It was a story, not a well crafted sermon, that made the difference.

In the age of Twitter and Facebook, we seem to talk about ourselves too much already, but I do believe an inspiring and authentic story can still change people. When God does something in our lives, we should tell others when we get the opportunity.

At New Life, we are working harder at telling all the amazing stories we hear each week. So don’t be surprised if someone holds a camera in front of you because we all need to hear it. Stories really do matter and your story can change lives.

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Do you take notes?

Do you take notes when someone is teaching you the scriptures? If you do, chances are you retain more than those who do not. In fact, I believe 90% of people who do not take notes on Sunday morning forget everything they have heard by Wednesday morning. If my calculations are correct, Sunday morning was mostly a waste of time for those who did not bother to write something down.

Jesus told us this would happen in Luke 8 when he described the four types of soil that represent the common conditions of the human heart.  The path, the rock, the thorns and the good soil are all mentioned. The seeds that fell on the good soil are the only ones that produced a lasting harvest. Notice what is said in verse 15.

“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a good crop.”

Luke did not underline the two words above, but they certainly jumped off the page at me recently. The Message Bible says “who seize the word and hold on no matter what.” I have heard some amazing insight that I have not written down and I am certain I have forgotten most of it. Good seed had been sown, but I did not seize it and hold on no matter what.  What can we all do to make sure the seeds that are being sown fall on the good soil of our hearts and produce a crop?

1. Write down two or three big ideas from every teaching you hear and have a conversation with someone about them within 48 hours.

2. If you use your iphone to take notes, like I sometimes do, don’t check your email or text someone during the talk. Take notes only and do not play paper toss. 🙂

3. If you are speaking and the big ideas are not evident, then use simpler language and better illustrations to make them clear to everyone.

4. If you have access to decent AV equipment, put the big ideas on the screen long enough for everyone to write them down.

5. Hand out notes to people before the talk and have pens or pencils available. Even if you hand out blank sheets of paper, you are encouraging people to take notes.

The word disciple means “learner” and learners take notes. Even if we do not agree with what is said, at least the talk will spark some interesting conversation that might lead us to deeper truth. Let’s not sit in the crowd with our arms folded assuming that we will remember everything that is being said. Let’s hear the word, retain the word and by persevering produce a good crop.

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Live from New Life

The Sunday morning gatherings at New Life will be broadcast live on our website starting September 12th. This means people can join us live around the world and experience worship with us via some really cool and really inexpensive technology. There are lots of positives and some negatives about live-streaming that we have discussed as a team.

CONS:

  • Watching on the web is not an equal substitute for attending live. Face to face, person-to-person interaction at church is super important and cannot be dismissed in favor of watching from home.
  • The technology is great, but it is really expensive to make the sound quality on the web equal to the live gathering. Lower your expectations in that regard.

PROS:

  • Live streaming is a great opportunity for people who are looking for a new church to preview our service before actually attending.
  • It is a great resource for our missionaries and military members stationed around the world to stay connected to their local church.
  • On heavy snow Sundays, the three of us who make it to church can sing and speak while the rest of you watch. I promise I will not sing unless absolutely necessary.

What do you think about the services being live-streamed? How can we take maximum advantage of this great technology?

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