Archive for the ‘Machines’ Category

I am a hopeless trend-watcher, and so I find myself paying very serious attention to younger people.  Just as I believe that fads hatched in California will invariably show up in Richmond, Virginia months or years later, I also believe that trends born among youth very often find their way into broader culture.  This is very important to followers of Christ around the world, as we seek to model and speak the gospel message to rapidly evolving cultures.

So, when I read in a recent Boston Globe article about changing communication patterns among young people, it got my attention.  The statistics are stark: the average amount of time that people aged 18 to 24 spent talking on their mobile phones dropped by 17% between 2009 and 2010, and they sent 45% more text messages.  The same trend holds true with older people, but to a lesser degree.  The article’s author noted that most college students view voice mail as “a waste of time”  and that many rarely have phone conversations at all.

This trend will invariably affect Christian ministry, in the U.S. and around the world.; how, then, should followers of Christ prepare and adapt?  We’ve got generations coming our way who are less accustomed to conversation and small talk, are less likely to be inspired by means of telephone or even email, and want their messages concise and personalized.

I’d love to know about good examples of ministries that are adapting to and even capitalizing on these trends.  Any ideas?

To view the Boston Globe article:  click here

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I-Heart Revolution

About the Author: When Christine Difato left for college she encountered some harsh realities.  Like most college students, it was her first time on her own…but she also faced the added challenge of being completely blind and getting used to her first guide-dog, Freddie. After earning a BA degree, she went on a Fulbright scholarship to the former East Germany.  Recently, she earned a Masters at Cambridge University, and is now pursuing a PhD at the University of Exeter in the UK.

As the Hillsong United band traveled around the world on tour, they saw the gaping disparities. Everywhere, there were huge gaps between rich and poor, with some people living in mansions and others in cardboard boxes. This struck a deep chord in their hearts.  From Hong Kong to London, they saw the needs of the people they met, the need for Christ’s tangible love.  They decided to make a documentary, not about their performances but about the real world outside of their performance venues.  As their site notes:

Globally, there is a generation of people who’s hearts, together, are turned toward Jesus through worship.

Hillsong UNITED’s feature-length documentary “demonstrates the potential impact of this unified heart if put into practice by showing the love of God toward others… To not just preach the good news, but together, to be the good news.” In other words, the heart of worship turned into action means serving the millions of people living in
poverty around the world.  That’s music to the ears of the Mercy Generation.

Hillsong’s documentary was  aired on June 17, 2010.  On that one night, the video convened youth from churches
across the globe to focus on the needs of their world.  Theatres were sold out in London, and even the smaller crowds in Berlin surprised venue managers and delighted youth pastors.

The film illustrates the marriage of two major trends of the global church: Christ’s love expressed through Mercy, and Machines used to communicate need and call to action.  Let’s lift up this generation in prayer — that its message will start a sincere, heart-filled revolution of Christ’s love to his precious people.


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A fascinating fusion between the two Global Currents of Machines and Mercy is taking shape.  Opportunities to donate money or food, ways to support one cause or another, and even participation in microfinancing are all available at our fingertips through websites, smart phone apps, and text messaging.  Electronic altruism is becoming more and more common, whether through early-in websites like http://www.thehungersite.com, or more recently cellphone text giving to Haiti.

Not everyone thinks this is a good trend, as Nancy Lublin describes in an article on Fastcompany.com.  She refutes those who call it “slactivism”– a couch potato-friendly way to help others.

It’s not hard to see where the word comes from (slacker + activism = slacktivism), and obviously, it’s usually not meant as a compliment. Basically, it refers to doing good without having to do much at all.

She acknowledges that there are examples where various forms of “Slactivism” become fads which peter out over time. She cites Livestrong bracelets as an example of this “mile wide and inch deep” aspect.  But she argues that, in the end, it is results that matter most.  She cites http://www.freerice.com, through which rice is donated to the UN World Hunger Program for every correct score.  Friends of mine tell me that the site is not just charitable, but it is also educational….and addictive.

Whether or not we are happy about this trend–or choose to call it slactivism or not– this confluence of Machines and Mercy is an access point where the Church can make an impact for Christ.  The trend is on the loose in the world, especially affecting youth and young adults, and I feel it is incumbent upon the global church to harness it for good.

Read the full article here:  http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/145/do-something-helping-humanity-with-a-click-of-the-mouse.html?partner=homepage_newsletter

See also the addictive “slactivist” game Freerice.com:  http://www.freerice.com/index.php

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One of the first stories in the book, The Meeting of the Waters, is about my trip into North Korea.  My host sternly told me to disable my cell phone, battery and all, so that the government couldn’t hack into it to listen to our conversations.  A recent New York Times article describes another example of cellphones in North Korea, and how they are being used to transmit information and messages to the outside world.  Cell phones in North Korea are a perfect example of  the Global Current of Machines: a fast-moving, unstoppable trend penetrating even North Korea, a place called “The Hermit Kingdom” because of its secrecy and paranoia.

An expert told me that only .003 percent of North Korea’s 23 million citizens are Christians.  Possession of Bibles or any Christian literature is punished harshly…as is any communication with the outside world. Further, change in North Korea is rare and precarious.  The information transmitted by cell phone informants in North Korea is not sensitive, but there is every reason to believe that the government will soon clamp down on this activity.  From the sound of this article, though, tiny cracks are appearing in the country’s previously impenetrable society.   The very fact that information is flowing out of the country is astonishing.

(T)he fact that such news is leaking out at all is something of a revolution for a brutally efficient gulag state that has forcibly cloistered its people for decades even as other closed societies have reluctantly accepted at least some of the intrusions of a more wired world.

Very bright, innovative, and courageous Christians are undoubtedly monitoring this situation and considering possibilities for evangelism and aid.  Machines, in the form of cell phones, are constantly ushering in new opportunities for the global church, and it is important for the rest of us to watch and pray about these developments.

Read the full article here:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/29/world/asia/29news.html?pagewanted=1&emc=eta1

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Fundraising is a reality that vexes many ministry leaders.  As a frequent asker, myself, I know well that these are difficult financial times for all nonprofits, and fundraising has never been harder.

The fundraising field is always innovating, though, and this article describes new technology-based ways to seek funds.  This is an example of the Global Current of Machines in action, transforming yet another field.  As a fundraising veteran used to phone calls, direct mail or email, and brochures, I was especially interested in the iPhone app that keeps track of birthdays, and allows users to blow out virtual candles through the device’s breath sensor!

With its mobile application, the American Cancer Society is also attempting to strengthen existing connections and expand its reach. The charity released its iPhone application More Birthdays in November. The tool carries the same name as the charity’s campaign to promote itself as the official sponsor of birthdays, since reducing the number of deaths from cancer means more birthdays for survivors.

Maybe none of the ideas mentioned in this article apply to small or technology-challenged ministries, but I believe it is important to observe these trends.  For today’s global church at the Meeting of the Waters, today’s cutting-edge event is tomorrow’s trend… and next year’s norm.

To see the article referenced above go to:  http://philanthropy.com/article/For-MoreMore-Charities/64271/

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