Something Worth Listening To

A friend from White Fields Church recently recommended I check out the Eric Metaxas Show podcast. I’ve enjoyed reading Eric’s books and I would highly recommend his biographies of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as well as his shorter 7 Men and 7 Women.

I recently subscribed to the podcast and have been listening to it while I drive. If you’re looking for something good to listen to, I recommend it. Below I’ve embeded an episode to get you started, in which Eric interviews someone from Voice of the Martyrs and talks about the life and legacy of Richard Wurmbrand, a Lutheran pastor who was tortured for his Christian faith in communist Romania and became an advocate for persecuted Christians worldwide.

Another great podcast I’d recommend is the Ask Pastor John podcast with John Piper.

And of course, don’t forget to subscribe to the White Fields Community Church podcast, available in the iTunes podcast store.

If you are looking for a good podcast app for Android, I like Podcast Addict.

Here’s that episode:

Massive Mobile Phones and the Apostle Paul

Last week I got a gigantic phone – a Samsung Note 4. It’s so big I can barely fit it in my pockets. And it has a stylus, which I wasn’t sure if I would like or not, but which I have actually used a ton – to my own surprise.

I was inspired to switch carriers for several reasons:

  • On my recent trip to Hungary and Ukraine, my colleague had T-Mobile, which allowed him to text internationally for free without any extra fees or plans, and he was able to make international calls for 5x less than I was able to even with my “international package” I had to pay an extra fee for.
  • My wife and I have been working hard for the last 6 months to get out of debt, and switching carriers allowed us to lower our bill by about $50/month.
  • We got all those benefits, and new phones, which we didn’t necessarily NEED – but we certainly didn’t mind. I was able to get my wife the Nexus 5, which was not available on our previous carrier, and I got a phablet. It’s huge – but it’s also awesome, because we don’t have a physical office for our church, so I work off of my laptop and mobile devices all day every day.

I was thinking to myself the other day: “If the Apostle Paul were alive today, what would his attitude to modern technology be?”  How about Martin Luther?  How about John Wesley or George Whitefield?

And here’s what I think:  I think that if any of these men would have lived in our day, they would have owned massive mobile phones, and they would be blowing up the internet all day long. Why? Because it is an amazing vehicle for spreading ideas and starting movements.

I’m convinced the Apostle Paul would have had a Note 4 – or maybe an iPhone 6 plus… He probably would have a blog, a podcast, a YouTube channel and a Twitter account. And he would have worked those things all he could for the Gospel. Imagine if you would have told Paul the Apostle that there is a way that you could spread the Gospel around the world without having to get on ships, get shipwrecked, bitten by snakes and facing crowds of angry people who wanted to beat him up: he would have freaked out! He would have been all over it.

I think that we should be too.

Pastor Tip: Preaching Outside from an iPad

This morning I officiated a wedding, and as I usually do, I had all my notes on my iPad, which is attached to a mic stand by an iKlip2. It's a really great solution, because it leaves my hands free – which is nice for me, because I talk with my hands a lot, but also nice when officiating weddings, for things like handling the rings, etc.

But here's what happened to me today: It was an outdoor wedding that started at 11:30 – it was a bit overcast, but about 80 degrees out. And as soon as the wedding started, I noticed that my iPad was started to get hot – like really hot!

And then I started to worry… because I know what happens when the iPad gets hot – and it has happened to me before… It shuts off and won't come back on until it cools down.

At one point, I was convinced that my iPad was about to shut off – and I started praying… and thinking: what do I do if this thing shuts off? I mean, it's one thing if it happens at church – I can probably preach without it, but not at a wedding! They had written their own vows, and I hadn't memorized anything…

At one point, the bride and groom did a symbolic act together, so I took the chance to turn off the screen on my iPad, hoping that would give it the chance to cool down a little. But as soon as I turned off the screen, I started thinking: Oh no…what if, now that I've turned it off, it won't turn back on?!?!

I started praying, and asking God to have mercy on me for being so dumb as to not give myself any back up in case of an emergency like this.

God was merciful, and I was able to finish the wedding from my red-hot tablet without it shutting off.

But I learned an important lesson that I want to pass on to anyone out there who might benefit from it: If you speak outside from your iPad, especially for a special event like a wedding, ALWAYS have a set of printed notes that you can fall back on in case of emergency.

I realize now how many opportunities there might have been for something to go wrong with the iPad, from getting knocked over on the stand and breaking, to rain – not to mention the glare, which made it almost unusable anyway.

I learned my lesson today, and I'm thankful that God was gracious to me (and the bride and groom) and didn't make me learn it the really hard way.

 

Please Turn With Me in Your Phones… – Smart Phones and Tablets in Church

One of the first changes we made to the bulletins at White Fields when we redesigned them last year, was to get rid of a chunk of text which said: “Please turn off cell phones and pagers during service”.  First of all: pagers are only found in museums, so I don’t think we’ll have a big problem with those being on in service, and second: I don’t want people to turn off their phones in church. That’s right – you read that correctly. I don’t want them answering phone calls or sending texts – but I’d say that our technology culture has developed enough of an etiquette by now, that that goes without saying for most people.

Christianity Today published an article last week about a Barna poll which had shown how millennials use technology in their faith life. The title of the article was: “Watch Out, Pastors: Millennials are Fact-Checking Your Sermons”. First, let me say, that I think we make too much of a big deal over the term “Millennial” – to the point that we seem like we are studying a wild animal rather than dealing with individuals. The reality is, that it isn’t only young people who are connected; nowadays, everyone is connected. Some of the most tech-savvy people I know are in their 60’s. This week SNL’s Weekend Update reported on how Facebook’s stock share prices dropped because of a report that less and less teenagers are using the site. ‘”Really? I think Facebook is great” said moms.’ That’s right – moms are all over Facebook, and every other kind of social media. Because being connected to the internet is the new way to be human. And this isn’t just the case in the United States – reports show that the most connected countries in the world are outside of the United States – places like the Philippines. My experiences is that Hungarians are way more connected to Facebook than Americans. The internet, in many ways, serves as a great equalizer.

Being connected to the internet is the new way to be human.

And that brings us back to the point of the internet and church. The article I mentioned above warned pastors against fibbing, because some of the young people in their congregations might be on their phones fact-checking you as you speak. Here’s what I think: If you are fibbing or exaggerating, then you deserve to be found out! How dare anyone stand up and speak in God’s name and use half-truths and lies or non-credible information to bolster a point they are trying to make? That is an utter lack of respect for God and for the people you minister to. If you are going to teach something, then it better be true!

Pastors: If you are fibbing or exaggerating in your sermons, you deserve to be found out!

For example: earlier today, my cousin, who recently declared himself an outspoken atheist, jumped into a conversation I was having about something my son said about Jesus’ crucifixion, to ask if there are any non-Christian credible sources from antiquity that spoke of Jesus as a historical figure and a man who performed miracles. I was able to immediately send him an article which contained a collection of those writings, which he obviously assumed did not exist. Here’s the point: I am not afraid of the truth – because if what I believe is not true, then I don’t want to believe it!  And if what I believe is true, then I don’t need to be afraid of people investigating its veracity.

So here’s what I say: I WANT you to use your phone during my sermon! Don’t be texting people, don’t be surfing the web – be engaging and connecting with what we’re studying.  I WANT you to be posting to Facebook during my sermons; I WANT you to be tweeting – as long as you are posting and tweeting as a form of engagement. I love it when I come home from church on a Sunday afternoon, and I see that members of our church were tweeting out or Facebooking quotes from my sermon during the message!  That means that the words of my sermon will have a greater reach than they would have otherwise, because they get sent out to hundreds of thousands of people on those social networks.

For over two years now, I have preached from a tablet rather than printed out notes. At White Fields I don’t have a pulpit – I have a mic stand with an iKlip on it. On my iPad I have about 10 versions of the Bible available at my fingertips, and I read from them as I teach. For this reason, for quite a while, I didn’t bring a Bible with me up to the “pulpit” – since I would read the scriptures off of my iPad. Recently though, I did take an old-school paper Bible up with me and read from it, and I got comments right away about how people were happy to see that. So, ever since, I’ve started doing that again. I’ve also started carrying a paper Bible with me to counseling and discipleship meetings, whereas I previously only took my iPad and read scriptures from it. The reason I’ve made this change is because I realize the incredible symbolic value of the Bible as a book. Everyone carries an iPad or a smart phone, but not everyone carries a Bible. When I read my Bible in a coffee shop, people know what I’m reading – whereas they don’t when I read from an iPad.

What about you?  Do you read the Bible on your phone or tablet at church? Do you engage with the sermon while it’s being preached?

The danger of it of course is that if someone lacks self-control, they could easily be distracted from the sermon rather than engage with it on their device.

What do you think? How do we leverage getting greater engagement via smart phones and tablets without people getting distracted  by them? Is it possible?  Leave me a comment below about your experience.