Sunday is for Star Wars

Stormtroopers know how to cure Swine Flu.


Oklahoma Annual Conference

I'll be twittering from Annual Conference in Oklahoma this week.  I may blog a bit, but those will not be on-the-fly unless it can't wait.

So, to keep up with methodist-nerdom...follow me on twitter!

And follow the "official" twitter hash tag: #okumc for at least 10 clergy twits at conference (is that the right term?)

For the non-Methodists reading this blog...I apologize for this week in advance!


Joys of Children's Ministry I [video]

"What would Jesus do if he was being attacked by a Polar Bear?" 
and many other questions:
Yes, I'm looking forward to children's ministries!


Sunday is for Star Wars

The new Star Trek movie was good (went to see it with Blake Huggins), but the sight of young Kirk on the plains of Iowa (which apparently in the future isn't destroyed by marriage equality) reminded me whistfully of Luke Skywalker on Tatooine, though with less whining about cleaning droids.

And it looks like I wasn't the only one who thought so: check out this video.

I like what Mark Batterson wrote a while back about "genesis stories" about stories that speak to longtime members of the congregation on a deep level that the newcomers can feel the echoes of. 

Perhaps in every one of us is a farm child wanting to go to space.

Wow.  Deep.

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The Slow End to Scripture Memory?

The following quote struck a chord in me (hat tip: Patrick Appel on Andrew Sullivan):

I wonder whether our brains aren't becoming less like indexes and more like librarians. The situation isn't quite as Peter presents it: The key skill isn't knowing where to find information. It's knowing where to find where to find information. It's understanding connector terms and knowing the relative specialties of different search engines and finding the best aggregators and possessing ninja-level skills with Nexis.
One of the memories of my youth was Bible Challenges at our local church: races to see who could get to the Scripture in the bible that was called out.  I was often the fastest page-turner and would win candy, I recall.  Down the street at Rhema (a non-denominational church, I recall), my school friends would have Bible Challenges too, but they would recite bible verses from memory.  No, I don't know if they won candy, but I do know they looked down on us lowly Methodists who were without a scripture (chapter AND verse) memorized.

So this article makes me wonder if Scripture Memory is slowly being lost in the era of Google.  As a pastor, I find my scripture memory advancing slower these days.  I know why.  If I need a verse I search for it rather than read the scripture until I find it.  That lack of skimming hurts the scripture memory.  In the same way, if I'm looking for resources or biblical help, I don't just crack a few books and read them.  I also read a website, or the feed-reader.  And any question people ask me, I can say "let me google that for you."

The worst thing for me now is Evernote, which I plug in all of my sermon illustrations, links, articles, bible studies, notes, etc into.  I know that is where I can search to find an illustration.  If I can't find it there, I know I can search other compendium websites that I haven't harvested their stuff yet.  I've become a biblical librarian who knows where to find things, even if I don't remember them chapter-and-verse.

So if I ever get into a Bible Challenge today, it will be the same as my youth.  I would trounce others that needed to look up passages, but I would lose to the RhemaKnights every time.  But we would still have comparable biblical knowledge, and if presenting papers or sermons, we would be comparably well referenced.

I wonder if there are more biblical librarians like myself than there are biblical memorizers these days.  And I wonder what effect that has on Christian discourse.

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No, you haven't had a bad day...

This guy has. The employee tries to sneak a smoke in the freezer of the store (looks like a Subway), unawares of the fire suppression system. Whoops.

Now, have a better day today!


Call for a People-Powered Hymnal [UMC]

The United Methodist Hymnal is now the musical equivalent of the Encyclopedia Britannica. In the age of Wikipedia where grassroots unorganized labor can come up with an entire encyclopedia, it is little wonder that the Hymnal Revision Committee, a top-down structure that nonetheless faithfully solicited feedback, has become a victim of the economy and the new Hymnal shuttered.

And yet there is still HUGE potential...a Facebook group with 1700 members? Thousands of churches and music ministries? A UM committee that actually understands how to use a mailing list [Ruach]?  How can we not let this opportunity fall by the wayside?

A loosely knit group that organized now could form the nucleus of a people-powered hymnal that could make this work for possibly pennies on the dollar and every ounce of passion that the committee could do.  The creative energy and vigorous debate in this area needs channeling now that the Committee's primary focus (a new hymnal "book") is on hold and its staff presumably whisked away to alternative projects.

How do we move forward? Summarizing the alternative avenues before us, which of these would be most helpful to the Hymnal Revision Committee and its input not thrown to the wayside? How can the UMC equip and empower people who want to see this project through? 

In the same way that Wikipedia is not just people inserting facts but includes editors, catalogers, and spell-checkers...I see at least three areas of opportunity that groups of people who are so impassioned could contribute to a new hymnal if their work was honored by the United Methodist Church:

1. Identification and diverse selection of hymns
Selecting hymns that are faithful witnesses to Christ in general, and the United Methodist tradition in particular. We did a survey of favorite and least favorite hymns. There's tons of conversation in this group about particular hymns and their inclusion/exclusion. Bring out the nets and the scalpel and choose or reject hymns.

IDEAS: Why not have a loose-knit groups of people give temporary blessing to set lists of hymns and see what people think? People can come up with their own mix lists like the "the golden oldies" list or "the African Spirituals" list or narrative lists that try to tell a story from one hymn to another. The most used hymns in all lists can be easily identified and given weight in final inclusion, if there needs to be a "final inclusion."  Give them a prize week to week to spur participation.

2. Appropriation and inclusive adaptation of hymns

By posting the full-text of hymns online or in contained digital groups, people could try out alternative language in established hymns. People and professionals could then see what happens when we replace "Lord" with "Love" and sing it themselves. Some hymns could be unchanged, of course.

IDEAS: Post the full-text of hymns, allow them to be set to music after the words are changed (simple for computer programs, just match background image of notes with text), and let people try them out. Evaluation can be done by either voting or simply giving feedback to the final powers-that-be.

3. Alternative distribution channels for a hymnal
Online, powerpoint, mediashout, the Amazon Kindle, smoke signals...why should we choose which one when people may be willing to digitally "translate" hymns into the various programs? Let them do it and equip them to do it. If the UMPH still wants to make money off of this, then make a subscription that every church could purchase to obtain access to all the versions (not unlike Cokesbury's digital Book of Discipline). Heck, people could make money or a percentage of their contributions' downloads.

IDEAS: this group could be in charge of "translation" of selected and adapted hymns [from groups (1) and (2)] into various media programs, guitar tabs, or simply formatted to print off in a bulletin.  Give them a financial incentive, if need be.


I haven't been involved with this conversation yet, but now that a paper hymnal is on hold and the entire project in danger, I'm more enthused to participate and see a people-powered hymnal take off.

A truly people-powered hymnal is...
  • RELEVANT to this generation
  • It honors the GIFTS of our varied music professionals and lovers
  • It build a BUZZ far beyond this already successful group.

The creative possibilities are endless if the infrastructure will just LET.IT.HAPPEN.

So, this is a call to conversation about what possibilities are there for a people-powered hymnal. Thoughts? PLEASE don't nitpick the the IDEA worth it or viable?

Discuss.  And join the facebook conversation in the Hymnal Revision Group.
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Help: Women's Voices in a Wiki World

I'm writing an article about faith, women, and technology, particularly how mass collaboration and lowered transaction costs impact and are impacted by women in faith communities. 

But I've hit a snag.  My favorite voices so far in the mass collaboration brave new world are:

  1. The Starfish and the Spider
  2. Here Comes Everybody
  3. Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything
Notice a trend?  THEY ARE ALL MEN!  For an article on women, I need women's voices reflecting on mass collaboration and emerging internet phenomenon.

Any suggestions?  Thanks in advance.
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WikiChurch: Childrens and Youth Ministry Update

A week ago I announced on this blog that I had a new pastoral appointment in the area of children's and youth ministry.  I'm doing a WikiChurch approach to this new thing: getting feedback and ideas from anyone and everyone and collecting the responses in a google form.  I sent out about 120 facebook messages and got 21 responses on the form and about 25 facebook messages with words of wisdom or resources.  Not a bad return!

I asked for two things: resources and words of wisdom.  And holy carp, the words of wisdom are deep and huuuugely meaningful.  I'm still wading through them.  But here's an update of what resources have been suggested (I'm melding youth and children's ministries on this initial list):

Arts & crafts:

  1. Playdough
  2. Fingerpaints 
  3. youth-created poetry and prose
  1. Claim the Name [Confirmation]
  2. Seasons of the Spirit [lectionary-based]
  3. akaloo [Lutheran]
  4. Catechesis of the Good Shepherd [UM's equivalent is Godly Play]
  5. Your suggestion?  Add it here: Google Form
  1. Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus (Mark Yaconelli)
  2. The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry (Kenda Creasy Dean)
  3. Postmodern Youth Ministry (Tony Jones)
  4. Mission Trips That Matter (Don C. Richter)
  5. Godly Play (Jeroma Berryman)
  6. Sustainable Youth Ministry (Mark Devries)
  7. Double Close: The Young Child's Knowledge of God (Catherine Maresca)
  8. Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey (Catherine Stonehouse)
  9. Sex God (Rob Bell)
  10. Your suggestion?  Add it here: Google Form
Web Media:
  1. Rob Bell's NOOMA videos [submitters note: even with questionable theology, they are great conversation starters for youth]
  3. Your suggestion?  Add it here: Google Form
Web Communities
  6. Your suggestion?  Add it here: Google Form
Whew! Thanks to everyone who has responded. Keep on suggesting and if you have contacts with feedback, send them to this form.


Wolfram Alpha Finds God

The newest google killer (get in line, folks) went live today or yesterday.  Wolfram Alpha answers plain questions with plain answers with the most sophisticated of computer minds.

So, to try it out, I tried "where is God?"  Here ya go:

 Yup, God is in Hungary, just north of Budapest

Now you know.

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Jesus "friended" me

On a friend's facebook status, she wrote something about being Friended by Jesus (based on John 15), which spawned this snarky comment from me:

Being "friended" means I can now see Jesus' profile and am now vulnerable to him seeing mine.
And this snarky twitter update from me.
Jesus: "No longer do I call you servants...but I have called you friend." Great, Jesus friended he can see my profile.
Oh clever, young pastor...but oddly enough, check out my inbox not 3 minutes later!!

I'm not sure of the theological statement of "Jesus is following ME" but it was a humorous occurrence not three minutes after yucking it up about "friending" Jesus.

Oh, the internets.  You amuse me.

[[UPDATE 1: Uh oh, look out. It's spreading. A message from a twitterer:
Jesus saw your profile and in spite of it friended you...just like he did me....AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!
I guess if I can come up with pithy theological statements like this in a trendy medium, I really am cut out for youth ministry.]]


4th Alternative Amendment Video [video]

This video is specifically about the changes to the UM structure (worldwide church amendments). In juxtaposition to the previous videos posted here, Liberian District Superintendent Jerry Kulah is opposing the amendments:

The primary point is that Rev. Kulah wants to see the plans for what the re-structured church looks like BEFORE we go about changing things.

While I think this is a valid point, the Amendments are offered to the Church so that they know what direction to go. If the spirit moves us to adopt these amendments, then the proposed structural changes can be taken a very different direction than if the amendments are defeated.

From a Hacking Christianity perspective, opening the system and opening possible directions via the proposed amendments gives the team more options to faithfully consider. Isn't that a good thing?



3rd Alternative Amendment One Video [video]

For once, RMN beat me to the punch.



Connection Drive - Now on Kindle!

It's been a while since our last Connection Drive.  And one cool new development has taken place: 

  • you can now read Hacking Christianity on the Amazon Kindle.  Just click the link and you can read the newsfeed on the Kindle.  Pretty nifty, eh?
  • Yes, it is $1.99 for the subscription (with a free 14-day trial).  Sorry, set by the Kindle Overlords, not me!  I do get a cut from it and that will go towards hosting costs, if that takes the sour taste a bit from your mouth.
  • If you are willing, a review on Amazon about this blog would be appreciated: click here.

For the other 99% of the world, there's tons of free ways to interact with and get to know the HX Community.  Here's some ways to connect:
So there you go!  There's some new ways for you to connect with the HX community!


WikiChurch: Childrens and Youth Ministry

Well if you know any Methodists this time of year, you probably hear a lot about clergy transitions.  It is a bittersweet time of saying goodbye and of anticipating new opportunities for both the outgoing pastor and the receiving parish that gets a fresh perspective every few years.

I've been pastoring a New England United Methodist parish for three years.  It is my first church to serve as pastor since graduating seminary in 2006.  And on Sunday, I told them I would be saying goodbye.  I have been assigned a new appointment in Oklahoma where I will be in my home state and continue along the ordination process that I entered in 2006.

Here's where you come in: My new appointment is as an Associate Pastor, focusing on children's, youth, and young adult ministries.  I know a LOT of people in these type ministries either in clergy or lay roles.  And if I blog about wiki-way of doing ministry, then it makes sense that the aggregate wisdom of those people would be very valuable to me.

I need your help.  I feel I would benefit tremendously from their (your) wisdom.

So, to that end, I've created a Google Form for you to give me (and thus us) some help!  It's got two sections:

  1. What words of wisdom do you have for children's and youth ministry?
  2. What resources would you recommend I take a look at? (curriculumn, websites, books, media, etc)
Check out the form here and offer your response! 

Thanks in advance for your experience and words of wisdom.

If you aren't familiar with these types of ministries, pass this on to someone who is!

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Sunday is for Star Wars

Here's what I think about the buzz over the newest Star Trek:


The American Patriot's Bible [bad.hack]

Hey, while you were out, Emperor Constantine called. 

Yeah, he's fine. Here's the message he left you.

He's glad his yoking of Christianity with has its own book.

Yeah, you can find it in the "Let's not be too obvious about the relationship between colonialism, imperialism, war, genocide of the Native Americans, and Christianity" department.
(BTW: I'm totally stoked that "Empire" on Zemanta links first and foremost to "Galactic Empire (Star Wars)".
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2nd Alternative Amendment One Video [video]

As a followup to the first video, I promised I would post more. So here's Sam Powers from Oklahoma Annual Conference:

Pretty clear theological foundations, not the fearmongering like on those other videos...


Jesus' 3day Exploit

My ComputerImage by aLii_ via Flickr
I love MIT. I was on the subway today with a MIT computer geek and we started talking shop with me polishing my geek cred. Star Trek, the upcoming Anime convention: it was 15 minutes that would make my spouse twitch a little bit.

Then the conversation got even more interesting. He saw I had my cross out and visible and asked if I was a Christian. I said yes, I am a pastor, and I actually have a blog called "Hacking Christianity." He liked the blog name and then said something that really turned wheels in my head.  Here's roughly what we said:
Hacker: You know what I think?  I think if Death was a system, then Jesus hacked the system of death.  We could say he did it through a 0day exploit.
Me: Or in Jesus' case, a 3day exploit.
Hacker: Exactly.  He broke it open for everyone.
In hacking, a 0day exploit is a vulnerability in a system that is so newly uncovered that it is unfixed (hence: zero days in existence).  It is not a virus, but knowledge of the vulnerability is shared from hacker to hacker once it is released into the wild.  The company then has to fix the system quickly to keep the hack from working anymore.  The longer the gap between detection and fixing it, the greater the 0day hack.

I like this metaphor because it speaks to nerds about what Jesus did.
  • Jesus hacked the system of death by living and dying in a way that death hadn't seen before or knew how to contain, even in a tomb.
  • Three days later, Jesus escaped from death and told of his 3day exploit to his followers, with instructions to spread it "to all the nations."
  • The followers did so, and the hack continues to work for generations of followers because the exploit of the system of death is unfixable.  The hack is eternal life.

Nerds.  You never know what they might come up with.

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An Alternative Amendment One Video [video]

I love this brave new world of church politics.  Maxie Dunnam tries to change hearts and minds by creating a video outlining how the United Methodist Church's Amendment One (link) will loosen the standards and let unchecked people into membership as well as further the HomoLiberalAgenda. Watch the video if you like (link).

But that opened the floodgates a bit, and trickles of response videos are creeping out. One that I found today via Twitter has a Texas pastor presenting a situation that deals directly with this Amendment, including a case study of another Texas pastor and his son. Check it out:

Love it.  Moral of the story?  It's a brave new world, and if you want to make a video, be our guest.  But don't be surprised if when you lay the tracks down through a medium, that other cars come through too.  So thank you to Maxie Dunnam for getting people on Youtube and can find important Methodist videos like this one on the "What's Related" column.  Tee hee.

Thoughts?  If there are more videos out there, leave them in the comments!

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Happy Star Wars Day!

May the Fourth be With You...Always. (May 4th is Star Wars Day)

For your entertainment, Star Wars & MacGuyver Mashup:


Ability as the Basis for Gifts Discernment?

Really old post here (drafted back in August 2008), but I finally got around to getting a complete thought about this video.  

Thanks to Blake Huggins' twitter, I was extremely pleased with an interview with former British Parliament member Tony Benn. He is quoted as saying this:

Benn : The thing about a customer is if you haven't any money, you can't be a customer.  So the word customer dehumanizes the poor.  The people who need homes the most, homeless people on the streets, are not customers because they can't afford a house.  So economic language classifies us according to our money and not our need. And I just think that leads unhappiness, revolutions, conflict, struggle...
That critique started me thinking a bit about how we regard volunteers in the church.  How often do we classify volunteers according to their ability instead of their need?
  • In the video, only the people who reach a certain economic level are considered customers.  Only when you are able to buy a house or a car are you considered a customer.
  • In the Church, oftentimes it is only the people who are able to offer skills or service are asked to volunteer. Only when it becomes known that you are able to perform a service are you asked to volunteer.
This doesn't seem like a fair parallel at first.  Of course we accept anyone to do volunteer work...oftentimes it is just looking for a warm body!  But in subtle ways, we classify people according to their ability when we link volunteering and gifts.

Consider the typical workshop on Discovering Your Gifts.  The pastor or workshop leader waxes on about "there is one body with many parts," you sing "Many Gifts, One Spirit," there are times of discernment, then there are inventories that help us discover our gifts...and finally a church committee or mission team signup!  Or perhaps it is less intentional: the pastor or chairperson simply says "they are looking for people with gifts" to do the job.  This process works...matching gifts with ministry can yield tremendous fruits!  But like Benn outlines above, we are treating people like customers who have the ability to serve, not the need.

I started thinking about "ability v. need" recently.  In my local church, we have some gifted people at organizing and running an event.  The suggestion was made that instead of asking for baked goods from congregants for an event that we ask for money instead and the gifted and talented people can buy the food and arrange it professionally.  Simple, clean, and well done!  While it sounds like a good idea, it was classifying the organizer's ability over the congregant's need.
  • A homebound member needs to be asked to bake brownies so that they feel connected to the church.
  • A senior needs to be asked to bake cookies so they have an afternoon project to pass the time.
  • A child needs to be asked to bake a cake so they and their parent have a family-building project together.
Needless to say, we kept the homemade goods at the event and celebrated their uniqueness and non-uniformity. 

Perhaps it is time to see how your church programs relate to people according to their ability, and not according to their needs.  To see how we relegate some responsibilities to people who have the ability, but there are people with needs in the wings waiting to be asked.


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