Monday, December 28, 2009

Pre-Emptive Reflections On Survey Results

At Old Hickory, we have been in the process of taking a congregational survey designed by LifeWay Research for the purpose of analyzing the spiritual pulse of our congregation. More specifically, by participating in the worship, classes, and additional projects at our congregation, are people experiencing genuine spiritual transformation?

I am anxious to see how the results turned out. One thing that I've noticed, being on the administrative end of the survey, is that it is amazing how many variant interpretations people can have of the same questions. Some have taken it with no problems, but others have really struggled to understand the terminology used in several of the questions. As we've wondered how many people actually took the survey--they could have taken it online--we've gotten feedback ranging from extremely pleased to extremely perturbed by the process. Something Don and I were talking about today is how there's bound to be something good about the fact that we've tried to give people an open venue to share their thoughts with us. Even if they didn't give their thoughts, they won't be able to say that we haven't been willing to hear what they have to say.

One area that this survey has brought to my attention is the function of worship services. Lots of their questions centered around what we did with our worship services. I guess my underlying question is, "What is the purpose of worship services?" For teaching? For evangelism? For edification? For fun?

One of my professors, Dr. David Fleer suggests that good preaching (and good worship services) should have three aspects present, which he draws from Cicero; a master rhetorician. These elements are teaching, pleasing, and persuading. I am not here trying to make a doctrinal statement, but rather a stylistic statement. Aside from the question of what elements should be present in worship, how can we use these elements in a way that impacts people?

He had a quote, and I may not be remembering it correctly, but it was basically, "To teach is a necessity, to please is a sweetness, to persuade is a victory." In worship, it is crucial that true things are expressed about God and how he relates to our lives. It's wonderful if people learn, and it's even better if they find the sermon--and the rest of the worship--an enjoyable experience. But if by their presence, they are genuinely convicted to make a decision, or to live differently in some way, then we will have had a real spiritual victory resulting from our assembly.

I think churches are unwise to ignore any of these elements. If no real teaching happens, then church is nothing more than entertainment, and it has lost its teeth, as well as its ability to retain members once they are bored with the routine. Some people are too quick to dismiss the aspect of emotion in assemblies, saying that it is just entertainment, or that spirituality is somehow different than emotion. But God gave us hearts, and we need to hear stories and have experiences that draw our hearts through the whole range of our emotions. A completely stoic worship service with only dry, intellectual preaching is ignoring a vital part of our being. Some prefer an experience that involves fun and learning, but no "meddling." They want interesting sermons with applications about helping people in third world countries, but not about anything that I have to do differently this afternoon in how I treat my own family and friends. They like the routine of church, and punching a heavenly time card, but they are not interested in really being challenged. I believe in all three of the areas I've listed, if we don't give them their due place, sincere Christian people will feel the lack of what is not there.

I think the responses we get from folks about their attendance here will probably illuminate our strengths and weaknesses in each of these three aspects. Are we helping them to grow in wisdom and discernment? Are we inviting them into experiences which touch their hearts in new and challenging ways? Are we making high enough expectations of their lives outside of the assemblies?

We should find out soon. I pray that we'll do what's right in how we move forward.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Disney Recycling

I found this video very interesting. I'm sure I would hate to have to come up with entirely new material all the time, but it's almost unnerving how much animation from Disney movies has been used more than once.

Those of you viewing on Facebook, click "View Original Post" to see it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

This is bound to impact your life in the not-so-distant future

Everyone likes to imagine 'the future'. Generally, this results in low-quality science fiction with flying cars, impossibly great technology in unrealistic formats, etc. But every once in a while I see something and think to myself, "This could really change the way we live."

Cellphones are one such item. I get so tickled now when I watch the old Commando film, and the bad guy is running from "Ah-nuld," looking for a payphone, where he is desperately hunting for a quarter to make a phone call. That scene couldn't possibly work today. Then there were pagers. But now, I regularly hear about people's 9 year olds getting their own cell phones. Many of my friends don't even have home phones anymore.

On a side note, I'm still convinced that pocket projectors will potentially have a big impact as they continue to be more affordable.

But now for the latest...

I've been hearing for a while that scientists were getting very, very close to developing wireless charging technology for devices.

At this point, as I understand it, the issue is no longer how much people can fit into a small device, but rather, how can we find better ways to power the devices? Batteries are getting some better, but they still cannot sustain most devices for extended periods of time.

This Powermat is a step in what I consider a likely future for our electronic devices. If we can't find a better way to make a battery, we can at least find a better way to recharge them. There is already technology to make recharges much faster than they used to be, but I think an even better direction will be if they can develop more advanced wireless charging technology.

It appears with the Powermat that you have to purchase the mat, which distributes the charge, and a receiver for each object you want to enable to receive the charge. You receive the charge by laying the device on the mat, without any need for wires.

It looks cool, but I think before too long they will get better at actually sending out a signal, more similar to a wireless router, so that devices within the general proximity which are capable of being charged wirelessly will automatically receive the charging signal. While you sit at your desk, or even talk on your phone, when you are close to the recharging dock, your phone will begin recharging without you even having to think about it. I imagine people pushing for access to recharging in a way similar to how people now push for their to be numerous public wifi hotspots.

I see this as pragmatic enough to warrant the money and time that will have to be spent to continue the development. I don't see any reason why I would ever need a flying car, but for my electronics to recharge without any need for cords and cables? That would be worth having, even if it had a bit of a hefty price tag.

What do you think?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Persian Influence and Israelite Apocalypticism

Perhaps all I'm really doing is embarrassing myself, but I just hate to think that I would spend days of my life researching a topic, and then the only person I would ever share my discoveries with would be my professor.

I know the thought has been burning in your mind: "Why, with the similarities of a metaphysical dualism, a deterministic world view, a complex system of both angelology and demonology, and fully developed ideas of resurrection and judgment, surely the post-exilic Jews must have gotten all their apocalyptic ideas from the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism! After all, they lived under Persian rule for 200 years."

If you want my thoughts on the matter, knock yourself out. I don't promise that it is well reasoned or well written. I only affirm that it is my own work.

What's even better is that this means I am FINALLY done with my work for the fall semester, and I'll have a couple of weeks to regroup and start getting ready for spring semester!