Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tony Morgan Leaves New Spring

However, yesterday afternoon we (Tony, myself and the rest of our leadership team at NewSpring) all came to the incredibly difficult and painful conclusion that Tony should no longer be a part of the staff at NewSpring Church. It was not a decision that was made in the moment; in fact, lots of prayer and discussion has taken place over the past several months leading up to this…and everyone knows that though it was not an easy choice, it was the right choice.

- read the rest of the announcement from Perry Noble's blog

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Are you a Dragon?

"When attacked by a dragon, do not become one." Marshall Shelley

Great quote posted by Paul Littleton.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Death of Perspective?

Today, Editor & Publisher, the newspaper trade publication that I read regularly to keep up with the industry I was a part of for 20 years, reports

The Audit Bureau of Circulations released this morning the spring figures for the six months ending March 31, 2009, showing that the largest metros continue to shed daily and Sunday circulation -- now at a record rate.

According to ABC, for 395 newspapers reporting this spring, daily circulation fell 7% to 34,439,713 copies, compared with the same March period in 2008. On Sunday, for 557 newspapers, circulation was down 5.3% to 42,082,707 [link added].
The Wall Street Journal just launched an interactive site that documents current circulation and negative events for major newspapers in the United States since 2006.

Meanwhile, online media continues to grow at an unprecedented rate.

Twitter, the online service that allows users to post updates on whatever they wish in Wired reports that in that same month, US users doubled to 9.3 million bringing the number of users worldwide to 19 million. Significant growth continues. Web 2.0 Journal estimates that 1.2 million people have joined Twitter since Oprah featured the service on her show on Friday 17 April. Though blogs are far from dead, Twitter is the new blog and extends the popular media trend that combines truncated content with heightened immediacy.

Closely related to the Twittering phenomenon is the growing popularity of Facebook updates. On Wed 8 April, Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the online site had crested the 200 million user mark. A significant portion of this growth is now comprised of those over the coveted demographic of the 18-35 set. Carmen Musick of the Kingsport Times News reports, "Between June 2008 and January 2009 the number of Facebook members between the ages of 35 and 54 nearly quadripled - increasing 276 percent- and members older than 55 tripled...."

Only the most anachronistic Luddite would depreciate the enormous benefit that online media brings to the developed world. But, at the same time, this type of growth is coming at a cost:

I am concerned that the ubiquity and immediacy of information can precipitate a loss of perspective.

For example, there used to be a typical news cycle for most journalistic organizations that allowed for reflection when considering the events of the day. This enabled writers and editors to bring perspective into their coverage of news events. The 24-hour news cycle, on the other hand, tends to erase this advantage. Media observers such as Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in their book Warp Speed: America in the Age of Mixed Media Culture note that journalists have gravitated toward "sensationalism, entertainment, and opinion" and have moved away from "verification, proportion, relevance, depth, and quality of interpretation" (see 24-hour news cycle).

Francis McInerney and Sean White, authors of FutureWealth: Investing in the Second Great Wave of Technology, might characterize this trend as another example of how society changes as the cost of information declines.

But I do not believe this trend is permanent.

I do believe that the natural desire for wisdom means that, despite the current upheaval in media, new (or, perhaps, renewed) journalistic voices that balance breaking news with relevant perspective will rise through new media. Sensationalist fare can only satiate the superficial palate.

Until then, those who desire reflective perspective will have to search a little harder for it, listening carefully through the din for the more discerning voices that can still be found.

Analagously, I believe that those of us who participate in online expressions of spiritual community - whether through blogs, twitter, facebook, or what have you - need to be cautious that we don't lapse into religious superficiality. Loving and following God takes time. Deepening spiritual friendship and community takes loads of time. Working through differences of opinion cannot generally be done via blogger or twitter. Nearly by definition, meditation can't be done quickly!

I love online media. I enjoy blogging, facebook, twitter, online community, all of it. But from time to time we need to remind ourselves that this new form of communication is not omnicompetent.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Origins Project

Dan Kimball, Erwin McManus, Scot McKnight, and the good folks at the Origin Project have relaunched their site as they launch their organization. This is a group I'm very excited about. I see them as working to capture the best of the emerging church conversation while staying tied to Christian orthodoxy through their commitment to the Lausanne Covenant and other historic creeds. You can read more about this new group here.

  • Their blog is here.
  • You can sign-up to get updates on the group here.
  • Keep up with upcoming events here.
  • Participate in their online community here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What Does War Have to Teach Us?

For a while, I've been searching for a good single volume history of what was known as The Great War. I'm mostly through Barbara Tuchman's celebrated The Guns of August (1962) and am finding it helpful, detailed, and insightful. The book was so influential in its day in its description of how one decision leading to another leading to another can result in a conflagration such as that of WWI, that JFK had his staff read it during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But it only focuses on the year 1914 and I have been looking for something more comprehensive. I believe that I have found that volume in GJ Meyer's A World Undone - The Story of the Great War, 1914 - 1918.

The drama that was the Second World War has eclipsed the memory of WWI in the modern mind. This is too bad as we have much to learn from this first great European outbreak. The results of that first war were staggering. Death estimates of military and civilian deaths in the WWI range from 9 to 16 million. The percentage of European populations lost was devastating. 3 out of every 4 Russion soldiers, for example, were killed, wounded, captured, or went missing. 10% of the Britain Expeditionary Force was killed. Nearly 45% of the Rumanian force died during the war.

At the same time I'm reading these 2 books on WWI, I'm also working my way through Shelby Foote's very engaging three volume The Civil War: A Narrative.

This is a new kind of reading to me as long-time readers of this blog know that I've focused my reading on historical biography, which I read for lessons of leadership. But studying these wars is giving me a better context to evaluate individual performance in these crises.

More to come.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thank you God!

Skye does not have reflux!

Thanks to those of you who prayed!!!

prayer request for skye-baby

At 2 PM today, Skye's going to take the rather uncomfortable VCUG test which will let us know if her October 2008 surgery was successful. Please pray that the test will reveal no outstanding problems in her remaining kidney (or the nonfunctioning one that she still has). Please also pray our dear one will be as comfortable as possible. Thanks.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Wonderful Easter Morning Surprise

Our alarm clock went off at 4:45 AM. A couple of years ago we discovered a sunrise service at nearby Sugarloaf Mountain and I figured we'd leave 75 mins before the 6:15 AM start just to play it safe. But the announcer on our alarm clock informed us that the temperature would be in the 30's so Beth said, "Forget it; that's too cold" and in a very un-spiritual manner, I happily rolled over to continue my slumber.

But Beth couldn't go back to sleep and immediately started wondering if she would regret her decision. She loves Easter Sunrise Services and we always go. So at 5:15 she says,

"Let's get up and go."

"But honey, none of us [5 of us] have gotten up and to get there right on time we'd have to leave immediately."

"Oh, we'll be little late; let's go!"

[with some sullenness] "Ok."

We didn't get out the door until 5:45 AM and I figured we'd get to the service about the time it was wrapping up. Beth asked for my opinion as to our timeliness and I revealed my thinking. She asked for my Blackberry and started struggling through pages not optimized for mobile viewing looking for a closer alternative sunrise service. We exited Interstate 70 to head to Damascas, MD where we had seen an incomplete page indicating that there might be a sunrise service there.

Then we saw a little sign on a country road advertising a nearby sunrise service. We couldn't believe our "luck."

It's about 6:10 AM. We drive a couple of miles and notice that to our left is a beautiful vista of rolling hills where the Sun was scheduled to crack the eastern horizon at 6:36 AM. We come upon a small group of mostly elderly folks standing right by the road immediately in front of a small and quite lovely United Methodist Church. Happily, we had stumbled upon Howard Chapel, a 149 years old church community in Mt. Airy, MD.

The congregants were quite dressed up; we're not. Nevertheless, I whip our van into their parking lot and we quietly make our way to join the gathering of maybe 30 or 35 folks. After a few remarks, the Sun beautifully rose and, after pausing to observe this, we step into the building, which was built in 1880 and hear a rousing brief meditation from the woman who apparently was their pastor.

Beth and I attend a megachurch in the Baltimore suburbs. I think they had 7 Easter services today. The production values are high. But there was something refreshing about walking back into a church culture I stopped experiencing on a weekly basis thirty years ago. And I don't mean to imply that high production makes a worship service insincere. But our experience this AM was raw, relatively unprocessed, and felt real. I was struck by how the fact of Jesus' rising from the dead transcends culture.

He is risen!

It was a marveolous and serendipitous Easter Morning surprise that we will not soon forget.