The Homework of Visionaries and Ministers (Part 1)

One of the most exciting and sadder moments in MMM history came when doing the MMM Mobile Experiment. Exciting because there was this uncharted and overwhelming exercise to answer a question that no one was asking (loudly) at the time – what happens when you take the website off of conventional servers and make the entire community experience based around mobile tech. Certainly, it is something that is well ahead of thinking even today. And hence, the sad moment – here was this exciting idea ripe with potential, but we (meaning technologists) were not able to find a clear enough vision to run after to make something like it happen.

In the years since that experiment, I am personally still rolling with a mobile web server (it serves as a primary contact point, a digital business card that interacts with the physical one if you will. But, a bigger lesson from that experience drives me forward. This idea that we are on the cusp, and in some respects in the midst of the most engaging communication changes since the advent of the printing press. Mobile, or in this context, mobile ministry is the term that can be given to this change, but I see it as going a lot further than just mobile tech or ministerial applications. There’s a fundamental change to how we relate to one another being poked and prodded at, and these technological streams are continual pokes in the rib.

Stating clearly what that looks like is in many respects difficult, and in others gets very simple. For example, one of the changes that I find more easy to chat about is the change from a passive behavioral component to fellowships to that of an active and dynamic fellowship experience which serves the spiritual and logical needs of communities. We see this in the use of social networks and house churches/small groups to better equip believers for community-relevant matters of the Gospel. But again, that was easy to explain, what isn’t – and probably shouldn’t be, is the implications of these changes. To that, we need to recognize some of the things already said.

Five years ago, Ray Ozzie (former Microsoft Chief Software Architect) penned what many regard as a genre and industry defining report on the state of and the implications of the (then) current direction of computer technologies. The report, titled The Internet Services Disruption, spoke on things that we could easily miss in view of the speed of technology over the past half-decade: the up/down nature of advertising supported ventures online/offline; the change of delivery mechanisms for software (anyone see that new Mac App Store, yea, its not going back to shrink-wrap anytime soon, or ever if others have something to say), and the power of a great user experience (iPhone/iTunes anyone).

In effect, Ray Ozzie outlined the threats and opportunities to what computing looked like then. And then in his most recent report (Dawn of a New Day), itself an update to The Internet Services Disruption, he takes a further look at what happens when these experiences start to converge and lines are no longer boundaries but opportunities for continuous experiences. In respect to not spoil too much of what’s shared there, the point is that we move from this idea of services for everything, to just a thing. Computing moves from being a set of nous and a specific temporal place, to a verb describing and enabling communication across several types of industries, hardware, and regions. Computing as a verb takes the PC out of its conventional frame of reference and puts it in a rightful place as a a servant of the man/woman of God.

Continued in Part 2

Also published via Google Docs for comments/discussion