I first came across Mobile Ministry Magazine somewhere between 2006 and 2008. I was working for MAF.org and we were exploring ways in which mobile devices could be used to share Gospel resources and digital Bibles to isolated people. Then in 2010 I met Antoine Wright the primary voice behind MMM, at the BibleTech conference in San Francisco. Here was a guy who was passionate about Christ, the good news and using mobile technologies. Passionate and super smart! A combination which makes Antoine a valued leader and contributor to discussions on technology use to enhance life!
Not the 1st time highlighted, but as mentioned a while back, no new content is here but some of the theo-tech conversations happen elsewhere. The TheoTek Hangout and Podcast is one of those spaces and in this conversation we talk about the innovation that is/isn’t present in bible software:
Being this was a subject of mine, I went a bit further with an editorial published afterwards:
…The week’s topic sparked when a few of us were speaking well before the show about the Bloomberg Tech article where Mark Gurman reports on the dissent happening with Mac loyalists. Being a suite of macOS and iOS users between us on the podcast/Hangout, we started down the line of discussion towards why it does or doesn’t matter that Apple pushes a larger share of resources towards a platform that doesn’t pay the bills versus the one that is (now, the macOS product line is making Apple much money; it’s just that the iPhone product line is also doing so, a matter of exponents greater). As we conversed, we eventually got to the point where we opined on the emphasis Bible/faith-based software and services companies put towards serving existing users, casual users, and (hopefully positioning towards) new users.
This year, I found myself back moving back to an area of the United States where I previously had strong ties of a large, local church. One of the reasons those ties were so strong was the intentionality that ministry had on making sure that all members (and guests) could connect to the community through small groups. While small groups are not new, what I have found is that making the connection point relatable to the individual goes a long way to ensure that they develop socially, mentally, and spiritually.
I thought it good to take a look at four areas of tech currently in the news and relate them to how the church community might engage or respond to them: messaging, Virtual Reality/Artificial Reality, wearables, and AI. Some of what I consider cutting edge might actually happen. Other thoughts might just be ramblings that come from thinking too early about these and other topics. Nevertheless, when we engage the potential for the church to transform culture, it’s never too early to consider what might be with the tools coming up in front of us now.
A little after the New Year celebrations ended, I attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). This was my third time attending this annual trade show and exhibition, this time as an exhibitor with the Dutch company IamProgrez. Even though I was acting in a different role, I still came away with refreshing insights into the future several areas of consumer electronics. While there were no churches represented in any of the products or services I saw at the show, I did come away with some takeaways for those in the church tech space who deal with church and community technologies.
Many years ago, I recall when people would ask me how it was that I could easily remember specific scriptures. For many people, reading the Bible is enjoyable, but trying to get to that point where you can remember specific verses which talk about specific subjects is not something that happens quickly. Because it was a little easier for me, it took a long time before I realized that there were certain learning methods, or just ways that I was reading and studying the scripture that made it possible for me to have such an active recall. Now that we are firmly into the mobile wage, scripture recall has become another subject where people are looking for ways of improving on old methods.
While it’s true that the writing here has not met the frequency of previous years, that doesn’t mean that MMM isn’t publishing. Of one of the arenas to find MMM contributing, Church Tech Today, sits pretty highly. In our most recent contribution, we talk about apps and approaches for bible memorization and spiritual growth:
For many people, reading the Bible is enjoyable, but trying to get to that point where you can remember specific verses which talk about specific subjects is not something that happens quickly. Because it was a little easier for me, it took a long time before I realized that there were certain learning methods, or just ways that I was reading and studying the scripture that made it possible for me to have such an active recall. Now that we are firmly into the mobile [age], scripture recall has become another subject where people are looking for ways of improving on old methods.
During a recent TheoTek (Episode 55), one of the parts of the conversations brought up the yearly topic of apps for Lent. And while some of our Christian brothers and sisters might not have much knowledge about the reason for (or practices within) Lent – my history in the Roman Catholic Church has marked this as something that’s not easily forgotten, and usually puts me in the right mindset as the Winter season concludes.
Many, many years back, we created a Bible Apps list. Mostly because finding bible apps was hard, there were no usable app stores for many of you, and it just made sense in terms of getting some traffic this direction. The BIble Apps page is very much out of date now – lots of folks have moved from app listings to recommended apps – but we’ve kept it up as it does present a decent start for many folks. As such, this page was expanded to include many faith-based app genres not so easily seen in app stores. Of note, we added Lent and Advent apps because there’s something of a place for them…
…or is there?
Much of the conversation around Lent revolves around setting some areas of discipline that we usually don’t have. Traditionally, that’s not partaking in some foods. In modern times, that’s extended to removing yourself from food, media, people, and even technology tools. So when I’m asked, “what kinds of apps for Lent would you recommend,” it becomes something of a challenge. To one degree, having an app that assists with remembering the Stations of the Cross, Daily/Weekly devotionals, etc. makes sense. On the other hand, it might speak to possibly letting aspects (if not the entire computer/mobile/social network/etc.) go for 40 days.
This isn’t a dozen years ago (when MMM got started). The conversation about the place for digital/connected devices and services has certainly moved past simpler times. Yet, there is this part of the conversation that’s worth having – and probably moreso now that we are seeing clearer how mobile (and connected services) bridge digital and spiritual worlds and behaviors. Where pastor-teachers, academics, etc. need to continue to steer this conversation is not so much whether Lent has a place or not in this age, but how its place is better understood. And if those faith leaders aren’t having that conversation – again, not all faiths observe Lent – perhaps it does make sense to reserve this time as a place to have those discussions on the ethics and behaviors of connectivity.
Better than having the discussion is to actually move towards a direction. You can continue in the newly formed digital traditions and invest in Lent apps and services with the knowledge that not everyone is going to understand or go with you. Or, you can take this time away from connected spaces, so that you better tap into the ethereal leanings of the faith-as-lived.
One of the better outcomes over the years in being involved with MMM has been when seemingly random groups of people have also crossed paths and we find that we don’t just want to do digital ministry, we are also invested in making sure that digital ministry practices are developed and shared with others. Sometimes, these are no more than some occasional informal gatherings. Other times, they have become sub-movements within themselves – offering not just a place to fellowship, but opportunities to be reequipped. Continue reading
Am writing this during the weekend where much of the Northeast (and some of the Southeast) of the USA is reeling from a 18-30 inches (1.25-2.5m) of snow. I just received a message from one church on how they are cancelling service in order to maintain some of the wisdom of keeping folks off the road. And while I do agree with keeping folks from driving in dangerous moments, many of our weather-cancellation messages just stop at “don’t come out this week, we’ll pick up next week.” In this age of connected devices and services, perhaps we can encourage pastors and their communities to do/expect better. Continue reading