Thursday, August 31, 2006

New Blog Design?

A few days ago, I alluded to some upcoming changes to my blog design. I assumed at that point that I was pretty far away, but I found a framework to start from that I really liked. My goals were simplicity, flexibility, readability, and attractiveness.

I don't know if anyone visited the test site, but no one complained, so I've now put up the new design. Please let me know if you liked the other format better and why. I'd be happy to go back. Mostly.

Oh, and thanks for understanding that not everything works yet!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Disagreement and Distrust

This is part 2 in a 4-part series. Read part 1 here

As she walked down the sidewalk, I thought, “I hate women who wear combat boots.”

As strange as that sentence may be, this next sentence is even stranger even to me. That thought changed my life. The Lord used that thought to convict me of how my preferences had made me closed to opportunities to share the gospel. I let my dislikes justify hatred of others.

Joshua Harris helped Covenant Life Church more fully understand unity in Christ this last Sunday. His first point of application was this: “Distrust your dislikes.” While I wasn’t necessarily hindering the unity of the church in the previous example, I certainly was arrogantly placing my preferences before the good of others.

If unity in the church is essential for ministry to non-Christians, as I argued in part 1, then we must understand how to handle disagreement between Christians. This is especially true in areas where the Bible isn’t absolutely clear and personal preference is more significantly involved.

Specifically, I want to discuss today how to practically handle disagreements that come up in the church related to technology and media.
  • What happens when you don't like the way someone else mixes the sound?
  • What should you do if you think it's simply too loud?
  • How should you respond when the graphics are, from your perspective, ugly or boring?
  • What do you do about what you don't like?
In a few days, I'll discuss the dangers of doing nothing: bitterness and apathy. But for now, let's agree that you have a role to play. You need to say something or do something. What is the best way to play that role without causing conflict and disunity? What does distrusting your dislikes look like in this case?

Here are some thoughts that may help:
  • Actively remember that you -- like Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15 -- are the greatest sinner you know. Search your heart for any evil intent before approaching a conversation to change something you don't like. Remember that you will tend to like the things that serve you rather than the things that serve others.
  • Get help. Ask others who know you well to help you understand why you want to change this dislike. Your motive matters.
  • Approach any conversation about a dislike with honest questions rather than assumptions. Only assume one thing: that you are the one mistaken or uninformed.
  • Recognize to the person you approach that you are not the expert on everything. Even if you are around to be the "resident expert" in a particular area, you still have room to grow and learn.
  • Submit to leadership. God has given us leaders to help make decisions and move his plans forward. Follow them wholeheartedly, and you'll likely see the wisdom of it in the end.
  • Don't divide. Please don't leave a church simply over media or technology choices that you dislike.
What dislikes are you facing these days? Maybe some real-life examples will bring more clarity to these comments. Send them in to the comments section!
Photo Credit: Zen Sutherland

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Prayer for Unity

Photo By: Alex Luskin

Have you ever pictured a conversation among members of the trinity? What would they say to each other?

Here’s an example from a part of one of the last prayers of Jesus’ life:
"I do not ask for [my disciples] only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me."
Is your church seeking to have an effect on your community? Do you want to be relevant to newcomers? Do you hope to use media and technology for God’s glory and the advance of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Know this: unity among Christians is critical to all effective ministry to non-Christians.

Haven’t you found this to be true? Don’t unbelievers frequently justify dismissal of the gospel by the fact that Christians have so many denominations and so little agreement?

And not only non-Christians are affected. Don’t believers frequently leave churches because – after getting involved – they find a culture of unresolved disagreement, bitterness, and apathy toward resolution?

People that serve with media and technology are not impervious to temptations toward bitterness and disunity. We operate in a subjective, cultural, and preferential arena. Opportunities for disagreement between team members, pastors, musicians, or church members lie on the other side of any decision.

How can we participate with the Spirit in affecting the world by seeking unity despite a diversity of opinions?

That’s the question that Joshua Harris attempted to answer this weekend in his message on 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. I’ll be applying some of his points to media ministry throughout this week.

Here are my initial stabs at titles for this week’s posts:
  • Disagreement – What Next?
  • Playing Favorites
  • Unearthing Bitterness
As we go into this series, let's join Christ in praying that unity would define our churches individually and the church universal.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Meg's Newest Trick

So it's not about media technology, but it's one of those highlights of life worth blogging about. Check out what our little girl mastered during last week's vacation. Mobility is freeing!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Disunity and Distrust

"Division in the church doesn't surprise us any more."
-- Joshua Harris

Photo Credit: John Curley

This morning, our senior pastor spoke about unity in the church from 1 Corinthians 1:10-14 (listen here on Tuesday). I've tried to summarize it here.

Disunity in the church is real. Unfortunately, it is more often used as a joke punchline than treated as a problem that Christians should try to resolve.

The symptoms of division at Corinth were quarrelling, separation, cliques, and being different in mind and judgment. While occasionally Christians must divide from other so-called believers, most of the division in today's church is motivated by sinful pride and petty issues.

Even more specifically, the believers in Corinth were dividing over identification with leaders: "I follow Paul. I follow Apollos. I follow Cephas. I follow Christ." This is strange because those leaders were not divided. They were friends and coworkers in the gospel.

The problem lies not in the "Paul, Apollos, Cephas" parts of those statements. The problem is the "I." The Corinthians had made their favorite preacher, the person who baptized them, or some other leader with whom they associated more important than Christ himself.

Paul believed this was such a serious issue that he wrote to them by the authority of Jesus Christ. What was his reasoning for correction? Christ was not divided. Paul was not crucified for them. No one was baptized into the name of Paul. Only through Jesus was salvation available, and only in Jesus should the identity of a Christian be firmly planted. The Corinthians had forgotten the gospel, and it led to division.

The solution, then, to division is to focus on the cross of Jesus Christ. His death unites all Christians together. We are united as a family, as brothers and sisters. If we forget the sacrifice of Christ, we will forget our family unity, and we will separate because of personal preference.

What shall we do? How can we make sure that the gospel continues to unify us? We should do the following consistently and with great effort:
  • Distrust our "dislikes." We must not let what we don't like about our churches lead to division. We must seek humility, talk to leadership if appropriate, and then trust God for the results.
  • Distrust our "favorites." We may like a particular style of music, liturgy, preacher, or area of ministry in the church. We must watch out that we don't find our identity in those things, but rather in the cross of Christ.
  • Root out bitterness and apathy in our relationships. Watch out for, confess, and seek reconciliation with the people who are most challenging to you.

From my experience, this message hits at the heart of many technical and media "conflicts," doesn't it? Disagreements with musicians, pastors, congregation members, other team members create disunity. Throughout this week, as a follow-up to the message, I'll be addressing issues related to unity in the church and media ministry.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Blogging Changes

CJ Mahaney, Covenant Life's former senior pastor, has permanently implanted the following phrase in all our members' minds:

Constant change is here to stay.

So, here I go, bringing constant change into my little blogging world. I think I'm going to be throwing out the weekly schedule for something a little more flexible.

I'm hoping to plan a four-part series for each week on a variety of topics based off the old blogging schedule. I believe this will help me spend less time writing and yet more fully develop ideas. Do you all have any topics you'd like to see discussed soon?

That plan leaves three days open for other posts such as answering questions, book reviews, good posts from others, and so on.

I'm also considering a look-and-feel change for the blog, so that it is more Web 2.0 and simpler to read. But that could be a long way off.

Please let me know what you think of these changes, now or as they occur.

Photo Credit: Mike Rosales

Friday, August 25, 2006

Baltimore Day Away

Well, vacation is now over, but before saying good-bye to the restful days of summer, I thought I'd share some pictures from our family day-trip to Baltimore yesterday. It was a beautiful day.

We took a tour of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in the afternoon.

After dinner at the inner harbor, we went to the Orioles game against the Minnesota Twins.

Unfortunately, this is how exciting the game ended up being...

The Orioles got smoked 11 to 2, or something like that. You know you lost bad when you don't even care whether you remember the actual score or not.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Am I Really on Vacation Again?

I can't believe I'm on "vacation" again.

This one isn't quite so formal (or as removed from civilization) as my last one. My wife's whole family is in town. No, correct that. Her whole family is in townHOUSE, our townhouse. We're having fun doing day trips to local places. Here are two pictures from Annapolis yesterday.



So the lack of blogging continues. I hope someday soon I'll get back on track.

In relation to the priority of blogging in life, I've been contemplating this definition from one of our pastors, Robin Boisvert:

LAZINESS :|: Doing what you want to do, rather than what you ought to do.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

WorshipGod06 :|: iMagnify Video

So, Adrian Warnock tipped off a few of you that I slipped up and revealed the IMAG gone amuck skit that was going to happen at WorshipGod06. I should have known better than to include a link on the post. Stupid me. That's my fault, not Adrian's! Hopefully, I didn't ruin anyone's experience. If I did, please forgive me and jot me a comment so I don't do it again.

At least one person was interested in seeing a video, so here's what we got. The beginning is a little odd because we were transitioning from live cameras to a videotape. I'm sorry about that. I think you'll get the idea.

Note: After posting this, I've noticed some audio sync issues, probably due to the compression levels of the sound track. I'll be working on that later in the afternoon, hopefully. But enjoy it as much as you can for now. Thanks for understanding.

What do you think? Was it funny? Did it work?

Oh, and this video is copyright 2006 Sovereign Grace Ministries and Drew Jones. All rights are reserved. I have used it with permission. If you break the law, and make millions off this, you owe Drew one large yacht. Thanks!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

WorshipGod06 Reflection: Gratefulness

24 hours and a good night's sleep can clarify many things. That which yesterday was simply a blur in my mind now has filled my heart with much to share in reflection on the technical aspects of the WorshipGod06 conference.

First, I am filled with gratefulness to God for his provision of people. Several times throughout the weekend, I reminded others and myself that the church is people, not technology. And God provided through Covenant Life Church this weekend. I want to thank publicly those who served me, the conference attendees, and ultimately the Lord Christ. These fine people, by the grace and strength of God, exemplified Collosians 3:22-24:
"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ."
First, I want to thank the Cowan family. They were my sine qua non for the conference, my "without which not." Jim, Vicki, Justin, Andrew, and Philip: thanks for working so hard for so long every day to make so many different things happen!

Next, I need to thank a slew of young people who came to serve in whatever way they were called upon: Chris, Caleb, Micah, John S, Mark, John C, Anna, and Kila. These fine friends of mine did video, lighting, audio, seminars, setup, takedown, and on and on. Thanks for making the most of your youth for the glory of the Lord!

Special thanks to Frank and Richard for coming alongside all the youth, also serving wherever needed and whenever possible. Frank used vacation time to serve!

Brittany, thanks for spending so much time entering stuff into SundayPlus! You definitely bailed me out big time at the last minute. Dawn, thanks for coming alongside her at those key moments of busy-busy-busy-ness.

Joe and Karen, thanks for working with all the sound teens and keeping them on track.

Peter B. and Tony, thanks for making the very young video crew look so good.

Bob and Kathe, your solid camera 1 work was essential to the whole event. Thanks for bringing the word closer to the eyes and ears of the hearers.

Finally, thanks to Peter, Kevin, and Matt, who directed cameras throughout the event. Matt, thanks for your faithfulness to serve and trust in God even though you had a potential job on those days. (If anyone is looking for a great freelance video guy, visit Matt's website!)

Maybe because of exhaustion, maybe because of senility, definitely because I'm human, I've already forgotten so much of what you all did. I am inadequate to thank you fully.

However, God will never forget, and he is not inadequate. I can't wait for his commendation of you in heaven!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

WorshipGod06 Crash Time

The crunch is over.

Now it's time to crash.

WorshipGod06 concluded this afternoon after nearly 72 hours straight of intense sound, lighting, and video production. Phew! It was a challenge for our teams, but what a wonderful one. From my limited vantage point, it sure seemed like God met the attendees, and that's what matters most. I know his name was exalted, his Word was preached, and his Spirit was active. Now, my prayer is that he helps people to apply what they learned at their home churches. I believe that he will.

I know I will be reflecting on the conference throughout the week, and as I do, I'll let you know what went well, what we learned, and what never to do!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Grace Unmeasured

This song from WorshipGod Live is really helping me to trust in the Lord this morning when I definitely feel my need for grace unmeasured. Listen to a sample here or buy it here.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

WorshipGod06 Crunch Time

Well, I'm less than two hours away from the first day of WorshipGod06. I can't wait for the conference to begin, to see our volunteers step up and serve their hearts out, to see the people arrive whom God is going to affect, and -- most importantly -- to see God lifted high on the earth. I am so grateful to be involved in this conference.

If you think of it, please pray for me. I'm still in the process of sorting out the 193 emails of information about this conference, attempting to consolidate a lot of little pieces into coherent information for the volunteers to use.

Along with the "normal" technical director responsibilities, I'm introducing one seminar speaker and participating on a panel for another seminar.

I think I just today realized how many actual tasks I'm supposed to be doing in the next few days, and I'm now delegating as furiously as I know how to keep it manageable.

Thanks for your prayers. If you're attending the conference, stop by the sound booth to say hello. I'd love to meet you and hear what God is doing in your church.

Friday, August 04, 2006

IMAG Gone Amuck :|: Shhhh...

I'm working on a project this week which has an interesting concept. From what we've seen so far, it will be absolutely hilarious.

Picture this: Guy walks up on stage to lead the congregation in worship. His face is on IMAG. As he begins to play, we cut away to a wider shot of the congregation, and then cut back to him. However, the last cut is not actually to a camera, but to a tape of him that we've recorded. The tape of him breaks away from what he's actually doing on stage. This IMAG conscience/alter ego begins to comment on and criticize his ultra-horrible worship-leading.

We'll see if it works...and if it's actually funny.

Has anyone done anything like this before? Any suggestions on how to make it work well?

P.S. If you're coming to WorshipGod06, don't tell anyone about this. It's our little secret.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Forgotten But Not Forlorn

Compliments come in strange shapes.

This last Sunday morning was intended to be a unique day, since Covenant Life was sending out the official church planting team to Frederick, our first church plant in many years. We had planned for it to be an unusual morning with videos and slide shows and multiple speakers and testimonies and people standing on the floor in front of the stage. We've done all these things before, but rarely all at once and never when I've been on vacation.

So off I went to a little town in Michigan where I had no cell phone service and my only attempt to download my email tied up the phone line for over an hour.

Yesterday, on my first day back from eight days in nowhere, I asked our senior pastor how things went on Sunday. He first looked at me strangely, but then something clicked. "I completely forgot you were gone on Sunday. It went so smoothly I didn't even think about your absence."

Being forgotten at a time like that is a wonderful gift!

Thanks be to God and to all the amazing volunteers he's provided to this church!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I'm Back :|: For The Most Part

Well, the Wilcoxes are back from the Great Lake State, rested and ready to plow back into a busy August. And it's so busy that I've decided (again) to scrap the blogging schedule for a time, and leave my writing space to journaling what's happening on the Covenant Life tech teams and in my world as tech director.

Here are some pictures from our time away...