Thursday, November 30, 2006

Planes, trains, and automobiles

My wife and I spent the holiday weekend in Florida with my parents and grandmother. Its nice to take a short break from the activities around the church. I'm so thankful that I have such a great team of people around me that I can go away and not worry about how the services will go. Great volunteers are wonderful!
The trip was fun for us. We spent some time at Disney and got to see the Osborne family lights show at MGM. There are several million lights put up all along the Hollywood Blvd area that are set to music for an amazing show. Despite some of the goofy things Disney does with social issues they still know better than anyone how to put on a great show for the whole family.
On the trip home we had an exciting time as well. Our flight from Orlando began like any other flight. Just after takeoff, say less than a minute, there was a very loud bang and the entire plane shook. We could smell smoke instantly and there were people toward the back of the plane yelling fire. You don't' need much imagination to understand this is not something you ever want to hear or smell on a plane, especially these days. My wife and I were both scared for sure and began praying for safety. Time seems to slow down in these cases so I don't know how long it was before the captain came on and said that we were going to go back and land immediately. By this time I realized we were not in grave danger but still had no idea what was going on with the plane. We made a safe landing and after the emergency teams came out and checked the plane we finally were taken back to the terminal and off loaded. Eventually, we were told that they think a large bird was pulled through the engine.
I'm a super big proponent of high quality customer service. I know it can make or break any organization, whether its a church or an airline. I've shared in the past poor service things that have happened so I want to share a positive one. The airline staff tried to keep people informed as we waited in the terminal about the situation and how they were going to proceed. In about an hour they had another plane ready to take people on to Atlanta. For us it was to late to catch a connecting flight on to DC and they told us to stay put as they worked out what to do. They booked us on the first direct flight from Orlando to DC the next morning and put us in a nice hotel, gave us meals, and tried to make it as easy as possible. I give them big kudos for doing a good job in a very stressful situation. In addition, we got 2 round trip tickets anywhere they fly.
Thanks AirTran for making a bad experience much more pleasant.

As for the hotel we stayed in that night, they also had great service and took excellent care of us. However, for the love of all that is holy, high speed Internet access should be FREE at all hotels. We stayed at a Quality Inn for the previous nights of our stay that had free wireless service. Yet this Marriott hotel with much nicer accommodations wanted to charge me $10 a day for Internet access. Highway robbery! Seriously, I will not stay at any hotel that doesn't have free Internet these days. Even my church has free access in our cafe'. Such an easy way to win over customers and they miss the boat. It all matters and people notice.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sermon Video

We have started putting video of our messages on our website. You can see the video here, just click the link for the "Seasons of Life" series. There are some limitations on the media player that I'm not thrilled about at this point, as well as a little bug that I have reported already. Our website is actually just a database. All the pages are created dynamically and set to you. There are no static pages anywhere on the site. Because of this, we have to use the media player built by the hosting company. I would like the video to have some sizing options. Right now I'm stuck with the size of the media player. The other limitation is that it has to be a Flash video file. I would like to be able to use Windows Media format. It would just be nice to be able to do the video in real time with the Windows Media Encoder as per Jason Powell's instructions. It would certainly save me time and effort to render it in Flash as I have to do now.
I am glad to be able to provide the video for everyone to enjoy even in its current form. It certainly makes it more compelling to see what is happening as well as hear it. We use a good bit of video during our messages and had a number of requests for the video of the message so those online could get the all the visuals. Now if I can just get some money to buy some more cameras it will help to make it more engaging.

BTW, I just want to plug my friend Byron's blog. His last 2 posts are things that all church leaders should read. You can get them here and here. Byron continues to inspire me to rethink why we do church.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Great Day

Sunday was simply fantastic. The worship was great, the message was outstanding and we baptised 17 people. Its just awesome to see baptisms every month. I'm glad we do them during our main services because I think its a wonderful way for both the guest and the long time member to see the kingdom impact. People just like them experiencing God in big ways. There is just nothing better than watching an entire family getting baptised on the same day! WOW!

Virtual Church

I’m going to reveal a secret, one that those who know me can probably figure out even though I try to deny it. Simply reading this blog should give you some discernment.

I am a geek.

There I said it. (Isn’t that step one?) Now I feel better. Yes, I am an artist too. I firmly believe that great production people are artists, with some geek built-in and I try so hard to surround myself with artists that I can teach to be technical, but I digress. Being I geek I can admit to other things I enjoy. I have been an avid online gamer for many years. I won’t bore you with the details; just understand that I have played many different kinds of games for many years. The genre that has attracted my attention the most are the online role playing games. There are many to mention that I have enjoyed over the years, but the aspect that holds true for all of them is the relationships I’ve built with people all over the world. I’ve had the opportunity to share life with these people, not just some silly game. I’m certainly no where near as active in that virtual world as I once was, but I do continue a number of the relationships.

It has often surprised me, and I’m not alone in this, that people will share difficult situations of their life with people they have never meet, but in a sense known to them very well. I’ve done marriage counseling between couples that played together. I’ve helped people with job decisions. I’ve seen people grow up because they figured out in a virtual world that life is about people and it translated to them for real! This is an aspect of the gaming community that I suspect was never imagined by developers. When I see my experiences within this community I really do see how it can impact people’s lives in a positive way. I do know the negatives as well. I’ve been around the upper end, hard core player side of some of these games and have seen that some people become so wrapped up in the virtual world the forgo much of the real one.

You can call me crazy, but I believe there is a need to get people connected with Jesus in this virtual community. There would be a great deal of care that would need to be taken in this endeavor but I can see the need and I can see the possibility of significant impact. I recently read a post at Drew Goodmanson’s site where he talks about the creation of a virtual church within the game community of Second Life. Think I’ve lost it have you? Well consider this story from the Senior Web Services Evangelist, (yes that really is his title) for Jeff Barr. He talks about his experience is doing a presentation about the Amazon Web Services within Second Life. Mr. Barr thinks that Second Life holds genuine and effective marketing for their product.

I’m not a church planter but it certainly makes me think about all my virtual experiences a little different. I would like to see how a church plant in Second Life might work.