If you are in or around central Iowa, it would be great to see you at the Technology and the Glory of God conference this Saturday, hosted by Stonebrook church in Ames.
Tim Challies and I will be speaking on, you guessed it, technology and the glory of God.
One of my sessions will be a Q&A, and I especially love hard questions. So feel free bring your most difficult and challenging questions. (Or just ordinary ones are fine too, of course!)
Doors open at 12:30 and the conference goes from 1:00 to 7:00.
Dorothy Sayers, in Why Work:
The worst religious films I ever saw were produced by a company which chose its staff exclusively for their piety.
Bad photography, bad acting, and bad dialogue produced a result so grotesquely irreverent that the pictures could not have been shown in churches without bringing Christianity into contempt.
God is not served by technical incompetence.
This is my presentation on “The Gospel and Money” from the workshop I did at The Gospel Coalition 2008 national conference.
In this presentation, I answer three questions:
- How should we understand prosperity in light of the biblical texts that seem to take a wealth-negative view?
- Is maximizing our financial giving always the best way to serve others?
- Can we glorify God in spending money as well as in giving money?
And then I talk about being creative, competent, and audacious in addressing global poverty.
You can also listen to the audio:
Catalyst is the best leadership conference for young leaders who love the church. If you’ve never been to Catalyst before, it’s unlike any conference you’ve ever been to. It’s exciting, innovative, and yet grounded in excellent content and substance. Here’s a short description:
Catalyst unifies change makers — equipping you with impactful content and experiences that transform thinking, provoke action and cultivate community. We’re challenging leaders who love the Church to break the bounds of an ordinary existence and find the courage to embrace and radiate bold change.
Main speakers this year include Andy Stanley, Matt Chandler, Craig Groeschel, Tim Keller, John Perkins, and more.
If you come on October 1st, the day before the main conference starts, you can attend Catalyst Labs. I’ll be doing a lab session and would love to see you. The title of my session is: All the Good You Can: How the Gospel Changes the Way You Lead, Get Things Done, and Change the World.
I believe it is possible to change the world, and that God in fact calls us to do so. It isn’t just an inspirational idea or a dream of people who like to think in big terms without doing the hard work to create that change. But we do need to understand changing the world in a God-centered way, and we need to understand how this affects the way we lead and the way we get things done. God has a particular way in which he wants us to change the world. We need to know what that is and how it affects everything we do. So that’s what I’ll be talking about in my session.
(And here’s a great, quick video on the vision for the conference:
In the latest issue of The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Eric Ortland has an excellent article called “The Gospel in the Book of Ecclesiastes.”
It is an excellent article. I don’t think the JETS articles are online, but if you subscribe to JETS, check it out.
Here is one of the most helpful and meaningful things in the article: Ortlund points to the term “already” in Ecclesiastes 9:7: “Go, eat with joy your bread, and drink with a good heart your wine, for God has already approved what you do.” The passage then goes on to refer to work and the other aspects of life.
The point in this passage, shown by the term “already,” is that God gives us the gift of our work and its results, and delights in these gifts to us “prior to and irrespective of what we accomplish.”
This is an authorization and affirmation of meaningful work. God does not wait to see the results of our work to identify if it is meaningful; rather this passage is saying that the endeavor itself is meaningful.
This is incredibly freeing. You don’t have to ask if God approves of you working with all your heart and with great purpose. Yes, he already approves of that. So go do it.
When I was at Desiring God and we were implementing the vision of posting everything online for free, this was a common objection.
I think the people who make this objection are very smart. Further, they have some good evidence for their thinking. For example, who hasn’t returned home from a conference with a huge pile of free books that they are not interested in and might actually just throw away? Or who doesn’t get annoyed by marketers trying to stick them with “free” stuff as they walk by.
And I have to say that one of the most annoying things to me is websites that try to promote their newsletter or other stuff by putting FREE in all caps, as if we are dogs programmed to salivate at any idea of “free” and as if we don’t have enough to do already. My question whenever I see that is always “who cares if it’s free; will it actually add value to my life?” Much of what is “free” actually takes value away from you by taking your time and creating hassle.
In other words, “free” is often a value vampire.
Of course, though, the problem here is that in these cases, we really aren’t dealing with free at all. We are dealing with low-value stuff that imposes a cost on us — the cost of time and hassle, all in the service of the marketers aims, not the recipient’s aims. By definition, that is not free. That’s called taking. It’s taking in the guise of “FREE.”
Back to something like abundantly free online sermons (like at Desiring God) or even the case of free books. The fact is, sometimes we do value free stuff — and sometimes we don’t.
You can’t just make a blanket statement that people don’t value free stuff, or that they do. Experience constantly contradicts this.
For example, think of your favorite TV show (if you have one). If it’s on one of the major networks, it is free to you. Does that make you value it less? For years my favorite show was Lost, and I didn’t value it less because of the fact that I didn’t have to pay to watch it. Likewise, just because I do pay for an episode of something now on iTunes doesn’t mean I am going to value it more. I value it based on how much I like it, not based on how much it cost me.
The biggest factor here of all, though, is the issue of salvation. Salvation is fully free (Romans 6:23). Does that make us value it less?
Of course, based on the behavior of some Christians, some people might actually argue that the answer is yes! But we know that can’t really be the case, for God would not set things up such that the way he grants the right to heaven is intrinsically flawed so as to make us devalue it.
I think the answer is this. People value free things when those free things meet immense needs or enable them to invest in things that matter.
In the case of free online sermons, if a person simply has a consumer mentality, they might not be valuing those free sermons the way they should. But the free sermons aren’t there for such people. The sermons are there for the people who want to take what they learn from those sermons and invest it into their lives and into other people.
Note that in these cases, the person is actually doing a lot of work. But the work is not to earn the right to the free items (in this case, sermons), but in learning from them, applying them, and living them out. That is very demanding, and causes people to value the sermons very much. (I’ve spoken to pastor after pastor, for example, that has remarked on how they use the sermons in their research as they are preparing for their own sermons.)
And that’s why making something free does not necessarily diminish its value. Sometimes, it actually enhances its value by enabling the person to focus on the real purpose of that which is free — namely, putting it to use.
Why distract people from that purpose by putting up additional barriers?
Anyone can do that.
Jim Collins nails the problems with this in his excellent book Beyond Entrepreneurship:
Most of us have been trained to do just the opposite [of acting on good ideas rather than spending hours deliberating on all the reasons they can’t work]. We’re well schooled in criticism, having learned that the way to show how smart we are is to cite all the reasons that something is a stupid idea or doomed to failure.
We’ve noticed many new MBAs, for example, are adept at finding all the flaws in a business idea, but they’re much less practiced at coming up with ways to make the idea work.
Many times we’ve stood facing a self-satisfied person who has just done a marvelous job of demolishing a new product idea during a discussion. Then we ask, “Yes, we know it’s an imperfect idea. But then no idea is perfect. So, now how do you intend to make this idea successful in spite of its flaws?”
Some people rise brilliantly to the challenge when they realize that the goal is no longer to show how bright they are by shooting holes in ideas.
But, alas, others do not. They’ve been trained too well in the ethos of criticism, and to build a great company, they’ll have to overcome this negative training.
This is a great video of Tony Schwartz speaking at the 99U conference on the importance of managing energy, not just time, in order to be productive.
We often act like our digital devices — as though we can just work constantly without letup. And those who take a break to, for example, hit an art museum or play frisbee golf in the afternoon in an attempt to renew their energy are accused of being slackers.
But renewal is not slacking; it is the key to staying mentally alert and keeping our energy up. While he doesn’t use the examples of frisbee golf and art museums, in this video Tony Schwartz (author of The Power of Full Engagement) makes a great case on how we need to understand better how to manage our energy if we are going to increase our capacity to get things done.
(HT: Asian Efficiency)
I’m getting my email to zero right now (a bit late in the day), and came across a great example of how productivity is not just about getting as many things done as quickly as you can, but generating ideas and even taking some potential rabbit trails.
So, here’s how I work. I’m going through my messages one by one, determining the next actions and what responses are needed to each. One of these emails is yesterday’s blog post by Seth Godin on a new marketing class he is offering at Skillshare.
So, what’s the next action on that email? Just read it, decide I don’t have time for the class, and move on? That would be the efficiency model of productivity, which I reject.
Instead, with this email I sat back and asked myself some questions and observations like these:
- What does Seth’s blog post here teach us about how we should craft and present ideas in general? Godin is clearly a master at this. A blog post from him announcing a new course he is offering is not just an opportunity to decide whether to take the course or not; it’s an opportunity to learn about communication.
- So in that vein, I notice that he talks about the course “changing the way you think about marketing.” Is that way of speaking just a way to get attention? Talk about change, so people will listen? Godin is a person of integrity; he speaks what he believes, rather than making things up just to get a response. Further, in my experience (confirmed more and more every day), things absolutely do need to be changed. This is actually the task of leadership: changing things. We live in a fallen world. So much is indeed sub-par and not helping people. To talk in terms of change is not just a way to “market” an idea. Things really do need to be changed. So I make a mental note that here is yet more confirmation that it is right to talk in terms of changing things, and that it is helpful to do so (the way Godin crafted his post certainly got me thinking in a constructive way).
- Godin links the wrong words in his post! You should never say “click here.” The words you link need to be information carrying. That is both more helpful and more effective. So, Godin is great, but not perfect (I’m sure he also has reasons for breaking this rule — but he’s wrong!).
So, though I am not going to enroll in his course, the value of this email from Godin’s blog is far beyond the fact that it notified me about the course. It helped build my thinking, and gave me an opportunity to think about how I do things and how I craft ideas.
That is a huge impact, and an impact that cannot be measured by the response rate to the actual post. That shows how productivity is about much more than tangible outcomes; intangibles (affecting how people think) are just as important — and, in fact, something that actually will result in tangible outcomes and great effectiveness down the road.
And this process also shows how productivity methods, like getting your email to zero every day, are not about rigid structure and just getting things off your list. Rather, they provide a framework in which exploration can happen. If we think of productivity as just getting things checked off our lists faster, we will miss the most important and enriching moments of life.
I’m looking forward to Voddie Baucham’s new book on the relationship of the story of Joseph to redemptive history.
The trailer does a great job of sparking your interest: