When you speak regularly for churches, schools, organizations, and ministries you experience a lot of things. Most things are good, because the people with whom you're working are good people attempting to do their best. But sometimes the doing-their-best isn’t attempted and as a guest speaker you’re left with having to go with the flow.
For example, here are a few fairly frequent occurrences:
--People promise the moon in terms of the support technology you’ll have available, e.g., video projectors, sound systems, etc. But the tech available isn’t what the contact person thinks it is.
--Often the tech available is exactly what the contact person promised it would be, sometimes top-notch. But tech is only as good as the person operating it, and this is where organizations trip-up way too often. The person, a volunteer, doesn’t show up. The person is late, isn’t adept at using the tech, knows some other kind of tech, like Apple vs. PC, but does not know what’s on hand.
--The tech support person doesn’t listen. This is an amazingly common experience. People want to run their tech the way they want to run it, not the way a guest speaker wants or believes the audience needs. I worked not long ago with a young woman who didn’t want to turn up the sound on the video—her 20-year-old ears could hear just fine, but the audience was 40-85 years, leaning in trying to hear. My wife told a fellow she wanted to play vid #2 and he says, “Yeah.” Then when she’s ready up comes vid #1.
--Sometimes orgs want you to speak “while people eat—oh, it’ll be OK.” I’ve done this many times and likely will many more, but it’s not OK. People want to socialize while they eat, not listen to a speaker.
--The host org generously provides food, which is appreciated. But whoever coordinates the food support sets it up as a buffet line, wanting to maximize choice. But what this maximizes is time, a lot, especially when people make their own sandwiches one condiment at a time. This can eat up, pun intended, half the assigned speaking time. It’s much better to go with something very simple or with box meals from a place like Panera Bread or Jimmy Johns.
--Organizations invite or otherwise allow you to speak and then a day before remember they want you to speak on a complex theme that has little or nothing to do with your expertise, plans, etc. For some reason, churches especially want you to fit their motif rather than present your ministry’s work.
There’s more, but you get the picture about learning to flex and go with the flow.
I have a theory about why contact persons over-promise re tech and tech support. Most of them are 40 and up. They don’t live and breathe tech. This doesn’t mean they’re technologically illiterate, just that they don’t use it for speaking, certainly not daily. And every time they’ve seen it work, it has, because the president or senior pastor is there and the tech support is as it should be. But not when the guest shows up.
All this is why most of us who travel and speak regularly carry our own small vid projectors and speakers. If you don’t, you’re at the mercy of these vicissitudes.
Have PowerPoint. Have Video. Have Vid Projector/Speakers. Will Travel.
“Arab Spring” is the phrase or name that pundits, academic and media, use to describe protests in the Arab countries of North Africa and the Middle East, beginning with Tunisia in December 2010. Demonstrations and even violence continue to this day, in particular at this moment in Syria.
One problem with the name is that demonstrations have not been limited to Arab countries and the experience and outcome of most have not been as much “spring”—openness, renewal, new politics and opportunity—as some would have hoped. At this moment, it’s difficult to know whether to be optimistic or pessimistic about “What’s next?” in countries like Libya or Egypt, let alone Syria or Yemen.
Another problem is that the “Arab Spring” has not necessarily brought a time of freedom and better conditions for all minorities, including the Christian minority in the region. Even the “New York Times” once used the phrase “Christian Winter” to describe fears and concerns about backlash and what might be. This concern continues.
In the midst of this, SAT-7 continues to broadcast Christian teaching based upon a biblical worldview that supports respect for all human life, support for liberty for all human beings, freedom of thought, worship, and expression, and encouragement of a worthy work ethic, productivity, honesty, and respect for property rights.
The Christian Church, capital "C," the Body of Christ or the Church Universal, exists today in the Middle East and North Africa. What this means is that indeed there are local Christian churches and local believers in every country in the region. Now some of these churches exist in hiding, "hidden believers" as Brother Andrew called them, but they are there. And their faith is amazing and resilient.
But the church is also, in some countries in the region, suppressed, repressed, oppressed, and at times persecuted. SAT-7, Christian satellite television in the region, broadcasts daily in Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish to the Church and to all who wish to view its programs.
Megachurches qualify for the designation when attendance tops 2,000 people. The term was first used by megachurch researcher John Vaughn and later popularized in his 1993 book entitled Megachurches and America’s Cities: How Churches Grow.Now we’ve got the inelegant term gigachurch, a congregation of 10,000 or more in weekly services.
Now several churches top 20,000. Actually, Joel Osteen’s Houston-based Lakewood Church is listed at about 43,500. Next in the list is Second Baptist church, also Houston, at 23,659; North Point Church with Andy Stanley in Alpharetta, GA at 22,557; Willow Creek Church in Chicago with well-known megachurch leader Bill Hybels at 22.500; Lifechurch.TV in Oklahoma at 20,823; and West Angeles Cathedral in L.A. at 20,000. Purpose-Driven Life Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church just misses the 20,000-attendee club at 19,414.
There are now well over 1200 churches in the United States with weekly attendance figures regularly over 2,000, and most are growing. Before we get carried away with these grand numbers we should note that in South Korea some churches claim 250,000 regular weekly attendees. Mind-boggling.
So what should we think of this?
I’m not a megachurch researcher, much less an expert. I’m not necessarily “for” or “against” megachurches. I just get into some of them, see them as I travel, and witness how some of them present facilities, personalities, missions, etc.
As far as I can tell there’s nothing “wrong” with a church that attracts a large attendance. In one sense, they are simply outcomes of our age, along with “big box stores” like Walmart and Home Depot, huge businesses, again like Walmart, or Google, Apple, or Microsoft. “Big” is an attribute of our lives in part because there are more people on the earth than ever before, some 7.3 billion and growing.
I believe in liberty, i.e. that one can make one’s own choices, and I believe in free enterprise, i.e. that one is free to invest talent, time, and effort, create a service or product, and build something worthwhile. Churches can do this, or at least their attendees and leaders can. People choose to go where they get what they want, where what’s presented is presented well, if not excellently, and where it’s convenient or affirming for them to go. One reason churches grow is because they have a speaker that hits the ball and people choose to come back time and again. Nothing odd or “wrong” in this, unless of course the speaker or the church preach or teach theological error.
Beyond this I confess some megachurches make me uncomfortable. One reason is simply the facilities they require. Enormous, and I mean humongous, edifices—no, multi-edifices on campuses rivaling small universities. Having led one of those small universities and done a bit of fundraising I can say these facilities cost tens of millions of dollars and other millions to operate them. Some are nothing short of opulent. Is this “bad” or “wrong”? I can’t quite go there, at least not as a generalization. But I also know that facilities like this go well beyond what’s necessary for basic worship and fellowship. They absorb funds that could indeed go for a variety of other fund-starved needs and ministries.
Megachurches aren’t all good or all bad. Their appropriateness and effectiveness trace to the people who lead and attend them.
Satellite television in the Middle East and North Africa, the region directly influenced in the past several months by the "Arab Spring," is a very powerful cultural influencer. Practically and technologically speaking, there is simply no other means available that is as efficient or as effective as satellite television in reaching 500+ million people in a region characterized by closed countries and illiteracy rates as high as 50%. In addition, people in the region tend to learn orally. In other words, they like to listen to and learn from stories, particularly ones they can view on TV.
Founded 16 years ago, SAT-7, a Christian satellite television ministry, tells wonderful stories about living life with the enablement of the gracious Sovereign God and His Word. SAT-7 broadcasts daily in Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish throughout 22 countries in the region, and its programs are known for their production quality, variety, and uplifting presentation of the Christian faith.
My website has been upgraded – brighter, different colors, more easily readable font, new comment/feedback module, better back-end functioning. The work originally and this recent upgrade were completed by my son-in-law, Joe Drouillard of J D Web Design Studio.
The content management system is Joomla, which I like, now that I’ve learned a few basics. It can do much more, but I haven’t needed its full capacity so haven’t spent time on a learning curve. But what I can do gets the job done for me.
In my opinion, simple or fairly straightforward web designs are best. I don’t mean dull or boring designs, just designs and lettering that considers the viewer/reader’s eye and makes content as easily accessible as possible.
So, I recommend J D Web Design Studio to you. Joe does good work.