Hi, I'm Aaron: Technology Columnist for Baptist News

There are some things in life you just don't expect. This week, it was the honor of becoming a technology columnist for Baptist News. Here's a link to my first article:


It's writing primarily as an intro to my thoughts on one of the major positives that technology brings to the Church: an opportunty to create connections across generations. I hope you like for formation of words into thoughts.

One of the continual struggles in my life is the balance of offering my skills/thoughts to others and trying to not seem (or more importantly, actully BE) vain. Who am I to think that people care about my little pontifications on society/technology/items of awesomeness? And yet, every now and then I get an opportunity to put some form to my ideas and shoot them out the world via magazines, blogs, or - now - the readership of the Baptist Press.

And, in case you didn't know, I'm Southern Baptist. So yeah - this is a huge honor for me... to be able to share a few words with my denomiation on a regular basis. It's a humbling, cherished honor.

I'm Southern Baptist for many reasons, but the most important is this:

The Southern Baptist denomination is organized for one primary reason - to spread the Gospel and support missionaries. You see, we have this thing called the Cooperative Program. Basically, all the Southern Baptist churches (and businesses like LifeWay and B I've been with LifeWay for 9 years now. I live in Nashville, TN, with my beautiful wife Ashley (whose thoughts you can read here). We've got two dogs, lots of video games, and an amazing community of believers at Mosaic Nashville. I like things that are awesome; are you awesome?

This Day

In September of 2010 I visited Sendai, Japan on a business trip.

Of course, to say it was just a business trip would be missing the entire point. I have the honor of working for a company that is, truly, a ministry supported by business principles. And so, when we partner with companies for key endeavors, we seek like-minded people and organizations whenever we can. So our trip to Japan wasn't simply a business trip, it was a part of our ministry partnership with another organization, whose goals align very closely with ours: to spread the Gospel.

So while we were there a day was reserved for us to go on the field and see the true fruits of their business: supporting Missionaries who were spreading the Gospel. It was one of the most amazing and humbling days of my life, as we pulled up to a fairly secluded, small beach where a group of missionaries had made their home.

We were treated like long lost friends, who had come from afar bearing the gift of presence. From the moment we stepped out of our vehicle and into the lives of the men and women of faith, we were family. We were loved.

A feast - yes a feast! - had been prepared in our honor; a feast of spaghetti and coffee. We all gathered into the camper - 30 of us? - and ate in a large circle, sharing our stories and learning of one another. But even as we enjoyed that moment, the team of missionaries had a greater highlight of their day yet to come: the mission.

You see, this team lived and breathed for sharing the Gospel. Their desire was to share the Good News of redeeming grace across Japan, with surprising vigor and frankness. The technique would have been laughed at, if not considered offensive, in America. There was a van with an incredible loud speaker that would drive down the road and every mile or so stop and broadcast a verse or message about Christ. The message was loud and clear: Repent, for the time of Judgment is soon.

A team on bikes would, at the same time, drive up to every household and deliver a tract to each house's door. It had to be delivered to the door, so that a neighbor would not be bothered by whether or not the home took the message in or not; were it placed in the mailbox, they might be seen taking the tract in, and giving it interest. In Japan, things are different. Things take time; but when a person comes to follow Christ there is a life-change that happens so dramatically beautiful. They are committed.

This was hard for me. This method of evangelism, so foreign: where was the relationship? Where was the deep philosophical arguments to be won? Where was the acts of kindness?

How was it that a man could dedicate his life to riding around in a car, playing a CD over and over again, literally giddy with excitement because someone on the street glanced at him as he played his CD.

"She heard," he said. Every moment he was living his life's dream: sharing the Gospel with anyone who had ears to hear.

In September of 2010, I was a witness as this team of Missionaries would wake up every day, take out maps developed by one of the leading technology companies in Japan, and be sure that, literally, every street and path were covered with the audible and written messages of Christ. It was a small army that was succeeding in small victories everyday. I have no doubt, no doubt at all, that every single person living in Miyako, Japan, heard the Word of the Lord.

Yesterday, at 3:21pm local time, a 13 foot high wave struck Miyako.

In America, today, I had to watch as an incredible man of God's lip quivered, trying to compose himself while watching video of his home country be ravaged by the elements. Trying to tell he was okay, while still waiting to hear news on whether his wife and children were ok.

Whether anyone he knew was ok.

Today a man whom, with every interaction I have with him I grow to love more and more and respect more and more, flew home to Japan and is trying to navigate a way to his family and friends. He's been able to keep us updated with texts, emails and Skype, but we have no idea when his battery might run out. And I will be praying for his safety tonight as I can't conceive of how epic his journey home will be.

With all of the 24-hr, global, local, and glocal media coverage, it's easy to get used to tragedy because we simply have no frame of reference. We can have a bleeding heart for a country, but still go about our day because we've seen seen the people, eaten at their table, or shared the Good News up and down their coast. It's too easy for me to take a glance at the CNN headlines, acknowledge the tragedy, and move on to the next hot thing.

With the memory of a shoreline that's now devoid of homes, the anticipation of word from a friend on a quest, and the need to work through meetings making decisions about a project that we hope will change people's lives all while a man is waiting to hear something, anything, about his family...

I can't say this day was hard. This day was easy. This day I saw the townhomes off 65/40 that I always wonder how to get to. This day I drove home, on a highway, and it took the usual 20-30 minutes. This day I got a kiss from my beautiful bride when I walked in the door. This day was easy.

But this day was hard.

My First Published Comic: John B. Olson's Powers

Somehow... I forgot to blog about this.

Back in early 2010, B&H Publishing Group published a comic book adaptation of John B. Olson's Powers - an incredible fiction novel (I'm not just saying that; I don't read much Christian fiction but this was well worth the read).  The intent of the graphic novel was promotional, the idea being to give people a taste of the novel quickly (comics read faster than novels), so they can get a glimpse into the story before they purchase the book.

It just so happens the comic book adaptation was written by me and illustrated by M. Daily Walden. Check it out and let me know what you think of my first officially published comic book.  I may even have a few physical copies laying around, if paper is your thing. 

John B. Olson's Powers: Graphic Novel

 If you like what you see and read, the full novel is currently available on Amazon.com for $6 - this book is definitely worth at least that much!

This Messed Up Wound Where a Friend Once Was

One year ago, on March 11th. 2010, I lost one of my best friends. This wasn't a loss due to him leaving town, due to him passing away, or due our lives just drifting apart - those all just happen sometimes.  We live in a busy day and age and it's hard to hold on to friendships with the hustle of the day; that is, unfortunately, the reality of our time in life.  I can deal with that. And this wasn't just a good friend whose leaving can be worked over with time and a few tears.  This was a best friend; a man who helped me propose to my bride, a man who I shared my aspirations and struggles with, a man who I knew wouldn't hesitate to move between me and any adversary that threatened me in order to take a punch - or throw a punch to defend me. The truth is he was one of the bravest, most loyal men I ever knew, sometimes to where I wondered if he was loyal and brave to a fault. But then, one year ago, he became a coward. You see, I believed in him and his skills.  There was an opportunity for us to work together on a project that would enable him to be paid in order to do his craft.  I trusted him with one of the biggest projects of my career because I knew the quality he could bring and, genuinely, wanted to give him a chance to create something amazing.  It turned out less than amazing, but we gave him another shot even through I was reprimanded.  I believed in him that much, I was that loyal to him - when everyone I shared his art with questioned my judgement I said, no, this is good - I know because my friend told me so. So we gave him more projects.  We paid him what he asked, and then I renegotiated to pay him even more for the future projects because he felt he deserved it and I agreed. Of the seven agreed upon projects, only 3 were delivered.  For 3 months, my emails went unreturned even when projects were due and contracts needed to be signed.  Then, finally, I was able to schedule a lunch with one of the other business partners/artists involved. At the end of our lunch, I find out that my former best friend had become a coward and - instead of being willing to join us for lunch - had sent a note to be read.  A note saying he couldn't be my friend anymore. A note. He forced a mutal friend of ours to read a note to me saying how prideful I was, saying how horrible of a business person I was, how I robbed him of money, how I was the most selfish person he knew, how my only care in my life was for my career, and, most importantly, how my actions caused him to question the Gospel. This once brave, loyal man didn't have the courage to face me and say anything to my face - instead he had someone else do his dirty work for him. It wasn't until then that I realized how abusive this best friend was. A flood of memories came rushing back to me of the times he mocked me, of the times people told me he talked behind my back but I didn't believe them, of the times he would cause trouble  just to watch me react.  I had always looked over those things because I valued him as a friend; I forgave him for simply being himself and loved him all the same. But this finally broke me: He intentionally put another friend out to deliver this horrible, gut-wrenching note saying our friendship was over and that I was a horrible human being.  He made another man read this note as I sat and openly wept in a public restaurant.  He was such a coward that he was willing to ruin my friendship with the messenger; my understanding from the conversation is that he even told the messenger that he wasn't allowed to be my friend anymore either.  I'm not making that up - that was discussed in our lunch. The messenger said we, and our respective spouses, would get dinner some time once things had calmed down.  I've never heard from the messenger since.  I'm assuming my once brave friend wouldn't let him - because the messenger told me that he wouldn't do dinner with us if my former friend didn't want him to. This huge, gaping wound in my life is still huge and gaping.  I thought a year later I'd be over it.  To be honest, I stopped blogging mostly because of this experience: in the note it was clearly stated that my blog and twitter made him upset because I would talk about the good things in my life too much.  To be personal, to dig all the way deep, I haven't made any new close friends since this wound.  I used to be warm and support men and become their friend quickly and strongly... but only in writing this email do I realize that I haven't done that in the past year like I used to. I don't think about that day very often, because it messes me up when I do.  It throws me off and makes me wonder what random thing I should have done differently. The afternoon after the note - where so much rested upon the issues that occurred because of our business agreements - I spent going through emails and calendars trying to piece together what went wrong.  How had I messed up so badly in our business dealings that I would lose a friend? Was I really that bad of a businessman? I had to have the answer - and the answer was, in all of our dealings, only one thing happened negative on my side: we were late with one payment by 6 days... but even that was because the invoice turned in was wrong. Once the correct invoice was in, we paid within the 30 days we have alloted to pay (of course, this is just my side of the story. I admit something more must have happened... but I just can't find the data to show where we messed up. And I looked, desperately - I wanted to know how to make it right). And so, instead of a great collaboration between me and one of my best friends... I am left with this messed up wound where a friend once was. I don't know why I finally wrote some of these thoughts down.  I guess it was just time to share the story.  I know that, whether I like it or not, this experience has colored my friendships the past year.  I know it's changed how I do business.  I know that I've written dozens of blog posts like this in my head, but never could put it into words in a text box. To my friends, I'm sorry if I've been a coward.  This is a part of my life story now; help me rebuild what friendship means. To my former friend, I still love you. I understand the friendship is over and - quite frankly - I don't know how much I want it back. But I still love you, and I can't wait for the eternal day in Heaven where we finally have the epiphany about how trivial these things were and grace can flow. That will be a good day. And then we will be friends again.
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After Success, Pray

One of the things I continue to struggle with in my life is knowing just how to deal with success.  Because we are taught to remain humble and because I know that all good things come from God, it sometimes feels almost like I'm doing something wrong when I acknowledge that, yes, I did something good. A while back I was honored to be in a group who got to hear from the producer of the movie Fireproof and one of the authors of Love Dare, Alex Kendrick.  As he discussed how they went into development of the film, he said over and over again that everything they did was prayed about.  There was only one thing that he could attribute any success to, and life-change to - and that was prayer. This week there's going to be a few posts coming up on the blog about some successes I've had recently.  Some dreams that have come true, goals of mine that I believe were God-given that have seen fruit.  I think it's important that we share in one another's joy.  I think it's important that we pause and enjoy the gifts of success that God has allowed us to partake in. I think we need to embrace success more often. But, in doing so, just as we need to pray from the onset of any endeavor, we need to pray during and after it as well.  Prayers of thanks and prayers of humility.  Prayers that any struggles or battles we fight along the way are there to make things better, to make us fight harder or, in more cases that we care to admit, to get our attention that we're doing it wrong. Even now, even as I'm writing this, I still feel like it's taboo to say, "Hey! I'm excited about this thing I did! Look!"  Or even the thought that a part of me worries that this post is really communicating to you: "Guess what! I prayed! I really did!"  Its so hard to find that balance of self-awareness of your personal success vs being prideful.  I think that's one of the reasons I've blogged so seldom lately. But... the fact of the matter is that the Lord has given me a season of success.  It could easily be gone tomorrow with one wrong word or one late project.  So I'm choosing to rejoice in the things that God has blessed my life with, labors that have seen success and - hopefully - will serve in their own way to spread the good news of hope and love. And thanks to all you who help teach me, give me grace, and convince me to share my thoughts with the world.
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Disciple Me

It's a subject that my wife and I talk quite a bit about: We need to be discipled. Not merely an all-inclusive general "we," not a community-based program in our church "we," but a very granular, specific "we" as an she and I.  We have great days, experiences and conversations where we sharpen each other.  We have people of all ages who speak into our lives, that we grow in Christ with, that we can learn from.  But... there are so few people who we can point to and say: this person specifically took time to teach me, to disciple me, to pass on wisdom, love, rebukes and passion for the Word. As my life fills up with more school work, with greater job responsibilities, with the lives of people that we're trying to teach and disciple... I worry that I will somehow miss the chance to even allow someone to speak into my life.  I worry that some day I might think, "Yes! I know enough!  I have achieved what this world calls success!" and - at that moment - somehow deny or ignore someone whose journey was meant to connect with mine. There are people I look up to, who I consider mentors-from-afar.  I have people who teach around me.  I have people I observe and learn from.  But I still feel a yearning for someone to develop that discipling relationship with me.  To hold me accountable to the plans God has for me and my family.  To teach me some of the so-many-things-I-don't-know. I don't know if it's just that the part of the people of God that I interact with have lost the art of discipleship, or if people for some reason think I don't need it.  I don't know why I've gone to great men of God and said "this is a need!" and then... nothing.  And I'm left still feeling that need, wanting desperately to fill a void that I know is in my life. But, as desperate and hopeful as I am about finding someone, or someones, to take an interest and disciple this child, I do so little to pass my little wisdom on and let others know that I am praying for them.  And, though I've (in)directly asked people to disciple me before... it's not like finding a mentor was actively on the top of my to-do list for 2009.  It was there... just not always at the very front of my mindset. So... What do you do?  How do you find a mentor?  What do you look for in someone else to disciple?  What's your discipleship story?
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Bible Navigator X: Fulfilling a Dream

As cheesy as it sounds: I love my job. There are goals that you set for yourself in life that you hope to attain, and there are goals that you put before yourself that you place there for the sheer audicity of it all, knowing that it's not something that will ever happen.  Like flying to the moon, adopting a pet dragon, or helping to put the very words of God into a medium that it's never been in before. Today my team announced that we will be bringing the HCSB translation of the Bible to the Xbox via Bible Navigator X.  This has been a dream of mine for since the XBOX 360 launched and they announced that there would be downloadable games.  Way back when it first came out, in 2005, I managed to actually get someone on the phone at Microsoft to see if we could partner with them to make something happen.  At the time, there was simply no way to make it work within their ecosystem... especially since it wouldn't be a game. So, fast forward 4 years, and God somehow places me in the book publishing division of LifeWay, where we publish the Bible.  And, not only that, but B&H is an honest-to-goodness inovator in the digital publishing space and, even in this economy, is willing to take financial risks if it means spreading the Good News of Christ.  So, when I asked if we could explore putting the Bible on the XBOX, my coworkers and boss actually said "yes." So, to begin my quest of making it happen, I posted out to a game developer's forum asking how I might connect with someone to freelance a project.  Lo and behold, I was found by Andy Dunn - a fairly well known developer in the XBOX community.  Someone whose stuff I read back in the day when I was trying to code my own XBOX wares. Andy and I struck up a conversation, outlined what the application would look like, and we went to town.  His wisdom was, quite honestly, astounding.  I've learned more about the game/app development process from him than I ever expected to know.  But there was still that nervousness... is this really going to work? If you've got a dream, you'll have spent hours thinking about it in your head, hoping that some day the reality might be even a sliver of that dream.  In these past few weeks, as Andy has dropped a build to me every few days, it has almost freaked me out.  This is the very first version of Bible Navigator X, our first go at putting this most sacred content onto a video game system... and it work with the medium so perfectly.  It feels natural and nice; like the XBOX was made to host the Bible. In short, reality suprassed what I had dreamt up in my head. I feel almost foolish and childlike, gushing about how exciting this is for me and how much I love my job that allows me to see dreams come true.  I have a renewed interest in spreading the Gospel of Christ, now that it's in a medium that my peers can connect with.  I have a brand new level  of respect for the scholars and wise men who translated the Greek and Hebrew into what we call the HCSB translation... and the programmers and developers who translated that into XML and code. And, I'm not trying to wax philosophically here... I'm just finally able to get out words that I've had to keep secret for so long, I feel like a huge burden has been lifted.  It's not every day that you get to be aware of being a part of God's plan.  It's not every day that you know your actions could - litearlly - impact millions.  This is one of those things that I'll tell my children about, and I will tell their grandchildren, and so on and - hopefully - so on. Excited.  That's how I feel.  I hope you didn't mind my shoutting it from the internets.
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The Near Future of the Bible: Collide Magazine Article

Recently I had the chance to write an article for Collide Magazine that is the sum of my thoughts in the year 2008: The Near-Future of the Bible.  Through conversations with friends, attending and speaking at conferences, and spending time working on a yet-to-be-finished sci-fi novel, I began to craft a vision in my head of what the future of the Bible might look like.  Amazingly enough, Scott was kind enough to let me put some of those thoughts into a few words... and then thought they were worth printing. Fast forward a few months, and the article is now available online for your reading pleasure by clicking this link. If you've been around me the past few weeks, you know how important I think this kind of work is, and how happy I am to be working at a company who sees value in exploring these ideas and possibilities.  Check out the article and please, let me know your thoughts!
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Sunday School in HD: Video Shoot

originally published on the B&H Staff Blog About a month back I went on my first video shoot with B&H Publishing Group to First Baptist Church of Woodstock in order to film for Sunday School in HD, by Allan Taylor, and Building Your Leadership Resume, by Johnny Hunt. The video shoot went wonderfully well - it was simply incredible to hear the stories of life change coming out of the church and the way they do Sunday School. Here's a little video about my experience even just hearing the stories:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8tgdKlVz-o] You can view the rest of the videos here. Enjoy!
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My Favorite Music (according to my Zune)

WSo, like any good modern media software, the Zune tracks the number of plays you have for each song.  As I noticed that I was approaching 25,000 total plays, I figured I'd take a look at my top artists, just for fun.  It's one thing to say a certain band is your favorite... it's another to add stats to it! 8 Gnarls Barkley 7 The Decemberists 6 Over the Rhine 5 Ryan Adams 4 Sufjan Stevens 3 The Killers 2 Eisley 1 Tegan and Sara   Other notables (200 or more plays from the band):
  • Nick Cave
  • They Might Be Giants
  • Meg & Dia
  • Josh Ritter
  • Jon Foreman
  • Silversun Pickups
  • Glen Hansard
  • Modest Mouse
  • The Pipettes
  • Damien Rice
  • Queen
  • The Myriad
  • Scarlet Johansson
  • Johnny Cash
  • Derek Webb
  • Vigilantes of Love
  • Belle & Sebastian
  • Griffin House
  • Tom Waits
  • Tokyo Police Club
  • Kerli
  • Ray LaMontange
  • The Frames
And, since the stats are right there for me to type in, my Top 8 albums (not sure of the order, though):
  • With Arrows, With Poise - the Myriad
  • Anywhere I Lay My Head - Scarlett Johansson
  • Orphans: Brawlers, Brawlers and Bastards - Tom Waits
  • Something Real - Meg & Dia
  • The Odd Couple - Gnarls Barkley
  • We Are the Pipettes - The Pipettes
  • Combinations - Eisley
  • Songs for Christmas Singalong - Sufjan Stevens
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From Dream Job to Dream Job

About a year and a half ago, I got a new job.  I must say that, without hesitation, I loved the job.  I felt fully empowered to help our division grow and move towards the future.  With the support of my bosses, teammates, and people throughout the organization we were able to take an unknown digital transition and make it a viable distribution channel.  I loved every single minute of it and the people who I got to hang with. However, last month, I got the opportunity to move from one dream job to another. I don't know why the Lord has blessed me in this way, but I am humbled at the responsibilities placed upon me.  I recently have switched over to be the manager for the Digital Promotions team (eMarketing).  I have been entrusted with numerous websites, microsites, web ads, digital videos, and all kinds of things inbetween. In the month that I've been in this role I've gotten amazing support and the chance to use my skills and knowledge in new, fresh ways.  I love - LOVE - that I am helping move books and the Bible into the digital realm.  I feel so very blessed with my job; I truly look forward to going to work each and every day to see what new idea or project awaits. I look forward to discovering what challenges I will fail at, and which victories my team and I will share.  I truly hope that everyone gets at least one chance to love the job they do; it's just plain fun.
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Why the Future Matters for the Church

This article was originally written for a magazine that focuses on the ministry of church Deacons, but could very easily stand as an overview of why I feel thinking about the future is so incredibly important for today's church.  The article, written in March of 2008, is now in publication but was heavily edited for space in the actual magazine.  I have been given permission to republish the article here, in it's entirety.  Due to the editing it is a very different article than saw print and, per the editor-in-chief's request, should not be associated with the originating magazine.  I am very thankful for the opportunity to publish the article in it's entirety here.
The day-to-day responsibilities of a Deacon can change from church to church.  Some deacons may be involved in benevolence, while others may be making administrative decisions.  The Deacon Handbook for First Baptist Church, Garland, Texas (pdf), lists three of the most important responsibilities a Deacon might have:    
  1. To lead the church in the achievement of its mission
  2. To minister the Gospel to believers and unbelievers
  3. To care for the church's members and other in the community
One underlying element to these responsibilities is the need to not only take care of the needs of the Church and her people today, but their needs for tomorrow and the years to come.  To fully appreciate the responsibility of deaconship, one must consider that the church will always need leadership and must think about how today's missions and ministries will impact not only your congregation, but the generations to come. The trouble for many church leaders is finding productive ways to anticipate the future.  We know the ending - the Bible contains a wonderful book of prophecy for end times - but the time between the resurrection of Christ and His second coming is full of years and advances the disciples never anticipated.  The fact that I can download the Bible over a cell phone network (nevermind the fact that I can readily read one or purchase one) would have confounded even the writers of the letters that make up the New Testament.  The availability of the Gospel is exponential to 2000 years ago; as is the indecency of pornography, the villainy of murder and the diversity of world religions. And yet, the writings and inspired truths of the New Testament speaks to us even today.  The works and morality thereof were timeless.  The seeds sown 2000 years ago were written not only for the present but also for the future.  The question that follows then, is simple: what are we doing today to prepare for the future? Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired magazine, writes of his concern for Christianity's lack of concern for the future in his article, The Next 1000 Years of Christianity:
In a fast-paced time when the future overruns the present every day, when the young spend more time inhabiting what is coming than what is happening, when every corporation and secular institution has a future strategy, the only large entity lacking alternatives for the future is the Christian church. It is still surrendering the future to science fiction authors, corporations, new agers, technologists, and all who understand that we make the future by inventing it.
If we have the freedom to consider what Christianity and the world might look like for our children, should we not consider our children's children?  Our great-great grandchildren?   According to research by David Aikman, former Beijing Bureau Chief for Time Magazine, "at the present rate of growth in the number of Christians... it is possible that Christians will constitute 20 to 30 percent of China's population in three decades" (Jesus in Beijing, 2003, 287).  Taking that number the next step, Kelly clarifies that "given the speed of church growth in Korea and China, and extending that another 500 years, by the year 2500 the world might identify Christianity as primarily an Asian thing" (2007).  In other words, given the current trends, in just a few short generations Christianity will be completely different. Two of the leading thinkers in the area of studying the Future are Dr. Peter Bishop and Andy Hines, editors of "Thinking about the Future."  In their text, Bishop and Hines explain that
the purpose of looking to the future is to understand the possibilities ahead in order to make more informed decisions in the present.  Good futures work reduces the risk of being surprised or blindsided.  It can build momentum towards more favorable pathways and away from unfavorable ones (2006, 29).
Bishop and Hines have a clear goal for their futures studies - to help make a better today.  Can we as church leaders make a better today by considering tomorrow? Bishop and Hines, as a part of the Association of Professional Futurists, have outlined a fairly robust method for considering the future and applying it to the present.  The first - and perhaps most important step - is the framing of the topic of study.  This article has, so far, been mostly framing a perspective about the need for Christianity and the future.  We can consider now that Christianity will change within the next 500 years and, hopefully, we see a need for understanding the impact of those changes today. Being a part of the framing process is one of the most influential responsibilities to culture that a Christian can undertake.  Many culture shifting conversations and issues are handled by niche strategists and specialist in their area, defining questions and issues to any topic before it become mainstream.  Years of research proving the cloning was feasible we undertaken before the reality was ever covered by Time magazine.  GLBT groups were fighting legal battles for decades before MTV launched the LOGO network.  There are conversations that are nearing public consumption today (pedophilia, cybernetic enhancements, the church of Scientology) that many Christians are oblivious to and have not been involved in.  By not being a part of these conversations - by not protecting the future 20 years ago - our lives are impacted by the cultural shifts that the church was too late to have any real influence over. After setting up perspectives and research on any given topic to frame it, there are three steps for research to any formal forecasting: scanning, forecasting, and visioneering.  Scanning is the process of putting the pieces together of separate stories.  For example, connecting the rising cost of gas and the geographical locations of churches may lead to planning for a multi-site church campus. Forecasting deciding upon what the possible futures may be for your given topic, while visioneering is interpreting what implications that future might have.  If China becomes the seat of Christianity, what does that mean for America?  If China is still persecuting the church in 2500, will that mean that the majority of Christianity will be a part of the persecuted church?  Are we preparing ourselves and our children for the reality of religious persecution? Finally, a formal strategic document would contain two sections on resolution: planning and acting.  If we determine that the future is one we should be prepared for or should alter, how do we go about doing so?  And, if we have a plan, how do we communicate and follow through with that plan? Enlightened with the idea that we can - and should - think about the future puts a burden on us as leaders in our local church.  What are the plans we have made to impact our community not simply today, but in thirty years from now.  Will you have resigned as Deacon and enjoy the senior adult ministries at your church, or will you have moved on to some other community where someone else is (hopefully) thinking about your future even now?  Will we fear for our children on topics we chose to ignore today when they rear their ramifications in a few short decades, or will we be able to smile at the alternatives we planned and prepared for? Wendell Bell explained the pain of not thinking about the future rather eloquently:
Many human capactities in any society remain undeveloped and unrealized, that is, most people never develop more than a small fraction of their potential for learning and innovation.  They generally fail to see the possibilities for change within themselves.  As adults, people tend to trudge through lifechanged tot he routines of everyday behavior that they have learned, oblivious to the more challenging and desirable alternatives open to them.  This is at least partly because most of them have not been taught to look at the world as it could be.  They have not been taught to search beyond the cultural conventions and manners of their own groups for possibilities either for their own personal futures or for their society's future. (Foundations of Futures Studies, 2007, 77)
If we as leaders are given the responsibilities to lead the church in the achievement of its mission, to minister the Gospel to believers and unbelievers, and to care for the church's members and other in the community, then we must not simply think about today and tomorrow, but of next year and the next generation.  We must continue to strive to search beyond "cultural conventions" and look beyond our "own groups" and find, and prepare, a future for the Church and her members.
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The Near-Future of the Bible (BibleTech:2009, Collide Magazine, and more)

At the end of March (the 27th and 28th, to be exact), Logos Bible Software will be hosting the BibleTech:2009 Conference. I will be presenting at the conference on a subject that, I feel, is of the utmost importance: the Near-Future of the Bible.  You can check out my workshop's description here. Lately I have been doing a lot of thinking on the impact of the future on the Bible, and how the two will intersect.  As an introduction to my thoughts, I recently wrote an article for an upcoming issue of Collide Magazine.  I was able to interview a number of simply brilliant people for that article, and love the fact that my editor gave me a few (hundred) extra words to hash out my thoughts. I've got a couple of other future-thinking things that I'm working on, but nothing to say about just yet. On a personal note, getting these opportunities is - quite simply - a dream come true.  Anyone who knows me or follows this blog would know that I've taken classes on Futures Studies, that I've written pieces of fiction on the far-off future of the Bible (that I still need to complete...), and that I sometimes struggle with backtracking to the present when I see the implications of the future.  To have the trust of people not only here at LifeWay, but at Collide, Logos and elsewhere that my ideas have worth and merit is a blessing beyond my expectations. The hardest part is moving ideas from percolating in my head to relevant concepts for consumption; please continue to pray for me that my words and energies might be constructive and provoking rather than meaningless dribble. Somedays you just want to cheer and yell and be happy; some days you stand in amazement at the opportunities that lie before you.
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Beth Moore's Esther Featured on iTunes Main Page

I'll be honest... I'm a bit giddy about this.  Notice anything special about the "New Releases" tab in iTunes this week?   Esther on iTunes New Releases Esther on iTunes New Releases       Esther, by Beth Moore, is sitting there with Nickelback, Beyonce, David Cook and, with quite the juxtaposition, Ani DiFranco.  This is the first time anything LifeWay has put onto iTunes has gotten featured, and I'm pretty excited about it. I remember when we first started uploading things to iTunes (back in 2006) how excited I was to even be able to just be able to install the iTunes Producer app.  And, while I knew that 4 Cool Carols 4 Cool Ways (LifeWay's first iTunes album) wasn't about to set the world on fire, I knew that we were heading down a path to be able to have a voice in the world of digital media.  While many Christian publishers have gotten to the front page of iTunes many times before much earlier... I feel a lot of validation in my work the past few years to see us finally there. It's quite the month of milestones for me in regards to the digital downloads here at LifeWay; the simultaneous release of Beth Moore's Esther as a print product and digital download (on both iTunes and LifeWay.com), hitting over 1000 digital products available on LifeWay.com, and the first ever HD content released from LifeWay being a digital download. I'm honored to have been a part of these milestones at LifeWay and having been a part of helping create and distribute truly life-changing resources to the digital sector of today's culture.  It's a great feeling to close out the year and know that a good work has been done.
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I had a conversation with Claude King.

Today I got to do a video conversation with Claude King. Claude is one of the guys who wrote one of the fundamental Bible studies of my life, Experiencing God. During the conversation I asked Claude to go through the what the message of Experiencing God is all about and I realized that so much of my basic theology and the way I interpret God's calling and communication come from that study I went through so long ago. As much as I love the world of video games and comic books and thinking about the future, there is no question that the true passion of my life is that people might have a better understanding of the opportunities this fleshly life brings brings to our immortal souls including, first and foremost, the chance to interact and experience a relationship with our Creator. Amidst the frustrations, confusion and pain that so many people struggle with in life I've been able to find peace, confidence and a break from the mundane from the relationship I have with the supernatural King who I've willingly submitted to in this life. I have his curse of knowledge that, truthfully, sometimes makes it hard for me to relate to all the questions and insecurities of those around me; I have found grace and the wonderful water of life that springs from it. I'm not saying I'm better than them/you/someone else; I'm saying that I have received this love and, for me, it works. But, truthfully, for many it doesn't. For many they get a taste of spiritual milk, find it sweet, but then see something shiny across the room and forget about the peace they found with Christ. Or they dive in, are born again, and then get lost as to where to go. Having gone through the Experiencing God study at such an early, formational age it was, truthfully, somewhat jarring to hear Claude talk about the message of the study. To think that there are people that haven't heard this message, haven't gone through the study, or may just not even think about how they might seek to experience God's call... not having this study in my life is unfathomable to me. Only in hearing the basics of this message again did I realize where some of those essential ideas of my life came from. It's always a good idea to try and discover those things that influence you, that build you into who you are, and create the things that are vital to your life without even realizing it. Since I've hit a dry spell of blogging as of late, expect the next few posts to be about that very topic: What Made Aaron?
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A Life-Changing Presentation

In April of 2007 I attended the very first Q Conference, and got to listen to Kevin Kelly's presentation on Christianity in 1000 Years. Sitting here a mere 18 months later, I can confirm that the message I heard on that day was truly life-changing for me. The talk gave me a focus on being able to appreciate the thrill of today, but also to think about how my choices and interests will effect not just my family but the generations to follow after me. Thinking about the future has helped me to realize just how small I am in the scope of human history - but also just how far reaching and impactful my daily life might be. I bring this back up now because Q has decided to release the talk into the wild, for free. You can check it out be going here: http://www.qideas.org/talks/ and then selecting "Christianity in 1000 Years." If you have any interest in the idea of being a futurist or if, for some reason, you want to better understand my thought process or, if you just want in on one of the few things I can honestly say was "life-changing" for me, check it out.
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The LifeWay Digital Media Blog

That's right... I now have an official LifeWay Digital Media Blog. This is quite exciting for me, as the best outlet we've had for getting the news out about LifeWay's digital releases (which are near and dear to my heart since... well... it's what I do).  I think this is going to be a great place to explore not just our releases, but how churches can connect digitally. One of the primary directives of our division here at LifeWay is to support our churches.  I'm going be keeping that in mind as I write the new blog.  As such, most of what I write over there will be aimed in that direction.  I may cross post, link to, or just inform on this blog about updates over there... unsure yet to how to handle it.  My digital identity is spread across several blogs and sites now... Anyhow, check out the new blog here!
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The Microsoft Question: Supporting a 'Cesspool of Evil'?

A while back I added some contact information to my blog page so people could easily get ahold of me.  It's my personal opinion that, with the kind of blog I write, to be as transparent as comfortably possible.  If people want to get ahold of me, I'd love for them to.  I'm open to conversation and I love meeting new people.  Through people coming to this blog and through me reading other blogs, I've already gotten to meet some pretty amazing people.  Tonight, I got my first random phone call. I did not get a chance to ask if I could talk about him on the blog, so I'll call him Bruce (not his real name). Bruce called and quickly introduced himself to me over the phone before launching into his reason for calling: Bruce wanted to know how I, as a Christian, could support Microsoft. Now, let me first put a bit of context around my response.  The most important disclaimer is that, during this conversation and, as such on this bog, I made it very clear that aaronlinne.com is a personal blog and I do not speak in any way, shape or form as a representative of any Southern Baptist entity on this blog.  While I have the freedom to occasionally talk about my work or make note of the digital products LifeWay has released, the context of this blog is as digital media practitioner, who happens to be a LifeWay enthusiast, a gaming enthusiast, a comic book enthusiast and, of course, a spiritual matters enthusiast. Bruce's concern is that he sees a Microsoft as, and I quote, a "cesspool of evil."  According to Bruce, Microsoft is the number one proponent of abortion and "gays" in the world.  He later clarified that it was actually the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that was the number one proponent, but - according to Bruce - Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are the same thing. Instead of supporting the evil that is Microsoft, Bruce - a Linux enthusiast - I, as a Christian, have a moral obligation to use an alternative operating system (specifically, Ubuntu Linux). My Technical Response Bruce was quite concerned that I own a Zune, that I attended a Vista launch party, and that I like the Xbox.  In his mind, there were alternative MP3 players, that Ubuntu is better than Vista in EVERY way (literally), and that gaming is, well, evil. When it comes to computing I am, for the most part, platform-agnostic.  I choose the best technology for the job, the best software for the tool.  I like Final Cut for editing, but use Microsoft Expression Encoder for any encoding.  I like Motion for simple lower thirds, but love After Effects for the complex stuff.  I like Photoshop and Illustrator for image design, but Like Microsoft Expression Web for webpages.  I used OpenOffice in college, but like the advances Office 2007 has made.  I'll only code in Microsoft's programming tools because they are so darned perfect for beginners like me. From a purely technical standpoint, if you a creating content to be utilized by the widest possible range of people, you MUST have a Windows box.  At the very least, to test on.  It's a must.  To ignore at least doing some quality assurance on a Windows box is equivalent to not testing your content for 95% of your audience.  It's content-suicide to ignore Windows users. I thought it was interesting the Bruce suggested that I just run Windows as a virtual machine on a Linux box.  Doesn't that defeat the point of "not supporting evil Microsoft" by... well... supporting them? I appreciate the fanboy support for alternative systems.  Like I've previously said on the blog, I used to be quite the Apple fanboy.  But there comes a time when you're in the actual business of producing content that you realize that every system has it's strengths and weaknesses.  You may not see them in your daily work, but other people use systems differently.  Is Vista perfect?  No.  Is OSX?  No.  Is Linux?  Yes (according to Bruce).  Sorry, but that narrow-mindedness just doesn't work in a true business situation. Linux machines are great for hosting webpages.  Unix machines are great for databases.  Macs are great for creative productivity and home usage.  Windows machines are great for office productivity, gaming and home usage.  I appreciate your passion, Bruce... but as someone who currently has a Mac G5, two Vista machines and two PCs with linux distros installed on them (that haven't needed to be turned on since we moved to the new house)... I know how to use the best tool for the job. My Spiritual Response So the question remains (even though the majority of our conversation was Bruce explaining to me how/why I should use Linux): what is the moral and spiritual ramifications of using Microsoft tools and - thus - supporting them and their supposed support of immoral activity. Let me just be upfront and be transparent in my ignorance: I simply do not know how Microsoft invests its money nor how it is they may support immoral activity.  When pressed for examples, Bruce said he had articles about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supporting planned parenthood in Africa (a quick Google search pulls up this article on the topic).  Here's my problem with Bruce's line of thought on this particular issue: Microsoft is a separate entity to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As I tried to seperate the two in the conversation, Bruce adamantly said that "we all know that Microsoft is Bill Gates and Bill Gates is Microsoft."  I find this a troubling perspective on an organization, the undermines the lives (and opinions, families, morals and souls) of any organization's employees.  I also think that the nearly 90,000 Microsoft employees would disagree with Bruce and suggest that Microsoft is made up of more than just a retired founder. Irregardless, we're still left with the lingering question: is it morally ok to purchase products or content produced by a company who we've been told support immoral activities (whatever you define as immoral)? I'm not 100% sure what my opinion on this topic is.  In Acts, Paul uses a statue of an unknown god to tell the story of Christ.  He doesn't chastise theme for creating the sculpture, but instead utilizes the ways of their culture to tell the story.  Are we not allowed to do the same with today's story-telling mediums, of the digital kind?  Where this breaks down, of course, is that Paul did not pay the sculptor to chisel out the statue. I don't know that I have an answer for this particular question.  I think that it's ok to have some tension in our spiritual decisions.  On the specific topic of Microsoft, I'm as of yet unaware of any intentional "immoral activity."  Which leads to another spiritual question: if I'm ignorant of a corporation's wrongdoings, does it absolve me from any personal wrongs in supporting their questionable activity?  And, of course, this leads into one more question: what makes a corporation's activities "immoral?"  In my MBA courses we would talk extensively about social responsibility of corporations and there are some definitive wrongdoings (breaking the law, killing people, etc etc)... but a corporation's culture can never match all of the opinions of all of its customers (and non-customers who want to critique said company).  This will continue to be a topic for me to think about and explore. Epilogue In our conversation, I told Bruce that he sounded more like he was angry with me than he was concernedabout me.  He agreed: he told me that he was angry at the sin and that we are supposed to hate evil.  That Microsoft was evil and that my support of them is evil.  At this, my heart broke. I don't really know what Bruce's intentions were.  I found some of his comments on other blogs on the topics of politics, fundamentalism and, of course, linux.  Bruce does seem to be passionate and have strong opinions.  But so much of his language and posts (and our conversation) seemed fueled by anger, hatred and pride.  There is no question to me that he deems himself a better person, more "holy," and wiser than me because he uses the Ubuntu and I use Vista. Ultimately, in the end, I'm not sure Christ is going to judge me based on what operating system I used to mesh my physical and digital lives.  I'm not sure Christ is going to care whether I used Final Cut or Adobe Premiere to edit video to tell His story, the story of LifeWay, or the snippets of my life on YouTube. What concerns me is how things like this must look to people outside the church.  If Christian fight over the morality of operating systems... where is the love there?  Where is the grace?  If a brother in Christ prayed before calling me and approached me in anger - and he admitted he did both - where does that bring in the holiness and morality Bruce was seeking in choosing the "right" operating system? Bruce: I appreciate your sincerity in calling me and sharing your passions with me.  If you have found a company to be of immoral repute and feel the need to educate and question people's support thereof, I encourage you to do so in a mature, loving manner.  But next time let us talk about the spiritual matters and cultural ramifications.  Here's to hoping this post did not offend you, nor is of immoral substinance.  It was, after all, written using Internet Explorer running on WIndows Vista.
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Red Ring of Death

There are four words that any Xbox 360 owner fears may come to visit their system: Red Ring of Death. I knew the signs that foreshadowed their coming; last weekend while playing Rock Band the Xbox froze.  It had never done that before.  When I turned it back on, everything seemed to work... but there was no video.  No video?  Oh, the horrible seed that was planted in my mind.  Surely, I had done everything right to stave of this spector of evil. I tried turning the system off and then back on - and everything worked.  Hours of Rock Band were played that day. Today, while doing the menial task of streaming "Frasier" video the XBox's Media Center Extender function (turning the xbox into, basically, a dvr), it froze again.  Same deal.  I turned if off.  When it came back on, no video.  Turn it off, wait a few moments... turn it back on and everything worked just fine. Ashley's episode of Fraiser was over and she went downstairs to make one of our favorite dishes, which I call "the noodley thing."  Basically, noodle and spices and cheese and chicken.  So I fire up Rock Band, working on the last leg of the solo drum "hard" gigs. It froze again.  The reality set in.  I stared at the Xbox, not wanting to know what would happen.  I turned it off.  Waited.  Turned it on:


The horror of red staring me in the face, taunting me with it's evil electrical glare.  Blinking, flashing to get my attention.  Like I didn't see you, Red Ring of Death!  You, who swoop down from mysterious origins, held at bay by proper air flow!  What did I do wrong to deserve you?  Your electrical current is stable and even!  You rest side ways, surrounded by free air!  You should not be here, you vile symbol of death and destruction! And yet, here you are.  I reject you, Red Ring of Death.  You will be exorcised from the circuitboard of my faithful 360 by the nice techs who work for your maker.  Oh, 1-800-4MYXBOX, your promises of safe passage for my beloved box of virutal worlds must hold steadfast and true! You were one of the first off the assembly line, turned over to my service even before launch due to the power of HEX168.  Fly with the speed of Kazooie, be protected by the guns of Master Chief, and let not your promises of safe return be simply a Fable.  Be this not a goodbye, but a new, healthier, less heat-enduced stress beginning!
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