This is not meant for you – My place in the Church


Disclaimer: This post is a post I’ve been quite nervous about posting. I think it comes across as much more ranty then I meant it to be. I was going work on it significantly to make a specific point. Instead I’m tagging everything “Supporting Individuals Pursue God” as a new category. I’m going to just splurg almost all my ideas in lots of little blog posts with the aim to eventually write whatever it is I’m trying to say properly. So lets see where this goes! Also, the preacher who preached this sermon is awesome. The attack I’m writing is definitely not on her, but what she said sparked something.

Recently I attended HTB’s weekend away as part of their leadership course where they train people to lead their pastorates. HTB is a very large church that has 10 services and thousands of people who attend. Pastorates are little mini-churches that HTB puts on that allow people to actually get to know people in the church and happen during the week. They are actually quite big and range from about 20-80 people. I was kind of asked in passing if I’d like to help be part of a “core team” of a new pastorate plant and one thing lead to another that meant I did the leadership course. They are massively looking for new pastorate leaders as many of the pastorates are full whilst more people are going through Alpha with no where to go.

During this course a sermon was preached that got to me. After speaking to the preacher about it she said “This is not meant for you”. I’d like to unpack this.

The Sermon

The sermon was on Hebrews 11. This is quite a famous passage where the author repeats “By faith … something awesome happened”. By faith the world was created and by faith the mouths of lions were shut, etc. It pretty much goes through everything in the old testament and says that this happens by faith.

Now the heart of what I think she was saying was that it is by faith, these things happen not by barter. Its difficult summarising 30 minutes of talking and so I may not have got it exactly correct. Faith is a very difficult concept in the bible. Its talked about very strangely and usually poetically. Lets look at this passage regarding faith which I may come back to:

Luke 17:19-20 “19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” 20 And He *said to them,“Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith [i]the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. 21 [[j]But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”]

I mean, what on earth is going on here? How on earth can you measure “faith” in degrees of mustard seed sizeness? In fact how can you measure faith in anything that is volume related? Now obviously this is not literal, the point is a mustard seed is small. However, the whole point is that the disciples didn’t have enough faith to cast out this demon? So having a really really small amount of faith is not enough but having a really small amount is fine? Except, although nothing is impossible this kind of demon only goes away with prayer and fasting… not faith?

In my mind there is an intuitive understanding of what faith means. I have faith in my chair to hold me up when I sit on it. Due to this faith I will sit on the chair when I want to be held up. This view of faith has within it “is certainty on the things unseen” yes… I cannot predict the future, I cannot see whether or not the chair will hold me up but it is still based on evidence. Its because the chair has done a good job in the past and because it currently looks great that I have faith in it. However, this is only part of the story of what faith is because you get verses like the one above!

Now… this preacher was saying that we as Christians tend to lack faith. If God says for us to go somewhere then we’ll say “Are you sure? I dunno, will I have enough money? Give me some money first and maybe some political power and then maybe I’ll go”.  This I suppose is apt talking to a bunch of pastorate leaders. They are about to step out into something that is potentially scary and may come to that meeting wanting some assurance that it will be ok. That HTB will support them, that fights won’t break out that they can’t deal with, etc etc. However they can’t get that assurance, they just need to step out in faith. This is a message I have heard a bunch of times in the church…

My problem with it

Maybe the word “problem” is too strong. But there was something that riled me up whilst I was listening to it. It was kind of the fact that I had heard this all before but it was more then that. It was that not only had I heard it all before…. I had been there and done that and got the T-shirt.

I have stepped out in faith. Throughout my life, if I have ever had the inkling that God wants me to move in a certain direction then I’ve done it. Usually I don’t hear from God that well so I do things that a good little Christian would do. I’ve gone out of the street and told people about Jesus including someone who tried to mug me (sort of). I’ve gone to drum and bass nights and asked random people if they wanted prayer. I’ve preached mini-sermons in school assemblies with my peers and then put on evangelistic events where I personally invited everyone with a track in my year and then announced on our school forums that essentially a revival was going to break out in our school (It didn’t). I did a gap year working for the church and did some foreign mission and then when I went to university it was for pub conversations. I did physics with philosophy simply because it would help me witness more as it would provide lots of “ins” into evangelistic conversations. I then started a company that was doomed to failure because I felt God wanted me to do it and then I got up, moved to London and moved into a ridiculously expensive lifestyle and house (relative to Manchester) without having a Job yet because I thought New Wine might say yes to a project and needed to be in London to do it. I have gotten very close to having no money and have been hungry for a bit.

And in the words of Metallica …. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxZ4Z6Zo3Fk (Warning: Rude words behind this link)

Now where I am going with this, is that stepping out in faith like this is pointless without something else. I don’t know what that something else is. It could be listening to what God wants, it could be love, it could be obedience. So bare with me here… I’m probably not going to answer that question now.

Whilst I regularly succeeded at getting into long and interesting conversations about Jesus with strangers doing “Campus Evangelism”, I went out with a crippling fear that got too much for me. What was it a fear of? Failure? I never failed nor did I think I would. Embarrassment?  I used to regularly wear PVC trousers. I don’t know what it was apart from being pathetic. I lead a large number of bible studies and was leading a Christian Union hall group. It went pretty amazingly and again I quit due to emotional exhaustion. Whilst I ended up using my degree to have lots of conversations about Jesus no one became a christian. Revival didn’t break out in my school. I got so close to achieving lots of things and then I’d just get knackered and go no where. I basically achieved nothing throughout university.

There once was a time when I was doing some chemistry coursework. I remember really hating it and saying to God, “please, I want to do something else, send me to do anything, I’ll do foreign mission, I’ll go into the streets of Sutton or give my life up to the church, what do you want me to do?”. The response I got back was “Do your homework”.

See this is my problem. I am Brad Pitt speaking to his dad in Fight Club. I’ve gone and got the job, I’ve done the stepping out in faith bit, and I’m asking “What now?”. In fact if there is anything I can do to show people I’m a good Christian I’ve pretty much done it. Amongst the charismatics I can tell stories of speaking in tongues from a young age or shouting out prayers in parks at night. Amongst the social justicey people I can talk about the tears I’ve shed for palestinians or stream off lots of rhetoric about how to help the homeless. Amongst the conservatives I can talk about all the books I’ve read and impress people that I’ve read the bible.

The church has told me “Do this stuff and we’ll accept you, we’ll call you a good christian” I’ve done those stuff and what do I get?

“This isn’t for you… maybe you’ve got a problem with pride?”

Pride

I’ll divert to this question for a moment. This is a really good get out of Jail free card. I can never do enough to please the church because if I do anything in a way that they will notice they can then just say that I’m proud and need to be more humble. Actually I’ve done humility. I can actually tell you stories about how I’m the humblest of them all. I’ve stacked chairs and I’ve cleaned toilets. Apparently this is what you have to do if you want to start being famous amongst Christians  I’ve also gone to churches, kept my head down and focused on people on the fringes. This has obviously got me no where because that was the purpose…

But I feel like I detect a rat here. There is something that plato really liked about the Spartans and that British people really like. British people love under dogs and they hate proud people. Its really bad to drive a nice car around London, you’ll look foreign. How can the Apostle Paul get away telling people that he wished they were as Holy as him? Surely that is arrogant, surely that is proud? I said that to a christian once. She said “yeah and I really don’t like paul”.

Galatians 6:3-4 “If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,”

The opposite to Pride is not Humility. Its Truth. The kings God hated in the old testament where the people who thought they ruled the world. They didn’t. God showed them. He humbled them. Pride is thinking you are above your status. Truth is knowing what status you are rightly in. Humility is then going further, knowing how great you really are and how much status you deserve from people, deliberately lowering yourself to a lower level. Pride is trying to sit at the head of the table when you’re the youngest in the family. Truth is sitting where you’re supposed to and humility is giving up the head of the table to someone else.

Do I have issues with pride? Yes. Instead of doing my chemistry homework that is “beneath” me I want to be like Paul and go out changing the world. However… I don’t think that is quite the same as what she was talking about. She was saying this in the context of me going up and telling her that all this “faith” stuff she was talking about, well I’ve done it. (Note: Not GOT it, DONE it… or at least look like I’ve done it).

SHE then congratulated ME on my faith. She said that people are not as far as me, that the leaders of the biggest church in the UK haven’t quite got to my level of great faith. That other people would love to have faith like mine. If I believed her on that I can see why she’d think I was proud. But I don’t think that is what I was trying to say. What I was trying to say is that all of this was meaningless… It was like chasing the wind. I was trying to say that these stories of faith are pointless. That if people set down the path of trying to step out in faith like I did they will get no where.

She said that this meeting wasn’t for me.

What is there for me?

There is something else brewing. There is something that God is doing. This thing I think will be for me. I don’t know what it is but I have a hunch and I’m going to pursue it and maybe even write about it. The thing for me is a system that helps me pursue God. Its not something that helps me serve the church. Its not something that makes me a better person through a 10 step program nor something that gives me more theology. Its something that helps me pursue God.

See in HTB there are two things for me:

1) I lead a pastorage and start serving. This will help me rise the ranks of HTB social status and I’ll then start getting access to the big guys who well help me out
2) I get a mentor. An experienced christian who works with me, chats to me and leads me to know God more.

However. 1) God doesn’t want me to. I’m pretty sure of this. I try really hard to serve the church and I know I can do it, I’ve done a great job in the past but every time I try it fails at the moment. Its because God doesn’t want me to lead a pastorage. 2) I am suspicious of this. There is a time and a place for mentoring and its really great and certainly biblical. But it puts a single person massively in control of my life. It also can tempt me to look to my mentor and not God. No whatever this system is it will not look like a single person. It will not be lead by a single priest.

I want to sit in a room with people like me who are ok with stepping out in faith (which is actually really all humans. Stepping out in faith is just what greedy people do who find a treasure in a field. Sell all their possessions to buy the field and dig up the treasure. Faith is for people who like cheating in life and want to win the lottery) and then I want to pursue God in front of them and with them. I think I could do it alone but that is not what God wants. He wants 2 or 3 people to gather in his name. This pursuing God is a corporate event and is only solitary when times are extreme.

A system that supports individuals in their pursuit of God. I am an individual and I want this system.

Where does abaraham fit into this and his faith?… Next blog post

Who I am – Some personality test results


I’ve done a few personality quiz like things for various reasons recently. I thought it would be fun to document them on this blog. Personally I think the strength finder’s results are most interesting  I don’t think I’ve learnt anything new from these results, and where things are not what I expected I think they are just incorrect.
This is from an older version of  http://www.strengthfinder.com/ and the book Now, discover your strengths. I had to take this as part of an HTB leadership course. Its quite good. The questions are not opposites ( I like people vs I don’t like people) and there are a lot of them which makes me feel that it actually discovers a pattern in my answers rather then merely allowing me to influence the results (eg, I’ve decided I’m extroverted). The purpose of this test is to find the underlying talent themes which the book says you can use to build and pursue your strengths with.
Your Signature Themes

Many years of research conducted by The Gallup Organization suggest that the most effective people are those who understand their strengths and behaviors. These people are best able to develop strategies to meet and exceed the demands of their daily lives, their careers, and their families.

A review of the knowledge and skills you have acquired can provide a basic sense of your abilities, but an awareness and understanding of your natural talents will provide true insight into the core reasons behind your consistent successes.

Your Signature Themes report presents your five most dominant themes of talent, in the rank order revealed by your responses to StrengthsFinder. Of the 34 themes measured, these are your “top five.”

Your Signature Themes are very important in maximizing the talents that lead to your successes. By focusing on your Signature Themes, separately and in combination, you can identify your talents, build them into strengths, and enjoy personal and career success through consistent, near-perfect performance.

Ideation

You are fascinated by ideas. What is an idea? An idea is a concept, the best explanation of the most events. You are delighted when you discover beneath the complex surface an elegantly simple concept to explain why things are the way they are. An idea is a connection. Yours is the kind of mind that is always looking for connections, and so you are intrigued when seemingly disparate phenomena can be linked by an obscure connection. An idea is a new perspective on familiar challenges. You revel in taking the world we all know and turning it around so we can view it from a strange but strangely enlightening angle. You love all these ideas because they are profound, because they are novel, because they are clarifying, because they are contrary, because they are bizarre. For all these reasons you derive a jolt of energy whenever a new idea occurs to you. Others may label you creative or original or conceptual or even smart. Perhaps you are all of these. Who can be sure? What you are sure of is that ideas are thrilling. And on most days this is enough.

Strategic

The Strategic theme enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route. It is not a skill that can be taught. It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective on the world at large. This perspective allows you to see patterns where others simply see complexity. Mindful of these patterns, you play out alternative scenarios, always asking, “What if this happened? Okay, well what if this happened?” This recurring question helps you see around the next corner. There you can evaluate accurately the potential obstacles. Guided by where you see each path leading, you start to make selections. You discard the paths that lead nowhere. You discard the paths that lead straight into resistance. You discard the paths that lead into a fog of confusion. You cull and make selections until you arrive at the chosen path—your strategy. Armed with your strategy, you strike forward. This is your Strategic theme at work: “What if?” Select. Strike.

Individualization

Your Individualization theme leads you to be intrigued by the unique qualities of each person. You are impatient with generalizations or “types” because you don’t want to obscure what is special and distinct about each person. Instead, you focus on the differences between individuals. You instinctively observe each person’s style, each person’s motivation, how each thinks, and how each builds relationships. You hear the one-of-a-kind stories in each person’s life. This theme explains why you pick your friends just the right birthday gift, why you know that one person prefers praise in public and another detests it, and why you tailor your teaching style to accommodate one person’s need to be shown and another’s desire to “figure it out as I go.” Because you are such a keen observer of other people’s strengths, you can draw out the best in each person. This Individualization theme also helps you build productive teams. While some search around for the perfect team “structure” or “process,” you know instinctively that the secret to great teams is casting by individual strengths so that everyone can do a lot of what they do well.

Command

Command leads you to take charge. Unlike some people, you feel no discomfort with imposing your views on others. On the contrary, once your opinion is formed, you need to share it with others. Once your goal is set, you feel restless until you have aligned others with you. You are not frightened by confrontation; rather, you know that confrontation is the first step toward resolution. Whereas others may avoid facing up to life’s unpleasantness, you feel compelled to present the facts or the truth, no matter how unpleasant it may be. You need things to be clear between people and challenge them to be clear-eyed and honest. You push them to take risks. You may even intimidate them. And while some may resent this, labeling you opinionated, they often willingly hand you the reins. People are drawn toward those who take a stance and ask them to move in a certain direction. Therefore, people will be drawn to you. You have presence. You have Command.

Communication

You like to explain, to describe, to host, to speak in public, and to write. This is your Communication theme at work. Ideas are a dry beginning. Events are static. You feel a need to bring them to life, to energize them, to make them exciting and vivid. And so you turn events into stories and practice telling them. You take the dry idea and enliven it with images and examples and metaphors. You believe that most people have a very short attention span. They are bombarded by information, but very little of it survives. You want your information—whether an idea, an event, a product’s features and benefits, a discovery, or a lesson—to survive. You want to divert their attention toward you and then capture it, lock it in. This is what drives your hunt for the perfect phrase. This is what draws you toward dramatic words and powerful word combinations. This is why people like to listen to you. Your word pictures pique their interest, sharpen their world, and inspire them to act.

Jungian Archetypes or Myers Briggs test. Personally I think this test is a little silly. I don’t think its really backed by research but I think its a really good talking point as everyone is into it. The purpose here was originally to put people in different Jobs. I think this is just a good way of categorising people that can be used as conversation starter. Here is my results from somewhere online.

ENFP

Extravert(22%)  iNtuitive(75%)  iNtuitive  Feeling(38%)  Perceiving(56)%

You have slight preference of Extraversion over Introversion (22%) You have distinctive preference of Intuition over Sensing (75%) You have moderate preference of Feeling over Thinking (38%) You have moderate preference of Perceiving over Judging (56%)

The final one is something we’ve all done in Common Nonsense. Its quite a good test as it has this guy explain everything as you go along. However I felt that I had too strong an ability to influence the results. It feels like this test shows me what I want to say about me more then it does find an underlying personality. (If thats even possible). The purpose of flag page is to discover what you are passionate about (so different to underlying talents). The idea is that if you are doing these things in the flag you’ll be happier. Whilst there is quite a bit more text describing me, I feel they might be reading too much into my answers and I think some things are just not correct.

The Talent Families that Influence James Most

PeopIe Talent

James has a way with people and is able to get them to warm up to him easily. He puts out a vibration that says “I like people!” This talent makes him attractive to others and they want to include him in their lives.  People that have a large blue segment, like James, are rarely lonely.

Task Talents

James’s large green segment indicates that he enjoys getting involved in projects and improving the task at hand. Since he excels in the area of Tasks, he has the ability to be good at any technical work where hands on’ control of the job makes it turn out better.

To get a concise picture of James’s great People and Task Talents, here are some expressions that sum up the essence of each motivation found in Jamess Talents list.

People Talents

– Out to change the world

– Everyone is always welcome

– Loyal & true to a chosen few

– Always willing to hear you out

– Genuine 8 fair always

– Feeling what everyone feels

– The keen observer

– Compassion to go

– Thinking of you

TaskTalents

– Searching for the truth

– Good at almost anything

– Standing out from the pack

– Stand on your own two feet

James’ Home Country

Control Country is James’s Home Country where he substantially voted 138 for the land of confidence and achievement. This is the country where the residents have the ability to lead groups, businesses and teams. James is very sure of himself so he focuses on what needs to be done and does whatever it takes to accomplish the task. He is always interested in the bottom line so he is quick to get to the point of what he is saying. His natural sense for when to take charge of a project makes it possible for him to overcome any obstacles by focusing directly on the objective. Since he accomplishes so much, he wants people to notice and appreciate the things that he does.

James’s Adopted Country

James voted for Peace Country as his Adopted Country with 104 votes, thereby making a statement that Peace Country is like a second home to him. He values good relationships with people in his life who are pleasant to be around. He visits Peace Country whenever he is looking for tranquillity and harmony in his surroundings He gets along with Peace people very well and respects them for who they are just as he wants to be respected.

James’ Top Motivations

Out of 56 positive character motivation choices, James turned down 51 to pick his top 5. For this reason, these 5 motivations, which compel him to live out his daily life, are the key to his happiness. James’s Independence allows him to keep his distance from people who are too needy. Being Independent also enables him to detach himself from those who might prove to be emotionally painful and troublesome, When doing work, he is most productive when he’s working alone. James Is a Deep Thinker who always analyses every situation from all possible angles, This talent for Thinking Deeply drives him to find answers to life questions. He compares issues, behaviour and situations so he can make the best decision. James can’t tolerate a phony and he always chooses genuine people as friends. Being Sincere at Heart causes him to immediately sense who is real and who is not Since he loves being Sincere, he wants the best for everyone, and strives to be fair and honest in everything he does.

When James’s motivations combine, they create o set of different talents which enhance his abilities arid allow him to do great things. James spends a significant amount of time thinking about how he con become more independent ai how to complete a task without help. James is in touch with how people treat him. He spends many hours thinking about people who are close to him and how they make him feel. When people come to James with a problem, he always gives his honest opinion so he can steer them in the right direction.

A minor one but I think my Love Languages are Touch and Quality Time. Couldn’t care less about Acts of Service, Words of affirmation or gifts.

What do you think of these? Think these kinds of quizzes reveal anything useful? Anyone who knows me think these are right?

Feminism – “Why don’t they just rise up?”


Another blog where its a copy of a facebook comment responding to Vicky Beeching’s Jesus was a feminist and so am I and a discussion of BBC 4’s woman’s hour. Didn’t get any response there so I dunno if I’ll get one here!

One thing they mentioned in women’s hour is that men will need to be ok with “relinquishing” power. But is that really how power works?

I really like this article: http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2013/01/no_self-respecting_woman_would.html

And here the picture he paints is one where when men “relinquish” power what they actually do is relinquish the trappings of power whilst men leave and go to areas where real power exist (leave the senate and become lobbyists for example).

Instead of men being ok with relinquishing power perhaps women need to get better at taking power (perhaps with male help)? I don’t know about this… the last psyciatrist seems to put a heavy emphasis (when talking about django unchained) about the system giving Django permission. And that that is important.

That term (“permission”) fits in more with what you’re talking about in your bbc piece. Jesus kind of gave women permission to have a voice when he appeared to Mary. And it was this permission that became liberating. It meant people naturally just took power rather then fought for it. (Mary just became an authority figure on this matter)

I don’t know the names of the people speaking on the bbc but one of the speakers seemed to talk about this. About women learning to “take” power but her views were about using sex to do this.

I think this is interesting and there is an awesome example of women using sex to exert power over men in a pretty awesome way in kenya. (Look at point #2)

But that was withholding sex not (as the speaker on the radio suggested) infidelity. I can’t see how sex used like this would really do much for “women” as a whole, instead it would kind of probably just help individual women in the way that the last psyciatrist describes.

So what do you think as a feminist? Do you think feminism is about helping men relinquish power or helping women take it? Or something else?

Connecting the church around their personal passions

Connecting the church around their personal passions


Where are we going?

We at Common Nonsense have been working for a while on a couple of larger projects. However the end is getting in sight for these projects and there is a question of where we can go next and what do we want to do? There are loads of avenues that could probably be met with commercial success and more clients. This is quite cool but there is a second question we need to answer before we go ahead with it. Why are we doing this? What is the point? More money? More developers? More Clients? To what end? Ultimately our goal was broadly to use technology to help the church. So the question is for us, what is our vision for the church and how could we help it get there? There are two things that come to mind. One is practically something that is exciting for the near future and so I will try and write this one up in a little more detail. I’d love to see if there are people wanting to help out with this. The other is probably something that is more interesting in the longer term and I’ll just set the stage. The first is about connecting people across websites around their passions. The second is about connecting the church to those within the persecuted church.

What it is we do now.

For those of you who don’t know me that well, at the heart of what we have been doing technically is the Party module with Drupal. Drupal is a popular content management system but it is also a framework with which people can build websites. 2.1% of the web is powered by Drupal. It provides tools to make it easy to build web pages built around realistic data structures. If I am building a website that is reviewing theatre productions, I can do more then just categorise and tag the reviews. I can add what Drupal calls “Fields” such as a Date Field that says when the play took place. Another date range Field that tells you until when you’ll be able to see the play and other kinds of fields such as the directors, actors or writers. It then provides tools to lay this data out in lists or web pages.

Our Party module takes Drupal and turns it into something called a “CRM” system. This is like a glorified address book that collects information about people. Usually businesses use this kind of software to keep information about their customers and then use this information to market to a subset of their customers, etc. As organisations are predominantly about their people, whether its staff, stakeholders, customers or just people know about the organisation and make the brand happen, this kind of data is incredibly important. Drupal’s tools for building web pages suddenly become incredibly useful for building databases of users. The UI for adding fields to a review can be used to instead add other information about the people in your system such as their date of birth or gender. The tools for laying out pages and making lists can be used for reports on the people you work with or making workflows for managing those people. Drupal’s tools enable us to very quickly build workflows and user interfaces that show only the information the staff need to see whilst saving them time and being a joy to use (in theory!)

Because all these tools are open source software, as we develop our toolset it is going to be incredibly easy to scale this. We can use the same tools to help many different organisations. This can include Christian church networks or event organisation companies or individual churches or other forms of Christian ministries. We’ll be able to quickly provide many of these organisations tools to manage all the data on the people they interact with and save them time and money. The more organisations that sit on our platform the stronger it can become as other developers contribute both code and interesting ideas of how to use those tools.

This stuff is ok. Its the stuff of a commercial success. Saving people time and money means they will give us money. Us having money means we can pay more developers and expand faster making more money or better websites and tools which in turn make more money. But this isn’t really cool yet. It gives our business a means to exist but not a reason.

Connecting passionate people around the things they are passionate about.

Imagine a Facebook for the church.

Imagine all the things the people in the church might like. All the different groups or events that could spring out about it. I might be really excited by speaking to homeless people in manchester. Or really into youth work and online gaming or maybe I just want to battle out the theological questions of Calvinism verses Arminianism again in light of more philosophical developments. Maybe I really love apologetics and I have this cool new argument I want to try out and figure out if its any good or if its been done before. Maybe I hate apologetics and want to just go around the clubs in the cities handing out cheap flipflops to girls who have spent all night dancing in high heels and are now in a lot of pain. I could be someone who is passionate about evangelising to people walking in the park, or maybe praying for healing, or maybe prophetic. Maybe I really love the flower arrangement of the church and need to figure out how I can make them healthy without spending as much time watering them. I love working with kids but my tiny rural church really can’t fit the children that are signed up here or the youth in my youth group are from difficult backgrounds and are being quite disruptive  I want to give them a place to hang out and show them some of Jesus’ love but I can’t keep having things smashed up in my church.

Whatever you’re passionate about in the church, whatever problems you face or things you want to do about it. They all are vastly helped by being connected to the people who are similarly passionate about it. Those people may have already gone ahead and can give you support and advice or maybe they are in a similar position to you and would want to help you.

Now imagine why there isn’t a Facebook for church.

People wouldn’t gather around and do cool things together. They would fight! The Calvinists would continue to rip into the Arminians. The conservative evangelical christians would attack the  mainstream evangelical Christians on their approach to women in leadership who would attack the liberals who agree on that but disagree on the authority of the scripture who would then attack the Anglo-catholics on their attitude toward women in leadership who are in turn attacking the conservative evangelical Christians for their attitude towards Mary!

I could say that when 2 or more are gathered in Jesus’ name… there will be arguments but really even if a Church only contained one person you’d find that person bickering with themselves!

Distributed Social Networking

Our software is free open source software. As we expand our company more people will use it and then other companies may start using it for their projects. Everyone will have a similar platform. However they don’t have to agree on women on leadership to both use the same tools that help them quickly search through their database. Now, remember the Drupal fields? It becomes trivially easy with Drupal to add the field “What are you passionate about?” There could be an infinite number of things people might put as their thing as New Frontier’s found out. Suddenly every single church, Christian ministry or network could easily ask what the people they work with care about. That’s quite cool, that will probably be useful to them.

However imagine now you’re the individual who really cares about the homeless in Manchester. You might put that down in your church profile but maybe your church is quite small and whilst there are people who would be willing to help you if you badgered them enough, they aren’t passionate about it like you are. You find it frustrating because every time you read the bible you see God’s heart crying out for the poor but never see that in the Christians around you. The chances are you’d be willing to work with people who aren’t in your church. You probably don’t care about your colleague’s attitude towards predestination!

In fact I think I’ll assert this. The boundaries that the larger ministries and that the church leaders care about are rarely the same boundaries that an individual in the church cares about. This means that whilst the churches will probably not want to come together into one massive Facebook for churches the individuals within the church may want to connect with others around the things they are passionate about.

Enter Distributed Social Networking.

The Internet is really great at connecting information but computers are dumb. See if I go and look at a book on Amazon,  I am clever. I can know that the front page image is the front page of an actual book in real life that has the title as its book title and the name next to “author” as the book’s author. In fact it doesn’t take much thought to realise that a name is actually a name. For a computer this is really difficult. A computer just sees a bunch of arbitrary text and random images. There is no way a computer can know easily that those bits of data are related. RDF and the Semantic Web aim to change that. It provides little tags that tells computers what the data it is looking at is (a name) and how it relates to other bits of data (it’s the author of that book).

Combine RDF with a whole collection of organisations that store information about people’s passions and you have a potential distributed social network. See, as this information is (by choice) available to everyone on the Internet it means it is available to computers on the Internet. If its available to computers on the Internet a website could potentially collect all this information into one place. Bare with me!

Imagine an organisation that has a website including information about people. We’ll call this a node. Another website could read all this information and store it somewhere. It could read this information across multiple websites (Nodes) and aggregate them into one place. This one place could be a searchable website. We’ll call this website a Network. This Network could be a website that aggregates all people who are interested in homeless people across all the churches in the UK for example. It could aggregate every speaker who is interested in politics across all Christian events. It could aggregate every sermon preached on Romans 2 and spoken in Arabic.

The Networks don’t need to ask for permission to do this any more then a human needs permission to manually go to every website, write this information down in a notebook and then publish the notebook online. The website that has sermons on Romans 2 in Arabic could have sermons from Anglo-catholic churches and conservative evangelical churches even if those two churches wouldn’t naturally come together.

This is starting to get cool.

What it takes

Its hard getting lots of churches, organisations and ministries storing their data in a format where this would be even possible. That’s what we’re doing and we could do this anyway. Having their data on one common platform makes things cheaper for them. The second part, connecting this becomes much easier and this is what I’d like to put to anyone reading this blog. There are things that need to be done and so I’ll just list them.

  • Make it so that each node can output the data in a machine readable format (Trivially easy)
  • Make it so that each node speaks the same language! This involves creating what is called an RDFa schema. In the Amazon example we have the “author” of a book. There needs to be a common language for what the author is. I could potentially use the word “Writer” on one website and “Author” on another. A Network trying to collect this information wouldn’t know that Author’s and Writer’s are the same thing unless they both use the same language or someone tells them they are the same. This is interesting when dealing with books of the bible for example. Are Song of Songs and Songs of Solomon the same book for example? It doesn’t really matter which one you use, the only thing that matters is that everyone uses the same one..
  • We need easy to install packages for the nodes. A church website distribution on Drupal for example so that lots of organisations can easily install a similar package.
  • We also need some code for the network website. It needs to be easy to set up a website that pulls all this information and aggregates it but this has its own problems.
    • How will a network know which nodes to pull data from
    • How will it actually pull the data
    • How will it store and cache the data (if that is what it should do) and how does it know when to index the information? Will it just index the web like google does?
  • Currently I have talked about Networks as mere “Aggregators” but really we want to connect people. This presents more interesting uses of Distributed Social networking which is probably beyond RDF.
    • Can I have a discussion that is actually located on lots of sites? This conversation about Calvinism, can it be across lots of blogs that are talking about it? Something like Disquss but even more open then that. If someone comments on a post on the network (Such as the sermon on Romans 2 in Arabic). Is that comment stored on the Network? Or can a node pull that comment back from the network? Is the discussion some how spread across all these websites?
    • How about organising events across multiple churches? Maybe all the churches in New Malden can organise an event together? But then you need authentication and permissions to edit this event and there is the question of where the event exists? Which version of the event is the true event and which ones are copies?
  • An investigation into the inevitable privacy issues. How can you make it so that individuals have complete control over their own data whilst enabling all this cool sharing. How can you make sure that a 70 year old in the church may not accidently post something confidential that goes out to everyone?

Diaspora has tried distributed social networking. I don’t think its worked out well because Facebook is so much easier and people will always take the path of least resistance  This is why the Party module is so important. If churches are using the platform anyway for other things that make their life easier, they would become far more likely to opt into the cooler aspects of what we’re talking about here.

Conclusion

There is something really exciting about the Internet’s ability to connect people. There is something exciting about connecting the right people around the thing they are passionate about. There is a tremendous opportunity for this to happen if organisations are all already using the same platform to store data about people. This is hard though. Most websites that connect people do it by making sure everything is in one walled garden (Facebook, Twitter, Discussion Forums etc) and this is something that simply won’t work with the Church. I’ve outlined a technical way using RDFa and aggregators that could potentially connect people but we’re REALLY in the early stages of this! Currently we’re just focusing on building the tools to solve our client’s needs as they exist now. I’m really interested to see what others might think of these ideas and where they could go.

This is only starting to get cool. How can we make this really cool?

What I’m excited about.

I’m typing this in a different colour as this post is long and you can ignore it. I really like connecting people in the church for the sake of connecting people in the church. My boss is more interested in connecting people so that they can do something together to achieve something for the Kingdom. The focus is on people eventually doing something. What I’ve posted here is more along the lines of my boss’ interest. However my passion has always been about connecting people as the end not the means. This includes watching online communitites and MMORPGs and connecting people in the church across age groups, etc.

I have always had a real passion for reading about and praying for the persecuted church. I have done a few mission trips. A lot of the time the whole reason why that mission happens is just to show solidarity. Its really easy when you’re under persecution to feel alone in all this. Recently I read a book by Brother Andrew called Secret Believers. In it there was a letter from the Church of Afghanistan to the President of the US. They told of what it is like for them and asked for help from the Christian west. There was something so exciting by reading a letter penned by real Christians in that country.

Imagine if we built software that could connect the church and then if this software got into the hands of people who are under persecution. Imagine if I could talk to and pray with people in that church in a way that was completely safe and secure in a manner that things like the TOR network are trying to enable. Even in that book, one of the converts from Islam, who had to leave due to all his friends getting killed, ended up in a safe environment but still desperately wanted to connect with other converts from Islam. He did it through chatting on the Internet.

The technology is there to make this possible. It just requires buy in from the church. However, this is in my opinion, where we go from cool to awesome :)!

I want to work for Valve! (Or at least a company like them)


This weekend I got a little obsessed about Valve and watching Gabe Newell talk about stuff. The company structure is simply amazing. For this blog I’m going to assume you know about it but in summary they have a completely flat hierarchy. Gabe felt that hierarchy works really well for the military of any industry focused on getting as many people as possible to perform the same task as efficiently as possible (such as in factories). However he thinks it is terrible for creative industries and so they have implemented their corporate structure. It has strange consequences because no one is able to tell anyone else what to do so everyone focuses 100% of time on the projects of their choosing. They deal with hiring, salaries and bonuses through this kind of way. There are no departments as everyone has direct contact with the customers and so everyone can do art or sales or marketing or development or managment, etc.

Even new Valve employees have trouble getting their head around this. So here are some links:

Now getting that out of the way I’ve been thinking a lot about if Common Nonsense the company I work for could act more like Valve? Its an on-going thing but I thought I’d post yet another Facebook conversation.

Isn’t it amazing!!!! I’ve been spending the evening chatting to one of my programmers seeing if we could make our company like that… I don’t think we can within a consultancy business model. I think you need to sell products and you need to be privately owned

The problem with the consultancy model is the way information flows. I (or my boss) meet with my clients and consult with them and then my developers build the things I come up with my clients. This means my developers can’t easily know exactly why they are doing what they are doing and to some degree have to just do what they are told. Ultimately we can’t just do what is best for our clients, we have to do what we’re told. So we as a company are under their structure and therefore of the theoretical inefficiencies that come with our client’s being managed internally hierarchically (according to valve’s economist in the above link)

In order for the information to fully flow either I’d have to essentially repeat every meeting I have with the clients, to all the developers or every developer would have speak to the client directly. Agile Software Development methodologies such as Scrum do a lot to get around this (which we do use) but they are no way near as cool as what Valve are doing.

This is particularly clear when looking at the way Valve focus heavily on quantitative testing of everything they do. As Gabe says, anyone can explain retrospectively why something didn’t work and so they put a lot of pressure of people coming up with quantitative tests before you do something. 

What this means is that every single individual in the company can do what is the best ultimately for their customers. This is because They have access to all the data they need to understand all the information they need to make the right decisions. This data may exist in someone’s head but they can sit next to them.

Now it might be possibly if our clients were ok with it to do something like this. But Gabe talks a lot about how its quite hard to adapt to valve’s way of working and so we’d have to have that struggle with every one of our clients and essentially force them to think differently about the way they make desicions!

The advantage of a consultancy model is that cash flow is really not a problem. I get paid for every hour I work and so we haven’t needed any start-up money. Now if we switched to a product business model we’d probably not make any money for quite a while. Gabe had made millions with Mike Harrington so he could self-fund the company. I don’t have millions and so would probably have to seek investment so that we were owned by someone who didn’t directly work for the company. It would be possible to pull this off but much more difficult.

(oh yeah the final thing! Is the pricing structure of consultancy. We’re not paid to provide value, we’re paid to work hours. At valve they encourage you to rest and chill out (and so does my boss) and what that means is that creative people may only work for a couple of hours in a day but it works if those 2 hours provide tremendous value. However, although we aim to provide that kind of value to our clients because we’re not doing it for the money. Our pricing structure discourages this and encourages us to just work hours because thats what we get paid to do. Even worse, if I sit around and come up with an amazing idea with lots of value, it might get lost on our clients because if they haven’t paid more for it they may not value it and so they may not use it.

I’ve spoken to people in the software world who complain about this and try and switch to a value based pricing structure rather then time based but so far I haven’t seen anyone suceed)

So there you go! Maybe if Common Nonsense were to move away from pure consultancy it could work? Maybe there is a way to get close to Valve with a consultancy model? Maybe Agile is kind of close?

My thoughts aimed at advocates of Singer


Introduction

This article is a simple response to the advocates of Singer after having watched a YouTube presentation and reading around a little. This article is also heavily influenced by a debate between Posner and Singer linked to below.

I argue that Singer’s view of animal liberation is such that vegetarianism itself does not help his overall aims. I argue that Singer generally seems to accept this throughout his presentation in a way that the advocates of Singer rarely seem to. I then take this further and suggest that if advocates of Singer dropped their vegetarianism they would be more likely to succeed in improving the lives of animals around the world. I end with how this impacts me and my personal morality (which is at odds with Utilitarianism generally) and a few disclaimers.

Ways to be moral about animal welfare.

Singer is more in favour of animals having a good life than whether or not they are eaten.

A truly utilitarian viewpoint is to minimise evil as opposed to living according to a strict moral standard. With a Utilitarian view, morality is not binary and Singer demonstrates this by only weakly advocating full on vegetarianism/ veganism. I really liked his response to Roger Scruton’s view that instead of becoming vegetarians we should just aim to improve the lives of animals on farms. Singer was kind of like “yeah fair enough that would be better but I’d just prefer to go a bit further”. Even more consistent was when he basically advocated hunting when it was done by an expert marksman! Singer is very good at taking his philosophical principles to their extremes.

Vegetarians tend to adopt a more binary, judgemental “animal’s have the right to live” stance which is not really in Singer’s philosophy.

However, the reality is vegetarians who advocate Singer’s ideas rarely emphasise this point. When they talk about how they ‘don’t mind meat eaters’ what they will usually do is explain, ‘Don’t worry I’m not judgemental about it”. Unfortunately all this does is imply that they have a right to be judgemental about it but they add a patronising tone on top of that because they are choosing (for the listeners benefit) to not take that right! Very few vegetarians seem to understand that their vegetarianism could be morally abhorrent to others and that they might be on the receiving end of judgement!

What is cool about Singer is he is not taking a liberal moral high ground of saying, ‘Don’t worry I’m not judging you Roger Scruton’. He is instead saying, ‘Actually Roger you, a meat eater who is against the pain animals receive on farms, are morally superior alongside me. Not quite as superior as I am but so close that I’m basically happy if you got your way in society’. This view-point is very judgemental but in a positive direction!

Similarly Singer talks about people whose biology does need some sort of protein found in animal products (particularly when talking about vegans). Here, it is not that he withholds judgement against those people. Instead, alongside his philosophy, he is ok with that person eating animal products because of the pain it would cause them to avoid it. His issue with other people is that for a relatively small amount of pain for a human (not eating meat) you greatly reduce the pain for lots of animals… hence his utilitarianism.

Vegetarians however tend to adopt a more virtue based morality about animals having rights to life or rights over the products they create.

Singer adopts a clearly utilitarian view on animal liberation that says that in the same way we should minimise pain to humans, we should minimise pain to animals. This animal welfare part of the argument is very important as it is the thing that Singer focuses on the most. Whether an animal lives or dies is actually relatively less important compared to the pain they go through in life. A more “Animal Rights” approach could be taken where animals are given the same rights as humans such as the right to life. With this approach Vegetarianism becomes more important as it asserts the animals right to not be murdered. These two approaches to animal liberation are important due to the consequences of how an individual should act.

Ways these distinctions impacts how we treat the subject of animal welfare.

A campaign to minimise the suffering of animals on farms would be more likely to succeed generally and animal farm owners know this but…

Peter Singer’s arguments and examples would increase people’s demand of animal welfare. This is shown in Roger Scruton’s response and Richard Posner’s response. The main aspect of this talk that they appreciate is the graphic detail of what goes on in the farms. Posner particularly seemed thankful because he “likes animals”. This is a position that actually I think the vast majority of human beings share. It’s not that they think animals have intrinsic rights and therefore should also have rights comparable to humans, like the right to life. It’s just they don’t like the idea of animals going through lots of pain and suffering because “they like animals”.

Interestingly in Singer’s presentation he provides further evidence for this because he talks about how animals farms put lots of effort into preventing camera crews getting into the farm. It seems like most people have a morality where:

(A) They want to know the truth of what is happening in the world.
(B) They don’t want animals to go through their lives suffering horribly.

Now admittedly not everyone agrees with A and some might not agree with B. But I think enough people agree with both A and B that a campaign to end the suffering of animals through legal force would actually be possible. The fact that animal farms put so much effort into limiting our ability to film inside the farm suggests that most people agree with A and B and the farm owners know it.

Vegetarianism makes this campaign to reduce animal suffering less likely to succeed for a number of reasons.

The mere fact of vegetarianism can make people who disagree with it question whether animal welfare matters – Philisophical.
One person had a problem with free range eggs. He felt that he was being hypocritical because by advocating free range eggs he was saying the lives of chickens mattered but by eating chickens he was saying that they don’t. This better persuaded him to give up on free range eggs then it did convert him to vegetarianism. Singer’s, Scruton’s and Posner’s moralities all suggest this is a false dichotomy. It is possible to eat animals and care for their well-being in life in a way that is morally better than what is happening now.

All or nothing approach makes people want to do nothing – emotional.
This is similar to the above approach but less philosophical and more emotional. I’d suggest that most people agree with the moral statements of A and B above but feel that B can never be solved… animals will always suffer horribly and therefore A is the only option (to try to avoid thinking about it whilst you eat your chicken). I think Singer, Scruton and Posner present a moral way out of this. You can make yourself feel better about eating chickens by campaigning and succeeding at making their lives better. The other advantage is that you’ll probably have to do this through paying more for your food which actually makes the farmers happier too. Vegetarians by their very existence encourage the myth that either you have to stop enjoying meat or allow animals to suffer. The feeling they create is, ‘If vegetarians have reasons to do what they do then maybe I’ll become a vegetarian if I investigate animal welfare claims’. The reality is that an individual can care about the welfare of animals and still enjoy meat.

Vegetarianism is alienating to meat eaters – societal.
However amount they try to be non-judgemental it marks you off as different. When I went university I was going to try to be tee-total but my dad intervened. As a Christian I wanted to show that I lead life differently but by abstaining I couldn’t enjoy alcohol with the people in my community. Eating with other people is another very important social function which is negatively impacted by vegetarians. Meat eaters can’t easily share things they enjoy unless it’s on the vegetarian’s home ground. This concept is parodied in the Mitchell and Webb look and in Scot Pilgrim with the Vegan having super powers because he is “just better”. This makes meat eaters less likely to accept the moral imperative to improve the lives of animals because we are “just different from vegetarians”.

Vegetarianism does not give animal farms any economic incentive to listen – economic.
This is a problem with boycotting things in general. Merely not buying something from an organisation is not good enough to change an organisation, as they need to provide some method for the organisation to change their ways to end the boycott. As more people become vegetarians it merely makes the current animal farms less profitable meaning they are more likely to cut costs in ways that negatively impact animal welfare. However, if meat eaters chose to eat from ethically sourced suppliers, this would give farms a financial incentive to improve animal welfare. For example with free-ranged eggs verses battery chickens if all people who cared about animal welfare refused to eat all eggs then there would be no reason to produce free-ranged eggs.

By taking an all or nothing approach that animal right rhetoric tends to demand it can make people less likely to care about animal welfare for philosophical, emotional, societal and economic reasons. However, if people were to drop vegetarianism as a requirement for advocating Singer’s views then those same philosophical, emotional, societal and economic issues can be used to encourage people to care about animal welfare and implement real change.

Conclusion

Therefore if advocates of Singer want to push his views forward they are better off eating meat! And organising around an organisation similar to PETA but with meat-eating included as both acceptable and a done thing.

Now my views are hardly the same moral views everyone shares but from a Hedonistic point of view I care selfishly about my own pain and suffering. As a Hedonist I want to eat meat because I enjoy it and as a Hedonist, like Posner, I don’t want animals to suffer because I like animals. I am not a Utilitarian. I can’t stand a “Lesser of two evils approach”. There are so many aspects of Singer’s views that I find abhorrent. Yet despite this, I could be persuaded by arguments along the lines of Scruton and Posner and would possibly even join in helping that out.

If you can get support from people who don’t fully agree with you on everything that is powerful. Advocates have a genuine chance at changing the world for the better (in their view) but almost no chance of converting everyone to vegetarianism. Therefore they should eat meat and eat it in public.

Disclaimers:

  • Whilst I think advocates of singer ought to eat meat, Singer himself doesn’t necessarily need to. I think the advocates of Singer have more political power than Singer himself and so if most of the people I met who care about animal welfare and were organised to help animals, also ate meat. That would be enough. I think it is enough for Singer to simply publicly state that aspects of Scruton and Posner are acceptable without himself actually having to eat meat.
  • Upon further reflection it appears that Vegetarians are suffering from a conflict between applying Animal Rights in a similar way to Human Rights and Singer’s Utilitarianism. This problem is the same problem that John Stuart Mill faced with his On Liberty compared to his (and Bentham’s) Utilitarianism. Therefore after reading this article I found everything I had written was philosophically dull! It may or may not be interesting that the same issues about Animal Rights vs Animal Utility are the same issues as Humans Rights vs Human Utility but that’s it.
  • I’m still happy I published this article because whilst it is philosophically dull, as Posner points out, the philosophical angle on this whole presentation is the most dull part of it. What Singer does very well is tug on emotional heart-strings with new data on how animals are treated. This article is then suggesting what direction those tugs should be aimed at and the arguments of this article still stand.
  • I think I would possibly advocate some kind of ethically sourced supplier of food that is similar to Tradecraft and their Fair Trade brand but for animal welfare.
  • The motivation for writing this article is due to having an increasing number of close friends turning to vegetarianism. Biblically speaking there are verses specifically saying to essentially leave vegetarians alone! (Although for different reasons) and so I kind of take that attitude towards it. But personally there is something that makes me uncomfortable with vegetarianism in a similar way to being uncomfortable about most moral systems and so I thought I’d try and put some thought it to the subject. Here it is!

Why I’m excited by Drupal and the Church


This is another e-mail that I thought could become a blog post

Drupal and the Church in the UK

Looking at Drupal specifically many UK christian organisations are standardising around Drupal. HTB use it and employ Drupal developers, Spring Harvest use it, CCK (Church of Christ the King, big New Frontiers church in Brighton) are using Drupal more and more now. Meanwhile we’re working with New Wine and Soul Survivor (Disclaimer: whilst we are a Drupal shop, just because we’re working with them, it doesn’t mean they will use Drupal for everything . What Standardising on one technology enables churches to do is share their innovative ideas. Sharing ideas means that technology can become inter operable and achieve a greater reach and scale.

Sharing innovations on one platform

Trying to convince people to work on one platform is difficult. But that is already happening. Also everything we build we open source. Now we’re snowed under with our work on New Wine at the moment so I don’t know what the future holds for us. But hopefully when we’re less snowed under we can put effort into marketing the open source stuff we’ve done. This means the other organisations that are just using Drupal already could potentially just “slot it in” to their website.

For now we’re dealing with stuff that will probably only help larger organisations. We have a piece of work coming up to build a site that helps Sutton pray more (an area outside of London). It’s for a group that are working on increasing prayer in Sutton (linking lots of organisations and churches in that area) but the website will include a public prayer wall and a “adopt a street”. (like this http://prayadoptastreet.net/).

Now this stuff already exists but by using Drupal’s modular nature any other website that uses Drupal can just put it on their website with almost no hassle. Currently it requires a developer with a bit of Javascript and Google Maps API knowledge to do. This is exciting because by putting these tools in the hands of non-techy people they can do things we couldn’t imagine. Long term with Drupal 8 we can have better cross-site communication. So Churches could have their own “adopt a street” working alongside other church websites.

This is really small but lots of small things like this has a huge potential (methinks).

Prophecy, God and technology

The thing my boss is really excited about investigating as well is combining IT with the prophetic. We haven’t really figured out how to communicate this because its not something you can say, its more something you demonstrate. I mean, you can say it, but its so easy to say “I’m a christian company making money from christian organisations and I want God intimately involved in our work”. If you say that to christians and they believe you, you’ll make money out of it which instantly means saying it means less.

However, there is something exciting behind it. I’ve heard from both my dad and boss how they have had times when they have tried to solve a bug in their code. They had spent ages sorting through it but finally they decided to do a quick nehemiah style “arrow prayer” and after praying almost instantly found the answer.

Also technology is kinda like a language. A chunk of code is one way that ideas can be communicated between people and organisations. Prophets aren’t about control and telling people what to do because God said so. They just need to tell people and let the church choose whether it listens or not. Technology has something that is analogous.

For example we could tell a church “You should give away all your sermons for free”.

Or we could work with a bunch of churches that went to sell sermons. We could build resource and sermon libraries that you can use that allow you to categories  find and share all your resources. We can build it as a shop with a private area, subscriptions or pay per sermon and because its Drupal any church website already using Drupal can just use it.

But with the press of a button in configuration those churches can go from charging to using it all for free.

In the olden days where making more tapes or CDs cost money it was easy for churches to justify making a little bit of money on the side. When it costs them no extra to give away their talks to more people for free it changes the question from “Why do I have to give everything away for free” to “Why shouldn’t I give it all away for free?”

At no point are we dictating to churches how they should act. That church that wants to sell anything is welcomed to do so. If they use our software or pay us to do it, we would only be building the things they want. We wouldn’t use their time and money to make it easy to give things away from free. But because this is open source software we don’t have to. The functionality just has to exist out in the community (either built by us or someone else in their spare time or paid for by another church) for this to be true.

This means the things we choose to build and release could potentially impact the church. This means that every piece of code we write needs to be treated with utmost respect in terms of listening to what God wants us to do. Whether I’m running a prayer meeting for the city or writing a payment processing module for Drupal, they both have the ability to impact the church positively and both need God involved in it…

Anyways…

This is a work in progress. I’m guessing most of what I’ve said is complete rubbish and I’ll have to think about it a bit more and see where I’m wrong. Also I’m not trying to convince you of anything! But thought it might be a fun rant to read if you have a bit of a computer science background.(Disclaimer: I’m not very good with the prophetic stuff. I do what I can to listen to God but I couldn’t pin point what ideas in my head belong to me or belong to God or whether that distinction is even helpful for me. So this is another area where this rant might be wrong as I probably need to explore these ideas more)