iOS7: First Impressions

June 12, 2013 — 3 Comments

2013-06-11 11.17.172013-06-11 11.17.37In case you haven’t heard, Apple announced this week the new version of iOS that will be released to the public this fall. iOS 7 will run on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. You can find out more information about it on Apple’s website. One of the benefits of developing our church’s mobile app is that I have an Apple iOS developer’s account, which means I get early access to beta software from Apple. I’ve already installed iOS7 on my iPhone 5 and have been using it for the last two days. Here are some initial thoughts.

Installation

As with any beta software, don’t install this if you aren’t willing to deal with occasional crashes and problems. I had several problems installing it, but in the end, I was able to install it and restore all my programs and settings from iOS6. At first, it would not authenticate with Apple’s servers (even though my UDID is listed in the developer program), but after a restore and upgrade everything worked fine. I’m used to rooting android phones, so I was not surprised by the challenges.

Graphic Interface

The graphic interface is much different from the current iOS. I have read mixed reviews about it, but I like it. Apple needed to change things up, and I like their new direction. The screenshot on the left shows my current home screen, and the screenshot on the right shows the new control center that is reached by swiping up on the screen. The control center is the best new feature, although it doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the system graphically. The system does take on the color of your wallpaper, so it changes based on what you choose to be your background. The design reminds me of the MIUI Custom ROM for Android. They have learned quite a few lessons from Android and incorporated them into this release.

Features

The Control Center is a huge time saver and probably the biggest improvement. iOS 7 also has better multi-tasking and better notifications. However, most of the features are just incremental improvements. Everything looks differently, but it still functions in a similar way. The apps have been improved, but don’t expect any huge surprises. Apple does typically add more features when the software launches, so this could change.

Overall

I would give this a B+, they improved iOS by taking it graphically in a new direction. I like the new look, and the 3D parallax feature really adds a sense of depth to the home screen and lock screen.  A few of my apps are crashing, so not everything is working perfectly yet, but that is to be expected with a beta operating system. I am actually amazed at how well it is working. I was expecting much worse. If you want to find out more about the software, then watch the opening video Apple showed at the Developers conference earlier this week.

We had a great week in Nicaragua. A team of 18 people from Cornerstone and Galax went to serve with Because We Care Ministries. I had the opportunity to continue working with pastor training in Honduras and Nicaragua. We taught almost 60 local pastors and church leaders basic theology, leadership, preaching, and Bible Study. Our team went to local schools during the day to share the love of Christ with the students. Each afternoon we were able to go out into remote villages and provide food, medical care, and love, all while sharing the Gospel with numerous groups and individuals. We saw many people give their lives to Christ this week, and that is always our goal.

I am so proud of our team. We encountered many setbacks during the week from storms, to equipment breakdowns, to high humidity and heat, but the team kept pushing forward without complaint. I could see so many on our team grow throughout the week. It was also special for me and such a joy to be able to serve together as a family. This was the first time we took all of our children on the trip.

There were so many great God moments throughout the week. One stands out in my mind. I was introducing my son to one of the local pastors. The pastor spoke just a little English and I speak just a little Spanish, but we were able to communicate. The pastor put his arm around me and looked at my son. He said “Your father is my pastor and my teacher, and my friend.” That is why we go. To serve, to love, to train, and to help. If you want to know more about our trip, you can go to the website for Because We Care Ministries and look through the Nica-News for June 2013.

(if you don’t see the photos – click here to view in your web-browser)

Nicaragua Bound

May 31, 2013 — Leave a comment

This time tomorrow I will be on a plane heading south to Nicaragua with a team of 18 people from Cornerstone. Our church has made numerous trips to Nicaragua to work with Because We Care Ministries. I have been several times, but this is the first time our entire family is going. I’ll be working with local pastors in Honduras and Nicaragua, and our team will be working in different schools and remote villages throughout the week. We will be providing updates through the Because We Care website. You can signup for email updates from their website.

The picture below shows a little girl who showed up while we were cooking a meal during one of our previous trips. She was ready to eat! We typically provide a hot nutritious meal to all of the villages we visit and we also take local nurses and doctors with us to provide medical care. I appreciate your prayers. This is going to be a great week of ministry!

nicaragua

Finished!

May 30, 2013 — 3 Comments

Let me share a little of my past with you.

I started serving in part-time youth ministry in 1996. By 2000, I was hooked and I felt God calling me into ministry. Over the next two years, I went through the license and ordination process for our local Southern Baptist Association, and was officially licensed and ordained as a minister. In 2002, I felt that the next step should be to start working on my seminary degree, so I started online at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.

After just taking a couple of classes over the first two semesters, I realized that working a full-time job, serving as a part-time youth minister, and parenting two small children (Drew wasn’t here yet) was a recipe for disaster. I was spread too thin, and I simply couldn’t do everything that was required of me. So I walked away from seminary with no plan to return. I kept serving in youth ministry, and I continued to grow in faith and confidence in ministry. In 2007, God really changed my plans and I started full-time as pastor of Cornerstone Community Church.

Two years ago, in 2011, I started thinking about finishing up my seminary degree. I did some checking, found a scholarship, and re-enrolled. And now, I am proud and extremely happy to say that I finished my Master’s Degree!  I received a M.A.R. in Christian Leadership this month. It has been a tough year and a half balancing family demands with school and ministry. I’ve written more papers and read more than I ever did in Engineering, but it feels great to be done.

A few people have asked me why I decided to go back. My biggest reason is that I felt I needed to grow my knowledge and skill. I have had some natural leadership ability, but as our church has grown, I have been stretched far beyond my ability. It has been a sink or swim opportunity, and although I’m trusting God to keep me afloat, I have a responsibility to do everything I can to preach, teach, and lead effectively. I’m thankful for Liberty Online. They have allowed me to continue in ministry and still go back to school. Now, I’ve got some catching up to do on my reading. I can actually start reading books that I want to read again.

liberty-banner

 

shift

Jennifer and I started serving in Youth Ministry way back in 1996. We’ve talked about the many changes in society and in ministry over the last seventeen years, and I wanted to share some of the lessons we have learned. Quite frankly, the way we do ministry must change if we want to be effective. The methods can and should be adapted to the youth we are trying to reach, while the message must stay the same. I see many churches that are still trying to use methods that were effective in the 80’s and the 90’s (and some even from the 50’s)  and they don’t understand why they are struggling reaching the youth of today.

Many of the changes can be traced to the shift in the millennial generation towards postmodernism. We have witnessed the changing attitudes of teenagers, and there is a difference in how they think. The internet has given today’s youth a gateway to the rest of the world. No longer are teens in rural areas sheltered from the influence of society and culture. Some of the changes are good, and some concern me. Teens are no longer content to be entertained. They want to make a difference. But they are also not as concerned with truth as found in the Bible. What I want to see is a return to a youth ministry model that teaches, equips, and empowers students to have a solid Gospel-centered worldview. We have been blessed at Cornerstone to see a majority of our youth stand firm in their faith after high school. Here are some of the reasons why.


Here are Five Shifts That Need to Take Place in Youth Ministry


Shift from an Event to a Movement

We used to have the mentality that if you plan it, they will come. We had great evangelistic events with free prizes, crazy games, and fun activities, and the youth would show up and bring their friends. Over the years, the youth were not as excited when we planned events. What we quickly learned is that youth want to be empowered, not entertained. When you give them permission to do great things for God, they do it! Today’s youth want to make a difference, but it is our job to point them in the right direction, help them discover their gifts, and model for them how to serve, teach, and reach their friends. When a movement starts, youth will be drawn to your ministry and the events become secondary. You can still have events, but they aren’t your primary source of outreach and evangelism. I think one of the reasons so many youth leave the church after graduation is they were simply attending a youth group, instead of being part of a movement of teenagers serving Christ.

Shift from Inviting to Sending

The goal of youth ministry is not how many people you can get to attend your meeting. This is a difficult truth for many churches to understand. Your success is simply not based on the number in attendance. We must learn to change the scorecard of success. What if our success as a youth ministry was based on how many students we send out as missionaries to their schools and community? What if our success was based on the number of students who learn how to reach their friends and then disciple them? Instead of a ministry built around the personality of the youth pastor, we need a ministry based around the power of Christ.

Shift from Separate to Integrated

I’m tired of seeing a church within a church. For many churches, it is easier to create a separate church within their church just for youth. They have separate Sunday morning services, they have separate opportunities to serve, and even separate mission trips. In essence, the youth are told they can only be part of the larger church when they grow up. I see this as a huge problem with why youth leave the church. Don’t create a consumer mentality within youth ministry where everything is centered around catering to their comfort. I believe that the youth are not the church of tomorrow, they are the church of today! Let’s give them opportunity to serve and make a difference now. At Cornerstone, we don’t have a separate service because our teens are serving with the adults. They are teaching in children’s ministry, they are playing in the worship band, and they are helping with technology.They are part of a larger church, so that when they graduate, nothing really changes. They are already integrated within the church.

Shift from Reaching to Making

We all want to see students saved, so the importance of evangelism cannot be diminished. But our goal should be far more than just to get a student to repeat a prayer and join the church. If that is the end goal, you will just move on to the next student as soon as they accept Christ. It is great to see a renewed focus on making disciples within the church in America. Discipleship is investing, mentoring, and spending time with them, helping them learn and grow, so the focus is not just on the activity, it’s on the relationship. Our students will be challenged by a culture that is becoming more hostile to Christianity, and the only way they will stand firm, is if they have been given a solid foundation. The Great Commission calls us to make disciples, not converts, so let’s emphasize the importance of discipleship, and not just evangelism. This is the hardest step, but it’s also where leaders are formed.

Shift from Informing to Equipping

As a teacher, I like to share information. I like to read and I like to pass on lessons that I learn. While that can be a good thing, the goal in youth ministry is not just the transfer of information. Gaining knowledge is important, but what are your students going to do with what they learn. We want to give students the tools and opportunities they need to change the world. So in addition to teaching, we give them opportunities to serve. We provide real life opportunities to engage their community and share the Gospel and the love of Christ. Currently, our youth meet for four to six weeks working through a teaching series. After that, they spend a week doing some type of service within our community or church. And they finish with a night of worship to process what they are learning. It’s not a perfect system, but we are seeing our youth grow and continue to serve after they graduate high school.

What would you add to the list? What are you seeing in Youth Ministry Today?

libreoffice

How did I miss this? Back in February, LibreOffice 4 added the ability to import Microsoft Publisher files, even on a Mac. This is huge for me. I have years and years of youth ministry and church resources created in Publisher that I haven’t been able to access on my Mac. If you haven’t heard of LibreOffice, it spun off from OpenOffice and is a great free Office Suite.

LibreOffice is a comprehensive, professional-quality productivity suite that you can download and install for free. There is a large base of satisfied LibreOffice users worldwide, and it is available in more than 30 languages and for all major operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and GNU/Linux (Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, Mandriva, Suse, …).

Check out http://www.libreoffice.org/features/ for a full listing of features.

 

Chick-fil-a-Slide-2013

 

For the last few years, I have taken part in the Chick-fil-A Leadercast. A unique group of leaders have come together to host this simulcast in our own community. We have a great cross-section of church leaders, educational leaders, and business leaders coming together to learn leadership lessons. This year, it’s on May 10th and will be held at the Crossroads Institute in Galax. For more information and to buy tickets, please visit the Crossroads website. This is a great event, and we have a great time together. Check out the video below for a sample of what you will see.

Changing My Webhost

April 15, 2013 — 2 Comments

hosting-new-97037_335x220I am in the process of moving all the websites I manage over to a new web host. Over the last few years, I have learned a lot and I wanted to share with you what I have learned. Hopefully, this will be helpful to some of you as you decide how to host your websites.

First Step

Starting out, I created my blog on blogger.com. It was free and it introduced me to the world of blogging. It worked great, but I quickly outgrew it and decided to switch to WordPress. If you are starting out and only want to blog, I would now recommend you go with the free WordPress.com. If you decide to go with a self-hosted WordPress.org account, you will need your own hosting account. That leads me to the second step.

Second Step

I setup a Bluehost account for my blog and several other websites I managed. I paid around $4.95 per month at the time for a shared hosting account, and it worked fine for over a year for me. But I started noticing my websites were loading slowly, and I encountered CPU throttling for using too many resources from Bluehost, so I realized I needed to take the next step.

Third Step

After much research, I decided to open a reseller account at Site5. I decided on going with their Cloud Reseller Hosting for $50 per month due to their high reviews and reputation for good customer support and uptime. I’ve been with Site5 for over a year and have used their customer support several times. I have been impressed with their company and would highly recommend them. I’m now up to hosting around 15 WordPress sites, and I have been reaching my resource limits for my hosting account. So I decided to take the next step. I wasn’t impressed by the VPS (Virtual Private Server) accounts that Site5 offered, so I started my research again for a new host.

Fourth Step

Last week, I created a new account with Knownhost.com. They offer a high degree of customization. I went with a Managed VPS account. VPS accounts allow you to easily upgrade or downgrade the resources for your site. So as I add more sites, or if my sites start receiving more traffic, I can add memory or disk space to my account as needed. VPS really allows you to grow and expand. I customized my account with the WHM/Cpanel and a Litespeed webserver with APC Opcode caching and I couldn’t be happier. My sites are loading much faster and I still have room to add additional sites. I have much more control of my hosting now and I’m not paying much more than I did with reseller hosting from Site5. VPS hosting can be a little overwhelming if you don’t have experience in linux or website configuration, but Knownhost does a great job of managing the complicated parts for you.

Conclusion

The four steps listed took place over seven years, so this has not been a speedy process. I don’t know what my next step is, but with VPS hosting, I should have a lot of room to grow.

What do you use to host your sites? Feel free to add any comments or suggestions.

Update: Check out this link for a great infographic about the different types of hosting.

note: All links in this post are advertiser free. No affiliate links will be permitted in the comments.

 

 

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