Jul 272011

As we watch the big-box Borders close its retail bookstores, it gives us pause (and some, anxiety) about the post-print world. I had to ask, why would Borders have to shut down while Barnes & Noble stays open?

In a post-print world, there are signs that Barnes & Noble could be closing its doors too. Excerpt from Atlantic: “…the book business is in a period of change so dynamic that any outcome is possible, from an era of exciting expansion to a precipitous decline in sales at brick-and-mortar stores that undermines the revenue base of publishing.” Excerpt from the New York Times: What Barnes & Noble did report wasn’t pretty. The company lost $59 million in the quarter, or $1.04 a share. Analysts on average had expected a smaller loss of 91 cents a share. Despite a rise in revenue, thanks to higher online and digital sales, Barnes & Noble was hurt by the liquidation of more than 200 Borders stores as part of that retailer’s bankruptcy. Sales at Barnes & Noble stores open at least one year fell by 2.9 percent in the quarter. As books become increasingly post-print: Ebooks at Barnes and Noble Outselling Printed Books 3 to 1; Amazon e-books now outselling print books; “Sales of electronic books are expected to hit nearly one billion dollars in the United States this year and to triple by 2015

When the world changes because of technology, economy can seem slow to catch up. Dreaming outside-of-the-box, there could be a whole different future for brick-and-mortar. Where does R&D (research and development) happen in the bookselling world? Not enough, I’d say. Here’s an idea: what if bookstores were reconfigured to be spaces for co-working during the day and community in the evenings, where people can gather for work and for play? Brick-and-mortar physical spaces still can be that gathering place where people roam and browse for content. In a post-print age, that content is not housed in rows of bookshelves. Content is people and conversations.

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

Jul 192011

Here at the National Worship Leader Conference 2011 in Kansas City this week. Facilitating a couple of workshops. Managing the NWLC mobile site. Moderating the live Twitter feed #nwlc11 powered by twubs.com. Great heart and spirit here. Good mix of older and younger generations. All are here eager to learn.

One lingering question on the back burner of my mind is about the expression of awe and reverence and respect for God in our approach to worship in today’s worship experience. Regarding musical instruments, for many churches and Christ-followers, worship music is commonly accompanied with keyboards and guitars and drums. A few may use an organ. A few may go a cappella sans musical instruments.

Many churches invite people to “come as they are” and in American culture it is okay to dress casual, t-shirt and shorts. The notion of wearing one’s “Sunday best” to attend a church worship service has probably passed its tipping point years ago, if we were to survey the 300K+ churches in the US. I personally love and enjoy being casual and informal. And, now that it’s summertime, we shed our layers of clothes as it’d be temperature appropriate. Where it gets hard for a red-blooded male like me is when certain kinds of clothing (or lack thereof) is very distracting. While churches don’t want to turn anyone away from encountering the grace of God, what can church leaders do, what’s a guy to do, when the fashion trends of the day, um, for a summer dress is, um, too little?

Jul 132011

I confess that when I receive review copy of books from publishers, I don’t have the time and energy to read every word in every book to give it a proper book review. Not having read them, I can’t review them.

What I can do is mention them and to skim them with my initial impressions of what questions the book answers, and questions I’ve got for the authors and/or about the book. Here’s 3 book previews:

Weird: Because Normal isn’t Working by Craig Groeschel

The premise of this book is that the world has its conventional lifestyle that’s normal. Being a Christ-follow aka Christian is not normal and should be a stark contrast to how the rest of the world lives. Craig is a popularly influential church leader, so the book will be popular and well-marketed. I’m not so sure the title fits Craig for me; Craig is notably innovative, and has a leadership style that appeals to the masses. When I think of someone being weird, I’m thinking really weird that’s unpredictably unconventional– more of a Joaquin Phoenix, Crispin Glover, or the sword-throwing Bible answer man.

Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World by Lynne Baab

This book pinpoints something about friendship I don’t recall hearing, that the central friendship skill is the ability to initiate. The author adds that listening is another important friendship skill. And these are 2 skills that can be practiced in contexts online and offline. The book goes on to unpack the various skills of relating: initiating, listening, remembering, praying, asking, giving, thanking, sharing, caring, being together, being apart, pacing, choosing, accepting, forgiving.

On the Verge: a journey into the apostolic future of the church by Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson

The 2 leading voices about the missional church team up to co-author this big volume. I know they’ve been hanging out quite a bit, even before Google+ Hangout came into existence. As for the book’s form factor, I sure don’t see many paperback books an inch thick these days, except in academia. This book covers a lot of ground.

Aside #1: What I am noticing in (some of the) newer books is discussion questions at the end of each chapter. Friending has them. Verge has them. Church Diversity has them.

Aside #2: In this day and age of shorter presentations that are 18-minutes or 6:40, or 5:00, it’s hard for me to sit for hours to read an entire book. There are a few ideas worth the extensive treatment of a book length, but not necessarily all of them — for me. And a big factor for me is interestingness – not every book idea provokes me to curiosity. That’s not to take away from the quality of the book and its relevance to (many) other people who may well benefit a bunch from one.

Jul 062011

Well into the 21st century, an age of spirituality and plurality, hell has returned as a topic of discussion via American mainstream media. Well, maybe not conversation around the water cooler or holiday BBQs, but hell is in the books and news. Not to be sheltered away or isolated from what’s going on, I borrowed a review copy of Francis Chan & Preston Sprinkle’s new book, Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity and the Things We Make Up, and read the book’s introduction on video:

The timing of Erasing Hell’s book release may be interpreted as a response to Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, which got a lot of buzz, even on the cover of Time magazine. That’s pretty high profile. And maybe these books were responses to the ugly stirring of Westboro Baptist Church protests and unapologetic message of hatred:

(aside: I linked to this YouTube video to the 20/20 piece on Westboro, presented as is, instead of the more popular version with editorial revisionism)

Jul 012011

Found this set of 5 questions in my inbox from a new visitor to my website / blog.
via http://dimland.blogspot.com/2011/04/dimland-radio-4-16-11-show-notes.html

I have few questions that I would like to ask:
1. Who is your primary audience for the website?
2. What is the vision of the website?
3. What is the mission of the website?
4. Where do you want to take your audience to?
5. What would be the primary reason why your audience member should log on to this website at least once per week?

Good questions. Essential questions for an organization. Good questions for people who want to have a personal mission statement or life plan.

I honestly do not think in those categories for myself. So I don’t readily have answers to offer along those lines. Nothing to hide. No secret agenda.

What I can describe is why I put time and energy into a website and blog, when a majority of other people choose to not. I know there are other people who won’t start a website or blog without answers for these 5 questions, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Why do I blog? Because I can. This website and blog is an overflow of my being and a part of expressing who I am and what I think about.

I’m an ideas guy. I have lots of ideas, and they don’t do me much good if I just keep them to myself. So I share them freely. Bringing things to light. That’s what’s wonderful about the internet, people can share freely, and it can benefit 100s and 1000s.

I started blogging 12 years ago by sharing about my life. Back then it wasn’t called blogging, it was an online journal, a digital diary. My intent is to live my life as an open book with no pretense, and in so doing, my hope is that people can see how Christ has made a difference in and through my life, warts and all. I pace myself at 2 to 3 blog posts per week, and I don’t force it. If it doesn’t come, or if I don’t have the muse’s inspiration, I’ll miss a blog post or 2. (And that’s okay. Life is about grace, not performance, not a competition, not coercion.)

I share stuff on my website, lots of information and links. I post information that I’m interested in — things that don’t get enough attention and yet are important to me. There are plenty of websites and blogs for topics like news, tech, celebrity gossip, politics, business… and some of them make good money doing that, because lots of people are interested in those things. (So if you happen to be interested in a topic that lots of other people are interested in, you can make good money. If not, then, not so much.)

I’ll let you in on the back stories to why I built these destination web pages (in a barren land) and/or recurring themes of my blog:

multiethnic church – too many churches in America are unintentionally segregated. They’re stuck and they need help. Lots of help. This page has links that can help. There are other goodies out there now, good.

Asian American ministry – faith has to be contextualized and we’ve got too many issues in our next gen Asian American context that go unpublished, when the internet could be giving voice to our generation, empowering us, breaking stereotypes, giving grace and healing, connecting us for collaboration..

Tim Keller – before he became a popular author and conference speaker, he had pastored for years, and his sermons were a master mix of intelligence (not dumbed-down), culturally astute (not demonizing), and graciously kind (not belligerent).. I was introduced to him by a friend back in the early 2000s, and now that there are others pointing to his resources, I can move on to other topics..

Yogurtland – their website is built-in Flash. That makes them invisible to most search engines and to iPads and iPhones. I love their self-serve FroYo. They deserve to be visible and findable. People find my Yogurtland fan page, and I even get calls from people who want to open a franchise. I have not gotten any calls from headquarters, yet. (I could def kick up their social media strategy.)

These are some of those back stories. Any other ones you’d like to know?

So people find my website or my blog when they’re looking for an important topic that isn’t getting enough airplay on the web. Oh, and I should mention that I also love to experiment + discover new web apps that the average person could be using one day, and new ideas that can impact society and church. Could this be called thought leadership? Maybe. Maybe not.

I’d like to think people come back because they want to see what I’m thinking, what I’ve discovered, or what’s going on in my life. I know my Mom has my website as her home page. But other than that, I leave it up to the reader to choose their own reasons. I won’t impose or prescribe what people should do with all this info. I think my readers are smart enough to figure it out for their context.