Sep 242011
 

America was founded with a primary motivation for the freedom to worship without government regulations. (Unlike some, I am not convinced that America was intended to be a “Christian nation” or founded on “Judeo-Christian principles,” though Christian influence was certainly part of the mix. What is clear to me is religious freedom that guarantees the right to worship.)

Freedom of religion is so important that it is the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights. Part of that 1st amendment gets a ton of visibility and buzz, the part about freedom of speech and freedom of expression. The other part not as much, the part about the freedom of assembly. Both are just as important! The text of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

San Juan Capistrano, the city where I work, has cited a home gathering for violating its ordinances. The Fromm’s home hosts a Bible study, which happens to have met on Sunday mornings. I’ve been there a few times. It’s a quiet and contemplative time, not disruptive to the neighborhood.

Their Municipal Code, Section 9-3.301 requires a conditional use permit when a meeting is held in a residential district by “Religious, fraternal, or nonprofit organizations,” and that “includes churches, temples, synagogues, monasteries, religious retreats, and other places of religious worship and other fraternal and community service organizations.”

You’d think that enforcing such laws should be done with utmost caution for its proximity to the 1st Amendment. Verify the details before acting.

San Juan Capistrano decided to enforce this ordinance on the Fromm’s, issuing 2 citations totaling $300 to date. And, the news about the Fromms have spread across mainstream media (msm) and the blogosphere. Sure, zoning for residential areas may have been designed to prevent noise and traffic problems. But that wasn’t the infraction cited. Many neighbors have written letters of support, denying they were disturbed by the presence of the Bible study.

But, the Fromm’s gathering is not a church or nonprofit organization. Their gathering is a group Bible study. Fromms have had Bible study gatherings in their home for years, some larger, some smaller. The larger ones may number like 20 or even 50. They have no intention to establish a church. The latest updates are being posted at the chuckfromm.net blog and Facebook page. [update: short list of links to media coverage, unabridged list]

The question: when a group of people peaceably assemble for whatever, religious or fraternal or non-profit, when is that gathering deemed too large to be personal and requiring a permit and/or non-profit organization? When does a home Bible study become too large and should become a church? And is it okay for a group to decline from setting up a government-sanctioned non-profit organization? Does the government determine what group is a church or isn’t a church? For those with religious convictions, theology is what determines what is or isn’t a church. And theology is not something government wants to get involved in.

[disclosure: I work with Chuck Fromm and Worship Leader magazine]

Sep 212011
 

When a service declares a 99.9% uptime guarantee might sounds kinda impressive. But do the math, and it turns out that 99.9% allows for 43 minutes of downtime per month or over 8 hours in a year, while 99.99% uptime is up to 4 minutes of downtime per month.

With web hosting becoming more and more essential to our lives – work, play, personal, and e-commerce — finding a reliable web hosting service can be elusive. Even with thorough research, past performance is no guarantee of future reliability and tech support responsiveness.

So you do what you can with the time and effort you’ve got. Think about it, what can a company do to make good on a guarantee anyways? Pro-rated credit? Tech support response time? Battery backup? Network redundancy? Multiple data centers?

And when it comes to an “uptime guarantee,” read the fine print. There’s the marketing-speak and then the legal-speak. Don’t be mesmerized by the number itself. Look at what these different companies mean by their service level agreement (SLA) ::

Network will be available 100% of the time in a given month, excluding scheduled maintenance. … A credit of 5% of the monthly fee for each 30 minutes of downtime. A credit of up to 100% of the monthly fee for the affected server. [Rackspace]

For each hour after you notified support of your downtime, your account will be credited for 10% of you monthly billing total, up to 100% your total bill. [VPS.net]

If your web site, databases, email, FTP, SSH or webmail is unusable as a result of a failure in our systems and for reasons other than previously announced scheduled maintenance, coding or configuration errors on your part, we’ll credit your next invoice with 1 day hosting free for each 1 hour (or fraction thereof) of service interruption; up to 10% of your next pre-paid hosting renewal fee. [Dreamhost]

Site5 has a unique take on its 99.9% uptime guarantee for shared hosting, “… offering you a pro-rated credit for any downtime outside of our guaranteed window.” Site5 has a page with the real time status of all their servers and they publicly list the uptime records of all their servers. [ed.note: transparency does make for more data-informed decisions]

If your shared / reseller server has a physical downtime that is not within the 99.9% uptime you may receive one month of credit on your account. Approval of the credit is at the discretion of HostGator dependent upon justification provided. Third party monitoring service reports may not be used for justification due to a variety of factors including the monitor’s network capacity/transit availability. The uptime of the server is defined as the reported uptime from the operating system and the Apache Web Server which may differ from the uptime reported by other individual services. To request a credit, please contact [email protected] with justification. All requests must be made in writing via email. Uptime guarantees only apply to shared / reseller solutions. … [HostGator]

We Guarantee! that our network will stay up 99.9% of the time. … will not charge you for leaving your hosting agreement early due to server downtime. Furthermore, we allow you to cancel your account at anytime without any penalties and with a pro-rated refund of the unused portion of your hosting agreement. [bluehost]

Sep 182011
 

Got tapped to weigh in on this informal survey on Facebook from Tom Lin: What are some gifts Asian Americans bring to the Church and missions?

Scroll down to see all the responses that came in and add your response

Santa Ono: “A cultural perspective that often places community before self. A tendency to listen well.”

Delwin Archer: “An inspiring discipline, passion and work ethic! A focus on excellence. A love for the arts—especially music.

Grace Yung Watson: “Generosity, hospitality and tenacity to name a few.”

Joe Nho: “A respect for cultural heritage in the assimilation of Christian life.”

Alison Klein Esselink: “… would it be too worldly to mention ‘delicious food’?”

Peter Cha: “Crossing racial/cultural borders through serving ‘others’ and collaboratively working with ‘others’….”

Kathy Khang: “The ability to live in the tension of sometimes competing / opposing cultural value systems.”

Paul Tokunaga: “… the potential to be peacemakers and peacebrokers between blacks and whites

Kathy Khang: “There are so many cultural values (saving face, filial piety, etc.) that when redeemed by God’s love and grace can become powerful in mission. … Asian American women have the gift of having come out of cultures that historically considered them as property but living out the opportunities of equality under and through Christ.

DJ Chuang: “AAs have tons of untapped potential! … I’d add: long-term loyalty, third culture adaptability, global mobility, consensus builder…

Tom Lin: “3 big gifts: (1) multi-lingual and bi-cultural upbringing, (2) ‘non-threatening’ asian face :), and (3) highest U.S. demographic group in educational resources and financial income!”

A bigger question would be – what would it take to tap into all that potential? Let’s get a move on!

[aside: I did get permission to post the thread but not yet from each respondent. Will note accordingly as/when I do. ]

Sep 152011
 

Today a new book publishes using the power of print-on-demand via CreateSpace (via Amazon.com) breaks out past traditional publishing. The Center for Church Communication put together this compilation of 60+ contributors, Outspoken: Conversations on Church Communication.

Among the 60+ contributors: Tim Schraeder, Leonard Sweet, Tony Steward, Vince Marotte, Shawn Wood, Will Mancini, DJ Chuang, Rhett Smith, Kem Meyer, Justin Wise, Drew Goodmanson, Scott Hodge, Bianca Juarez-Olthoff, Charles Lee, Ben Arment, Dawn Nicole Baldwin, John Dyer, Steve Fogg, Tony Morgan, Jesse Phillips, Stephen Proctor, Kent Schaffer, Scott McClellan, and more

Yes! I am one of the contributors; I noticed that all the contributors are on Twitter, most of them have a website/blog – good sign of what it takes to be communicating in today’s world! Contributors covered topics like communications, leadership, branding, design, storytelling, technology, creativity, personal growth, and outreach.

My angle on church communication is for the whole church. Gifted teachers and preachers (now called communicators) don’t need help. It’s the rest of the church that needs equipping to be outspoken with their voices. With the communication tools du jour, a la social media, many of them freely available to the masses — even a homeless person can be blogging). Let’s hear it from the pews and not just the pulpit — the whole church for the whole world!

Visit OutspokenBook.com to get more and download a free preview too.