Friday, November 23, 2012

“SMART” Gospel - Part 1 of 2

Summary – With the +1 billion proliferation of smartphones and tablets worldwide, the digital gospel horizon is a new and expanding landscape to reach, influence and transform lives through Jesus. While the message of Jesus is the same, smart mobile methodology is transformational, needing a new paradigm on connecting, communicating, disciple making.

Perhaps you’ve been sort of suspicious of it till now. Maybe you have closed your eyes to it, hoping that it will pass like a fast moving thunderstorm; somehow passing by without disrupting or destroying your home, car, property, life. I’m certain that you’ve encountered interruption to Sunday morning worship, sermons and prayers from them. No matter your thoughts, perspective or concerns, smart mobile devices are coming like a freight train and there is no ducking the issue.

Here are some critical findings presented at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2012 in Barcelona, Spain[1];
  • Worldwide sales of smartphones and tablets will soar past the 1 billion-unit threshold in 2013
  • Global sales of tablets and smartphones will total 821 million units this year, then jump nearly 50%, to 1.2 billion, in 2013
  • Smart devices will account for 70% of all mobile device sales next year
  • By 2016, 40% of the workforce will be mobile
  • Tablet sales to businesses more than tripling from 13 million this year to 53 million in 2016

We cannot ignore this tsunami of technology as it sweeps over our culture. For Jesus followers and leaders within his church, we cannot hide or ignore this systemic change that is upon us and the entire world. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we must embrace it in a profound way that alters the way we live, share Christ, preach, disciple and influence our culture. There is a potential to multiply our reach and reinvent the way that we connect with our culture and church, but it will require a transformation that will be uncomfortable and even painful.

Yes, we need to tell the “old, old story”[2] but we need to get out in front of our family, neighbors, friends and culture with a “story” in words, deeds, ideas and through a medium that is understandable and accessible. Just as print, the Industrial Revolution and PC’s had a profound impact, the swarm of mobile smart devices promises to transform our culture in new and sometimes disrupting ways.

Please understand that I am violently supportive of the body of Christ and its local expressions as outlined in Scripture[3]. One of my favorite, practical outlines of what the church looks like is found in Mark Driscoll’s “8 Biblical Marks of a True Church[4].

I am not advocating;
  • abandoning people for a podcast
  • leaving the local church for a live webcast
  • evangelism and discipleship strictly from the confines of your keyboard
  • individuals baptizing themselves alone in a hot tub at home while broadcasting to the church from their webcam

What I am advocating with every fiber of my being is for individual Christians, churches and organizations to leverage this technology and connect with as many people as possible to spread the good news of Jesus as God, our savior and our only hope.

Next week – three application themes to pray, chew-on and move forward with.
Blessings – Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith through GLAD Associates. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.

[1] http://www.journalofaccountancy.comGartner: Android, Apple to spark surge in smart device sales, By Jeff Drew, November 6, 2012

[2] Tell Me The Old, Old Story, Words: A. Katherine Hankey 1866, Music: W. Howard Doane 1867
[3] Matthew 16:18, John 3:16; Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Ephesians 1:22-23, 3:10-11, 5:23-30, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 1:1-2, Colossians 1:18-24, 1 Timothy 3:15, 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, James 1:5

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Total Visibility

One of my early business mentors taught me many important lessons about life, business, career and becoming who I was made to be. One day we’re sitting in his office discussing a recent blunder due to one of my many management and personality shortcomings that led me to broadcast how great I was to the entire world.

He turned to me and said, “Chet, visibility is a two-edged sword.”

At the time, I just brushed it off as one of his mindless saying. After all I was a superstar, winning annual awards and bonuses for exceptional performance. I was assigned high risk projects and represented the company at industry events. I chaired a very influential industry-wide committee that was working towards changing the technology landscape for everyone associated with insurance. It was no secret to the company or management team that I was self-centered, arrogant and lacked any humility. Ultimately, I’m certain this contributed to my senior role being eliminated in a downsizing exercise.

Time and pain have changed me – I now see that he was absolutely right. Gently, he was trying to get my attention off myself and my over-sized ego. I am forever indebted to his patience, wisdom and character that allowed him to tell me some very tough and painful truths about myself. He said it in a way that caused me to listen, not crush me as a person. He is an important person that helped change and mold me in some very significant ways.

Through visibility into their technology, there has been a continual waterfall of fallen leaders and those we admire. Their once brilliant reputations have been dragged through cyberspace mud as emails and other texts reveal deep personal and moral choices. Some notable examples;
  • Gen. David Petraeus – resigned from his CIA leadership position as top-secret emails and information was compromised through his ongoing extra-material affairs with Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelly
  • Gen. John Allen also has come under increasing scrutiny for his potential role in Petraeus’ affairs and “inappropriate Emails”
  • Lance Armstrong resigned from Livestrong (his cancer-fighting charity) and Nike terminated their contract after he was stripped of all Tour de France victories for use of performance enhancing drugs

It’s very easy to point the finger at these and other public figures as their moral and judgment failures come to light. It seems like people have this belief that whatever is keyed in private remains that way. Since no one is looking over their shoulder as they type, they think it is safe to hit the send button.

As someone who works in the computer/information industry, let me tell you that “flying under the radar” continually gets harder and more difficult with technology. Not only are there detailed and an un-erasable breadcrumbs left behind through posts, emails, text messages and credit card transactions, your location and movements are being tracked through social media sites, mobile devices (phones/tablets), store membership programs and as you drive (yes, cameras and software are tracking license plates as you travel.)

While some people find this monitoring of our activities highly intrusive, others want to be connected 24/7. For example, it doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but how did you feel when there was no signal for your cell phone? Were you happy that no one was listening or did your blood pressure spike to new heights and your face turn red while the hair on the back of your neck stood up in anger?

It is becoming increasingly harder to “fly under the radar” due to technology but this is not really a new idea at all. I don’t think Jesus was thinking about technology when he said “Everything that is secret will be brought out into the open. Everything that is hidden will be uncovered. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight. What you have whispered to someone behind closed doors will be shouted from the rooftops.” [1]

Jesus was explaining that our creator and father God is not Big Brother [2], but like any parent is deeply interested in his children. He was so interested that he personally invested his time and energy to watch over everyone and everything. Unlike us who can only be in one place, focusing on one thing at a time, he is able to see and interact with everyone and everything at the same time.

I hope you are more than comfortable with the truth that God sees, hears and knows all our words, thoughts, actions and attitudes. We can’t “fly under the radar” and achieve invisibility with God. And yet in spite of this “total visibility” his acceptance and love are great, deep, wide and certain. We can know this because he says it’s true. [3]

So, there is no need to hide with God. He knows us and everything about us. We are visible to him, and that is really good news.

Blessings – Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.

[2] Big Brother is a fictional character in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. He is the dictator of a totalitarian state where the government wields total power. Everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities and people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase "Big Brother is watching you", which is the core "truth" of the book.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Always making with the negative waves

One of my favorite movie characters is Oddball as portrayed by Donald Sutherland. He plays an eccentric, early beatnik-like tank commander in Clint Eastwood’s “Kelly’s Heroes.” In addition to trying to steal $16 million in gold behind enemy lines, Oddball continually condemns people that are “making with the negative waves.” Use this YouTube link to get a flavoring of these great lines –

While I am considered “odd” by some, many people are just like Oddball. Whenever we hear a barrage of negative statements we react; the hair on the back of our neck stands up, our blood pressure rises, we clench our fists.

I remember watching a Baltimore Orioles game on TV with my dad when I was very young. Yes, the TV was black and white, the picture was not perfectly square, there was no instant replay, there was an actual “dial” on the TV with only 12 possible channels and you had to physically get up and “turn the dial” with your hand. That day, Brooks Robinson was at bat against the most hated and evil New York Yankees. Brooks drove the ball deep to left; I jumped up and down screaming to help the ball go over the fence for a homerun. My dad sat quietly, never flinching and said “It’s just a fly ball.”

Well, in this case my dad was right; the ball fell short of the fence and safely into the leftfielder’s glove, ending the inning and my hopes for yet another magical Orioles rally. Downtrodden and depressed, I fell to the floor in a lump of discouragement, falling like wet laundry out of the washing machine. My dad, ever the stoic, didn’t move or show any emotion except to take another drink from his longneck.

I looked at him in complete and utter amazement; didn’t he understand the universal truth of baseball and life? If you yelled long and loud enough for something to happen, somehow your yell and energy made your wish come true. It applied to all areas of life and certainly there was nothing more important than the Orioles trouncing the hated Yankees. I asked him, “Dad, why didn’t you yell and cheer for the ball to go over the fence for a homerun?” His words were etched into my mind, memory and psyche as he said, “I’m always negative because I don’t want to be disappointed.”

Oddball would not have liked my Dad, which is probably good because my Dad would feel the same.

As Oddball reacted to “negative waves,” have we become a negative people as a whole, not responding as sharply to negative words or commentary? Have you noticed this in your conversations, that people are generally negative? I think this drift is driving some Pew Foundation findings regarding the election;

Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have received more negative news coverage than positive in the general election (source:

  • The public's one-word descriptions for Obama reflect the mixed views of his presidency, the most frequently used negative descriptions are failure and incompetent
  • One-word impressions of Joe Biden, more people use negative than positive words to describe the Vice President
  • With more than half having a negative reaction, two-thirds of voters (67%) correctly identify Mitt Romney as the candidate who said 47% of the public is dependent on government
  • Both Republican Paul Ryan and Democrat Joe Biden get negative marks as vice presidential candidates
  • Press Coverage of the Character of the Candidates Is Highly Negative, and Neither Obama Nor Romney Has An Edge
  • The tone of Political Conversation on Social Media is Mostly Negative

I’m certain that you have read and heard numerous negative comments about the election. But there is also a rising tide of disgust and exhaustion from the constant bombardment of negative ads and comments. People are just weary of “all the negative waves”.

In contrast, Jesus has lots of forgiveness and receives people with “negative waves” and pasts. While others would turn away, he never turns people away who are looking for answers, restoration, to be made whole again. Jesus;

  • Sits down with those that the self-righteous and proud turn away from – Matthew 9:10-13
  • Openly talks with people who are full of doubt – John 20:24-29
  • Helps people struggling with faith – Mark 9:24
  • Restores people that have failed big time – John 21:15-17

Yes, it may seem like the world is overflowing with negative people, making negative comments about everything and dragging you down. But Jesus is ready and willing to listen and help you sail over all the “negative waves” to a new harbor full of hope.

Blessings – Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.