Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Virgin Birth (5 Views)

What's all this gobbledygook on Jesus being "conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary"?

1. Traditional View (booo-ring)
God and sex don't mix. And no way the birth of the Christ would have anything to do foreplay, orgasms, nasty thoughts and stuff.

Key element: Avoiding the sinful associations of sex.

2. Traditional View (stiff) 
If Christ was 'conceived by Joseph and Mary, and born of the non-virgin Mary' He'd still have the taint of original sin in His DNA. This jeopardizes Christ's capacity to be the Saviour of all mankind. Christ is fully Man, yes, but He's also the new kind of Man able to save the old kind i.e. a new Adam put on earth to undo the devastation wraught by the offspring of the old one.

Key element: Christocentric 'composition' required for the redemption plan to take effect.

3. Historico-Critical View (bad) 
The early Christians included it into oral tradition and, eventually, the Gospels as further (contrived) validation of the divine status of Christ.

Key element: Historical fictionising, myth-making and tale-spinning for community window-dressing purposes.

4. Historico-Critical View (real bad) 
Mary wanted to hide the truth of Jesus' conception, which was most likely due to her being impregnated by a Roman soldier (with consent or otherwise, it's not important).

Key element: Brushing over harsh realities of Second Temple Judaism life under the heel of Rome.

5. Historico-Critical View (wic-ked)
A wonderful story like the virgin birth makes perfect sense in a narrative about God redeeming and re-creating the world by giving Himself and doing something New Creation-scented. This is the kind of thing a world-transforming and creation-renewing God would do i.e. it simply makes sense as part of a beautiful whole. Furthermore, Matthew and Luke would hardly want to risk the ridicule and suspicions (wouldn't the miracles have created enough problems already?)

Key element: Beauty and 'fit' of virgin birth within overall Gospel narrative.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Web 2.0 Marketing for Educational Institutions - What Should Happen Before

In considering an e-marketing strategy oriented around Web 2.0 technologies for educational institutions, it’s best - in line with the theme of Seth Godin's Meatball Sundaes - to go back to the overall ‘structures’ and ‘culture’ of the organisation and work from there to the gadgets and tools (e.g. blogs, twitter, facebook, the works). The spirit of a visionally transformed corpus must come first, then the flesh of technology will follow.

It would help to use Godin’s principles cum questions for Disney (see p.223-6 at the end of the book) :

1. Direct communication between producers and consumers – after students fill up the forms or make an enquiry or initiate the ‘first contact’ with XYZ College, do they hear from it again in a way which isn’t intrusive and which in fact brings delight? Do these potential and on-going clients receive anticipated, personal and relevant messages (a Godin mantra)? And, of course, do they receive it in the medium they prefer (e.g. some may not like email)

2. Direct communication between consumers and consumers - the New Marketing is consumer-driven i.e. ultimately the students are the Marketing Department because their Word-of-Mouth is more powerful than all the brochures and flyers. What is XYZ doing to encourage student reviews, student influence, student sharing? This goes beyond ‘friend2friend’ promotions and must go deeper to ‘unofficial sharing’ (see no. 3 below)

3. Amplification of the voice of the consumer and independent authorities – how much does XYZ respect the influence and voice of everyone who visits our sites, of our students, our partners, our clients, etc.? Does XYZ ‘host’ any platform or space as a way of allowing and encouraging peer reviews of educational products? Is XYZ seen to ‘amplify’ the voice of the average man on the Web?

4. Stories spread, not facts – what’s the ‘story’ of XYZ's next educational offering? What’s the ‘story’ of its new lecturers, its next events, its latest branch? What will people be spreading after they attend or are exposed to its latest function, PR event, communique, etc.? (Note: here is where YouTube, Facebook and Blogs could be most effective, because every upload is a potential story – colleges need to give people a reason to include it into their RSS feeds)

5. Extremely short attention spans – how is XYZ tackling the fact that students and consumers nowadays have extremely short attention spans? (Tip: send shorter and more frequent messages instead of longer and less frequent ones); this is also where content must always catchy, helpful and worth remembering! Again, people need a reason to ‘come back’

6. Tuning in to ‘spare time’ – why would the average student want to think about XYZ college in his/her spare time? What would make the college attractive/engaging enough for young adults to want to make room in their minds for XYZ marketing/community material after classes?

7. The Long Tail (mass customization/diversity) – what is XYZ doing about the customization of education? Instead of giving ‘fixed’ educational offerings to students, can they be allowed to choose what and how they wish to study? Can XYZ raise the level of student-selection and student-design of programs?

8. Google and Search Engine – apart from manipulating search engines such that XYZ ‘shows up’ more often, can the college offer great experiences which many students will talk, blog and/or leave updates about thus leading to more serach-result pages with XYZ at the top? What can the college do to encourage more people to hyper-link to the college’s website or blogs? (Tip: provide online education!)

9. Triumph of the Big Ideas – what redefinition or reinvention or re-conceptualisation is XYZ pioneering? Is XYZ known as an innovator, constantly coming up with new products to get people talking?

10. Shifts in Scarcity and Abundance – what is so rare that people intuitively value (e.g. clean open and creative space)? What’s so abundant that people hardly bother anymore (e.g. classes!)? How does XYZ College stack up in the abundance/scarcity ratio and is it focusing on improving this ratio?

Godin’s point is that unless the above are dealt with effectively, unless the ‘spirit’ of the organisation has changed, simply adding more gadgets or Web 2.0 tools may be nothing more than a fa├žade (which people can very easily ignore anyway). So it’s best to get the substance and culture right – the technology will take care of itself.

The substance is key; the gadgets merely the key-chain.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Traditional & Emerging Worship Styles : Walking the Fine Line

The worship wars and segregated worship dilemmas have plagued the church for at least two decades now. Being the card-carrying pluralist that I am (grin), I wouldn't insist on any particular answer or solution. What I would make compulsory, though, is clarity of thinking about what's good and bad in whatever we do.

So at the cost of super-simplification, I've divided Christian worship services into two forms - Traditional and Emerging - and what follows is a listing of what's good and bad about each.

The obvious reminder is that the non-traditional folks need NOT 'condemn' the liturgical guys, nor vice-versa. The hope and plea, though, is that whatever 'structure' we decide on, we do it well, for God's glory, and walk the fine line between the Devil of lifeless fossilization and the Big Bad Sea of spineless selling out to culture.

1. Traditional Worship (done poorly):
  • everything in the tradition remains - everything the way it's always been done (regardless of Biblical priority or emphasis)
  • denomination is king
  • multi-media and younger age-groups largely ignored in favour of fixed liturgical structures
  • missional outward/other-ish focus de-prioritized - it's all about the members themselves
  • fossilization

2. Traditional Worship (done well):
  • everything helpful in the tradition remains to encourage spirituality, growth and discipline; there exists a recognition that structures were forged in specific historical contexts and that some facets of said structures may no longer be supremely relevant (e.g. the robes?)
  • denomination is important but tradition can 'give way to new movements of the Spirit' (a phrase I borrowed from a certain Pastor Peter Harritz)
  • mild experimentation allowed to add creative/contemporary flavour to worship
  • members educated on the process and discipline of 'ancient practices'
  • stability and strong sense of the sacred

3. Emerging Worship (done well) :
  • focuses on what Jesus told us to do(!), e.g. baptism, eucharist (obviously I can't hide my Lutheran bias here...*smile*
  • emphasizes what's helpful to the world and what's beneficial for the kingdom/ministry i.e. a missional focus a'la "the church exists chiefly for its NON-members"
  • creativity and learning encouraged
  • the Word made fresh (and delivered in an infinite variety of forms)
  • rich multi-media experience to reduce 'dis-connect' between Sanctuary and Life i.e. encourages a blending of the sacred with the secular (or a sacralisation of the everyday things of life)

4. Emerging Worship (done poorly):
  • do whatever we feel like doing - emotions and culture reign supreme
  • disregards tradition entirely, baby dumped out wiht the soap-water
  • poor theology, poor foundations - tossed around by cultural winds