Friday Photo: A Week of Music

This week, after another full "Open Mic" night, we invited an expat friend of "The Grain of Wheat" and UBean, and an Open Mic night favorite, to do a weeknight acoustic set. It was a roaring success. 

I love bringing together the beauty of music and the beauty of the Gospel. 

This week's Open Mic night should be another interesting one. We've invited a very popoluar Mongolian Rock band to join us. A lot of kids are planning to be there tonight! 

Cliff brought it. Great night of covers and original music

"Open Mic" continues to draw in lot's of kids every week


Missiotechnica: Mailing Monkeys

This week’s Missiotechnica… Taking our “Prayer/News Letters” to the next level is so easy a monkey could do it.

Communication from the field can be a daunting task for many. However, we do need to recognize the fact that the days of the “Missionary Prayer Letter” are over. Done. Gone. The folks left stamping and addressing envelopes are few and far between. My Grandmother (who is well into her 80’s) has an email address. Heck, she has a Facebook account. Most workers are at least using email to send out communication to our consitituency, because the majority of our constituency isn’t going to read a mass mailing that they get in the mailbox. I know, there will be a few who insist that they will. However, there are some pretty amazing statistics about who reads this stuff ... I'll show you the e-version in just a moment.

I want to share a couple of “don’ts” when it comes to using email for our prayer/news letters and one “do”.

Don’t (ever, ever, ever) send an email to multiple receivers so that everyone can see your “Send to” addresses.
This is bad, bad, bad for multiple reasons. Many ISPs (Internet Service Providers) will consider you a spammer and will block your email to begin with. If your emal does get through, it becomes a security risk for everyone on your list. Then when one of your constituents hit “reply all” and responds to everyone your list to say “thanks” … well … best case, you’re not winning friends or supporters, and many people will just be annoyed and never hear what you have to say. Worst case, you've opened up your entire mailing list to dangers from spam to viruses. Use the BCC (blind carbon copy) feature in your email software. Please, please. I am STILL getting newsletters from colleagues with 217 people in the “send to” list. Just stop it. Drop everyone into the BCC field and put your email address in the “To” field. That is a much better way of getting your communication out.

Don’t embed photos in your email that are more than about 500–600 kb
That means … don’t take the pictures directly out of your camera and drop them into your email newletter. I recieved a newsletter from a colleague a few weeks ago that was over 40MB. Again, many service providers and email servers will block large files from ever getting through, and you’ll never know whether they received your email or not. There are a few who are creating newletters in PDF format and sending them (we have done that for a long time). This is better, but you still have to watch your file size. The total weight of the email shouldn’t be much over 1.5MB, at least in my opnion. You get much larger than that and you'll begin having a hard time getting your message through without being flagged as a potential spammer.

I will stop with these two don’ts … because I want tospend more time on the “do” …

DO use Mailchimp
This has become one of my favorite communication tools. I used to be a little hesitant to recommend MailChimp to colleagues, as there was (and probably still is) a bit of a learning curve. However, recent improvements have made creating an e-communicaiton easy and secure. There is no reason why every international worker in the world shouldn’t be using MailChimp for communication. It easy. It's secure. The Mailchimp monkeys do all of the work for you. 

I’m going to give you a quick-start tutorial right here. There are tons of cool features that you can explore. But in 10 minutes or less, you can send out an email to your constituency that looks good, communicates well, gives your receivers control over how much (or how little) they hear from you and, from an awesome stalker-y perspective, you can see exactly who reads you letter, how many times people open your letter and where they click in your letter. So awesome.

  1. Sign up for free
    Go to and sign up. Now. None of this is going to cost you anything, unless you have over 2000 people on your email list and will be sending more than 12,000 emails a month. For the vast majority (if not all) of you who read this blog, that’s not going to happen any time soon. Making an account literally takes 30 seconds. Just follow the directions. When get to your account page (I think you’ll have to verify your email address, etc.) go ahead and let MailChimp link to your social media. Facebook and Twitter can be integrated right into your email campaign. (Yes, they’re called campaigns. Weird, I know. But that’s what it is)
  2. Create a list
    Once you’re inside with an account, you will want to “create a list”. At the top right/center you’ll see a menu with several items on it, including “lists”. Click that. And then click the orange “create list” on the left. Fill out the form (fairly straight forward). That creates the list.
  3. Populate your new list
    So you have a list. But there are no email address in it. Now you can enter adresses into your mail list one at a time. But that’s for the birds. Mailchimp is for monkeys. When click on the little orange link that says “import”. It will take you to a page with all kinds of option to choose from. I use “Contacts” app for Mac. It was just a matter of exporting my list into a format called “V-Card” and then importing that into mailchimp as a file. Worked fairly well. If you use Google contacts, that’s pretty straight forward. You can also import an Excel file. Upload … presto … you have a populated list.
  4. Make some groups
    This is one of the most powerful features of MailChimp. You can divide your list into groups. Perhaps you want to divide by churches or by geographical locations. You can also do this later on, as you see the need for it. The cool thing is that you can use the groups feature to send emal to segments of your list, rather than to everyone. It gives you super control over who gets your communications.
  5. Create and send a ‘campaign’
    Now the fun starts! Click on the create a campaign button … and you just want a “regular ’ole campaign” for now. Pick which list you want to send it to (it also gives you the option to send the email to segments of your list. You can send it to a group, multiple groups, and several other cool options I don’t have space to get into here. Check it out!). Click through to “setup” you’ll decide what the name of your campaign will be, the email subject line, how it will connect to your social media, etc. Then you will design your email. There is a very cool new “drag and drop” editor that will allow you to pick a template and simply drag in text, photos, buttons, etc. You put in whatever content you want! You can create links to your website, Facebook, etc. Write your whole newsletter right there. It can be one long letter … or multiple articles. You choose. I know that we go back and forth between using the MailChimp email as the newsletter, and sometimes creating a PDF newsletter that’s printable for churches that like this kind of thing that is upliaded to our website and linked to the MailChimp email. It will create a “text only” version for people who don’t use a rich text or HTML friendly email client. Then you send you email. It’s that easy. If you know some HTML, you can get really nitty gritty into the code, create templates and more. 
  6. Stalk your campaign
    The MailChimp stats are fun and enlightening. It’s interesting to note that I very rarely get even a 50% open rate. Meaning that usually over half of my email list never even opens the email I send to them. Click rate is even less. I’ve moved past taking it personally and just find it interesting. Especially since my list ranks much higher than other lists in the “non-profit” catagory. But I do tend to geek out on the stats. There’s even an iPhone app (also free) that lets you check this. The nice thing is that Mailchimp takes care of your mailing list. If there are bounces, the monkeys clean up your list and let you know what they did.

The other nice thing is that your subscribers can control whether they remain on your list or not (don’t take it personal - but some people get tired of hearing from us). MailChimp also gives you code to create a signup form on your website and more.

Sign up. Send a campaign. Try out the features. I think you’ll soon love these guys as much as I do.

And I think the people to whom you are communicating will love you.

And isn’t love where it’s at?

If you have a question or some better ideas of how to use these kinds of communication tools, leave your 2 cents in the comments!


1352 Guitar Pickers and Counting

Worship and Mission


I've never really considered myself much of a "worship leader". At least not in the traditional "music leader" sense of the word. I like to play guitar and sing songs of praise, but I never considered that proper qualification. Pastoring in the Nashville, TN area, you realize quite soon, the old song that says "There's 1352 guitar-pickers in Nashville"** is not entirely true. There's actually a lot more than that. Most of them go to church and take some part on the "Worship Team". Nashville has exported itself around the world. This kind of thinking has definitely arrived in the "Land of Blue Sky". Now there's 1352 guitar pickers in UB - and most of them go to church and participate on a worship team.

It's true. I'm not saying they're all believers. But they will play in church.

Now, before I dive into this ... I do want to say this. Christian worship music has had a profound effect on the popular music of Mongolia. Our work at the Grain of Wheat Center has connected us to many popular Mongolian musicians and bands, and it's interesting to see how many find their roots in Western worship music, as it entered the country with the Gospel in the 90's. A few of these musicians will even still profess faith in Christ. Mongolian music prior to the 1990's was pretty much rooted in traditional Mongolian folk music. Many of the young people I talk to "don't like" Mongolian folk music. This is why many (but not all) of the efforts of missioanaries and even a few ethnomusicologists to integrate Mongolian folk-music for the sake of "context" with the church has not seen total success across the country. Most of the young people (especially in the city) like modern western music. But this is not the main point I want to make here...

My concern is more about what I believe to be a universal confusion about the true nature of worship. I completely believe and embrace John Piper's very pertinent word about mission and worship that comes from the opening paragraph of Let the Nations Be Glad! (A book you must read if you have not already):

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't.

Worship being the "fuel and goal" of missions is an incedibly important principle. However, I think there's confusion in the ranks about the real nature of worship. Worship is not a service. Worship is not a music team. Worship is not a form. Worship is not a litergy (ancient or modern). Worship is not any style of music ... or even music at all. Now, my self-imposed word alottment will not allow me to get into all of the ways that these things interact with and play into true worship. But we must not confuse the form with the substance.

Worship is about a life increasingly submitted to God because of an increasing awe of God. A person listening to good music can fake worship. A person who is in awe of a beautiful, almighty, allpowerful, all-wise, all-loving Creator and Redeemer ... well ... that can't be faked. That's the kind of worship that I think Pastor John was talking about.

But we get confused. In Nashville and in UB. Very confused.

I'm amazed at church planters who begin with spending their credit limit on music, sound boards, and light shows. I don't want to be a hypocrite. I love music. I love sound and light. I love technology (as my writing on this blog would indicate) There's beauty in it. But please, let's never confuse music with the substance of worship. Any kind of music. It's a form and tool, and a potential idol, and nothing more. I'm afraid the fallout from the "worship wars" of the 80's and 90's is utter confusion about the reality of worship. That confusion is in the context where I work in a big way.

There are churches here that feel they are inadequately equipped if they do not have "technics" (what they say when refering to soundboards and amplifiers). If a church just has an unamplified acoustic guitar, they don't feel they can truely "worship". Anytime any of us come to that conlusion, I say there is a misunderstanding of real worship. Nashville and her guitar pickers become more important than worship's Object. Music has become the substance and we miss the point.

Matt Redmond's song "The Heart of Worship" is very popular in churches here. I wish so very much that the message of that song would be heard.

I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about You
All about You, Jesus
I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it
When it's all about You

I don't think we need more guitar pickers. 1352 is more than enough. I think we need more people who are in awe of Jesus.

And ... as I say all of that ... I must now close and begin choosing music for International Church next week, as I will be guitar-picking while "leading worship" this Sunday.

Like I said ... hypocrisy abounds. May Jesus be larger than the music this Sunday. And today.

**For those who are too young to know (or you you did not have an audiophile Father like I do), this is a line from a song called "Nashville Cats". It was originally sung by "The Lovin' Spoonful", and covered by several others through years.

How would  you define real Biblical worship? How does Worship relate and interact with Mission?
Love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


Friday Photos: Long Winter Exposure

While walking home this week, I was experimenting with a tripod and some long exposure shots in the UB streets. The problem this time of year is both the cold and the smoke. The cold makes it uncorfortable to stay outside for too long (and starts freezing camera equipment!) and the smoke somewhat distorts many of the night-time exposures (causes unwanted lens flares, etc.) 

In any case ... here are a few that I don't mind sharing with you this week!  Happy Friday! 



Missiotechnica: Facebook is for 15 Year Olds

"I don't have time for Facebook".

I hear that a lot. And in the 15-year-old-girl sense of the word, I don't have time for Facebook, ether. Or Twitter. Or YouTube (although I prefer Vimeo for video sharing). Or Pinterest. Or any of the other Social Media options that exist on the Internet. The issue is I am not a 15 year old girl (That is admittedly an ageist and possibly a sexist statement, for which I apologize up front) and I believe that there is great value and power in Social Media, particularly as it applies to those who are involved with worlwide Kingdom work. I want to use this article to make a plea to all of my colleagues to consider using social media for Kingdom work and communiction.

Here's the caveat.

Yes ... all social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) can be addictive and narcissistic. It's true. As with anything that causes stumbling or unholiness or disconnects us or our work from Jesus, caution should be exercised and disconnection may be the healthiest option for any one of us at any given point in time. For some, social media can replace "real life" relationships and be an escape for those who are in particularly lonely or unhealthy circumstances. I get that.

However, I don't believe it has to be this way.

And ... these tools, used for the Kingdom, are tools to be reckoned with.

Here are some reasons why all M workers should consider their use.

  1. Your kids are on
    The reason I started a Facebook account back in 2007 was not to play Farmville. It was mainly because my kids were wanting to join facebook (we have a strict familial policy of not lying about your age, so both of my kids were the required 13 years old before joining). For young teenage kids, there isn't much they can hide on there. I highly recommend that all parents of teenage children join what ever social media you allow your children to join. Yes, both of my kids have been grounded at some point because of something that happened on social media. But that's the point. I could see everything they did on there. Sure, my kids called me a "stalker" ... but I don't mind footing that bill when it comes to my own kids.
  2. I hear from people with children who chuckle about the fact that their kids are on Facebook but "Oh, I don't have time for that". My interior response is that if you allow your kids on any kind of social medua, then you'd better make time. Our children are more important than our ministry. and for that reason alone, I joined social media networks 6 years ago, and have been keeping digital tabs on my kids ever since.

  1. Your extended family is on
    Now that my kids are older, and living in the US, it's a key technological connection point between us and them. Now I also connect with my Dad (and my Mom vicariously through my Dad's account) and other family members, who would really have no contact point with our family otherwise. Most conversations with my brother are through Twitter. Hudson Taylor lamented the limited contact he had with his beloved family. That's not a necessary evil in missions anymore. You can (and should) stay in touch with the lives of family members, and a healthy use of social media provides a quick and easy way to do so. For many, they are some of our biggest supporters and most important relationships.

  2. Your supporters are on
    Social media is a powerful communication tool for engaging our supporters and "rope-holders". My wife has more than once received immediate prayer support in distressful times through Facebook. More people read our newsletters (and even this blog and website!) because of the nature of quick dissmination through Social Media. If we still depend on newsletters or "deputation" to stay connected with people in our home churches, I think we're going to miss enormous opportunities and, ultimately, will not really stay connected. Most of my generation and younger connect this way. We are missing real opportunities with them if we're not connecting with them through these means, as well. I often hear "I prefer to just pick up the phone and have a real conversation with real people." That sounds very holy and spiritually correct. But the thing to remember is 1. the people we connect with via social media are "real people" 2. when living time zones away from our friends, supporters and family the phone is rarely both a timely and viable option for communication.

  3. The World is on
    There are over one billion people actively on Facebook. Twitter stats are a little less forthcoming, but it seems that there are about 200 Million active Twitter accounts as today. I have so many Mongolian friends and coworkers who I connect with via Social Media. Our Center in Ulaanbaatar actively uses Facebook to connect with local residents, as does UBean Coffee House. I use Twitter to stay conncted with news, products and Internet posts in which I'm personally interested.

I realize there are issues that prevent some workers from connecting with social media. This would be particularly true where security levels are high, or where it's not possible because of restrictions on public Inernet use. I've seen some creative ways around this. Using a VPN is an excellent security tool in most parts of the world (and enables you to use NetFlix ...  just saying). We have colleagues who live in high security areas who simply keep an anonymous Facebook profile, but are still able to connect with coworkers and supporters all over the world.

So, I encourage my colleagues who are not connecting with friends, family, colleagues and supporters in this way to seriously consider, or reconsider, your use of social media. Again, I realize that it's not for everybody. But for those who are in our line of work ... I don't see how it can't be useful.

How (if at all) do you use social media in your work and ministry? Do you agree that it's a useful tool that should be used in the "M" worker context, or something that should be avoided? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

(note: I am going to be trying some new kinds of blog posts on the website. I'm keenly interested in the way International Workers use technology to further the interests of the Kingdom. I'm going to try and write a weekly "MissioThechnica" related post on various issues surrounding technology and international work. Let me know if you have anything in this area interests you. I'll try to bring it up here for review and discussion.

Page 1 ... 3 4 5 6 7 ... 51 Next 5 Entries »