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Google is partnering with the Israel Antiquities Authority to launch the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, an online collection of 5,000 images of scroll fragments. Among the texts is the Book of Deuteronomy, which includes the Ten Commandments, and part of Chapter 1 of the Book of Genesis, which is seen in the picture above and measures in at about 10 cm. Google said the initiative will shed “light on the time when Jesus lived and preached, and on the history of Judaism.” “Millions of users and scholars can discover and decipher details invisible to the naked eye, at 1215 dpi resolution,” Google said in an official blog post. “The site displays infrared and color images that are equal in quality to the Scrolls themselves. There’s a database containing information for about 900 of the manuscripts, as well as interactive content pages. We’re thrilled to have been able to help this project through hosting on Google Storage and App Engine, and use of Maps, YouTube and Google image technology.” // Read more here…

Matt Steen and I talk about Rick Warren’s recent tweet about his phone’s ring town being ‘Gangham Style’ and how it has infuriated some bloggers. This is just one more reason that I’m glad I’m not Rick Warren.  Can you imagine people writing blog posts every time you tweet?  Oh my. CBS News even posted this: Well… here’s our take… Sorry for the ‘not great’ video quality.  My internet connection is bad here in rural Ohio.  🙂 When America’s Pastor Goes Gangham Style 

David Murrow writes a piece entitled “Church Growth:  It’s All About the Pastor” over at the Church for Men website.  See if you agree with his thinking: Can I be brutally honest? When it comes to church attendance, nothing matters as much as the ability of the pastor to deliver good sermons. If a pastor is good at his job the church grows. If he’s bad at his job the church shrinks. Sounds unspiritual – but it’s true. It shouldn’t be this way – but it is. Each week is a referendum on the pastor’s ability to deliver an inspiring sermon. Admit it – you’ve gotten into the car with your spouse and begun critiquing the sermon before you’re out of the church parking lot. Or you’ve been asked, “How was church?” What do you talk about? The sermon. Let’s be real: Protestants judge the quality of a worship service largely by the power of the sermon to move them. Nothing else comes close. This is why the right minister can cause a church to sink or soar. I liken it to a football team: an NFL squad has 53 men, but the team’s fortunes rise and fall on the talents of one man – the quarterback. If he can deliver lots of touchdowns, the team wins. If he can’t, the team loses. Granted, the signal-caller must have good players around him, but as the Denver Broncos are seeing this year, a great QB means everything. The same is true with church attendance. When it comes to numbers, nothing matters as much as the ability of the pastor to deliver engaging sermons. Preaching is everything. It pains me to write these words. In an ideal world, what SHOULD matter is prayer, the presence of the Spirit, the love of the people for one another and the church’s ministry in the community. In that ideal world a church should be able to take out one preacher and install another without a hiccup. And while we’re at it, why does the size of a church even matter? Jesus would choose a church of 12 sold-out disciples over a church of 12,000 passive pew-sitters any day. We can argue these points until Christ returns, but this blog post is about attendance. Numbers. And when it comes to putting men in pews, nothing matters more than pastoral quality. Every other consideration pales in comparison. // read more here… What do you think?  Does it ALL really come down to the ability of the pastor’s preaching skills? I’d love to hear your input…  leave a comment below… Todd

Retired Brigadier General Tom Kolditz wrote a great piece over at  He explores warning signs before a fall and how to recognize them.  He also gives some insight into how many leaders (and I think this fits really well with church leaders specifically) put themselves in a position where a fall is more likely. NOTE:  This article brings no mention of faith to the discussion… it talks merely from a human standpoint, but I still think it is something that every church leader should read today… read and head the warnings: Most explanations for bad personal decisions among top-tier leaders involve unchecked egos, and the expansion of a leader’s personal staff in organizations with otherwise austere personnel practices is a clear indication that the individual is taking precedence over the organization. In the military, tradition holds that flag officers have a small personal staff that includes an Aide-de-Camp. In the past 20 years, however, new follower roles have emerged around these military leaders–tiger teams, special initiatives groups, strategic communications advisors, protocol hostesses and social liaisons (a la Jill Kelley), special historians, biographers, videographers, all arguably focused more on the leaders themselves than on the organization broadly. Little wonder that egos expand to the breaking point. While regulations focus on the appropriate use of official aides, these sketchier positions have no such limitations. A general or admiral can literally surround themselves with buffers of personal staff, pulling advice and decision making closer to themselves and away from more formal organizational staff structures that are less likely to produce protective, fawning sycophants who are more tolerant of (or willing participants in) ethical transgression. The result is over-fed leader egos and limited access by others in the organization. This organizational phenomenon is worthy of scrutiny in all large organizations with powerful leaders, not just our military. There are clear lessons here for those who can clear their heads and hearts of the schadenfreude that accompanies public scandal. Think of integrity as an organizational quality to be nurtured daily. Avoid hero worship and the false perception that integrity is a heroic personal characteristic. The best organizations hold leaders accountable, and the best leaders are quick to hold themselves accountable. Great leaders have already made themselves expendable. And if egos are at the core of senior leader transgression, be highly cautious of buffers that grow between the leader and the greater organization. Perhaps the most important lesson is that the ongoing and passing scandals are not a requiem for heroes, but a rare glimpse into the simple human frailty of some of our finest leaders. // read more here… Thoughts? Todd

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Something I’ve learned:  People will always remember something that’s better than they expected, funnier than they expected or more enjoyable than they expected. In general the unexpected gets remembered.  We were talking about sexual purity in our youth environment.  We felt that generally students expect it to be overly serious, dramatic, and lifeless.  We wanted to shake it up and when they cam have them be surprised.  The results were: they were more attentive listeners than they ever had been and they remembered so far 2 years later the night.  Every time they say something like “I remember when you did that never music video thing… that’s right you talked about sexual purity I still remember how God’s plan for us is…”  It seems silly sometimes but every time we do something like this we get a huge return on application and retention in both adult and student environments.  To give you an idea this what did that night for sexual purity: Sometimes with creative pieces we try to put too much meaning into them.  Fun and humor can really open up a passage for the speaker to come up and impact lives.  

Smaller churches lack the resources of larger churches. This does not mean they will not be able to provide meaningful ministry to their members and community, but it does mean they will have to be more selective in what they offer. In 1948, the first In-N-Out Burger was founded by Harry and Esther Snyder in Baldwin Park, California. Harry’s idea of a drive-thru hamburger stand where customers could order through a two-way speaker box was quite unique. In that era, it was common to see carhops serving those who wanted to order food from their car. Harry’s idea caught on and California’s first drive-thru hamburger stand was born. The Snyder’s business philosophy was simple: “Give customers the freshest, highest quality foods you can buy and provide them with friendly service in a sparkling clean environment.” These principles have worked so well over the years that they are still the company’s fundamental philosophy. In-N-Out Burger has basically three items on their menus: burgers, fries, and drinks. There are no salads, no burritos, no chicken sandwiches. Think of the huge variety most other fast food chains offer. You would think In-N-Out made a mistake in limiting what they offer but they continue to be one of the most popular food chains in California, Nevada, and Arizona. I think smaller churches need to follow the example of In-N-Out…do a few things well and, “Give customers the freshest, highest quality foods you can buy and provide them with friendly service in a sparkling clean environment.” What do you have the resources to do? By adding more ministries prematurely are you running the risk of providing a poor product and equally as bad, burned out workers? It would be better to do a few things well than a bunch of things half-baked that burn people out.
  • If you can’t do multi-media well…don’t do multi-media.
  • If you don’t have the manpower (usually it’s womanpower) to do a full-on Sunday school program, don’t do one.
  • If there are not resources and interest for doing small groups…let it go and wait until the time is right.
You get the point. Smaller churches need to copy In-N-Out not Dennys. Dennys offers everything you could ever want. In-N-Out…burgers, fries, and drinks. Since mission statements are so popular these days, perhaps your mission statement should be In-N-Out’s: “Give customers the freshest, highest quality foods you can buy and provide them with friendly service in a sparkling clean environment.”