Dion's random ramblings

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Viral Culture & New Media - is there any value for the Church?

As the man said!

This is a video interview / discussion with Bill Wasik on Viral Culture & New Media @NextSpace Santa Cruz

Before you jump to the video (and you'd best have some bandwidth to spare - but it is well worth watching), I have been reading Malcolm Gladwell's book 'The outliers'. It presents some fascinating research to challenge our views of success! For example, did you know that the overwhelming number of professional hockey players were born in January (in fact most of them in the first three weeks of January!) Did you know that most of the Tycoons of Industry were born in the 1830's, and that the tycoons of the internet (Gates, Joy, Jobs etc.) were all born within a few months of each other in the 1980's?

The point that Gladwell makes from his research is that 'talent' is only a small part of success. What made all of these aforementioned people a success in their fields was that they were ahead of the curve. Think about this for example, if Gates and Jobs had been just a little bit too young they would never have got ahead of the computer revolution and lead their way into the industry. If they were a little older they would perhaps have been married with kids and so not been willing to take the risks of starting up a new enterprise, and so some other younger, hungrier, more daring persons would have done it instead... Do you see the point? Being aware of where you are in history is an important thing!

There is little doubt that communication technology is absolutely revolutionising the world! The world is not the same as it was even 10 years ago. We can connect at no cost, and in an instant, with hundreds of thousands of people all over the world using a computing device that we can put in our pocket! Text messaging, facebook and twitter are changing the ways in which conversations are structured and engaged...

What is the Church doing about it? We still employ a 20-30 minute sermon as our primary means of communicating the unchanging Gospel to an ever changing world! My goodness that is unwise!

Bill Wasik on Viral Culture & New Media @NextSpace Santa Cruz from Allan Lundell on Vimeo.

Here are some other posts (videos and lecture notes) that I prepared on New Media and Ministry... And here is an exceptional reflection and critique by Steve Hayes that consciders a different aspect of technology and its use in ministry.

I would love to hear your feedback, thoughts and insights! How can we use these tools in our ministry? Do you know of anyone who is doing it well? Do you agree with me that our generation must get 'ahead' of this curve or we may just miss the boat?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

30 July - The feast of William Wilberforce.

From @Liturgy: 30 July is the feast of William Wilberforce, 1833.

Please follow this link for more detail on this remarkable man and his
ministry http://tinyurl.com/n2g56y

We could do with a few more heroes for the faith and the world!

Who do you think would be a contemporary Wilberforce?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Spiritual discipline - it is the little things that count.

For most of this year the parable of of the talents (Matthew 25:21 in particular) has been living within my heart and mind.

Great achievement is worth very little if one cannot be found faithful in the simple things - perhaps Matthew 25, was in part at least, a reflection by Jesus on the different standards of what matters most in life. What the world regards as great is frequently of little value in the Kingdom of God. Conversely what the world has little regard for is frequently very important in God's Kingdom.

I have tried to use this year to cultivate faithfulness in the 'little things'. These include things such as the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and giving. I have been intentional about spending quality time with my wife and children. I have taken my responsibility for my own body seriously by exercising and watching what I eat.

Amazingly I have found a measure of blessing in these things. As I have sought to be faithful in these disciplines they have brought great peace and satisfaction.

The quote below made quite an impact upon me:

Every spiritual master in every tradition talks about the significance of small things in a complex world. Small actions in social life, small efforts in the spiritual life, small moments in the personal life. All of them become great in the long run, the mystics say, but all of them look like little or nothing in themselves.

- Joan Chittister

Quite powerful isn't it?

The reality is that it will take some discipline and courage to go against the grain; to choose not to conform to the norms of a largely secular society. To be deeply connected with Christ may even require that one goes beyond the traditions and conventions of your Church community.

If you're interested in reading a more in-depth example of one person who did this you're welcome to download a free copy of my book 'An uncommon spiritual path: The quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity'. While this particular approach will not appeal to everybody, I do hope that as you read the pages you will see something of the courage that it took for Henri le Saux to go beyond the commonly accepted traditions (and even doctrines) of his faith to develop an authentic relationship with the person of Jesus Christ.

I'd love to hear your feedback!


Here is some more information about the book from my website - you can order a copy of the book here if you would like to own one on your shelf.

Are you tired of 'consumer' driven religion? Are you finding that the 'popular' steps to faith no longer satisfy your desire for true spiritual living? Then the novel and courageous approach of this book could be just what you have been longing for.

The truth is that people cannot be whole unless they have an active and deep spiritual life. One of the great shortcomings of many contemporary western cultures is that they lull us into believing that we can find peace, joy, and fulfillment in what we own, or in what we do. Sadly, many people have come to discover that the pursuit of wealth, power, and recognition by one?s peers, are shallow and meaningless against the backdrop of what it means to be truly alive. When one considers that a human person has physical, psychological, and spiritual needs, the pursuit of true and ultimate meaning becomes all the more important in a world that seems so increasingly devoid of depth.

This book charts a different course to the norm. It examines a way of life that may seem quite austere and strange to most of us. However, it will be shown that it is not the spiritual methodology, or even the content of this particular spiritual path, that brings blessing and peace. Rather, it is passing beyond methods, ideas, and even doctrines, that brings us into the presence of the God who gives and sustains true life; the kind of life Jesus speaks of in John?s Gospel (John 10:10)

This book charts this uncommon spiritual path by examining the 'non-dual' spirituality of Henri le Saux (Swami Abhishiktananda - meaning 'the bliss of Christ'), a French Benedictine monk in India. His approach is challenging, courageous, and even unsettling in some instances. However, his deep commitment to finding Christ is an inspiration.
Rich blessing in your daily spiritual discipline. Remember to be faithful in the 'small things'!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The cheapest way to travel in a recession!

Yup, this is the cheapest, and most fun way to travel in the current economic recession!

This picture was taken in my back yard (yup it is large enough to ride my Vespa - you just have to watch that you don't ride into the pool! ha ha! No, it's not that dangerous!) My Vespa, Mertyl, is a 1967 Vespa VLB Sprint 150cc - it was wrecked in an accident in February 2008, but thankfully I had it restored and it looks as good as new!

Man, I love my boy and my Vespa!!!

Enjoy life and be blessed!


Sunday, July 26, 2009

On being blessed and being a blessing...

Have you noticed that Lions never go on a hunger strike! This post will tell you a bit more about that - you see it comes down to consciousness and choice. These are but some of the privileges of human sentience... Read the post below for more detail on these thoughts, and if you feel like it, download the audio recording for a different perspective on freedom, choice and mediocrity.

Being blessed and being a blessing! A sneak preview of my next Radio Pulpit broadcast. You can download the MP3 recording here (6MB).

So much of life is about choices. I find that I can so easily slip into mediocrity. Do you struggle with the same? I either slip into the routines and expectations of my context - simply responding to the most urgent and necessary things that are taking shape around me each day. It would seem that Newton's laws of motion apply to so many aspects of reality! Inertia is a very powerful force in movement. It takes a lot of energy to break free from the direction in which one is traveling (or not traveling) at any moment. My studies in neuroscience have shown a similar trait in the manner in which our brains (perhaps the most powerful organ in our bodies) operate. The brain is not only geared towards survival (see this post for more on the three basic questions that all human brains operate on). Rather, it is geared towards the conservation of energy as a means of survival. Since energy is a fundamental aspect of our physical survival our brains make all kinds of choices (some that we're not even aware of) in order to ensure our most likely survival in a world of pressure, choice, and obstacles.

Think about this, your brain will increase or decrease your body's temperature, slow or increase your heart rate, and at times even cause you not to hear, see or smell things in order for you conserve energy and survive (women call it selective hearing, us men call it survival! ha ha ;-) But there are many other examples of how our brains, a part of our own bodies, fit into the wider set of systems that make up life in and around us.

Of course unlike animals we humans have the power and ability to control our bodies and minds. Have you ever noticed that Lions don't go on hunger strikes? Only humans have the capacity to consider what is MORE important than the momentary urges of survival. So, we may choose starve for some greater cause - of course even that often comes down to the survival of the species (if not our own survival, then at least the survival of our kin and kind).

We can choose! We can choose to become conscious of what truly matters in life. We can choose to become conscious of ourselves and others, and we can adjust our choices and behaviour in order to do more than just what is necessary! We can do what is Christlike, and in so doing find blessing and be a blessing.

So, the reality is that it becomes easy to just 'go with the flow'. The Philips translation of Romans 12:2 says something like 'Be careful that you do not get squeezed into the mold of this world'.

Energy, that's what it takes to be more than just ordinary! It takes a few radical choices, a few small victories, and a couple of little course adjustments and changes to begin to gain mastery over your life, your context and the 'mediocrity' of the world. We can choose to be more than just ordinary.

In this radio recording for my radio show on Radio Pulpit I discuss this notion in more detail.

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback!

Rich blessing,


Original Tweet: http://twitter.com/digitaldion/status/2754585458
Sent from http://www.twitter.com/digitaldion

Friday, July 24, 2009

School of Video Production interview with Dion Forster - On the Orange Couch

Here's a short interview that my friend Shane Vermooten from Media Village did with me for their series 'On the Orange Couch' at the School of Video Production in Kalk Bay in Cape Town.

In this video I discuss some of the issues related to how we can harness new media in Christian ministry. I also discuss some theological perspectives in the mission of the Church and of individual Christians in society as they relate to the Kingdom of God.

Find more videos like this on SVP 2009

Please share any thoughts and feedback!

You can find my original video, powerpoint slides, and post on new media in ministry on this link.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Losing my way... And, finding Christ (in Gauteng!)

One of the greatest personal struggles I face is the struggle of self-determination.  I face a constant battle between the things that matter, and the things that matter most.

I am determined, driven, and constantly seek to 'press forward', sometimes fooling myself that I am pressing forward to 'take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me'.  I know that I get it wrong - it is not a complex test that leads me to this outcome, rather it is simply recognizing how empty achievement and acclaim can be when it is not direct by God's Spirit and directed towards God's perfect will.

My will needs tempering and taming!  That's the simplest way to put it!  In the almost 40 years that I have been alive I have responded to the realities of my life, sometimes with appropriate grace - as a one who should respond to God's call, and at other times as someone who seeks their own satisfaction.  The latter frequently wins the approval of others since the world is geared towards selfishness, greed and gain.  However, it is in the former - responding to God's call - that I find peace, true meaning and the kind of security that cannot be removed.

These are tough times!  I am journeying with a number of people who have lost much because of the economic recession.  These are people at all levels of society.  Some live in informal settlements and have little hope of finding freedom from the struggle of their lives in the next five years, let alone the next months.  They have hungry children, sick families, and they long to be free to live.  Then there are those who are equally bound, accountants, directors; people who have studied and had the opportunity to work.  Yet, when their resources came to an end (whether through poor choices of their own, or by being retrenched and set aside through the choices of others) they have found themselves desperate, alone and afraid.

The one thing that I know to be sure, and I know it from personal experience through great struggle and pain, is that God's love and mercy is sure.  I know that God has chosen to establish a community of faith to enact His loving will, offering hope, life and care to those in need.  This community is the Church.  I have come to discover that the Church includes the churches.  There are many of them that do wonderful work, creating a magnificent balance between worship of God through liturgy, the sacraments and the proclamation of the Good News.  The better ones move that worship 'intro the streets' by caring for their members in their homes, their places of learning and places of work.  And, the very best realize that this care is offered to more than just their members, engaging in work that transforms society without having to 'tag' it with a label 'this belongs to Jesus', or 'this belongs to the Church'.

Today I am flying to Johannesburg (I have been here every week for well over a month) - it has been my joy to visit people in their offices, to get out onto construction sites, and to meet people on our roadwork projects.  I have a simple aim - I move among them to encourage and bless them.  I pray with those who have need, and always try point out the unexpected and unnoticed places in which God's grace can be seen, and made visible to others through what is already being done, and to encourage the notion of seeing work as worship - whatever our task, we can do it for Christ (both in honour of his Holiness, perfection, love and Grace. And also in accordance with the ways and will of Christ so that the Kingdom of God is established) Col 3:23-24.

It has taken me quite some time to find this simple ministry in the corporate world.  I have tried various things and often felt that I had lost my way in taking this challenging post.  I know how to run a congregation.  I know how to teach a class.  So, I have felt inadequate, under-equipped and not capable of doing ministry in this context for some time.  It is not easy to feel lost after many years of feeling 'found'.  It is easy to fall back into what I know - managing projects, initiating groups, planning seminars, developing resources and tools.  These things matter, but they are not what matters most!

There has been a significant realization in this experience.  The realization is that my security, for many years, was founded on my training, my developed abilities, and a measure of 'victory' within certain areas of ministry in the Church.  These are not bad things in themselves, but they can be a distraction from the true intent of being alive, the real reason for being in ministry.

Today I prayed this prayer in my devotions:

Grant, O God, that we may never lose the way through our self-will, and so end up in the far countries of the soul; 
That we may never abandon the struggle, but that we may endure to the end, and so be saved; 
That we may never drop out of the race, but that we may ever press forward to the goal of our high calling; 
That we may never choose the cheap and passing things, and let go of the precious things that last for ever; 
That we may never take the easy way, and so leave the right way; 
That we may never forget that sweat is the price of all things, and that without the cross, there cannot be a crown.

So keep us and strengthen us by your grace that no disobedience and no weakness and no failure may stop us from entering into the blessedness which awaits those who are faithful in all the changes and the chances of life down even to the gates of death; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (- taken from Prayers for the Christian year by William Barclay).

Be blessed today, do what matters, but never at the cost of what matters most!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

An Acts 29 story! 'Not by might, nor by Power' the story of the Global Day of Prayer

My friends, Graham Power and Diane Vermooten, have published a magnificent book entitled 'Not by might, nor by Power: An account of Global Day of Prayer, the largest prayer movement in all recorded history'

This book tells the story of the birth and growth of the Global Day of Prayer / Transformation Africa movement from the very first stadium event in Cape Town in 2001 to events in every single nation on earth (220 of 220 nations across the world registered prayer events on the 31 of May 2009!) It is estimated that approximately 400 million people participated in events across the globe.

If you live in South Africa you can order the book locally at a cost of R100.00.
Tel: 079 183 7164 / 021 802 6809
Address: 8 Stellendal Road, Somerset West, 7130
Office Hours: 8:00 - 17:00 Mon ? Fri

If you live outside of South Africa you can order it from Amazon.com by clicking here.

Here's some info from the cover of the book.

Reading the history of the continent of Africa and its people there are many blood-stained punctuation marks ? years of colonization, millions of lives sold as slaves, genocide, war and famine. The African story has been told in pain; but through the misery there has always been a song of hope, a deep burning desire that Africa?s time would finally come... A time when Africa would become the bearer of light and no longer carry the burden of darkness.

In February 2000, only one year after Graham Power gave his life to the Lord, God began to speak instructions and a powerful promise into Graham?s spirit. God instructed Graham to call together Christians of all denominations to gather for a day of repentance and prayer. A vision of a united, prosperous Africa began to stir in his heart. Now less than a decade later, what began in South African in 2001 with one stadium gathering has grown into the world?s largest single prayer event, taking place in almost every nation across the globe.

Graham Power?s description of the beginning of the Global Day of Prayer is proof of the power of the Holy Spirit, a testimony to the effectiveness of believer?s prayers, and a guide to cultivating dynamic intercession.

This story will inspire and challenge you!
I've sent hundreds of copies of this book to friends and family (one of the blessings of getting an author's discount) and I can assure you that it is beautifully written (Diane has a remarkable way of telling a story!) and it is a great encouragement indeed to see how simple faithfulness and sheer determination can encourage and bless millions of people across the earth!

Facing a busy week with God's blessing! A cry for mercy...

I have a regular Sunday evening ritual - I take some time to look through my appointments (and travels) for the week ahead.

As I look over each day's activity I consider the people that I will meet, the things I believe God would want me to achieve, and I commit both the people and tasks to Christ in prayer. Somehow this allows me to face even the busiest of times with joy, hope, and meaning.

I'll confess that sometimes I do feel a little anxious about what lies ahead! One of the complexities of my life is the frequency with which I travel - those of you who travel will know that the glamor of travel soon wears off! Each trip becomes another occasion to miss one's family and have the demands and work from the office pile up. This week I will be away from home for another two days (I think I have been in Gauteng for the past 5 weeks in a row). I have a few deadlines to meet (these are good pressures, not bad, but they are pressures nonetheless). As I looked over my diary, and considered the points on my 'to do' list I got a little anxious!

Thankfully, God knows what I can cope with and what I need.

This morning before I went to Church I was doing my daily devotions and came across this lovely reading from Henri Nouwen's book 'A Cry for Mercy' -

I call to you, O Lord, from my quiet darkness. Show me your mercy and love. Let me see your face, hear your voice, touch the hem of your cloak. I want to love you, be with you, speak to you and simply stand in your presence. But I cannot make it happen. Pressing my eyes against my hands is not praying, and reading about your presence is not living in it.

But there is that moment in which you will come to me, as you did to your fearful disciples, and say, "Do not be afraid; it is I." Let that moment come soon, O Lord. And if you want to delay it, then make me patient. Amen.

So, I go into the week with joy knowing that next week Sunday I will have done what I can, and that it will be enough!

I suppose one of the things that I have had to learn is to manage expectations and my own boundaries. Even those who care for us and admire us can put unintentional pressure on us. And of course if you are the kind of person who likes to please others (as I am) you can quickly find yourself overcomitted!

The Benediction in my Upper Room devotional book reads as follows:

Live today in Christ's presence, remember He is near and sustains you as you serve in his name. Amen

Friday, July 17, 2009

The most beautiful City in the world! What do you think?

It's home... Cape Town!

I love my city!!!

(the photo was sent to me via email so forgive me I'm not sure of copyright. Sorry!)

Peace and belonging...

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. - Mother Teresa

Please see this link for more on 'identity', belonging, community and identity (ubuntu).  

'Do South Africans exist?' an academic article on identity, relationship and the African philosophy of ubuntu http://is.gd/1BUwL

I would love to hear what your perspective is on the notion of belonging and peace!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Information and brain stimulation - why information is its own reward!

I am currently on the last contact week of the Senior Management Course at the University of Stellenbosch Business school. It has been fantastic to gain new insights into economics, marketing (and of course the related concepts of strategic thought, leadership and a whole host of other factors that influence our lives).

I find this stimulation quite rewarding! When I learn new things I feel energized and engaged with the ideas and concepts. Conversely when I set in a lecture where I feel that I am not learning much, and not able to contribute anything, I feel less energetic, lethargic and seem to lack energy!

I think that sometimes we all forget that the body is a complex integrated system in which all of the parts are interdependent and interlinked. When my brain is stimulated it will work through the endocrine system to excrete chemicals and stimuli throughout the whole of my body. This means that not only will my mind be stimulated by new ideas, but my whole body will be energized and engaged.

The converse is of course also true - when a persons body is under threat their thought processes tend to become sharper, quicker and much more creative (when a lion is about to bite off your leg you start thinking quickly and creatively to survive!)

Well, here's an interesting post on some recent research that shows the link between stimulating ideas and hydration in the body's interlinked systems:

To me, and I suspect many readers, the quest for information can be an intensely rewarding experience. Discovering a previously elusive fact or soaking up a finely crafted argument can be as pleasurable as eating a fine meal when hungry or dousing a thirst with drink. This isn't just a fanciful analogy - a new study suggests that the same neurons that process the primitive physical rewards of food and water also signal the more abstract mental rewards of information.


Humans generally don't like being held in suspense when a big prize is on the horizon. If we get wind of a raise or a new job, we like to get advance information about what's in store. It turns out that monkeys feel the same way and like us, they find that information about a reward is rewarding in itself.

Ethan Bromberg-Martin and Okihide Hikosaka trained two thirsty rhesus monkeys to choose between two targets on a screen with a flick of their eyes; in return, they randomly received either a large drink or a small one after a few seconds. Their choice of target didn't affect which drink they received, but it did affect whether they got prior information about the size of their reward. One target brought up another symbol that told them how much water they would get, while the other brought up a random symbol.

After a few days of training, the monkeys almost always looked at the target that would give them advance intel, even though it never actually affected how much water they were given. They wanted knowledge for its own sake. What's more, even though the gap between picking a target and sipping some water was very small, the monkeys still wanted to know what was in store for them mere seconds later. To them, ignorance is far from bliss.


Bromberg-Martin and Hikosaka demonstrated that even more clearly with a second, slightly different task. This time, the monkeys always received information about their watery rewards and the initial choice of symbol simply determined how quickly this information was provided. After a few goes, the monkeys clearly wanted their info immediately. If the researchers swapped the target that provided the most instant information, the monkeys swapped the direction of their gaze.

This preference for knowledge about the future was intimately linked to the monkeys' desire for water. The same neurons in the middle of their brains signalled their expectations of both rewards - the watery prizes and knowledge about them.

All the neurons in question release the signalling chemical dopamine. While the monkeys were making their choices, Bromberg-Martin and Hikosaka recorded the activity of 47 dopamine neurons in their midbrains. These neurons became very excited when the monkeys saw a symbol that predicted a large amount of water, while the symbol that cued a smaller drink inhibited the neurons. The same dopamine neurons were excited during trials where the monkey only saw the symbol that heralded forthcoming information, and they were inhibited if they monkey only saw the other non-informative symbol.

So the same population of midbrain neurons signal changes in both the thirst for water and for knowledge. The more active they are, the stronger that thirst is. One monkey had a stronger preference for early information than the other and indeed, its dopamine neurons were more active when it saw the informative symbol. Even for each individual monkey, the neurons were more active on specific trials where they showed a preference for advanced knowledge.

Dopamine neurons are thought to be involved in learning about rewards - by adjusting the connections between other neurons, they "teach" the brain to seek basic rewards like food and water. Bromberg-Martin and Hikosaka think that these neurons also teach the brain to seek out information so that their activity becomes a sort of "common currency" that governs both basic needs and a quest for knowledge.

Reference: Neuron 10.1016/j.neuron.2009.06.009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sustainable economies, world resources and wolframalpha

Today we are doing economics at business school. It is frightening to think that 21% of the world's economy comes from 5% of the world's population (the USA). The USA has a high services component (education, health care, safety etc.) and relies heavily on other countries for Agriculture and mining (food and minerals). Of course that comes from Africa which is the largest food and mineral resource base (25% of the world's physical resources comes from here). Amazingly the world's production of food has outstripped the world's demand for food - in other words there is MORE food in the world than there are hungry people! Of course this food goes where there is money (so most African nations export their food and minerals while their people starve).

Ghandi once commented that ?The earth has enough resources to meet every man?s need, but not every man?s greed?.

I quickly went back to WolframAlpha to get some 'knowledge' (as opposed to just information - see yesterday's post on this wonderful tool). Now consider this - nations that can buy food, and that have a high proportion of services (health, education, safety, water production etc.) in their economy will have a much higher expected life expectancy at birth). So consider this... If you are born in the USA you will be expected to live longer (because you will have both food and services). Yet a nation like Swaziland that is resource rich will export its food and its economy is structured towards providing food and minerals for export to the rest of the world!

Take a look at this shocking statistic for life expectancy in Swaziland (31.9 years!), whilst in America it is 78.9 years! Of course HIV and AIDS have a huge impact on this (again, what is required is a strong services sector in the economy! Medical care (for those who are sick) and education for those who are not yet effected - but these lesser developed economies cannot focus on these elements since their basic survival is based around harvesting their natural resources to bring money into their economies to fund growth).

I am not sure if you know that 'economics' comes from two Biblical words (oikos meaning household, and nomos meaning to manage). I wonder how God feels when God sees all of the Children in God's household, some are fat, some are starving, some of us have everything whilst others have nothing!

I remember Bishop Dandala commenting some years ago that Africa is heading for a new form of colonisation - economic colonisation, where the strong will take over our land, our resources, and our political and economic systems simply because we shall have the natural resources, but our people will be so weakened by poverty and AIDS that we will sell it all for survival. In this context strong economies like China, America and India will take over what we have in order fund their development and growth from a position of dominance...

I would love to hear your thoughts. How do we turn this around? What can we, as Christians, do to transform the world's economies to make them more sustainable and Christ honouring?

I have a few other posts on economics here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Flash floods in Somerset West, Cape Town! See the photos and short video.

Original post from 12 July 2009.

This afternoon Megie, Courtney, Liam and I were driving home after lunch (I preached at Kaleidescope Church this morning). On our way home the rain started bucketing down! Within a few minutes the water was so deep that it was up the the bottom of the car doors! I haven't seen rain like this in years!

I thank God that we have a warm, dry, house - but heck I now know that my work in Power that helps to build affordable (and free) houses is truly worthwhile!

This short video was shot on my Nokia E90 by Megie.

This coming week I am back at the Stellenbosch Business school for the last of the contact sessions for the Senior Management Graduate Diploma. I am looking forward to learning more!

You can follow the events of the week on my twitter feed at http://www.twitter.com/digitaldion

Here's more on the flash floods in Somerset West yesterday. Take a look at this News24 article (the photo comes from there).

Be blessed!

13 July 2009

Here are a few more photos that I was sent.

This picture was taken on Victoria road at the bridge that runs from the N2 to Main road in Somerset West - look how deep that Taxi is in the water!

Thankfully the folks in the Taxi managed to get out safely!

This is the Steers Franchise in Main road Somerset West. Amazing!

Moving from information to knowledge.

One of the common misconceptions with the use of the internet is that one can get useful knowledge through web searches.

While this perception is not entirely untrue, the reality is that all that search engines do is that they 'farm' existing information on the internet (some of it that is useful and some of it that is not) and present you with a list of links to websites that contain information about your search term.

So, for example if I put 'Dion' into google.com it will look for the site that has A) the most hits, B) the longest history in existence, and C) that has the search term 'Dion' on it. (My name lands 3rd on the first page under Video and at the top of the second page of search results).

This is simple information - it is not knowledge. All that google is telling me is that there are a number of sites that refer to the word 'Dion' on the internet.

What we need in the information age is a tool that can help us to move from information to KNOWLEDGE. Knowledge is a useful comodity. This is where wolframalpha comes in!

This site is brainchild of Stephen Wolfram (a scientist) who has developed a mathematical model that can harvest information and then use mathematical models to turn the information into useful knowledge.

So, for example, if you put the name 'Dion' into wolframalpha.com it will do the same as google on the back end (i.e., search the internet for all information and references to the word 'Dion'), then once it has the information it draws out useful information. For example, it will search websites and connect the name 'Dion' with birth dates, population statistics, and death rates.

Wolframalpha will then give you back useful statistical knowledge like how many people on earth have that name, when the name was most popular, what the average age is among people who have that name and what their expected age is.

The site is still in its infancy, but it is heading the right direction! We need to move from information to knowledge.

Go along to wolframalpha.com and put your first name into the search engine and see what it spits out. Then take a look at a few other examples they have listed on calculations, stocks, and a host of other knowledge processes. Please let me know what you discover (and particularly if you find anything interesting!)

Perhaps we're getting closer to Ray Kurzweil's prediction that by 2029 we shall have intelligent machines.

Check here for more posts I've made about Artificial Intelligence, consciousness, the human brain and information technology.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Using New Media and Social Media in ministry

Last week I had the privilege of teaching some classes on new media and ministry at Media Village's School of Video Production.

Since most of the persons on the course were not theologically trained we spent the first day discussing issues related to the 'message' of ministry. In particular we talked about the message of the Kingdom of God and our responsibility to be agents of transformation in society (thus pitching the content of the message towards individuals in order to engage the individuals with the Gospel of Christ, and also empower individuals to transform systems and communities to embrace the ways of Christ).

I have recently become increasingly aware of the fact that the Church sees its mission mandate as a geographical mandate (i.e., go into all the 'world' making disciples of all nations...) However, there are 'worlds' that are not part of our regular geography - these include social networks and new social media. I'm not sure about you, but I so much more connected with many more people because of the technology of social media. I communicate with more than 1000 people each time I send out an update on my twitter feed - http://www.twitter.com/digitadion. I have over 700 followers on twitter, and since my twitter feed automatically updates my facebook profile the 460 friends I have on facebook (some of whom are also friends on twitter) receive my updates. This phenomenon shows when I look at the logs for my website! I see a huge spike in hits to my website after an interesting tweet!

The lectures themselves offered quite a lot of insight into the tools of social media (twitter, facebook, linkedin) and new media tools (which primarily are communication tools to get rich content (such as audio, video, electronic text, or still images) to large groups of persons).

My media strategy, as you shall see from the video below, is quite simple:

1. Build a wide range of relationships. This is where twitter and facebook come in. The intention of these relationships is the create opportunities to interact around common interests and concerns, and particularly to drive traffic to my content! I cannot emphasize this last point strongly enough!

2. Having built a wide range of relationships I use various means to present rich content to my network. These include videos through youtube and qik, electronic text via my blog, and of course audio via my podcast and images via flickr.

3. When persons visit any of these sites I try to provide content for free (books, podcasts, videos etc.) that will bring about returning visits.

The long and the short of this relationship is that it creates a model for engagement around issues of the Gospel (the love of God in Christ, justice, social transformation etc.) Furthermore, the model also serves as a platform from which to launch my thoughts and ideas - I cannot tell you how many wonderful opportunities have come because my blog is rated in the top 5 in the Mail and Guardian's religion blogs section. I frequently get emails, telephone calls, do radio and television interviews and have generated many sales for my books etc. through these contacts.

The 'secret' if I can put it as such, is to give away ones content for free whenever possible. My idea is that the most valuable thing I have is not the paper on which my books is printed, rather it is the ideas, concepts and engagement that form the books - and of course my time. So, persosn can have my work for free since it eventually leads them to contact me to engage around the content. This in turn allows opportunities for me to share the Gospel of Christ and to encourage others to work with me for the transformation of society and creation!

Well, here's the video on new media / social media:

And, here's a copy of the Powerpoint Slides I used over the three 2 days. Simply click the link to download them. There is a 'reading list' in the middle of the slides that may be of some help. Please feel free to use them as you wish, if I could simply ask that you give a linkback to my blog (or site http://www.dionforster.com ) if you use them.

I'd love to hear your perspectives on how the Church, and Christians, can use social media to bring God's will to bear on society.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The faith to change things...

I spent today with an incredibly engaging and committed group of students at the school of video production at Media Village in Kalk Bay, Cape Town.  It is always a privilege to teach, but it is an added joy when the students are eager to learn, highly skilled and engaged in their subject matter!

Today we talked about changing paradigms in Ministry and the Church.  We discussed the doctrine of the Church and the Biblical intention of the Church's mission, and we concluded the day with a discussion of a theology of ministry outside of the regular congregational setting (i.e., work as worship).  Tomorrow we will conclude the lectures with a look at how we can use new media to reach a changing world with the unchanging message of the Gospel of Christ.

I will post the powerpoint slides for the lectures once we're done with the sessions.

However, this evening as I was catching up on my emails for the day this quote came into my inbox from Sojourners:

This is the first generation in all of recorded history that can do something about the scourge of poverty. We have the means to do it. We can banish hunger from the face of the earth.

- Hubert Humphrey, (U.S. Vice President 1965-1969)

Here's a challenging passage of scripture to go along with it:

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you."

Luke 17:5-6

Monday, July 06, 2009

Practical Spiritual Disciplines - dealing with busyness

I'm not sure if this is the case with you, but I frequently find myself swamped with expectations and demands - busyness can be such a powerful distraction from what matters most in life! We read about such an account in Luke 10.38-42. I have often pondered that text in relation to my life.

You see, I like being productive. I like doing my best to see that I work towards establishing God's Kingdom where I am able to. In short, I quite like being busy! But, just because I like it, it doesn't mean that it must not be subject to Christ and to the Spiritual Disciplines of making one present to Christ and Christ's ways in the world and relationships you're in!

So, here's a copy of my next program for Radio Pulpit's 'The ministry and me' about the practical spiritual discipline of dealing with busyness. Please see more about Radio Puplit at http://www.radiopulpit.co.za

You can download an MP3 version of the file here: http://www.spirituality.org.za/files/RadioPulpit/Forster8Jun09.mp3 (6.7MB mp3).

I'd love to hear your comments, ideas, and feedback! Please email me for a transcript of the episode.

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Times of refreshing! Knysna Oyster Festival

On Friday we drove the 4 hours from Cape Town to Knysna to celebrate our friend Gary Power's 30th birthday in Knysna. Many blessings for the year ahead Gary. They were at their family holiday house on Thesen's Island in Knysna - this weekend is the Oyster Festival.

So, I entered to ride the 50km Mountain Bike ride in the forest around Knysna. It was an incredible ride! I did the 50km in just under 3 hours. Go to http://www.qik.com/digitaldion to see two short video clips I made on the race.

In the afternoon we went out onto the lagoon with our families. It has been a great weekend! I could do with a day or two more, but I feel refreshed and ready to face the next few weeks. I have a lot of domestic travel coming up (at least two days a week for the next month).
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