12 Witnesses

Let these stones be a witness to what we have done here this day.

Rundown of the UU conference

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For great info, you can follow the twitter feeds of: Marty Duren, Micah Fries, Trevin Wax and me.

For blogs of the full content, be sure to check out Trevin Wax and Steve Weaver.

Ed Stetzer and the Future of Denominations

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Could you tell that I’ve lost my passion for live blogging?  I’d forgotten to even write about Ed until this morning. :)

But I do have several things to offer.

First, Trevin Wax is here and is ready to challenge Timmy Brister for champ of the live blog.  Here are his notes on Ed’s presentation.

Also, here is a link to the tweets I put up at the MissioScapes twitter feed.

Finally, I’d like to summarize my reaction to Ed’s super fast talking.

The gist of it all was that, yes, we will have denominations, but what they will look like has yet to be determined. Nevertheless, churches naturally will find each other and will work together if they have a passion for the Great Commission.

Still, there are benefits and burdens that go along with denominations. The burdens center around our tendency to focus on the mechanisms of our cooperation rather than our common calling.

The benefits are many and, quite frankly, are both obvious and listed in the above links.

What most struck me about the message was the forceful tone he took calling for cooperation.  This might not surprise you, but what might surprise you is that, at one point, Ed suggested that if certain people can’t get along with the rest of us, insist on attempting to run everyone else out or force us to conform, then THEY should leave the convention.

The people about whom he was speaking were obvious to the engaged SBC observer and even to the more disengaged former SBC blogger, like myself.

In terms of pointed rhetoric, Ed was somewhere between his usual provocativity and Marty Duren from back in the old days.  On the SBC spectrum of “lighting it up,” if Micah Fries is a 1 (humbly opinioned) and Ben Cole is a 10 (Shock & Awe), Ed normally resides in the middle at a happy 5.  I’d have to say that last night, Ed jumped up to 8 on a few occasions, which was kind of fun.

Especially because I agreed with him.

Had he been talking more about me (and he did from time to time) I might not have enjoyed it as much.

The Future of Denominationalism Schedule

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denominationalismI mentioned Friday that I was traveling to Jackson, TN for this conference and as you read this, I am on the road.

I mentioned that I would be blogging and twittering from there during the conference.  given that, you might want to check out my twitter feed: twitter.com/artrogers, or the missioscapes twitter feed: twitter.com/missioscapes, or even these guys, who will also be there: twitter.com/martyduren & twitter.com/micahfries.

My plan is to twitter live, either through my own feed or through the MissioScapes feed, or both.  Then I’ll recap thoughts in a blog post later.

Here is a schedule published by Union University that you might consider if you are looking to follow live tweets on particular issues:

Schedule

Tuesday, October 6
  • 5:00 p.m. Ed Stetzer: Denominationalism: Is There a Future?
  • 6:00 p.m. Dinner
  • 7:00 p.m. Jim Patterson: Reflections on 400 Years of the Baptist Movement: Who We Are. What We Believe.
Wednesday, October 7
  • Continental Breakfast
  • 8:30 a.m. Harry L. Poe: The Gospel and Its Meaning: Implications for Southern Baptists and Evangelicals
  • 10:00 a.m. Timothy George: Baptists and Their Relations with Other Christians (G. M. Savage Chapel)
  • Noon Luncheon Address – Duane Litfin: The Future of American Evangelicalism
  • 2:00 p.m. Ray Van Neste: The Oversight of Souls: Pastoral Ministry in Southern Baptist and Evangelical Life
  • Afternoon and dinner on your own
  • 7:00 p.m. Corporate Worship: Robert Smith, preaching, (G. M. Savage Chapel)
Thursday, October 8
  • Continental Breakfast
  • 8:30 a.m. Mark DeVine: Emergent or Emerging: Questions for Southern Baptists and North American Evangelicals
  • 10:00 a.m. Daniel Akin: The Future of the Southern Baptist Convention
  • Noon Luncheon Address – Michael Lindsay: Denominationalism and the Changing Religious Landscape in North America
  • 2:00 p.m. Jerry Tidwell: Missions and Evangelism: Awakenings and Their Influence on Southern Baptists and Evangelicals
  • 6:00 p.m. Banquet
  • 7:00 p.m. David S. Dockery: So Many Denominations: The Rise and Decline of Denominationalism and the Shaping of a Global Evangelicalism
Friday, October 9
  • Continental Breakfast
  • 8:30 a.m. Nathan Finn: Southern Baptists and Evangelicals: Passing on the Faith to the Next Generation
  • 10:00 a.m. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.: Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism (G. M. Savage Chapel)
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*There is one caveat.  I am also dealing with a great many things personal and professional while on this trip.  I am not guaranteeing that I will be at every session to tweet/blog.  I fully intend to be at the ones I perceive as most relevant.  This is not to discount any of the speakers or their topics, but to simply let everyone know that other things may take precedence for me.

Vietnam 2009: Reintegration

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I’m in the San Francisco airport and I’m noticing so many different attitudes – in those around us and (most disturbingly) in myself.

While moving through security, a man wanted past one of our teens and cursed them under his breath as he went by.  This may have happened in Vietnam, but mostly everyone just made their way through and around everyone else.  Jimmy overheard the guy and asked him, “Kinda grumpy arencha?”  The man never paused or turned.

The flip side is the selfishness that I’ve found myself experiencing.  We’ve got a really bad layout for our flight schedule.  Our travel agent is based in Dallas/Ft. Worth and so she routed us through there, even though we asked to be routed through Denver (direct flights to Tulsa) which would have dropped a leg off our journey, presumably saving us money and TIME.

While in Vietnam, I was frequently asked to adjust schedules and do things to accomodate others and it was no problem.  My mindset was that I was there to serve and I was happy to do so.

Now I’m in San Francisco and the desire to serve has been replaced by the desire to be served.  My aggravation over the travel plans is cumbersome.

It’s not that I should accept the situation passively and without question.  We hired her to do a job and she didn’t do it as well as she could have, so we are going to look elsewhere for better performance.  That’s not wrong.

My consternation with my own attitude stems from the reality that I sense a sinful and selfish attitude within.  There’s a difference in wanting more for my money and having some sense of entitlement that reveals my wicked heart.

How is it that I can turn off and on the desire to serve?  What makes me think that there are times to serve and times when I am to be served?  I’m grateful that Jesus did not demand to be served at all times He was worthy of it, but yielded His rights and poured Himself out as a servant.  From His service to the Father, I am redeemed.

I have such a long way to go.

Vietnam 2009: School Engagement

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In the rural mountains of Lao Cai Province, near the China border, there are schools serving ethnic minorities that live on neighboring farms.  The pictures above are from last year’s trip where we saw Forefront Church out of Virginia installing a computer lab, a water filtration system which will be used by the region and building relationships with the kids through sports at Ta Phin School.

This year we will be installing a computer lab and building relationships at San Sa Ho.  I hope that next year we can install a water filtration system. Though the cost for that is much greater, it will affect so many more people.  We will be adopting this particular school in hopes of building long term relationships and making a cumulative impact in their lives over many years.

The computer lab (consisting of two computers and a printer) will be the first computers these kids will ever see, most likely.  As the government brings connectivity out to the school, they will go from being exposed to the mountains of rural north Vietnam to being exposed to the whole world.  It is a giant leap that we are able to help provide and a privilige to do so.

Please remember to pray for the children and families of San Sa Ho.

Simple Church 2

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Geiger is paralleling the shutting down of Starbucks for three hours in the middle of the week – all stores nationwide – to retrain the employees on how to brew great coffee.  They had gotten so diverse that they had forgotten the main thing.  They also have cut out all breakfast sandwiches because they compete with the smell of the coffee.

Does your church look more like yahoo (homepage) which is busy or google (homepage) which is simple and clean.  Is it more distracting with a million things offering the next greatest thing or simplicity that allows you to focus on why you came there.

He reads a letter from the Yahoo CEO in response to a critique from a newpaper.  Simply put, he says that they lack a cohesive vision.  We try to do so much that we do nothing well.  You can search for it.  It’s called the Peanut Butter Manifesto from Yahoo.

Matthew 16:13-19

Peter, you are the petros (little rock) and on this huge rock (petra – assume Christ is the big rock) I will build my church and … our programming is going to be awesome!!!  You see the point.

The church is to be a driving force that would break through the gates of hell, but we aren’t seeing that in North America.

Doing the research in Southern Baptist Church the original parameters for a growing church were to be 10% growth for 3 consecutive years, but there were only 117 churches that fit into that group and it wasn’t enough for a solid sample.  They had to back down the parameters to 5% growth for 3 consecutive years just to get a sample.

The perception was that the churches that were really growing were the ones that were more simple and not those that were trying to do everything.

The research turned out to be outstandingly reliable that the observation was correct.  It was verifiable at the .001 level, which is super accurate.

A Simple Church is a congregation that is designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth.

The keyword is not “simple” but “process.”  You can’t simply eliminate stuff, though.  You have to start with your process and find what you need to begin to reduce.  It is not a model.  You get a simple and clean process.

4 keys to a clear and simple process

Clarity   1 Cor 3:9-11, 14

1.  I am God’s builder. Eph 4:11-12

2.  Building the body of Christ is an Ongoing Process. Col 2:6-7

3.  Our ministry needs a clear ministry blueprint.

4.  I must ensure there is a clear “How”.

5 Essentials

1.  Define your process – a) Determine what kind of disciple you wish to make.  Narrow the list as much as possible. b) Describe your purpose as a process.  (Place your key words in order.)  c) Decide how each weekly program is a part of your process. (If it is not a part of the process, then reduce. It is sideways energy.  Anytime you have stuff in addition to your core process, you are competing with yourself.  When you say yes to the side stuff, you say no to the main stuff.)

2.  Illustrate your process.  The illustration must show progression.

3.  Measure your process.  a) What gets measured gets done. (Measure quarterly not weekly) b) View numbers horizontally and not vertically.  (Vertical numbers are measured through the lens of the program – x in Awanas last year, and y this year.  Horizontally is measured in the process, not the program.  Example:  35% growth in worship and 10% growth in small groups would look like a success in small group growth if measured vertically.  Horizontal measurement reveals that not all the growth in moving through the process.)  c) Measure each stage in your process.

4.  Discuss your process

5.  Increase understanding. a) Articulate corporately b) Share interpresonally c) Live personally (whatever vision you seek to impart – you have to live it.  Be a tour guide and not a travel agent.  Go on the journey with them.)

Movement in a Simple Church 2 Cor 3:14, 17-18

We are not like Moses who hid a faded glory behind a veil, because we never leave the mountain.  God is always with us.  The glory is not decreasing, but increasing.

1.  Only God can transform.

2.  Spiritual transformation moves people to greater levels of commitment.

3.  Our ministry must place people in the pathway of God’s transforming power.

4.  I must design a process that partners with God to move people through the process of spiritual growth.

Five Prescriptions to Remove Congestion

1.  Strategic programming.  a) Begin with your clearly defined process. b) Choose one program for each phase of your process. c) Design each program for the specific aspect of the process.

2. Sequential programming.  a) Order the sequence to reflect your process b) Designate a clear entry point.  c) Identify next level programming

3. Intentional Movement  a) Create short term steps b) Capitalize on relationships c) Consider the “Now what?” d) Connect people to groups

4. Clear next step for new believers  a) New believers are the greatest evangelistic resource – they still know lost people. b) What is our strategy to move new believers?

5.  New members’ class  a) Structure the class curriculum around your process – teach through it b) Ask for a commitment to the simple process

Alignment

1.  Unity reflects the nature of God

2. Unity is attractive

3.  God is passionate for our unity

4.  I must align people around our simple process

*disagreement most often happens over methodology.

5 Essentials to Alignment

1.  Recruit on the process a)look for philosophical alignment, not just theological alignment b) look for a similar ministry approach, not just a similar doctrine

2.  Offer accountability a) Job descriptions should be tied to the simple process b) Individual ministry goals should be aligned to the overall church direction and ministry process

3.  Implement the same process everywhere a) Understanding is increased b) Unity is promoted as silos are eliminated c) Families experience the same process

4.  Unite people around the process  a)Remind people of the process b)highlight contributions to the fulfillment of the process

5.  Align new ministries

Focus

1.  The tools for worship can become the objects of our worship.

2.  God applauds the removal of anything that hinders spiritual transformation.

3.  Programs can become an end in themselves instead of a means to an end.

4.  I must focus our energy, resources, and attention on the process God has given our church.

*Once you have it – stay focused on it.

5 Essentials to Focus

1.  Eliminate non-essential programs.  a) Elimination is a matter of stewardship of money b) Elimination is a matter of stewardship of time

2.  Limit adding programs a) Use existing essential programs for special emphases b) Less is more c) Limit adding programs, not options (multiple worship services)

3.  Reduce special events (competes with the essential) a) Funnel the event into an existing program b) Combine the event with an existing program c) Use the event strategically

4.  Ensure the process is easily communicated

5.  Ensure the process is simple to understand a) Choose simple language b) Be brief

*”I am as proud of the things we have not done as I am of the things we have done.” – Steve Jobs of Apple [Note from Art – Macheads really love that]

Simple Church 1

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Ok, so I arrive at the church for the Simple Church conference and find that my camera battery is completely drained but there’s unsecured wireless internet in the sanctuary.

I’ll take it as a sign from God to live blog.  :)

We’re just getting set up and it looks like we’ll be starting soon.  They are graciously allowing drinks in the Worship Center, so caffeine addicts are soothed and stirring.  Geiger has his own presentation set up and they are getting it together with the screen currently present.

The group behind me is having a good time.

Cole Hedgecock, one of the least tech savvy guys I know, is setting up the projector.  I was going to type that we may be a while, but he finally got it and is welcoming us.

Preliminaries are done and we”ll be starting next.  Back with more in a few.

Founders Conference: Andy Davis

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Dr. Andy Davis is the Pastor of FBC, Durham, NC, who came to a theologically divided church which is typical of many FBC situations in the old south.  He led the church back to a theologically Biblical standard and shared with us ten “Dangers of Reforming a Church.”  (Or… 10 things to not do when reforming a church – Art)

I have to say that this was a powerful message and hit me right where I needed it and I heard that from many people in the conference as well.

While reforming FBC, Durham, Dr. Davis said he saw the greatest glimpse of the glory of God at work.  He also saw the most bitter conflict and pain in ministry.  In the middle of teaching expositionally through Scripture, he said he felt led to preach, out of sequence, through Revelation 1:10-20.  Jesus is speaking to John and asking for John to write to the Pastors (angels – angelos or messengers) at the seven churches nearby the Island of Patmos, where John was imprisoned.  Jesus is walking among the lampstands (churches) made of gold (value/purity) and holding the stars representing the pastors in His right hand – a very comforting image.  The church belongs to Christ and the undershepherds are in His hand.

Facing the reformation of the church was a very daunting task.  As he read Revelation 1-3, he was confronted with the “immense danger of NOT reforming the church”:  that the lampstand would be taken from its place – judgement would come from God Himself.

10 Dangers of Reforming the Church

  1. Forgetting the Centrality of God.  The church is God’s and He is the central figure in it.  Trusting Him is crucial to success.  Acts 20:28 – the church was bought by His blood.  1 Cor. 3:17 – God will judge who tears down His temple.
  2. Self Reliance.  We always turn to ourselves to see if we can handle the situation.  2 Cor. 1:9 – Rely on God who raises the dead.  Deut. 1:41 – Israel has refused to take the promised land and God declare they must wander for 40 years.  Their response is to go up to the hill country and fight after God says He will no longer go with them.  They chose to go as if it were easy. Self reliance kills in two ways.  1.  You look into yourself and don’t find what you need to accomplish the task, so you blaspheme God and refuse the call.  2.  You look inside and think you do find what you need to answer the task, so you trust yourself and ignore God.
  3. Failure to Rely on God’s Word alone – or the Sufficiency of Scripture.  Do you believe that God’s Word has all that is needed and is powerful enough?  Is. 55:10-11, God’s Word will not return void.  2 Cor. 4:2 – Renouncing secret ways avoiding worldly political maneuvering and being completely honest, places trust in God and His Word.
  4. Deficiency in Prayer.  This is from a title of one of Jonathan Edward’s sermons.  1 Sam. 12:23 – Far be it from me to sin against God by failing to pray for you.  Eph. 1:15-23 – Praying that they may know God, know God, and know God – “17 [I pray] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, [a] would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 [I pray] that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength.” -HCSB
  5. Pride toward you opponents.  That you are somehow better that they are.  Luke 18:9-14 – The tax collector and the pharisee.  2 Tim 2 – Pray for them to repent and come to the Truth.  What do you have that you did not receive?  If you received it, why do you boast as if it were from you?
  6. Fear of what man thinks.  It causes a pastor not to preach the full counsel of God’s Word.  Gal.1:10 – Now trying to please man or God?  Is. 51:12-13 – God is the one who comforts.  Who are we to fear man who dies and withers like the grass?  Ps 37 – all of it, but especially v.35-36 – I saw a wicked man flourishing and then I passed by and he was gone.
  7. Making Non-Essential into Essentials.  Not everything is worth dividing over.  Most arguments in the church are over control of non-doctrinal, non-essential issues.  “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity” – Unsourced, mistakenly attributed to Augustine on occasion.  (Also, he listed Scripture here, but I missed it. – Art)
  8. Impatience.  1 Tim 4:3 – …with great patience…  You didn’t come to your convictions overnight, how can you expect others to do so?
  9. Discouragement.  Satan sells it to the Pastor, because if we were to don the full armor of God in Eph. 6, he could not stand.  Therefore, he sells us on the belief that all is lost.
  10. Failure to develop men around you.  Paul/Timothy, etc.

Inversion:

  1. Keep glorifying God first and foremost.  It’s His church.
  2. Rely only on God.
  3. Unleash God’s Word.
  4. Saturate with prayer.
  5. Humble yourself.
  6. have a strong fear of God and no one else.
  7. Put the Essentials first.
  8. Be Patient.
  9. Fight discouragement with God’s Word.
  10. Surround yourself with Godly men who will fight on God’s behalf (not stand aside while you fight).

Founders Conference: Ted Christman

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Well, it’s not live blogging, by any means, but I’ve gotten a tremendous amount out of today’s sessions, so I feel compelled to pass them on to whomever might be interested. I was taking good old fashioned notes on paper, so you get the outline, but I think it is worthwhile.

If you want more, be sure to check out Timmy Brister’s Live Blog over at Provocations & Pantings.

So Ted Christman, a pastor from Owensboro, KY, home of the Moonlite Bar-B-Q, exposited Psalm 1 and did a masterful job.

Here are the highlights.

Theme: The Present and Future Blessing of the Righteous & the Present and Future Misery of the Wicked.

General Observations:

  1. The text divides the whole of humanity into 2 categories: Righteous and Wicked. These categories are throughout the Bible and seen throughout history.
  2. The righteous experience joy, which is not worldly happiness, but exuberance based on God’s presence and blessing, not circumstances.
  3. Delighting in the “Law” is delight in the Lord Himself.

“Blessed” man: (The word “blessed” is the same word that Christ used to open the Sermon on the Mount – Note from Ted Christman)

  1. Negatively described – Where he is not, what he is not doing. He is not following the counsel of the wicked. We may hang out with the lost, but not because we relish their company or influence. We are compelled to do so because they are lost and we have compassion for them.
  2. Positively described – Delights in the Law of the Lord. Shows true desire to seek God that comes from a heart of passion inspired by God Himself.
  3. Analogously described – “Like” a tree with rich nourishment and bearing much fruit. It can stand the heat because of the nurture provided.
  4. Pragmatically described – In all he does, he prospers.
  5. Covenantally described – The Lord “knows” (reveals deep intimacy – TC) the way of the righteous.
  6. Morally described – He is “righteous” (his character and his way are “upright” – Art)

Wicked man:

  1. Morally described – Wicked.
  2. Contrastively described – Shows the differences between the righteous man and the wicked man.
  3. Analogously described – “Like” the chaff, with no taste and no nourishment, of no significance so it is easily blown away.
  4. Eschatologically described – Faces judgement; will not be with righteous, will perish.

A final word of encouragement to Pastors and others:

“Delights in the Law of the the Lord and meditates on it day and night.” Application:

  1. Delighting in God’s Word is essential for salvation, for happiness. Not doing the negative descriptors in verse 1 is no guarantee of the benefits described in verse 3. Only delighting in God’s Word will reap those benefits, but so many simply think that avoiding certain actions is “good enough.”
  2. Delighting in God’s Word is dynamic. It builds upon itself and draws one in. Like a completely addictive drug, that only benefits you and has no down side. Would you take it?

People of our churches need pastors who are passionate for His Word.

Better Blogging: Hosting Your Own Site

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Fiber OpticI mentioned in Better Blogging: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that Search Engines will evaluate your host server’s ability to handle traffic and will not send you what you can not handle. Nevertheless, having your own site instead of having a .blogspot.com, .wordpress.com, .typepad.com, .squarespace.com or whatever other free blog site you might acquire will cause you to stand out to Search Engines better and is easier for most people to find. Remember, although you are super tech savvy, most of the world is still catching up. The vast majority of the world does not read blogs, but if you want them to find your content, you have to get the Search Engines to rank you high enough that you are found before they get tired of looking through all the links.

There are other reasons. One is financial. Believe it or not, typepad is not free, although your blog will show up as a subdomain on their site. For a couple of dollars more per month, you can have your own .com website. Granted, this is more than the other subdomain sites, which are free, but it is not overly expensive. I bought my server space for two years up front and haven’t had to worry about it since that time. It’s coming up again, and I’ll evaluate as the time draws near, but I use Bluehost and they are pretty good – constantly upgrading, etc.

By the way, I’ve given this before, but I’ll give you another link to “Who is Hosting This?” Go to the site and input the address of the site you wish to know about, and it will return the registered host of the domain in question. Just in case you want to know who your favorite blogger uses as a host.

As I mentioned, performance is an issue. I know that I just said that Bluehost is good with its servers. It is. But. Did you know there is more to server speed that you should consider?

Up until recently, the size, speed, operating system and uptime (time your servers were running properly, which equals the time your site functioned properly as well) were all that you had to consider when it came to choosing a host.

That was all I worried about when I signed on with Bluehost and all that I concerned myself with until I found this out: The scientists that actually invented the internet – no, not Al Gore, but the physicists at Cern – have actually already re-invented the internet.

Here’s the brief sketch and a link to the full story.

They invented the internet to store data that they were collecting as they attempted to record the splitting of atoms in the world’s largest supercollider. Well, the old internet has proven to be insufficient to handle the data, because, no matter how big and fast the computers they attempt to use to record everything, the massive amounts of data that get collected bottles up on phone lines that are not efficient, even for phone service. Thus, they have replaced the phoneline connections with a series of fiber optics called “The Grid.”

The Grid is 10,000 times faster than the typical BROADBAND connection. Think, the fastest connection you can get vs. instant. The only thing slowing you down now is your own computer. What’s this got to do with blogging? As technology advances, prices will come down. This will one day be affordable. Well, first it has to be available, then it will become affordable. It will happen a lot faster than the first internet, though. That’s what I think, anyway.

Finally, Layered Technologies offers a different type of grid. Although out of most people’s price range at $49/mo, LT handles your information by spreading it out over several “nodes” rather than piling all on one machine, which can only give your site so much time if it also happens to host one or more busy sites. Thus, the requests for your info gets shared over a system of servers rather than just one machine. That is also technology that is going to get cheaper as time goes by.

Heck, it’s already cheaper than a tank of gas, though that is not saying much.

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