12 Witnesses

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

Pastoral Authority and Trust

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I’ve frequently observed to anyone who would listen, that a church works best when the congregation trusts its leaders and the leaders are trustworthy.  If either is failing, the church will suffer and disaster is imminent. If both are failing, disaster is upon you.

The author of Hebrews describes the relationship this way:

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. – Hebrews 13:17 ESV

Of course, those who’ve spent much time in church have heard, if not seen, abuses by pastors who are not using their authority to watch over their congregation, but for their own worldly desires.  Just as likely, the same people can retell stories that center on the abuses members of congregations have heaped on faithful servants of God.

Still, if you’ve ever been a part of a healthy church, one where the Pastor and congregation treat each other Biblically and carefully, you know that there is no sweeter group of people with which you can journey this life.

Here are a few observations about being a part of such a family:

  • Healthy church relationships are easier to maintain than to regain.  Water over the dam and under the bridge, once a set of relationships become overwhelmed with sin and selfishness, it’s hard for us to reconcile.  Not that we shouldn’t give everything to do it.  We should.  It’s just that, most times, people won’t.
  • Healthy church relationships require correction & humility.  Everyone needs to be humble in order to receive correction when necessary and to have it received from them when the time comes.  Without correction, injustices (perceived or real) fester and trust breaks down.  Humble correction and repentance builds trust and takes relationships deeper than they’ve ever been before.
  • The congregation bears the lion’s share of the responsibility.  True, it is the responsibility of the leaders to correct those who are rebelling against the Lord, but it is also the responsibility of every other believer to correct their brothers and sisters.  Humbly, with love, out of compassion for them and a desire for their good, we must all bear the burdens of correcting those we love.  But practically speaking, if the congregation does not correct the brother or sister who is tearing down the body, it will be assumed that they are all in agreement with the ever growing grumblings resonating from the heart of the offender, whether that offender is pastor or congregant.  In short, what is done in the body must by done by the body, in unity, with humility.

Anything you would add?

So I’ve decided to be a blogger

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For those of you still checking in faithfully over the last, what? Three weeks? You deserve to know what’s been going on.

I’ve been busy.

I know.  Life’s busy and if you’re going to be hosting your own site, then you owe it to the good folks who have come to depend on the sage advice, probing questions and stupid videos that you post to actually dispense these things.

Inquiring minds want to know.

Sorry.

I actually faced a bit of a dilemma with the whole situation.  I’ve been so busy with pastoring and then my personal life (had you heard I’ve taken up cycling?) and then my family’s personal lives (I’m now the chauffeur for … never mind.  If you know, you know and if you don’t, I don’t think I’m allowed to elaborate on the blog) that I have been too exhausted to write in the evenings when I typically craft my blog posts.

I considered shutting it down.

Some of you have heard that I have agreed to be an editor/contributor to a group blog called MissioScapes with some of the usual suspects.  In fact, my initial article dropped there last week.

I thought that my occasional post there my tide over my writing jones. Scratch the itch. But then, no. I don’t think it will.

Then, I thought I might start an entirely new blog.  An anonymous cycling blog from the eyes of a newbie cyclist.  So much uncovered territory.  So many obvious and yet unassaulted targets in the cycling community.  You have no idea.  I’m not even talking about the Lycra, either.

Still might do that, but then, maybe not.

If I’m too tired to write about the established aspects of my life, what makes me think an anonymous and yet unread cycling blog would drive me to shake off the web of slumber and expose the spandex clad, two wheeled, helmeted, free wheeling crowd to an audience that doesn’t even exist?

No.

The writing’s the thing.  It’s not the subject of the blog.  Do I want to write, and if so, will I set aside time to do it?

Yes.

I have decided that this is worth that and, frankly, it is you who have shown me that I should.

You’ve not said a word.  No notes. No comments.  No email.

But you’ve come back.  Daily for over a month with barely a word from me beyond unfulfilled promises of posts to come, you still drop in and read what I have not written.

Thanks.

And since you’ve apparently cared what I have to not say, I think you’ll be immenantly more interested in the things that I hope to say, so…

I’ve decided to be a blogger.

By that I mean not just the random thought or question but something interesting – or at least something I think is interesting – more than once a week.

There you have it.

Sorry, for the impromptu time off.  Thanks for sticking around.  See you soon.

No more comment security code

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I’ve had the comment security code in my comment field for a loooong time.  At one point it served to keep spam generating programs from commenting on my posts.  I think I can let other programs work behind the scenes to accomplish that now.

Why now?

Because I just had a brilliant piece of writing eaten by the exact same code on another blog.  Something that have neither the time nor inclination to attempt to duplicate…

And it caused me to think that others who might like to comment on this blog might have had the same thing happen to them.

And since I want discussion on this blog, things that might inhibit discussion should go.

So it has, at least for now.  We’ll see how it works.

I hope this will encourage more opinions in the future.

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Update

Ok.  Less that 24 hours and three spam messages.

Security code is back in.  Sorry.

For those who have had comments swallowed by a message that says you have an invalid security code, only to hit the back button and have your comment gone forever…

The only way around this that I have found is to make sure you highlight and copy your comment before submitting it.  I know it is a hoop through which to jump and one easily forgotten, but I fear I have no other suggestions.

Sorry.

The fly by update

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Not avoiding you, dear reader.  Just busy as can be.

We are growing closer in our staffing search and this has taken a lot of time.

Of course, we have just hosted the BGCO in our fair city.  I went Tuesday for a while and had a couple of great conversations.

Since I usually blog at night and my nights have been full, I’ve not had time or energy to spend writing, but I have several things I still hope to get to this week.

See you soon.

WordPress 2.5 and plugins

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Wordpress LogoIf you are new to blogging or don’t know much about hosting a blog on your own site vs. blogspot or even wordpress free services, you can check out my rundown from last year that will give you the basics. There are a few changes of specific info from then, but just a few.

I am really diggin’ WordPress 2.5. Kevin Bussey said he hated it over on Marty Duren’s blog, but I think he just hates change. He’s such a stick in the mud, he probably still likes his worship with all hymns and just the 1st, 2nd & last verse sung to a Hammond B3 Organ with the vibrato wailing.

:D

Anyway, 2.5 is awesome in a lot of ways, but I’ll just tell you a few of my faves.

  1. The Visual Editor is MUCH better and you don’t have to do the shift-alt-v thing to get the extra buttons.
  2. In the Visual Editor, you can post media to your server by uploading pictures, audio or video. I’m still using flickr and podpress for most of this, but I am experimenting and have found hosting the pictures on my own server is a little easier and a lot more flexible than it used to be.
  3. Big fave – You can embed video from Youtube or other similar hosting site via the Visual Editor. WordPress used to really not like you embedding streaming video. You used to have to write it in the html side of the code and publish it immediately. If you ever changed anything in the post, the video would quit. This makes obsolete the embedify plugin that I was previously using to do the same thing, but it only worked with Youtube (I think – I never tried it with another service).
  4. The plugin page will check if you need to update your plugins and will do it for you with the click of a link, rather than forcing you to overwrite a file with ftp.

Well, those are just the top vote getters at the moment.

I also want to give you a new list of plugins that I am using. Joe Kennedy put up a list and it reminded me of a lot of changes that I have made in this area, so here they are:

  • Akismet – The anti-spam plugin that comes with WordPress.
  • All in One SEO Pack – This plugin is a Search Engine Optimization tool that will hlep your posts get found and, hopefully, read.
  • Angsuman’s Feed Copyrighter – Inserts a copyright tag at the bottom of your post when read in a feedreader.
  • Anti Spam Image – This plugin is no longer available on its host site, but might be found if you search for it. It puts the number/alphabet image input box by the comment section to keep spam programs from filling my comment section full of offers for porn and medications without a prescription. Very necessary, in my opinion (The plugin! Get your mind out of the gutter). Other plugins offer similar options.
  • Bad Behavior – This is anther anti-spam plugin that monitors ip addresses for frequent attempts to access and post to your site and shuts them down cold. When it is working, it rocks. Unfortunately, it sometimes messes up, like the time it shut me out of my own blog and I couldn’t even log in to the editor. It’s not doing that right now, but it is corrupting my category tables or something, so it is in time out (deactivated) for behaving badly. Hopefully, an update will patch it up and let it get back to shutting down spammers. I’ve just upgraded to the latest update (Monday night), but it is still living up to its name, so it is still in time out.
  • Countdown Timer – This is a fun little plugin that lets you count down to something that you might be writing about. Our big trip to Vietnam was the last thing I put up. The downside is that the time and date function don’t work right, so you have to figure how far it is off (I think about 2 hours behind) and set your event for the appropriate wrong time so it will show the right time. A little high maintenance.
  • Feed Statistics – Most of our blogs are read in feeds, but they aren’t counted by Statcounter codes that we embed in the page. This plugin lets you see some information about how many people are grabbing your feed, and which posts they pick up.
  • Google Sitemaps – This plugin creates a sitemap for the Google to pick up when it scans your site. That’s beneficial, because it helps Google decide if your post is relevant to searches that others are performing and this will cause relevant searches to rise in the search results.
  • inline RSS – One of two rss feed scrapers that David Phillips installed to scrape the feed of my photoblog and put the titles as links in the sidebar of my blog. If you need help, ask him. He’s pretty cheap tech support. I don’t know which of these scrapers is actually doing the work, but I’ll link to the other one when it comes up. (This is all alphabetical, you know.)
  • Maintenance Mode – This plugin allows you to stop others from accessing your site while you do upgrades or mess with the template.
  • Move Comments – Allows you to move comments from one post to another. This is handy if someone says something brilliant but it relates to another post.
  • PodPress – Plugin that turns your blog into an audio or video podcast. It’s awesome and easy.
  • Slashdiggalicious – This puts a bunch of icons for social networking sites that allow a reader to post a link to your article to those sites.
  • Subscribe to Comments – Allows readers to subscribe to emails updating them on comments posted to an article you’ve written. This is particularly helpful for people who are wanting to follow a discussion, but don’t want to check back all the time.
  • ToDo List Plugin – Let’s you create a ToDo list in the dashboard of your blog, so that you can keep up with stuff that you want to do, like modify some part of your template.
  • WordPress Stats – Keeps track of hits, etc. for your WordPress blog. Doesn’t track IP addresses, if you need that sort of thing, you still need Statcounter.
  • WordPress Automatic Upgrade – This plugin will walk you through an upgrade of WordPress software when it comes out. It works very well, and you don’t have to be a geek to upgrade your software. By the by, upgrade your software, because not upgrading it leaves security breaches that can expose your blog to hacking.
  • WordPress Database Backup – Creates a backup of all your data so if something goes wrong and your host accidentally wipes out your blog, then you can reload it and not lose everything. I have been close on several occasions and have lost a few things that weren’t backed up. Nice to have everything else still here.
  • WP-RSSImport – The other scraping plugin.

Video Blogging

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I know that downloading and watching video is a time consuming task, so I won’t give you hours of video, but I do want to show you what I see when I go overseas in just over 5 weeks.

As a result, I have set up to video blog. Below is the opening video, which you can dowload or stream, whichever you choose. I have also loaded it to youtube.com/12witnesses, but the quality bottoms out significantly. Of course, WordPress and YouTube don’t always play nicely together, so I won’t depend on them to get you the videos.

I intend them to be short and worthwhile. Here’s the index for this one:

  • Why I’m doing it
  • Future pre-trip posts – tech and travel
  • Run Time: appx. 2:31

[display_podcast]

BTW, if you are picking this up in a feed and want to stream the video, click the “enclosure” link at the bottom of the feed. If you want to download it, right click the link and then select the “save as” option in IE and the “save link as” option in Firefox. It is a .mov file which you can import to your iPod, should you care to take me with you. :) All you have to do is import it in iTunes, right click on it to pop up a menu and then select convert for iPod.

[edit] Future videos will, I hope, be in mp4 format, which is what iPods use, so you can skip the conversion proces as I’ll do it myself. Your Quicktime player (which plays .mov) will play mp4 as well, so you should notice no difference on your computer.

Simple Blog

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Think Thom Rainer’s book Simple Church only applies to church? Apparently not.

I’ve been wanting to blog about our upcoming Mission Trip to Vietnam and the Hmong (the “h” is silent) church that we host in our church facility. The Hmong people group is one of the primary people groups among whom we will be ministering in Vietnam and our relationship with them here is just chockerbock full of God stuff.

That will have to wait for several reasons. I want to give it the time it deserves, I want to post a Phriday foto tomorrow and I have to post quickly now.

So why has it waited all this week? What does this have to do with Simple Church?

Well, it seems that I had installed a plugin to my WordPress powered blog here called, “Bad Behavior.” This plugin helps keep spammers off of your sight by adding them to a blacklist when they try to spam your blog. All of a sudden, this script was running on anyone who tried to login to the administration page – me, the tech support guy at Bluehost (my hosting service) and even David Phillips was stuck. For a half a day, anyway, until he got to a computer and figured out the problem.

What we did was remove the plugin all together and – tada – 12 Witnesses is back in business. Yea.

While I was in Jackson for the Baptist Identity Conference, I had one script go crazy and start running up my load on the server, which caused the server to shut my blog down in order that I might not overload, crash or just not take more than my fair share of, the server resources.

In discussing the issue, I determined that I should go through and clean out a lot of the plugins that I have in my system. I don’t use quite a few of them and even more aren’t necessary.

Bottom line: The more scripts you have running in the background of your blog, the more likely you are to grind to a halt because something goes wrong or your resources become consumed and you are unable to perform the functions for which you were designed. Therefore, over the weekend I will be deleting all but the most necessary plugins that I have.

Simple Church? Simple blog.

Pastoral Blogging: Claiming feeds, switching readers and podcasting

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I am considering switching from Bloglines to Google Reader as my primary rss feed reader. If you don’t know what that’s all about, read this post: Pastoral Blogging, Pt. 7 (I hereby stop numbering them and will name them from now on…)

Anyway, this is not really brought on by Bloglines at all. It works well, adapts very well to the mobile internet on my Treo and is still the biggest feed reader. Google Reader is rapidly on the rise, however. The change is being brought about because My Yahoo homepage, which has been my homepage for a looooong time is trying to transition to keep up with iGoogle – another homepage, similar to My Yahoo. Well, Google also has online shareable docs, calendars, blogsearch, pictures (to compete with Yahoo owned, Flickr) and, of course, this reader. That’s just to get you started – there’s ALOT more.
Well, I am already using Google for those other things, excepting Flickr, so when Yahoo tries to force me to shift to its new beta My Yahoo page and I find that my email and fantasy sports teams are unsupported modules at the new version, so I switch back, but not without a hassle.

On a whim I check out iGoogle (available with free google account) and start adding modules. Guess what? I can check my email from the iGoogle homepage. Yeah my Gmail (google mail) but also MY YAHOO MAIL. I can check my Yahoo mail from the google homepage but I can’t from the new My Yahoo homepage. Errr…. Just a suggestion, Yahoo, be ready to roll before you start something like this.

Anyway, since it looks like I am going to be moving over to Google for a homepage, I might integrate my reader into iGoogle as well.

As I went through that process I found that I can import all of my feeds as they are from bloglines. In Bloglines, go to “edit” and at the bottom of the left hand column, click export feeds. Save the “export.opml” file to your hard drive and then upload it in the Google Reader. That simple.

Regardless of whether or not you switch, however, you might want to claim your feed at bloglines. It’s under My Account -> Publisher Tools. You need to find your feed, integrate some code and then authenticate.

In a mostly unrelated topic, I settled on an audio plugin to help with post Frank Page’s Q&A session with Tulsa Metro. It is PodPress, and it gives you tons of stats about downloads vs. plays vs. feed reads. Really good stuff, if you want to upload some audio. I tried another one, but it didn’t work. PodPress is low maintenance and clearly the way to go. it you want to get a little more high maintenance, you can list your audio at iTunes with Podpress, but even if you don’t, PodPress creates an rss feed that people can use to subscribe to audio that you upload. Bottom line: if they are on your blog, they can subscribe to your podcast, and if they aren’t, they are not likely to find you at iTunes because that is like a needle in a haystack. Of course, this plugin is for WordPress blogs.

Be good. I’m going to see Marty next week, so I haven’t decided whether or not I’ll blog, set some stuff to drop while I’m gone or just take some time off. Most likely the latter, but we’ll see.

Art’s blogging (Pastoral Blogging 8 – this time it’s personal)

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Let’s just get one more thing straight about my blogging, shall we?

I am not quitting, nor am I slowing down. I am shrugging off the political weight that I have carried and the public demands that such carries with it.

I actually am looking forward to blogging more in the near future. I am, however, going to be changing my subject matter. As you will note from my last post, I am going to start highlighting stories that I find in the news and commenting on them. Previously, the stories were all about the SBC and our current situation. Now they will be about many other things, with the SBC in an appropriate balance as well.

In order to do that, I set up my bloglines (feed reader) to grab certain headlines that may be of interest to me as the subject of future blogs. You can do that doing a news.google.com search or a blog.google.com search and then subscribe to the feed for your search criteria that appears on the page with the results. This will feed new news stories or blog entries, respectively, into your feed reader.

If you don’t have a feed reader yet, it is way past time to get one and learn to work it, don’t ya think?

Well, sit back and enjoy the ride. Look forward to seeing you soon.

Pastoral Blogging, Pt. 7

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I am cleaning out my feed reader. After a while, you just have to start pulling some of the things you don’t read all the time. Honestly, I track those blogs I really like in a folder of “live bookmarks” on the bookmark toolbar in Firefox. There are five there and I check them a couple of times a day.

If you don’t know what a live bookmark is, your browser has an option when you click the rss feed chicklet:

(umm… if you don’t know what an rss feed is, you should probably read my previous posts on this subject, but I’ll give you a reprieve and offer this cool link: video – rss explained in plain english [ht: Desiring God Blog]

Most of the time, I use bloglines, but for those select few blogs, I opt for a live bookmark which is a drop down menu that shows the latest posts. It updates mui pronto and I don’t have to log into bloglines and sort through all of the other feeds that I don’t want to read at the moment.

Which brings me back to my original purpose. Sometimes you have to weed out feeds you aren’t reading. A lot of times, when you decide to subscribe to a feed, you feel sort of obligated to hang in there. Listen, there are plenty of times I have read an incredibly thoughtful post from someone and thought, “Hey, there’s gonna be more of this good stuff.” Generally there is, but too often, it is a long time coming. Sorting through their other posts waiting for the really good stuff is why I got a feed reader, so I could skim.

When I got back from camp, though, and found 300+ feeds waiting on me, I had had enough. I spent a couple of hours on my couch just sifting. By the time I finished, it was midnight and I was supremely irritated from the process. I’m glad everyone was asleep, or I would have been likely to have snapped at my family just for being alive at the moment. When something puts you in that frame of mind, it is time for a change.

Also, I am dumping almost all of my SBC politics feeds. I used to keep track of what everyone was saying because I had to be current. Truth be known, I had pretty much quit reading most of them months ago unless someone linked to them. I was skimming, but my heart has been out of it for a while.

At this point, I have a hard time keeping up with just the stuff coming from SBC Outpost, and I’m a contributor.

There have been a few, more thoughtful blogs, to which I am subscribing, and I thought you might like to know who they are.

Tops of my new interest is Emily Hunter McGowin. That girl knows her stuff and is deep like big water.

Lu has caught my interest and secured a feed in bloglines. She is a former missionary and current Nashvillian. She likes her blogging so much, she is willing to pay to do it (she uses typepad). Who am I to talk? I own my own domain.

Joe Ball is the Student Ministry guy for the Kentucky Baptist Convention and a long time friend. He keeps me hooked up with thoughts on Youth Ministry at Despising None Blog and Podcast.

Finally, I recommend to you an old blogging ally and someone who has made a huge leap from SBC politics to serious cultural engagement and thoughtful cultural commentary/conversation, Kevin Bussey.

Along with these changes, and more, expect my blogroll to change. Almost every SBC politics is going to come off of it. Please don’t get your feelings hurt you are there and get dropped. All things must grow and change and 12 Witnesses is doing that, as well.

[edit]

What the heck!!! I forgot to commend to you the fine blog of Timmy Brister, Provocations and Pantings. Timmy rocks with some massive depth, but also will give you phenominal knowledge on photography, family and life. I guess I forgot him because I have been reading him for a while, but in editing my blogroll, I realized I had never added him. My bad, TB.

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