eChurch Summit 2018 | Reflections & Notes

We love Elevation Church. – Overheard pre-conference conversation.


In full transparency, I did not attend this conference to attend, to learn, to grow, to personally develop, to learn how to use social media better, or to enhance my leadership. I attended to critique it. Why?

Over the past several years, I have been seeking deeper explanations for the phenomena in our universe. All the way up to the multiverse, all the way down to quantum mechanics, and everything in-between has captivated my attention. I have an excruciating curiosity to understand the workings of our existence, especially all the messy stuff, such as religion, free will, intelligence, consciousness, neurobiology, fear, and a thousand other things such as found in the DSM, at your local DMV, and in the green rooms of Evangelical conferences. More specific to my context, Theology and Ecclesiology happen to be my trade (vocation), and science & technology happens to be my culture. So, furthering my quest at a church technology conference just makes sense to me, an environment where I can test and wrestle out my questions and critiques.

I “knew” going in to the eChurch Summit that the level of conversation there was going to be tribal, with their own priests (Elevation Church, Andy Stanley), and their own sacraments (hashtag’s and selfies). I also “knew” that few, if anyone there, would have heard–much less read–people like Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman, Jacques Ellul, Walter Ong, or even the more contemporary Kevin Kelly, Sherry Turkle, Douglas Rushkoff, Nicholas Carr, Clifford Nass, (and hundreds of other voices I still have yet to discover). In my brief conversations with about a half dozen attendees, my “knowledge” was confirmed–these church leaders were ignorant of those conversations. They weren’t here to critique technology, they were here to enslave it, for the Kingdom, no doubt, perhaps unaware of the possibility that they themselves were becoming enslaved.

I do not disparage them for this. I simply point out the philosophical axiom that those who do not philosophize are those who are most bound by their philosophies.

Make it grow. There is no other quality of a leader. Our job is to create the right environment for God to grow it. – a speaker from the stage.

So if I were to summarize my reflections at this point (which could easily change tomorrow), here are a few items that disturb, agitate, and roil my mind. I offer them here for your mind to be equally churned. [I use the word “churches” below to mean “the people that make up a church,” rather than as an abstract “institution.” I apologize and lament the inadequacies of the terminology.]

  1. Churches, by and large, still see technology as a tool or platform to be used. They/We(?) are completely missing that technology is an extension of our humanity that fundamentally changes our very nature, identity, and even biology. Technology radically changes what it means to be human.
  2. Churches still buy in to the myth that “the message never changes.”
  3. My lamentation is not so much that Churches are not capable of conversing at this level. Ignorance can be remedied and competency is available for all (I do believe in the “growth mindset” after all). My lamentation is that Churches don’t care or don’t desire to converse at this level (that something about “the Church” or “theology” imbues us with a “fixed mindset.”)
  4. I am also sad that what I’ve said so far could be interpreted as “elitist” as if I’m speaking out of my Silicon Valley bubble (or butt).
  5. Regardless, Churches of this “brand” will continue to thrive, because our minds cannot handle complexity, nuance, gray, or paradox. We need our theology to be simple, deistic and therapeutic.
  6. Churches of this “brand” will continue to thrive, also, because of the economic investment. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
  7. As such, Churches are completely unprepared for the disruption that is coming, the upending of our way of being human. And, as it has been in the past, Churches will adapt their message, and call it “timeless,” conform to the culture, and call it “relevance,” and forget the Church’s fundamental story and heritage, and call it “Church.”
  8. For the record, these ideas are “roiling” around in my head. They’re not my “opinions,” and I offer them here to promote dialogue, not to persuade you I’m correct.

Someone asked if I would go back next year. No. Not unless they were talking about transhumanism, sermons written by an AI, and/or digital theologies. Or, if they were to strip it all down, and have an honest conversation about “the technium.” 😉

Now, as a consummate learner, there’s always something to learn everywhere you go. Below are some of the notes I took in the sessions, with some quotes that were poignant and worth remembering. Many that really did inspire and challenge me. Yes, I see the irony (hypocrisy?) of writing what I wrote, and blogging below, posting on FB and Twitter.



Find small little things and connect them. That’s what we do.

If you ask how can I use this thing to already do what I’m already doing, you’re using it incorrectly.

Everything is being complete upended, including attention and money.

You probably have a board or a boss that is telling you “more!” If you’re going to make something for the masses, then it is something that the masses like. Another word for that is average.

Our battle for attention is changing the world. This is simply more people interrupting to get our attention. It’s just more noise.

The people you’re trying to serve are not goldfish, and we shouldn’t treat them this way.

You and everyone else are guilty of branding ourselves to death.

FOUR THINGS are pushing on people:

  1. Choice, too many options…
  2. Apathy, who then cares…
  3. Enough, we have enough (we spent more on storage units then going to the movies)
  4. Anonymous. I don’t want be known.

You get to do this:

  • generosity
  • gratitude
  • meaning
  • belonging

This isn’t a smart phone, it’s a time machine, because it takes you back to your parents. They buy this because they get to tell themselves a story. What story are we telling and who are we telling this story to?

Aim for the smallest possible market. Let’s just make it better instead.

Design thinking is two questions: Who is it for? and What is it for? The other is how?

Why are we spamming the world with noise instead of dating people who would miss us if we were gone. We should be the welcome voice.

For the first time in human history, it is possible to treat different people differently.

Every donation is on sale. No one gives a donation for what it is worth.

Because people can choose what they want, the middle normal is shrinking.

If you’re for everyone, then you’re losing, because there’s always a better for everyone.

Metcalfes law.

The purple cow is not about you coming up with it. It’s about them. Remarkable, worth making a remark about.

Sowubana: I see you. People are showing up to be seen.

Enrollment: the only kind of education that exists is voluntary education.

This is a revolution of connection.

Coordination : trust : permission: exchange of ideas

All of this based on generosity and art. No one wants to connect to a selfish person.  Art is what I call it when a human being does something that might not work.

Tribes of people who share a costume. It turns out people want to belong. Will you choose to organize the tribe? It’s an intentional act. People like us…do things like this.

We are lonely. We want to make a difference but we are afraid to do it by ourselves.

School was invented by industrialists and authoritarians to facilitate compliant workers.

Everybody holds back.

The reason they want you to fit in is that once you do then they can ignore you.

Art is when a human being does something generous that might not work.

Did you check the boxes, or did you change?

Competence is no longer a scarce commodity. If it’s regular, someone will buy it from someone other than you.

It’s the “it might not work” part that works. We have to jump and grow wings on the way down.

If failure is no an option then neither is success. The person who invented the ship also invented the shipwreck.

Once you get successful you start managing instead of leading.

When Gutenberg invented the printing press… 95% of the people didn’t know how to read.

You can be prepared, but you can never be ready.

It’s always too soon.  Hubris is our job, of getting off the map.

Not “will you succeed” but “will you matter?”

“There are footprints on the moon.” Remember. See what’s possible. We need you.

There is a fundamental challenge which is control and authority, telling others to get them to do what they want. These do not lead to growth or enrollment.


Scott’s story was incredible. Here’s the basic talk given in Paris:

There’s something powerful being confronted with a lifestyle completely different from your own. (While reading A. W. Tozer’s Pursuit of God)

I went back to the faith of my childhood.

I found my way to water through health.

End the water crisis. See the end of bad water. This is a solvable problem.

Communities will talk about the time before the water and after the water.

Big problem. People do not trust charities. 42% of Americans distrust charities. 70% believe they waste money.

I love the word “charity” as practice and virtue.

“Reinvent charity” the vision of what if we could ensure 100% of the money to the water? Private donations to operations. Public donations to the charity. Prove to people that the money is doing what it said.

Toothpaste is peddled with more sophistication than all the worlds life saving causes.

You don’t need money to build a brand. You need taste.

So many charity brands are built on shame and guilt. We wanted to build a brand one reputation on inspiration and invitation. Kinda like a forever alter call.

Had to be built by the locals. Today we employ 1600 locals.

Bring more transparency to the money they’re giving.

What if this were your child?

Always look at them at what THEY (the donors) are doing.

Partner with unlikely people.

Don’t run out of money. But if you do…

The moment we touch one penny we compromise our integrity, and put a crack in the foundation.

I’ve been praying and god sends me a atheist! Never compromise your values. I would rather bankrupt the organization than compromise our values.

Rachel Beckwith story:

This was never our story. This was always their story. We are the guide. We are never the hero. Embrace innovations early. Someone like you.

You have prodigals. But God can do it. Get your church involved.

Do not be afraid of work that has no end. – Rabbi Avot de Rabbi Nathan


1951 Billy Graham built a radio show and built an audience. Billy Graham. “Our message is timeless, but the medium we use must be timely.” Our message is so important that we shouldn’t be afraid to try.

Technology is surpassing entertainment as the primary driver of culture. We must operate in the culture not in the church. Culture was about presenting a perfect image. Then. We wanted now to see reality. Survivor or the amazing race. Advertisements started to change too. But in the church we still wanted to portray perfection. But people were craving authentic connection.

[via: is not the church to be a driver of culture but a preservative? To ensure it doesn’t spoil? Salt and light are both disinfectants. One from spoiling one from darkness.]

[via: re: early adopters. You cannot understand a thing when when you’re in it. Being late to the game means you may not be releasing but it will give you the perspective of understanding. While the movement pushes us towards participation, we should push towards watching.]

What if we could see a billion dollars given to the local church? So much of that giving would never have happened had that platform not been there. Billions of dollars have now been given to the local church.

[via: I’m intrigued at the message that the platform is necessary for good. Wealth. Riches. Means. Compassion and humanity. True?]

We wanted a collision between the business world and the church world. How are we as a church going to start playing from ahead rather than from behind? We have to skate to where the puck is going. The bar is not just high but has been completely changed.

[via: But is this not just a compromise of our integrity /values?]

What is the bar when they engage with us? Is our bar that high? Experience is everything (from the time they drive up, music and videos. It’s all experience.) How simple are your web pages? Visibility? Personalization? Unique for you. Discoverability? Content is everywhere. How easy is it to find the content you need?

I use amazing technology 6 days a week and on Sunday I get windows 95. We should embrace technology because we care about people.


There are seven elements for engaging the market. Or simply put, “The right message to right person at right time.” Don’t win the game (baseball) win the next 90 feet. Win these moments.

  • Clear strategy.
  • Useful data.
  • Relevant communication.

Customer lifecycle. Purchase funnel. Engagement wheel. Advocacy component(output?) Top. Win. Middle. Train. Bottom. Send.

Remember this is not theology. This is strategy.

  1. What is the goal of a first visit?
  2. What are we asking you to commit to? A) Life lived for Jesus. B) Local Church.
  3. “Giving” is not to the local church. Giving is from your heart to another who has your same heart
  4. (Perhaps we are the “un”church?)

If you’re not creating brand evangelists then you’re doing something wrong.

Move and multiply. What we expect from our people.

  • BIG DATA. Information about people who are.
  • CMS. Data in people in your church.

This is all about getting to know your people. We “place people in buckets”

[via: What are the human implications for drawing big data from our lives? Or are our lives simply just data, a million points of decisions each day? It appears that Harari’s thesis is true, that “Dataism” is alive and well. Is there something lost when you’re known and understood as points of data? Consider Acxiom and others. And what about paying for that data? It feels too that the ways and stories that we tell about people coming to follow Christ did not do so through a “Welcome to our marriage conference” etc., Consider, “what you’re saved with is what you’re saved to.” This is all based on a growth strategy.]


1. Lead ME. No one can lead me if I’m not willing and motivated to lead myself.

God has been using people under bad bosses for generations.

Leading myself requires, 1. Modeling followership. Can you follow the person you’re currently working for? 2. Monitoring my heart and my behaviors. You can’t get to where you want to get until you know exactly where you are right now.

Your desire to grow has to eclipse your desire to be liked.

Nothing so conclusively proves your ability to lead others as what you do from day to day to lead yourself. – Thomas Watson, former chairman and CEO of IBM

2. Choose POSITIVITY. The greatest benefit I bring my team is not my talents, gifts, experience, or education. It is my energy.

How do you buy-in on a decision you were not privileged to weigh-in on? When we’re not part of the decision-making process, our default is to abdicate leadership. Great churches are not great because of great ideas, but because they get everyone giving their best to the same idea.

Are you a wind in someone’s sail, or are you a wind against someone sail?

You are pretty much a feeling to the other people around you.


We want every leader at every level thinking about how we can make it better. I want people who are addicted to progress. Critical thinkers notice things, question things, connect things. Thinking critically is a skill. BEING critical is a snare. The CLIPBOARD is for giving a grade. The TOWEL is for giving a hand.

When there’s something to blame, there’s nothing to work on. – Tim Cooper

Blame shifts responsibility, and relinquishes power. It alleviates me from having to do anything about it. When everything around me says “you need to change,” everything within me wishes to blame someone or something else.

If you never listen to anyone you’ll be surrounded by people who have nothing to ever say.

Arrogant people don’t ask questions. Curious people are humble people. Curiosity is an exercise of humility. Curious people seek to understand.

I can’t bring any problems to my boss without bringing any solutions. 1. It communicates that they need to do their job AND… 2. It also communicates whining, rather than, working for the organization.

How do you reject passivity?


Today is the worst time in Social Media’s history because if you Google “social media,” you find how it is “destroying” our kids, etc.

In 2008, we begin to see the rise of social media as a platform for revolutions, emergency/disaster response, and breaking news.

Silicon Valley’s “gut-wrenching” year confronting its dark side, CNN:

Time Well Spent, a coalition

Social media is changing our brains. And how we see ourselves. “The Silo Effect” “Information Bias.” This TOO is “fake news.”

So what do we do now, in which we want to do good, but the tools are being used for bad?

The SHARE Model.  A hopeful way in which people who want to make change, can still make a positive good change using these tools.


People have an idea that social media is there to help us “go viral,” and golden rain drops will fall from heaven. Consider social media as a cocktail party, and you have to show up at one of them. When you show up, how do you stand out? The way to stand out, is to have a powerful STORY.

Opening the story loop: “What happened next…”
The Envelope System: “content envelopes…”
The Engagement Ladder: This is randomly different from “going viral.”

Who should press the little button? You should have a presence, but it doesn’t have to be “that person” who is pressing the button.

It’s all a first draft. We need to remember a little Anne Lamott when it comes to social media. “It’s ALL a Sh*tty first draft.”


Social media isn’t about you, it’s about your audience. It’s about your people who are following you. There are two ways to make sure that the people who are following you, know it’s all about them.

#churchrollcall, this is a great way to get people engaged. Hashtags are ways to build movements across platforms.


It’s about reaching out to influencers. The ability to contact people directly. It’s about reaching people who can support you, who can be in your movement, etc.


Pivot. Facebook Live, realizing how well it is bringing in people who can’t be in the building. It’s exemplifying social media at its best.

You as do-gooders can use social media to make a positive change.

Even in Point Hope Alaska, can you connect with the world. If that’s not hope, I don’t know what is.

[via: But again, no critique on what MAY happen to places like Point Hope, and broadcasting seems to be the idol. Perhaps their fears are warranted, and perhaps only time will tell.]


Yesterday’s heresy is today’s orthodoxy.

Whenever the church has the opportunity to see the future we have a temptation to resist it.

We need to own that everything we need to know and embrace is already available to us.

What happened to us? A movement of dreamers and innovators became an institution of managers and administrators.

This intersection of this moment: We need to be powerful in the wisdom of the Egyptians. [ref. Moses’s wisdom of Egypt in Exodus]

Are we training our kids toward being completely irrelevant to the world that they are ultimately supposed to be sent?

Moses. Could it be that the education of the Egyptians WAS being trained by his creator?

We’ve systematically created a culture that is dumb at the highest levels.

Why is everything a sin or not. Can’t some things just be stupid?

Take stewardship of your intelligence. We should be students of anthropology, biology, physics etc. we need to stop using our biblical literacy as an excuse for being illiterate.

We start designating things as they are when they no longer carry the essence of what they’re supposed to be.

If we spend the entire time marketing to ourselves, how are we supposed to be relevant to the world?

The future of humanity is at stake.

Jeremiah 29, full context.

We should be the ones creating the future. You cannot control culture. You can only create culture. Go forward and create new things again.

[via: the medium is the message]

The church has been known as the cultivator of guilt and shame, judgmentalism and condemnation. I believe the church will be the epicenter of creativity and imagination and innovations. Dreamers and visionaries. Most humanitarian and compassionate organization on planet earth.

We shouldn’t ask the question what will the future look like. The question is what do we want the future to look like? Not where is the future taking us. Where are we taking the future?

You’re presence in the room is powerful. Stop using language about growing your church. Start talking about how you can transform the city.

I’m so tired of being a pastor sometimes. But when I see a person far from God turn to Jesus that is where the life is.

About VIA

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