Monday, February 23, 2009

My Favorite Geeks

USB Cables and Binary Digits

In this blog I would like to pay homage to my digital heroes or what I might call “my favorite geeks”. My list does not include Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, or Larry Page although I (and millions of others) regularly make use of their creations. The people I want to recognize are individuals who have found ways to use the Internet and other digital media to communicate the gospel, impact society, and train people in caring ministries.

Robert Parham and his team at recognized the power of the Internet several years ago. Although it was founded as the Baptist Center for Ethics in 1991, this organization has become a thoroughly digital entity in 2002 with a daily e-newsletter, online resources, and a virtual office. The web site features new releases church resources, social commentary, sermons, and Bible study resources and has recently gone through a complete redesign with added audio and video resources. Once heavily involved in conducting conferences, the organization has invested in DVD production for use by local churches and community organizations. is an online presence for positive change (and, to assure full disclosure, they are kind enough to publish selections from my blog on occasion).

Sam Davidson created with the mission of “Saving the world. Five minutes at a time.” Cool People Care is both an organization and an online entity that exists to show you how to change the world in whatever time you have, wherever you live. Their daily e-newsletter provides practical suggestions to make a difference in the world without leaving your community. There are links to service options and ministry opportunities in almost 50 cities across the nation. The format is fresh and creative with an attitude that appeals to young adults.

In 1993 the Wayne E. Oates Institute was founded to continue the legacy of Dr. Oates by addressing the need for professional and lay caregivers to learn from each other and give care to the whole person--body, mind, and spirit. In 1998, the Institute expanded by putting their resources on the Internet and extending their program offerings to include online learning and publishing. Under the leadership of Vicki Hollon and Chris Hammon, the Oates institute provides a number of services: an Online Campus, an Online Learning Center, the Center for Oates Studies, and a bookstore. This is a great resource for busy helping professionals no matter where they live.

David Cassady, formerly of Smyth and Helwys Publishers, is the principal of The Brainstorm Lab, a media development firm. He is also one of the creators of The Faith Lab, an online resource to stimulate thinking and encourage action related to faith development. The Faith Lab is focused upon helping churches and religious organizations to learn how to use new media effectively. New media includes website and web technologies, digital photography, audio and video (including podcasts), and new approaches to print publications. This is a new but promising service.

What do these digital innovators have in common?

First, they think non-geographically. They could do their work from anywhere in the world (and often do). They recognize that ministry is done locally in a specific context, but they provide a service to users wherever they live and work.

Second, they are entrepreneurs who build their services on partnerships. To the best of my knowledge, none of these folks are supported by “deep pocket” donors. They depend on sponsorships, individual donors, and partners to survive. As a result, their existence is always precarious.

Third, they provide a service. They are resource brokers. They do not provide the final answer, but they do provide a means for people to pool information, try out possible solutions, and make their own choices about what works and what doesn’t.

Fourth, they model what they are selling. The folks who have put these online services together are practitioners—counselors, educators, activists, ethicists, media specialists—who are willing to share what they are learning.

Fifth, they are willing to change to meet a changing context. They recognize that their constituents are moving targets and they move with them.

So these are my favorite geeks. Who are yours?

1 comment:

Sam Davidson said...

Thanks for including me, Ircel! It was great to learn more about the others you mentioned as well.