Reflection on 337 Baptisms and the “Church”

tubSo it’s been a couple of days since the massive baptism service we had last weekend. As they were going over records, they actually had miscounted, and we baptized 337 during the “Not Ashamed” weekend services, not 335 as was previously reported. Today in staff meeting one of our pastor’s was talking about different things. He said something that surprised me.

This past Sunday looks to be be one of the lowest attended Sundays all year. Based on the report, almost 1000 people decided to skip this week. We have about 8500 people that rotate through on various schedules. Florida is a very odd place. If asked, people who come every third Sunday would probably identify themselves as a “regular” attender. According to this, we saw more people choose this week as their “off” week than we normally would.

But why would more people choose to stay away this week?

I had a conversation with one person, and they wondered if that many baptisms would be boring. I personally wondered if the day would be too much spectre, and not enough participation. (Having been through it, I can say now, it was a lot of participation) We don’t place enough emphasis on celebrating life-change. Here is a public symbol of a changed life, a key part of a Christian’s life of faith, and we see people choose to stay home.

Boring? How could any baptism be boring? How have we gotten here?

Did you know that 48% of SBC churches didn’t baptize one person last year? That 78% baptized less than 10 people? Some of the church growth books out there talk about how the population of the earth is outpacing the growth of the Church (capital “C” church). What has happened to the Church?

Do we not hold the truth, the only really important thing that matters in this life and eternity? Are we not in the business of making disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 explains that we are the ministers of the reconciliation.

God chose to use us as ambassadors, “as though God were making his appeal through us”.

Let that sink is for just a second.

Maybe people don’t want to attend a service devoted to celebrating changed lives because we know we have not really been doing a good job as an ambassador.

We celebrate 337 baptisms in one weekend because it rarely happens, but Acts 2:41 bears witness to almost 10 times that number being baptized at one time. Doesn’t the same Holy Spirit dwell in us? We saw 337 baptisms, not because that many people accepted Christ at one time, but because that many people got right with God about being baptized.

We must do better. This weekend far outpaced any predictions. But why? Why should it surprise us when God shows up, and works in the lives of our congregation? We need to be ready for God to work, we need to expect the miraculous.

And we need to be about the business of being God’s effective ambassadors to a very distracted, mediated world.

(Photo by Ken Miller)

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MacBook Pro and the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT

I just discovered, because it failed on my machine, that the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT which was shipped in some macBook Pros made during 2007 has an issue which causes a very high failure rate.

Apple has an article about it:

” At that same time, NVIDIA assured Apple that Mac computers with these graphics processors were not affected. However, after an Apple-led investigation, Apple has determined that some MacBook Pro computers with the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics processor may be affected. If the NVIDIA graphics processor in your MacBook Pro has failed, or fails within three years of the original date of purchase, a repair will be done free of charge, even if your MacBook Pro is out of warranty.”

My machine had been having some intermittent trouble recognizing an external monitor, and then last Saturday night, while trying to rescue some files off another failing HD (Yes, I lost 2 drives in 48 hours…) I had to reboot and the screen never came on again. the next day I tried 2 different external monitors, and those did not work either. A quick Google search produced the article mentioned above.

One trip to the Apple store later, and I am now without MacBook Pro for at least a week. Luckily I had an old version of Mac Office installed on a G4 machine I use to run Tiger. No video production for me, but I can send email and do Word.

Even though I had installed a new HD myself on my out-of-warranty machine, the “Genius” said that if it was in fact the graphics card, and all indications were that it was, the repair would be free. It will mean a new logic board for the computer. I anxiously await the call from Apple telling me it is fixed.

337 Baptized During “Not Ashamed” Services

First Baptist Orlando baptized 337 people in it’s four services this weekend. We had 10 at our Ocoee venue, 73 on Saturday, 60 in our 9:00, and 194 in our 10:45 service.

A friend asked me what caused so many people to get baptized at one time. It can only be God at work. Annually we baptize more than 500 in a normal year. That’s not that big of a number considering how large a church we are (15,000 members, 6000 average attendance) We do two outdoor baptisms every year which have between 80-100 people participating. We have a baptism time during our Christmas Eve services, and normally see 30-50 there. The rest happen during the course of regular worship times.

One of our pastors was looking at the numbers and noticed that we baptize less than half the number of people that make decisions. So, we scheduled a specific special weekend of services. The whole time was reserved for baptism and worship. No sermon.

Three weeks before this service, our pastor preached on the importance of being baptized. We inserted registration cards in the bulletin for 3 weeks, and showed 3 different videos promoting the service. By Wednesday of last week we had 217 people signed up. Of those, only 13 were church members, The rest were people who attend or have some association with the church. Saturday, which runs between 500-700 in attendance, had over 60 people signed up (a much higher percentage than the other services.)

We also knew that we would call for people to come forward in the service to get baptized right then. We had counsellers prepared, and had purchased several sets of shorts and dark shirts for people to wear. In every service we saw people move. At 10:45 there were at least 70 people that had not planned on being baptized, but came forward during the service.

While we have a large baptistry, we wanted this service to have the baptisms front and center. We lined up 5 horse troughs, or “tubs” as I called them, across the platform. Our facilities crew rigged a pump from the heated baptistry to fill each tub. And had a pump on the platform to send water back to the baptistry. The tubs were placed in a sort of plastic pool to catch overflow. We laid carpet down to help stop slipping.

Because we expected so many, two classrooms were converted to dressing rooms with pipe and drape creating the spaces. We tried to contact each preregistered candidate prior to the service. They arrived, checked in, and were given a white T Shirt that had the words “Not Ashamed” across the front to put over their own dark undershirt. After instructions and getting changed, the candidates were staged outside of the worship center. We had a couple of different people managing the flow, and numbers in each group.

We had a plan in place, and for the most part we followed it. We divided the people into groups, and would send them to the platform in order.

Our pastor wanted very much to show a symbolic putting-off-the-old kind of life change. Each candidate would come on the platform with a brown robe on, over the white shirt. At every tub we had a microphone. They each told their name and said, “Jesus is my Lord! I am not ashamed!” At that point they removed the robe, exposing the white shirt below. After they were finished, they were baptized at the same time as the rest of their set. Then the next set would step up, while the brown robes were being passed to those waiting.

The logistics of this amaze me. Every team really worked together.

From a TV/video perspective, the most challenging service to video tape was the 10:45, where we used all 5 tubs. The other services used only 3. Each camera had a specific shot list, and we followed the same pattern during each baptism segment, changing up if need be. We iso’d every camera and made sure we got everyone on tape.

We also had photographer for each tub. They took before and after shots. Each tub had a person holding the microphone for the candidate. We put the mini-script on the teleprompter screens in case some forgot the words (some did). We moved cameras and musical instruments;most of which were on risers so we could have a chance of seeing them behind the tubs.

I was able to go out into the service for part of the 10:45. Watching whole sections people standing to cheer as people they knew got baptized was aawesome. After a group would finish, the congregation would respond with applause, and then worship. I will never forget this weekend. I’ve never seen anything like it before, but I hope to see something like it again. God was so present in the services you could almost touch Him.

We didn’t go to a beach, or lake. Really, we didn’t do anything over the top in the way of promotion. We just set aside the time, and let people know why they should do it, and gave them an easy way to get involved. 336 people, across 4 services, took a public stand for Christ through baptism. God worked, and we saw it happen.

Edit: After reviewing records, we found we lost count, and had missed two. How often do you have so many that you lose count?

Two Hard Drives: 1 Fail, 1 Win

I started the weekend very excited because I had just gotten a new drive to replace the one in my laptop. I have a MacBook Pro that’s a couple generations old now. In general it’s fast enough, but I am always running out of space on the drive. 160GBs doesn’t go as far as it used to. So, a year and a half later the current model of MacBook Pros have up to 500GB 7200 RPM drives. I found a great kit which not only came with the drive, but an external enclosure and software to clone my internal drive. It arrived right before the weekend.

At home I had just a couple of things to do before I traded out the drives. One included ripping a dvd. We have a pretty large collection of dvds, and I have ripped over 270 movies into a format that can be read by both my Apple TV and my iPods. As you can imagine, that takes up quite a bit of storage space. For Christmas last year I got a WD 1TB external drive. It worked like a charm.

The problem is that I would need another one to have a backup of all that data. That is something I knew I should do, but since I only use that drive at home, I took a chance. Today, while the drive was writing data my son accidently knocked it over. It wasn’t a hard fall, it just tipped over. Should not have mattered, but this time it happened at just the wrong moment. In a few minutes the drive was making a strange noise. 10 minutes later my computer no longer recognized it.

700GB of data gone.

Disk Utility was able to see a drive, but not repair it. Then, even that stopped. The drive makes noises like it’s trying to spin up, but it never does. It’s gone. The important files I did have backed up, but every single one of the movies is gone. It’s takes more than 2 hours to rip one… I don’t want to do the math. I have the movies on my Apple TV and iPod/iPhone now. (Oh, and of course, the actual DVDs, but they don’t play on my iPod.)

But, I still had my new internal drive. So I logged onto a decent instruction site and began my work. workspace I had already used the included external enclosure and software to clone my current drive contents onto my new drive. Now I just had to get the old drive out. No small task. Apple did not make this easy. You have to take apart some key pieces, including the keyboard and trackpad. There’s a million little screws. Armed with my wife’s laptop open to the online guide, I began.

For the most part the guide was accurate, but I needed two sizes of Torx drives, not one, and the location of Bluetooth has moved since they published. The process was simple. And after a careful 20 minutes I was booting into my new drive, with triple the capacity.on Then I loaded my old drive into the external enclosure. I then took my small external drive and transferred some files, since the 1TB was down. I need to back my pictures and reference videos up in a 2nd location, again. newexternal I am very pleased with the new internal drive. That went very smoothly.

I am still trying to think of a way to get the data off the lost drive. It’s not worth paying a company to do it, but if I could figure a way, that would be great. I had heard that freezing it might work, but it didn’t. WD just came out with a 1TB RAID enclosure. It uses two 1TB drives to provide 1TB of RAID storage, Less than $300. Learn from my misfortune. Back it up.

Twitter vs the SBC

OK, it’s not really versus the SBC, but apparently the “twitter-sphere” (is that a word?) doesn’t translate the Southern Baptist Convention meetings very well. I love the fact that people are trying to take this meeting into the 21st century. We should expect some potholes on the onramp to the information superhighway. Thanks to Travis Maclay for the tip on this.

Twitter vs Iran

iranprotestIf you have been hiding under a rock this week you may not know about the political unrest in Iran. (graphic images) There are claims, and proof, that the election was not fair, and was in fact stolen.

There is lot of information available on the internet about it, even though the current government there wishes that was not true. Ahmadinejad and his government took extreme measures to restrict information, even going so far as to try to shut down parts of the internet.

But people are smart. You could read live updates on twitter on election day. While actual news has been censored, no one can censor individuals using their own access to the world. That repressive government cannot stop the flow of information, and now the world knows what is happening. In the past we would have heard little about this. But today we can see first hand accounts of the struggle for freedom and democracy. Search youtube, twitter or facebook. Their ongoing struggle for democracy is being chronicled, with live updates.

I know little about Ahmadinejad’s opponent. I doubt he’s a perfect leader, but I don’t think he could be worse. I don’t think this is about this guy vs that guy, it’s about the freedom to elect your leaders. I don’t know what will happen.

I do know that no government on the planet should think it can control information ever again.

The Ethics of Hacking an iPhone

Today I learned of a very easy way to get tethering for your computer to your iPhone. Basically, you go to a site, download a file, install and reboot… and set up your network preferences. There’s even a video on how to do it. (Try it at your own risk!)

It is basically a background app that interfaces your phone’s internet connection with your computer. I tried it and saw some pretty good speeds. Nothing too fast, but 1 meg down isn’t horrible. tethered speed

So here’s my question… is it ethical to use this app?

I can rationalize it. I pay for unlimited data, and this simply uses what I pay for. It doesn’t even really hack the phone or alter the base software. And it does something that AT&T cannot, or will not do yet.

However, I am sure that AT&T will eventually come out with a tethering service for the iPhone. When they do, they will want anyone who wants to tether to pay for the service.

So, is it ethical to do this now? I will say it’s no less ethical than to “jailbreak” the phone. Also, since I did this today, I cannot get photos to sync to the phone. Still working on that. One of the things you sacrifice is tech service. You could say that the main thing you pay for with a paid tether service is the ability to get help if something doesn’t work.

I have not worked it all out yet. It was pretty cool to tether, turn on internet sharing, and have a wifi hot spot from my laptop through my phone. But cool doesn’t mean ethical.

Edit: I fixed the photo issue by removing and re-syncing the photos. But I also, later, decided to remove the app for now.

Gracyn DenBesten Sings “Healer” 9 Weeks After Heart Transplant

Once in a while you get to be part of a very special moment in worship.

Last April 15, after months of waiting and praying, Gracyn DenBesten received a heart transplant. It was an answer prayer, a miracle. 9 weeks layer she came back to church on Father’s Day. At the end of the 10:45 service, the pastor called her up to the platform, and she sang “Healer”. It was one of those moments I will never forget. What an incedible testimony.

The video is raw, and the audio is from the live mix.