By Jim Tune
One Saturday in November, hundreds of programmers and designers arrived at George Brown College in Toronto. They were armed with laptops and sleeping bags, although few of them would sleep. For 30 hours, they worked nonstop on creating products to improve the lives of people living with dementia, a disease that affects 47.5 million worldwide. Their reward: the opportunity to change lives, $175,000 in cash prizes, and the chance to pitch their ideas to influencers.
DementiaHack is one of many hackathons taking place around the world. There are even Christian versions, like Code for the Kingdom, “where faith and technology collide to produce something wonderful,” held in 13 cities around the world last October.
I’m a preacher, not a computer programmer, but I’d love to see something similar for the church. I want to hack ministry and learn from some of the smartest thinkers and leaders in the world.
We live in a rapidly changing culture. Although the gospel has not changed, people have become resistant to ministry approaches that were effective only a few years ago. Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, authors of Everyday Church, suggest that many of our evangelism methods are designed for people who are at a level of eight out of 10 in terms of spiritual interest. The problem is that “70 percent of the population is at one or two.”
How should we adapt to this rapidly changing culture? The best approach, I think, is to stay tethered to the gospel, and then experiment and learn from one other. I have some ideas, and you do too. But I’m also pretty sure there are ideas we haven’t yet considered and approaches we’re too scared to try in case we fail. If computer programmers can come together to solve some of the world’s biggest problems, perhaps we can come together to become more effective in our ministries.
J.D. Payne, pastor of church multiplication at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama says,
In our highly integrated and globalized world, it is poor stewardship to fail to share what is working and not working in the moment. . . . No top secret R&D department. No hiding, no concealing, no embarrassments. No what will they think if we share this now only to see it tank later. No sharing only what is working well and avoiding discussion of what is not. Sharing today’s stories later today is the way of the Kingdom steward (from www.jdpayne.org).
I don’t plan on attending a 30-hour hackathon myself. I’m not great with computers, and I need my sleep. But I want to innovate and experiment in ministry. I want to learn from you. I want to encourage and celebrate kingdom innovators and risk-takers for God, and for the good of this world.