Day: January 5, 2010

What Your Church Can Learn From Google’s New Phone Launch

Okay, I’m going for the cheap search hits with the title, but bear with me because I do have a serious point. Google launched the Nexus One phone today, to no surprise and with little flash. One reviewer said the presentation was “underwhelming.” Of course, that’s exactly what Google intended. Here’s why and here’s what your church can learn:

1.  Google is not interested in a big splash. Back in the fall of 2007, Google announced the Android operating system, an open source system with an Open Handset Alliance to go with it.  Reviews were mixed, prognostications abounded, Google was questioned, etc, etc.  Same with any product launch.  But Google knew where they were headed.

2.  Google has a strategy. The strategy was, “let some other folks play around with this.”  Which is classic postmodern, collaborative thinking.  Let’s see what someone comes up with.  To much fanfare, and not a little disappointment, the first Google phone, the G1, was offered by T-Mobile.  It was widely trashed, but still it was the first.  “It’s no iPhone” was the big complaint.  But Google’s strategy isn’t to be Apple — hardware/software locked up together.  Google’s strategy is to control the entire computing “cloud” experience.  Mobile is the next piece of that.  Here’s a site that agrees with me.

3.  Google is good at iteration. They keep making it better, in other words.  Incrementally, one step at a time, no splash, just good solid improvements one-at-a-time.  No Steve Jobs, no big gathering of fanboys, just “here’s what we did to push Android to the limits.”  So, now the G1 looks really ancient, and even the Droid is looking a little outdated.  One step at a time.

4.  Google is good at disrupting models. But the big thing about the Nexus One is that Google will sell it to you directly, without the mobile phone provider involved.  Of course, you have to have some type of plan, and right now it’s just T-Mobile, but for the first time you can buy a legally unlocked phone in the US.  I bought an unlocked phone in Hong Kong in 1999.  I used three different GSM cards in it as I traveled from Hong Kong, to China, and then to the US.  Google has just poked every mobile phone carrier in the eye with a sharp stick.  But, they are apparently lining up to Google’s door anyway.

5.  Google is in this for the long haul. Google isn’t after the one big splash, or the big event.  They’re building their company on what they believe.  Remember when Google search first started?  No photos, no fancy text, no graphics.  I thought it was completely lame.  But it was fast, and it got faster, and they indexed the web better, and their algorithms delivered better results, all so that they could place ads in front of people.  Oh, they’re still in the advertising business, they said today.  Only now, they’re going to push ads out in a variety of ways to mobile phones, ebook readers, netbooks, and all the other devices that will run Android.  And we thought all the Google stuff was free.

So, the lesson for churches is obvious.  Be more like Google.  Take the long view, go for the next step, disrupt the culture a bit, but keep on plugging.  My money is (figuratively speaking, of course) on Google’s approach.  And, I like the “do no evil” thing, too.

Reveiw: Pastoral Counseling Across Cultures by David Augsburger

With the rise of multi-ethnic congregations, global mission trips, and world-wide communication, church leaders should read Dr. David Augsburger’s book, Pastoral Counseling Across Cultures.

Augsburger guides the pastoral counselor, or church staff member, on a tour through alternative worlds by exploring the care of souls across the rich variety of social contexts found around the globe.  Augsburger carefully and in compelling detail expands the Western pastoral counselor’s worldview to include a rich panoply of cultures which approach differently the experiences of conflict, individuality, the social group, mental health, family, and other issues of concern to our common humanity.  The reader learns, in other words, that her or his own culture is not normative for all cultures, thereby opening the reader to new insights in the pastoral counseling task.

Helpful chapter themes include subtitles which both describe and guide the reader on the intercultural journey.  Subtitles include: A Theology of Presence, A Theology of Culture, A Theology of Humanness, A Theology of Grace, A Theology of Value, A Theology of the Family, A Theology of Liberation, A Theology of Moral Character, A Theology of the Demonic, A Theology of Human Frailty, and, Models of Pastoral Counseling and Theology.

Two particular insights emerge as the reader moves from chapter to chapter.  First, human beings, despite wide cultural variance, hold basic human traits in common.   In other words, we as a species are similar in our common humanity, while at the same time we are diverse in our cultural expressions.  Secondly, the existence of dominant cultures does not mean that one culture is inherently superior to another.  The intercultural pastoral counselor learns to move from his or her culture into another culture, and back again, providing help at the “borders” of cultural intersection and insight.

Taking these two insights as the guiding light for the “interpathy” of the pastoral counselor, she or he is then able to resist the temptation to make others in their own image, or the image on their own culture.  Rather the aware intercultural pastoral counselor is able to help those in need within the context of the counselee’s cultural values, groups, constructs, assumptions, and traditions.  This allows the person helped to find their way to wholeness as defined by the society in which they live.

Intercultural awareness also enables the counselor to move beyond the idea that his or her culture is superior, and by extension, that his or her culture is the norm preferred by God.  This insight expands the theological framework of the intercultural pastoral counselor, providing the opportunity to relate to the God of all creation and cultures in a new, positive, and helpful manner.

By the same token, the book opens the idea of community to the whole world of cultures encountered by the counselor.  By developing cultural awareness, bridges can be built from the counselor’s culture into the cultural milieu of others, thereby expanding the communal relationships available to the counselor, and reciprocally to the counseled.

Augsburger even tackles the world of the mystical and apparently supernatural, providing access through both reason and faith to that which seems to be beyond scientific analysis.  Augsburger’s even-handed approach to the mysteries of demon possession, shamanism, and supernatural healing grounds the counselor in a real world, while allowing for the inexplicable and transcendent.

I commented to Debbie as I read through this book, that Pastoral Counseling Across Cultures contains enough material for several books.  This is not a fluffy, insubstantial volume.  But the persistent reader will find tools for personal reflection, and cross-cultural engagement.  If you need a good book about pastoral counseling, that also expands your cultural horizons, then this is the book to read.

Augsburger, David W., Pastoral Counseling Across Cultures. The Westminster Press (Philadelphia:  1986), 373.

Disclaimer: I purchased my own copy of this book from Amazon, and received no inducement to write this review.