7 Fringe Opportunities with Open Church

Kent Shaffer —  November 18, 2011

I have already discussed the vision and backstory behind Open Church. Now I’d like to share some of the fringe opportunities that future phases of Open Church may have as long as God wills.

Open Church intends to be much more than a hub for ministry articles and free downloadable resources. Phase 1 will focus on these basics, but we are structuring the organization and the web platform to quickly adjust according to God’s leading.

Over the past year as we have laid the groundwork for Open Church, we have had hundreds of ideas of what could be accomplished if enough people sacrifice the time and money to make Open Church a reality. We pray about these ideas. Many of them are good concepts but not the right fit with Open Church’s mission. However, some of the ideas resonate deeply with God’s leading and open our eyes to exciting new possibilities. Here are some of the ideas that we are most excited about:

7 FRINGE OPPORTUNITIES WITH OPEN CHURCH

  1. Scripture Engagement
    In his works of 1539, Martin Luther warns of the danger in collecting great libraries outside and alongside of the Holy Scriptures lest we waste good time and neglect studying Scripture. We are excited about the free church resources and ministry articles that Open Church will offer, yet we recognize the Bible as the greatest resource of all. To ensure that Scripture is a priority both online and offline, Open Church is exploring how to best partner with and serve organizations that do Scripture advancement well, such as Biblica and American Bible Society.
  2. Volunteers for Global Church Projects
    We are currently organizing teams of volunteer graphic designers, editors, web developers, translators, and many more skills that can help create in-demand resources and help people package resources for their culture by their culture.  While it will take hundreds of volunteers to run Open Church well, we expect the global scope to actually attract more volunteers than needed for operations. The overflow of volunteers can be assembled into fluid teams that can ebb and flow to projects outside of Open Church that offer the greatest potential to impact the global Church.
  3. Offline Resources
    The Internet is an incredibly efficient way to spread ideas and resources. The overhead costs are minimal. However, only 30% of the world’s 7 billion people have access to the Internet. We are excited about the ability of Open Church phase 1 to rapidly equip ministers globally, but we realize that long term goals must address how to get offline resources to the other 70% of the globe. These resources are mainly printed word and pictures but could also be audio on electronic devices as well as much more. It will take collaborating with locals and already established organizations and experts. We do not have all the answers for how yet, but we are already forming relationships with organizations and experts who can help. An example is Antoine RJ Wright of Mobile Ministry Magazine who specializes in mobile Internet but also works with ministries to get resources to remote areas with wireless devices but no Internet by attaching Wi-Fi hubs to 2 terrabyte hard drives.
  4. Reaching Microlanguages
    There are about 6,900 languages spoken globally. And the top 100 languages account for 90% of the world’s population. More than half of the world’s languages (3,524) have fewer than 10,000 speakers each. I call these microlanguages, and together they account for 8 million people globally. Open Church wants to be able to equip people regardless of what language they speak, simultaneously reaching the top 90% and bottom 0.1% of the world’s speakers. Again we do not have all the answers yet, but we are prayerful exploring ideas and collaboration opportunities with experts like Tim Jore of Door43 and Distant Shores Media. Tim is a former Wycliffe Bible translator pioneering new ways to empower microlanguages to translate and equip themselves with ministry resources.
  5. Acquisition of Licensed Content
    Sometimes the best resources are stuck behind rigid paid license models. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be. Open Church is designed to keep overhead costs low. We would love to raise funds over and above these costs to acquire previously licensed content. For example, the Bible was translated into a more obscure African dialect whose speakers want to create free audio Bibles to reach their storyteller culture, but the local copyright holder will only allow it if money is charged and royalties given. Money is a barrier that is keeping some of the most effective resources from reaching people and changing lives. What if together we can acquire high impact resources and give them away for free?
  6. Insights into the Behavioral Science of the Global Church
    Lifeway Research and the Barna Group offer outstanding insights for the Church. However, there are limitations to polls and surveys. In the age of supercomputers and the Internet, we now have opportunities to process complex relationships with millions of variables and discover the science behind humanity such as, Twitter users are happier in California than New York, happiness and sadness spread just like disease, and time availability determines Good Samaritans. Because Open Church categorizes its content by the creator’s age, gender, ethnicity, geography, role, ministry model, denomination, and theology, we can evaluate user trends to analyze the relationships between content, much like how Netflix’s algorithm can tell why someone will like one movie but not another. In other words, what are the dynamics between a Reformed Southern Baptist millennial from Texas and an Emergent Anglican Baby Boomer from the United Kingdom? With time, we hope that Open Church can better understand the complex dynamics across the 39,000+ denominations of the global Church.
  7. Read, Consume, & Stream Resources Online (no download required)
    Particularly in emerging economies, it is not always feasible to have the means to download a resource and then print it or burn it to a DVD. In some contexts, it makes much more sense to be able to stream and instantly consume content. Whether curriculum, a video, or some other resource, Open Church would like Christians to be able to use resources on demand straight from the website. So rather than downloading, a small group leader can just pull up individual curriculum lessons on his smartphone. During bedtime stories, parents can pull up video shorts to teach their kids spiritual truths. And a children’s minister in India can teach from the Bible and then show a 5 minute Bible story video translated into Hindi-Urdu.

Again please keep in mind that these are fringe opportunities for Open Church that we are prayerfully considering. The ultimate roadmap is up to God’s daily direction.

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Kent Shaffer

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I live in an RV with my wife and 2 kids and work with OpenChurch.com to help Christians collaborate and build a global Church library of free, open content.

2 responses to 7 Fringe Opportunities with Open Church

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