Category Archives: Technology

Dear Pastor . . . . . Disconnect

by Robert Earl Houston

I am a Star Trek fan. Been one since the days of the original Star Trek – Captain James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock, Lt. Uhura, Dr. McCoy, Lt. Commander Scott, Ensign Chekov, and Lt. Sulu.  That show gave us a glimpse into the future. It was a hopeful and optimistic view of the future.

I noticed something in watching some recent episodes. The crew kept on their paraphernalia when they were on duty. Most of them had hand communicators but a couple of them, Lt. Uhura and Mr. Spock in particular wore wireless communicators that were placed on the ear and in the ear canal. 

Sounds a lot like today’s wireless bluetooth headphones. In many states, it is now illegal to operate a cell phone while driving an automobile. So many of our cars are now equipped with wireless bluetooth speakers and microphones built within the car. It’s an amazing technological marvel.

But I am wondering something – brother and sister in ministry – are we so connected that we can’t do without a cell phone connection for even a few minutes? I’ve been to churches, associations, conventions, conferences, and for some odd reason some of us sit in worship, sit in the pulpit, in some cases participate in the pulpit worship service, and now in some cases, preach while connected to a cell phone, with a “communicator” hanging out of the ear.

Are we really that busy? If we tell our people to do, as the song says, “Just forget about yourself and concentrate on Him, and worship Him . . .” Is it not reasonable to sing that song while you’re still connected by earpiece or worst yet, continually texting others not about the worship, but other things not related to worship.

The Presidents of the United States of America, to my memory, have never used, in public during events and speeches, ear pieces. And I know that we have a calling from on high – but I don’t believe any of us are connected to the Heavenlies via phone.

To me, it is disturbing to see the “worship leader” or “the minister in charge” with a bluetooth device clinched against their ear. It is disturbing to watch a minister’s voice get louder because he or she’s volume is diminished because of the bluetooth device covering one ear completely.  It almost looks like a later iteration of Star Trek – the Borg.  It says to me that either I don’t have your full attention or that God doesn’t have your full attention.

I think the time has come that we need to just step back, take a deep breath, and disconnect. Even if it’s just for an hour – from all that would remove our attention from the Lord. Can you imagine seeing your minister or yourself communicate the truths of the Word of God and then all of a sudden a telephone call comes in and he or she stops the sermon to talk with Cousin June-Bug? It sounds laughable but I’ve seen ministers with ear pieces inserted get a phone call and fumble with their cell phones to turn it off.

A few moments of silence and concentration may produce a view of something that we may be missing – the Glory of God.

A last comment: the night that First Baptist Church of Frankfort, KY called me, I was in a funeral service with my pastor in Nashville, Tennessee. The phone was on vibrate and my pastor looked at me and said “Don’t do it. It will wait until after service.” He was absolutely right. Although the phone message was important, my ministry to a family that was bereaved outweighed my personal desire to be “connected” via the phone.

In the words of the late Dr. T.L. Lewis – “A word to the wise is sufficient . . .”


Why I Left The Church of iPhone

by Robert Earl Houston

This week, I severed a relationship that goes back some six years ago. After hearing about the “good news” and hearing others talk about it, I gave my time and attention to the iPhone and trusted in the vision of their “Pastor” – Steve Jobs.

It’s been quite the relationship. Standing in the rain for the latest phone. I remember being in Memphis one year when an update came in and standing in oppressive heat outside to get the latest version. I remember being in Paducah and walking into an AT&T store without any problems and snatching up the latest phone.

I’ve been a great disciple. I converted my wife, several of my friends, even slipped in a reference to my phone in conversations with friends, loved ones, and even people I didn’t know. I remember showing my phone to a grandfather and his grandson on a flight and watching the kid’s eyes light up as I showed him the game, “Stupid Zombies 2” and remember him shouting, “Air Drop! Air Drop!” Ahh . . . Pastor Jobs had me tuning in for his once a year or sometimes twice a year, two hour presentations . . . and of course, his “one more thing” meant something wonderful was about to be announced!

But this week, I left the Church of iPhone. Rather than just to leave without explanation, I thought this might be helpful and explain to the new pastor, Tim Cook, why I left. I’ve been converted to the Galaxy Note 2, and am in the midst of new member orientation, learning all the ins and outs.

First, my Pastor ain’t like my last one.

Pastor Tim Cook is a decent guy, I’m sure. But he just doesn’t have the presence or vision like Pastor Steve Jobs. Pastor Tim looks like a guy trying to be cool, when Pastor Steve was cool. Pastor Tim looks like a guy who took off his coat because it’s hot, where Pastor Steve looks like a guy who woke up, threw on a turtleneck and had no intension of wearing a jacket.

Not only that Pastor Tim has not captured my imagination. I gave him a change. When Pastor Steve died on October 5, 2011 – a memorial service was held and it was announced that Pastor Tim was Pastor Steve’s handpicked successor – but that was not enough.

Secondly, this Pastor lacks vision

The iPhone has become boring. It’s true – it’s still one of the biggest phones out there, but the innovation has been lacking. The speed and camera is sometimes impressive, but the apps look the same today as they did two years ago. The phone is relatively small in this Phablet age. I’m 53 – I don’t need a 3″ phone, I need something I can see and relate to.

Vision brought me to Apple. Pastor Jobs had vision. I can’t even remember the name of the last phone that I owned before iPhone – because I was amazed that I could do so much with this device in my hand. Pastor Jobs kept things hush-hush until he presented the very best. He was like the preacher who never announced before what he was going to preach. Somebody asked him one day, “why won’t you tell us what you’re going to preach on Sunday?” He said, “Well, you might not come because you’ll figure it out and preach it around the block or you’ll say ‘I’ll skip it for a better sermon.”

#3 – My Pastor let’s me have fun

My Galaxy Note 2 is fun. I’ve been on medical leave since May 30, 2013, and I’ve had time, with my leg propped up to see what the phone can and can’t do. I like the fact that my phone doesn’t have to be tethered to my computer to add an app. I like the fact that even though I’m still an Apple person, there are apps that make my Mac and Galaxy Note “talk to each other.” The Samsung folk have got it right. I know, the argument will be made that Apple is “American Made” but according to their own documents, even though their offices are in California, on paper, they are based in Ireland. Samsung is based in Japan. So they’re both non-US companies.

The truth is I don’t want a phone that’s just like everyone else’s. I want a different screen. I want different apps. I want to have fun with my phone. I don’t want a Victorian device that does not allow for some personality. I don’t want to be a lemming, I want to be a sheep. I have different wool, different eyesight, different strengths, different weaknesses. I look for that in my phone. Accept me for my strengths and weaknesses, and show me that I can learn to do or be better.

Hmmmm . . . I also look for that in my Church and Pastor.

Your Comments are Welcome.

Swing and a Miss

by Robert Earl Houston

Yesterday Apple Corporation announced the impending release of the iPad Mini. Before I begin this, let me tell you I am an Apple fan, as my members well know. I have an iPad, an iMac, an iPhone, a Mac Mini, an iPod, Apple TV, and a MacBook Pro. I usually get a new Apple product within days, if not the first day, of their release.

But not this time.

I was really disappointed with the iPad Mini, which I will not purchase for myself.
I was really disappointed with the Ipad 4th Generation, which I will not purchase for myself.

Here’s why:

The iPad Mini is not a smaller version of the 3rd or 4th generation iPad. Rather, it’s a scaled down version of the iPad 2 which means there is no retina display – and if you’ve ever held an iPad 3/4 or iPhone 5, you know what I mean. The screen quality is better than most but still not up to par with the Ipad 3/4.  Also, the price point is high. You can get other handheld tablets for around $200 – that includes the Kindle Fire HD and other units. But starting, not ending, at $300 plus is ridiculous and too high.

The iPad 4th Generation . . .  is – dang, I just purchased the 3rd Generation six months ago. If Apple thinks I’m some kind of Apple junkie (please disregard paragraph one) and jump out there and purchase it blindly knowing that there will be an iPad 5th Generation next year – you’re crazy. The only real difference in the 4 from the 3 is the lighting power source and the A6 chip, which is supposed to be twice as fast – I’ll take their word for that, but my iPad is very fast as is.

I considered buying the new iPad notebook, 13″ with the Retina display, however, I’m like a lot of people who are not using laptops anymore. Since the iPad came out, I very rarely use my laptop and I’ve considered selling it and making due with what I have – my desktop and my iPad. Since I’m a pastor let me tell you I type my messages on my iMac and then save them to the cloud on Dropbox and then I access it and preach from my iPad. Notice there was no mention of the laptop.

I went to Texas and didn’t carry my laptop.
I went to Louisville for a couple of days and didn’t carry my laptop.
I went to Cleveland and didn’t carry my laptop.

It’s becoming obsolete. I think Apple should consider making a more memory friendly laptop (with 1 TB or 2 TB) with all the bells and whistles as a replacement for desktop computers and not a supplement. I’m researching their new iMac and that may be a purchase in the next few months, Lord and cash willing.

My purchasing advice:

a.  If I had to choose between the iPad and the iPad Mini – choose the iPad, especially if you’re older and have eye issues.
b.  If I had to choose between replacing a laptop (if it’s old and creaky) – yes, get the new MacBook Pro.
c.  If I had to choose between a late model MacBook Pro and the new one – take a pass, wait until next year or 2014.
d.  If I had to choose between a late model iMac and the new iMac – no decision yet – buyer’s option.
e.  If I had to choose between the iPad 3 and the iPad 4 – stick with the 3 and wait until 2013 for the newest edition.
f.  If I had to choose between the old Mac Mini and the new Mac Mini – yes, get the new Mac Mini.


by Pastor Robert Earl Houston

H.B. Charles Jr.

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