5 comments | Posted: 6 January 10 in Interviews, by Nathan Smith
Most people have the energy to either blog diligently, work diligently, or study diligently. John Saddington is a rare individual who seemingly juggles it all — not to mention being a husband and father. He’s also a prolific user of Twitter — @Human3rror. Last week, coworker Curtis Simmons and I had dinner with John, after which I asked if he’d do an interview for Godbit.
Photo credit: Esther Havens
People know you best from your popular blog ChurchCrunch. Though you update it quite frequently, not a whole lot is said about you personally. Would you share a bit about how you got your start in blogging, and the web in general?
I started blogging in 2001 when the girl I was dating at the time suggested I start a blog on Xanga.com. I thought it was pretty lame, but I didn’t want to make her upset so I complied. Needless to say, I was hooked and by the end of the year I had tried every blogging platform that existed, searching for a perfect system. I eventually landed on WordPress and have found it to be the best solution so far.
But, my love for the web started much earlier. I started developing code as a middle schooler with HTML, animated GIFs, and flaming horizontal rules. Those were the good old days. I learned that you could earn decent money (more than decent) doing web development after I had taken a dive into Macromedia products, namely Flash.
What made you want to pursue a higher theological degree? Particularly, what appealed to you about Dallas Theological Seminary? We have had a bit of discussion about how some refer to seminary as “cemetery” – something I have done so myself. What are your thoughts on that comparison?
I had hopes (and still do) to become an educator. I have a heart for encouraging and teaching others biblical truths and a seminary degree seemed like the next step in accomplishing that goal. I chose Dallas Seminary because they have a rich tradition of diving deeply into the Scriptures and that’s what I wanted to know more about, the Word of God.
I think seminary, like many things, is what you make of it. A poor attitude about anything, including seminary, will result in a poor results and a somewhat meaningless experience. I do find it hard to understand how people who have committed significant time and financial resources to complete their degree then turn around and make light of it. I just don’t see how that honors the God who enabled them to pursue a deeper relationship with Him through advanced educational facilities.
When it comes to content management, debates can escalate to levels of nearly religious fanaticism. I know that you are quite fond of WordPress, but how do you think it fares in terms of handling large-scale sites? That is, it can run high-traffic blogs just fine (scaling vertically), but how well would you say it works for a broader scope of information architecture (scaling horizontally)?
Wow, that completely depends on it’s use and the functionality that’s employed. WordPress can obviously scale vertically as large as you’d like it to go; just consider WordPress.com as a prime example of that! But it doesn’t fare as well horizontally in comparison to it’s vertical abilities, and that’s simply because it wasn’t ever really built for that initial scope and scale. It’s a blogging platform, not a CMS. Sure, you can convert it, hack it, manipulate it to do such things but it quickly becomes “brittle” the more customization is required.
In the end, though, it’s all about how you use it. My consistent suggestion and counsel to businesses and organizations is to find the “right” choice for their needs and choose the best technology solution that meets those needs the best (duh, right?). Don’t be so dogmatic about a certain technology just because you think it’s awesome. Don’t handcuff yourself (or your clients) because of a misplaced allegiance to particular 1’s and 0’s.
Speaking of larger scale sites, I am curious about how North Point approaches its web presence across multiple campuses. Do all the locations and their respective sites roll up under one centralized team, or is each campus more autonomous?
North Point gives significant creative freedom to their local campuses because ministry is best done in the context of the community in which it is found. As a result, their web presences are unique and relative to their local bodies. But, we attempt to streamline the process from a web perspective to save cost, overhead, and manpower by centralizing efforts into one team. This has a number of challenges — such as potential duplicate effort across multiple sites, properties, and platforms — but it’s worth it to create customized, contextual experiences.
Most recently, you helped oversee the launch of North Point Online, with a focus on getting the message out via video. After having successfully deployed the endeavor, is there anything you would have done differently and/or what went particularly smoothly that could be emulated again?
You know, I sat on this question for a long time, trying to think of something “negative” to say, or drum up something that I would do significantly different, but I honestly can’t say that anything strikes me immediately. That’s not to say that we did it perfectly, but I see God’s sovereign hand moving in every false start, decision to change technology platforms / providers / partners, and other “bumps” that occurred in the process. I think one of the greatest things that I learned is that due-diligence is highly underrated and that conservative decision making is better than risky technology launches in the long-run.
I work with some of the most talented people in ministry technology and obviously some of the most gifted leaders. It was a cornucopia of talent and it was a pleasure to be a part of the team.
What advice would you give to newer and/or smaller churches, attempting to leverage the ubiquity of the Internet to supplement their ministries?
I would say it’s not a question of what you can do — because you can do anything and everything — but rather what you should do, considering your particular ministry, leadership, context, history, and culture. All these play significant roles in how you use technology and which you ultimately choose to leverage. Don’t reverse the decision making procress by choosing tech and then attempting to retrofit a strategy on top, but rather make great pains to develop a strategy for execution, one that marries intimately with your umbrella ministry, and then make the wise and informed decisions about your web needs.
In addition, never feel like you’re “behind” or that you need to “catch up” to anyone or any ministry. It’s just not the case. If we truly believed in the sovereignty of God and His control and ownership of His ministries, we’d be more at peace with where they are technologically than afraid (or upset) that our websites aren’t as good as our neighbors’ down the street.
Finally, if you’re not having fun then don’t do it.
Lastly, and most importantly: Would you share your testimony of how you came to faith in Christ?
I came to faith in Jesus Christ because God, who apparently loves really stupid and rebellious people, decided that He wanted to adopt me. I cannot, for the life of me, figure that out.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…
I was raised in a Christian home but didn’t take it very seriously — although at times I thought I did — until I went to college and I was introduced to a most depraved, lonely, and shameful person: Me.
I quickly realized that I had a life that wasn’t really worth living and through a number of events found myself back in a Bible study reading over Galatians and the Fruits of the Spirit. I discovered that I had not a single one, but I wanted all of them. So began my journey back into the faith.
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