October 8, 2011
Tools for the Modern Missionary: RSS Feeds
One of the greatest challenges for the foreign missionary is staying current with what is going on in the rest of the world. Admittedly, this is more difficult on some fields than on others. And, with the advent of the internet, being up-to-date is not the obstacle it once was.
But then again, the internet presents it's own unique problem: the sheer volume of information available. Missionaries lead very busy lives, and have no time to be constantly scanning the internet in search of good material. Even when the missionary knows what he wants to research, a simple Google search will turn up literally dozens of items which have to be weeded out and organized.
How to deal with this information overload? I have found the secret to be in three letters: RSS
RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication". Put succinctly, it is a line of code embedded within a website which allows the user to subscribe to the content, using an application called a "aggregator".
In practice, this is how it works. You have found a site (this one, for example) that constantly provides useful information. However, you have no time to be constantly checking back with the site for updates. Therefore, you open your aggregator and paste the URL (web address) of the site into the appropriate space. The aggregator then "subscribes" to the site. From now on, every time you open your aggregator, you will see all the updates to the site. You can chose to read or ignore them. Many aggregators allow you to organize your "feeds" (subscriptions) by subject, author, etc.
Here is my own system: every morning when I open up my computer, I check my feeds. I have no time to read everything, but if a headline looks interesting, or looks like something that will be useful for research in the future, I open it in my browser, and immediately save it to Evernote. For example, there has been a small controversy stirring within reformed circles about the nature of the Trinity. This has resulted in some good articles on the subject--articles that will come in handy when I teach this subject to our congregation. In these two easy steps these articles are saved forever for future reference.
In order to take advantage of the RSS technology, you need an aggregator. Perhaps the most widely used aggregator is Google Reader. It is web based, and very user friendly.
As a Mac user, I have thoroughly enjoyed Grumle. It is easy to use, integrates well with Firefox, and can be accessed while offline.
Here is a list of some of the more profitable feeds in my list, according to categories:
Team Pyro Phil Johnson and his posse address major issues of the day from a Biblical perspective. Always thought-provoking.
Biblical Christianity One of the members of the Pyro team, Dan Philips often offers up good observations here as well. Also, his "Hither and Thither" posts are very entertaining.
Sharper Iron Great commentary from a Fundamentalist perspective. I have been privileged to write book reviews for them on occasion.
Justin Taylor More than others, Justin seems to have his finger on what is going on in the Christian world.
More than Tennis My Dad's consistently thought-provoking blog.
Albert Mohler One of the more brilliant theologians of our day. Give yourself a theological treat, and read what he has to say.
Divine Satisfaction My bro's blog. He's been away from it for a while, but hopefully he will be back with a vengeance soon.
The Resurgence I don't always agree with everything (actually, that goes for most blogs on the list) but this blog is consistently informative.
White Horse Inn Michael Horton's online ministry. It doesn't get any deeper than this on the internet.
Challies No list of theological feeds would be complete without Tim Challies' keen insights.
The Feminine Intellect No, it's not a contradiction in terms. It's a blog run by my sister-in-law, with lots of good stuff for us menfolk as well.
Ed Stetzer One of the most outstanding missions thinkers around today. If your heart beats for missions, Stetzers blog is for you.
Missionary Blog Watch As close as you get to an exhaustive list of missionary blogs from around the world.
Michael Hyatt It is a rare day that I don't glean something useful from this blog. Michael Hyatt is the former CEO (and current president of the board) of Thomas Nelson publishers.
The Rio Times English Language newspaper containing up-to-date news from Rio and the rest of Brazil.
Deep Brazil A blog that tries--and succeeds--to get beyond the common US stereotypes of Brazil and Brazilians.
I follow several missionary bloggers, and all of them are good. Here are some of the ones I consider the best:
The Jungle Hut Formerly in Venezuela, forced to leave by Hugo Chavez, now serving in Paraguay, Rita has lots of great stories to tell. You will get a great picture of missionary life from her blog.
Missionary to Melbourn John was in candidate school with us, and is currently serving with BMM in Australia. He is a deep thinker, who writes some challenging posts.
Jewell Page A colleague here in Brazil. He consistently shares good devotional thoughts, as well as goings on in his ministry.
Kari in Peru Kari is from one of our supporting churches, and is serving as a short-term missionary in Peru.
See if you can guess which way I pull the lever from the blogs listed below:
The Brothers Brick Inspiring Lego creations, including this amazing reproduction of the Cristo Redentor statue in Rio.
Twenty Two Words Abraham Piper's collection of the weird and wonderful from around the world wide web.
There are other feeds on my aggregator, but these are the ones that consistently provide quality content that is worth the time expended to read it.
Do you know of a particularly interesting blog that would make a nice addition to my feed? Let me know in the comments section!
August 1, 2008
The Power of Twitter
Congressman Culberson's Twitter page.
Congressman Hoekstra's Twitter page.
My Twitter page.
July 28, 2008
A Little Twitter
I have been doing more with Twitter of late. At first I could not see the use of it, but now the idea of people receiving up-to-the-minute reports of our activities seems like a no-brainer--from a missionary standpoint.
If you are into Twitter go ahead and subscribe to our profile. If you do not know what Twitter is, you might want to check it out. The cell phone feature is really nice. I also use a Facebook app called BlogIt to sync my "tweats" and status updates.
February 17, 2008
We've Got Your Podcasts Right Here
A friend on Facebook recently pointed me to the Podcasts application, and I have enjoyed it so much I thought I would spread the word. It allows me to listed to my favorite preachers/theologians (John MacArthur, Mark Driscol, Steve Brown, etc.) right from the Facebook page, without having to open my iTunes or any other program. Of course, there are many other podcasts available. For example, as I write this I am listening to the Henson.com podcast--keeping up to date with the latest in puppetry.