Kevin Old is organizing FaithLeads.Tech Conference in November | Episode 008

For this episode of the Future.Bible Podcast, we’ll have Kevin Old as our special guest. Kevin is the front-end architect at LifeWay and one of the brilliant minds behind the upcoming Faith Leads Tech Conference.

Listen as Kevin shares his God-given inspiration in coming up with the conference, which serves as an avenue for people from different backgrounds – business, tech, and in church – to come together, and to learn more about what God is doing at the intersection of faith and technology.

Register and learn more about the Faith Leads Tech Conference: the details, speakers, and schedule at www.faithleads.tech

HIGHLIGHTS
04:42 God has given me this platform in the tech community. And along the way I’ve been to various tech conferences, and I’ve always felt that there was something missing in what I wanted from there. I want to focus on technology from a theological perspective.

05:41 So this conference is almost in a response to a question that I have about what else is there to build; what else does God want us to build for his kingdom? We’ve got a ton of stuff that’s out there, but I don’t know that I have the answer of what’s next. And through this journey I’ve learned about a number of projects and startups that are around this thing. So this conference is really about featuring what God’s doing at the intersection of faith and technology.

10:25 And we were talking, and then he just said, “Well what about Faith Leads Tech?” And it was like, “Man, that’s exactly it.” Like I want my faith in Jesus to lead the tech that I’m building. And so it was just a natural fit.

18:42 And so I don’t know what that one thing would be, but my hope is that one day I can be a part of a new bit of technology, or contribute. I don’t have to create it, but I would love to contribute to something that would just help someone further their walk.

TRANSCRIPTION
Kenny:           Welcome friends for another episode and we are back in the saddle with my co-host DJ. Welcome today. How are you doing?

DJ:              I’m doing well, Kenny. And today’s an important day because we’re talking about a very special event that we’re in partnership with and we’re thrilled to have our special guest today.

Kenny:           That is right DJ. I love special guests, right? It’s just, it’s a little bit of spice to the show and especially we’ve got Kevin Old. Welcome, Kevin. How are you doing?

Kevin:           Great. How are you guys doing?

Kenny:           So Kevin, you are with the behemoth LifeWay. Tell us a little bit about where you sit in that whole ecosystem called LifeWay.

Kevin:           So I’m a part of a portion of the IT organization inside LifeWay called Consumer Solutions, and we’re a group that are around the web presence of LifeWay, uh, from an app perspective. So we manage properties like Wordsearch Bible, Smallgroup.com, Ministry Grid, and LifeWay.com.

Kenny:           Nice. And you are on the technical side of things, right? And you’re in the technical side of things, right, Kevin?

Kevin:           Yeah, absolutely. So I’m in a role called a front-end architect, and I help steward the Wordsearch Bible app that allows for in-depth Bible study and any content that you’ve purchased through us. You see that front end app at www.WordsearchBible.com. We’ve just gone through a rewrite, and actually today we’ve just just made another iteration where we’ve pushed our content essentially to the edge. So everywhere on the planet, if you’re interacting with our app and our content, you’re going to get it just like it was in your region. So it is in your region. So it’s super, it’s a big day for us because we’re going to be able to turn down some servers, and, I don’t know, we just got a really great architecture that’s a been a couple of years in the making and now we’re seeing the fruits of that labor.

Kenny:           That must be exciting. I know being a part of several startup teams before, whenever you push out a new release, you feel a big sigh of relief. But then you’re in this little like limbo, you know, almost like an airplane flying around waiting to land, because you want to make sure that everything is still right, you’re available and that all your users are getting what they’re getting. So it must be an exciting day for you for sure.

Kevin:           Yeah. Yeah. This is an iteration, so it’s not like a big bang. We did the big bang about nine weeks ago. And everything’s been extremely stable. We provide content to Liberty University and those students, and we’re doing this latest thing in response to a huge surge of traffic that we’ll get to see spike out this evening. So yeah, but it’s, the excitement is still there.

Kenny:           Yeah. Definitely. So I love the fact that we’re talking with you, because you are one of those guys that does understand the technology side and the innovation side and pushing the boundaries so that we take advantage of technology for Scripture engagement. At the end of the day, we all have this common goal here. And that’s what the show’s about. DJ and I have been on this journey trying to make some pit stops and stop in and have conversations with innovators like you. And one of the things that we’re excited about is that we are teaming up with you from American Bible Society and LifeWay’s Perspective to really help support and I guess turbo-boost your efforts with organizing a conference that’s coming up this fall. So why don’t you just give us that elevator pitch of what this conference and event is about. Who is it for, and what are we going to see at the conference?

Kevin:           Yeah. Awesome. I will say I do sincerely appreciate aligning with you guys at the American Bible Society.Bible and the Future.Bible Podcast to help launch this thing. So the conference we’re talking about is Faith Leads Tech. And the idea is that this conference was set in motion through prayer primarily. As I know that I’ve mentioned to you guys before or Kenny, when I’ve talked to you about coming on board, you know, God has given me this platform in the tech community. And along the way I’ve been to various tech conferences, and I’ve always felt that there was something missing in what I wanted from there. I want to focus on technology from a theological perspective. What should I be building as a follower of Jesus? What tech should I be building? Now it sounds super simple, you know, to say, “Oh, we should use PowerPoint, and we should build a presentation software, and we should build CMS, and we should build Scripture reading plans, and we should build all these things.” What should we build? But what else is there that we could build? I think there are conversations about should we build another social network, you know, should we, you know, for, I don’t know, there’s all these different ideas, I think. And that’s one thing that I struggle with. So this conference is almost in a response to a question that I have about what else is there to build; what else does God want us to build for his kingdom? We’ve got a ton of stuff that’s out there, but I don’t know that I have the answer of what’s next. And through this journey I’ve learned about a number of projects and startups that are around this thing. So this conference is really about featuring what God’s doing at the intersection of faith and technology.

Kenny:           Love that.

Kevin:           And then allowing the collaboration from all of his people that are in this space. So throughout this process, I’ve learned of about 30 people that are doing similar things in similar organizations or startups or ministries that I would have never known about. And so there are so many people that I want to introduce you guys to and I know that there are plenty of people that you have introduced me to and I can also introduce you to. So I think just really providing that this conferences is trying to steward that literal intersection, like we’re at an intersection of two roads in Nashville, right? And at that place I would like to help steward this exploration of what we do with our faith and our technology.

DJ:              That’s fantastic. And both Kenny and I will be there. And one of the things that I think this fits hand in glove with is we’re hosting this conversation about faith and technology and Bible online kind of as a weekly podcast, and then hopefully at an annual event, we can have the face-to-face, in person conversations with each other who are at this intersection. Because I’m old enough to be around that. I grew up pre-Internet. So I’ve seen how churches and Christians have tried to use technology, and even today it’s often just a print or digital version of the print. And I think technology has so much more to offer, and we see technology just changing our lives like a cell phone parking lots and renting our homes to total strangers. And so this gathering is really valuable. How did you come up with the name Faith Leads Tech, and how has that shaped the conversation?

Kevin:           It was actually almost by accident. So the way that this conference came about, I had been working with a gentleman in town. We did an iteration of Code for the Kingdom as a hackathon. And throughout those hackathons, there were a lot of busines-minded folks that didn’t necessarily want to be at the keyboard or building a project or they were a part of a project, but they just didn’t feel as connected. They were just asking like, “Well, is there a conference? Is there something else we can do for like the business community as a whole?” Or the church leaders community? Or I’ll throw out this term like a ministry tech leader. Someone that’s in ministry that’s, you know, the tech person that can do everything from PowerPoint to deploy a network for the church, or to, you know, set up email and backups for computers. Those kinds of things. That kind of catch all person. Is there some other thing? So we started just the idea on a napkin drawing, put it down for a little while and then last year it’s almost been a year, but God really started nudging me to say, “Hey, pick this up, pick this up and start talking about it internally as an idea that we could launch this.” And so it literally started with a paragraph of like, “What is this? Okay, it’s a one-day, single-track conference to feature this.” And actually that sentence, it’s on the website. One-day, single-track conference to explore the intersection of faith and technology. Okay. That’s it, right? And so we, my boss and I each took a, you know, like I stewarded it, I started it and got in front of him and we talked about it. We then came, it was a couple of weeks later we came back and were kind of talking about, you know, what do, what do you call it, what is this thing gonna do. And I had the, the term of faith leading tech and, and I was kind of stuck on that. Faith leading tech, faith leading tech. I was stuck on that. I’ve got, I’ve got an Evernote of I don’t know, five or six different ideas. And we were talking, and then he just said, “Well what about Faith Leads Tech?” And it was like, “Man, that’s exactly it.” Like I want my faith in Jesus to lead the tech that I’m building. And so it was just a natural fit. So that’s, it was just literally collaboration that, how that came, and divine inspiration.

DJ:              Well, thank you for hosting this space for potentially even more collaboration. One of the previous conferences that Kenny and I went to was called Rock RX2018, and it was a gathering of developers and users that use this open source collaborative software called Rock RMS relation management system for churches. And that is a hugely a collaborative effort and I think there’s so much more opportunities that can happen between Christian organizations and churches and things like that, and you’re providing space for it. So thank you so much for doing that.

Kevin:           Awesome. Glad to help out.

Kenny:           Yeah. It’s one of those things at that conference, right DJ? You felt the enthusiasm amongst the crowd there that it was very different than other conferences, because it felt like we are all part of this movement or that we’re all contributing to something or we’re seeing the needle move in terms of progress, right DJ?

DJ:              Yes. I think this is the beginning of more collaborations, and I’m hopeful that Faith Leads Tech will build on that. I’m reading a book title Rooting for Rivals by Peter Greer, and he’s with an organization called Hope International. It talks about just how the open source movement in technology can really be a model for us as Christians who are the body of Christ. Get that, right? That we can work together across organizations, really leverage our strength, not duplicate efforts, just like you said, and this needs to be an ongoing conversation. So I really do hope that this would be an annual event, perhaps even more depending on how the response goes. So we’re very hopeful and thankful that you’re hosting this.

Kenny:           Kevin, can you tell us a little bit about the format? One of the things I love again toward this collaborative nature is that you said you want to be intentional that it’s not just like sit and soak all day nine to six or whatever it is, and that you want some table discussions, or you want some real interaction happening. Can you share a little bit what to expect for people who are considering picking up a registration and coming to Nashville?

Kevin:           Yeah. So like I said, I’ve been to a lot of tech conferences and I’ve gotten the most value out of the hallway track. So the hallway track is when you’re not necessarily in a talk. Now, of course we’ve got amazing talks and we’ve kept them intentionally short, but we want to foster this idea that you could sit down as a product visionary. Say you’ve got this idea for a product, but you don’t have a marketer, you don’t have a developer, you don’t have a business person to steward it. But just say that your church may be interested in building this thing or bringing this thing to market. My hope is that you would sit with a group. And we’re going to have round tables at the event so that there’s just the encouragement of collaboration and conversation. And we’ll provide a number of breaks throughout the day and lunches hosted onsite. So this idea of fostering that conversation and the introductions that a person on one side of the room can make to another person, to help do that. And I think also from the the stage perspective, everything has come together and then this feeling of of bringing someone to a stage that could start or continue a conversation, that’s either ongoing or start a new one of how do we bring the church into this tech community seriously. Like literally, how do we do it? Because I’ve run a number of hackathons, we run the third year of Code for the Kingdom, and we’ve had the most resistance from churches. And you would think that they would see it like we do as another ministry, just like a Trunk-or-Treat or an Easter Egg Hunt or a Fall Festival as most churches have and are aligned with. It’s just another form of ministry with this specific focus of these types of people. But churches have been really resistant to even getting engaged or sponsoring this because they just don’t know what it is. And there’s one talk that Shamichael Hallman is going to give on about his struggle. He’s a kind of bi-vocational in that to where he is a leader in the Code for the Kingdom organization as well as he’s on church staff. And he is going to share his struggle of that. But I think that, my hope is that the people in the room can help with that conversation. We have a number of church leaders coming from various levels of their organization. There’s IT church leaders from larger churches, and there’s just communications people from churches that are coming as well as developers, designers, and then several people from like a product perspective. I really just, the idea is really to put the right people in the room, and I know that as I’ve been planning this, I’m always worried about, “Well, who should be there?” Right? And I have to keep going back, too. I literally have to run by myself daily and sometimes multiple times a day, but God’s got it taken care of. He knows who’s going to be in the room. So I just have to like, you know, stand back. So.

Kenny:           Well, it’s definitely going to be an exciting time. So let’s go over the details. It’s going to be in November. What days and what times during the day is it happening first of all?

Kevin:           Yeah. So the conference date is November 9th 2018. Just for clarity, this is coming up very soon, so it’s not going to be next year. Hopefully it will be next year, but we’re talking about this year. The hours are going to be nine to six, so we’ve got a roughly 13 TED-style talks. The talks are 10 or 15 minutes. And we’re going to highlight a number of ministries around the country. I don’t think there’s anyone that’s coming from out of the US. But yeah, it’s really super focused.

Kenny:           Where can everybody find the agenda, the roster of speakers and topics so that they can see all the details for the event?

Kevin:           Yeah. So the website is www.FaithLeads.Tech. So we’re at that top level domain, .tech. And then we’re also on Twitter as @faithleadstech, and on Facebook as well as faithleads_tech.

Kenny:           And one of the questions we like to ask our interview guests as we round out today’s show is if we were to give you a magic wand and you were supposed to be able to wave it and solve anything, come up with anything without any resource constraints, budget constraints, bandwidth constraints, what would be one thing that you would try to accomplish regarding the intersection of technology and applying it to the Bible?

Kevin:           So I would love to develop or steward some sort of technology, and technology in general term here, that would help someone further their walk with Christ as that’s just it. And I’ll say technology is a term because technology is subjective before the printing press. That was technology, right? And if you’re trying to get water out of a stream and into, you know, something else, a bucket is a piece of technology. It’s super subjective. And so I don’t know what that one thing would be, but my hope is that one day I can be a part of a new bit of technology, or contribute. I don’t have to create it, but I would love to contribute to something that would just help someone further their walk.

DJ:              Fantastic. Thank you so much, Kevin, for joining us on Future.Bible. And you’re hosting a very important event, and so you’re contributing to the future of technology and the Bible, and we look forward to meeting you in person as well. For our listeners and viewers, please let us know your thoughts about today’s interview and suggestions for future shows. We continue to ask for your input because we want to be the number one show where you meet innovators ready to talk about how we can apply the always-evolving world of technology to the never-ending, never-changing message found in the Bible, offer deeper engagement with the Scripture. So thank you for listening to Future.Bible Podcast. Remember for videos and transcripts and more, go to www.Future.Bible. Be blessed and remember to be a blessing.


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