'Rethink' Human Connection, Say Secular Leaders to Christians

A first-of-a-kind conference combining global secular and Christian leaders heard a common message from many of its non-religious speakers – do not lose human connection due to technology.

The advice given at the Rethink Conference at the Crystal Cathedral last week can be a bit of a surprise coming from influential leaders who profit from mass communication technology.

Rethink executive director Bill Dallas recalled, "Larry King was amazing in just helping us understand that although technology is certainly useful and important, we sometimes lose connection points."

"Technology that helps and compliments our daily lives is useful, but when it becomes a crutch or when it becomes where we lose connection with people then it is dangerous."

Dallas, who spoke to The Christian Post after the conference closed Saturday, said that venture capitalist Mark Kvamme - whose companies have funded businesses such as Google, YouTube, and Apple – also warned that technology can sometimes obstruct people from engaging in human contact.

"Kvamme has funded so many of these Fortune 500 companies and he said e-mail is a great thing," Dallas recalled. "[But] he knows people in his company who e-mail the person in the next cubicle as oppose to getting up and talking to them. We e-mail people who are 50 feet from us and that's when we lose connection."

King and Kvamme were among the more than 30 prominent leaders that included former President George H.W. Bush, Rupert Murdoch and Kay Warren that spoke at the first-ever Rethink Conference.

About 1,200 unique people attended the conference from Jan. 17-19, and more than 5,000 people across the nation watched the speakers via satellite.

During Bush's segment, the former president said loyalty is extremely important to him and what he looks for in a leader. Both Bush and media mogul Murdoch replied that family was most important to them.

"So it is interesting because even though this is a conference where we are rethinking many things – in technology, media, and entertainment – there are a few common themes including that we can't lose the connection with each other and that we can't lose the trust and loyalty to each other that stood out," the conference executive director commented.

Prior to the conference taking place, it had come under criticism for inviting secular speakers to advised Christian on how to improve their ministry. Rethink organizers had adamantly defended the conference as seeking to help people "rethink" the methods in communicating the Word of God, not the Gospel message.

"I think we delivered exactly what we wanted to," said Dallas after the conclusion of the conference. "The exit polls we did and the feedback was outstanding. So to the people who think we compromised the message in any way – we absolutely did not.

"I would say to the critics that at the end of the day what we hoped to deliver, the Gospel message, never changed in the conference during the three days," he said. "The concern that we are going to try to wash down, or change, or new-age it [Gospel] never came up."

Dallas said if speakers were not directly delivering a faith message, then they were sharing about technology and how that could help or harm the message.

Before the conference, organizers were uncertain if more Rethink conferences would be held, but after the success of the first one, more will be held "for sure."

The next Rethink Conference will be held again at the Crystal Cathedral, Feb. 5-7. 2009.

"People want to start the new year and break out of the mold and get outside the box," Dallas concluded. "Maybe a better word is they want to annihilate the box and get to a place where they can start fresh and rethink. By covering so many areas and a variety of speakers, no one came knowing what would be expected.

"Based on the pre-registration that we took today, this conference will go on."