Open air preaching – 07/31/21

One of our Ruling Elders at the Dallas Reformed Presbyterian Church put this video together of last month’s open air preaching and evangelism event. Encourage ministers of the gospel to preach the gospel in the open air and go with them to witness to those who will hear.

The encouraging thing for me as a minister is when I see my people share the good news of Jesus Christ with all those around, even as I am preaching the Word of God.

Share this video with those who need to be encouraged and read my last post on how you might conduct such events.

Also, check out our Church’s Facebook page for more details on the event.

Open air preaching

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
Mark 16:15

Why ministers must preach the gospel in the open air

In the past year, the Lord has stirred the Dallas Reformed Presbyterian Church to be a gospel witness to the city of McKinney. We began door to door outreach in the neighborhood, and spoken to our neighbors about the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, handing out gospel tracts, inviting them to church, and praying with them if they have needs. For today, I want to consider open air preaching: preaching in the public square, sometimes called “street preaching”. I will focus on the ministry context the Lord has put me in – a suburb of the USA. Differences in application will be necessary for different contexts. Especially if your local government is more hostile to the Church.

WHY OPEN AIR PREACHING?
All that said, as blessed as our door to door outreach has been, we have felt a greater need for open air (or street) preaching. Why? Because the gospel must be preached to the lost. It is the foolishness of preaching that the Lord promises to greatly bless to the conversion of souls. It is preaching He uses as a means to draw men to Christ. God’s Word explains:

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (ROMANS 10:13–17)

Historically, the great revivals came by the Spirit filled preaching of God’s Word. Though other forms of evangelism are used by God, preaching to the lost is the greatest means Christ has given to evangelize. He said plainly and clearly, “preach the gospel to every creature”. The Greek word for preach is the activity of an official herald. Heralding the gospel. Heralding the good news! Yet, this greatest means is downplayed in the American church’s evangelistic efforts.

To this, many pastors might say: I preach the gospel in my church. I say, brother, I praise God for that! And I praise God for your members who bring the lost to your church! And I praise God you recognize that not all who sit in the pews and say they are Christians are born again. But the stark reality is this: the lost do not come to church as often as they once did. Church attendance used to be a marker of a person’s membership in ‘respectable society’. So the lost would go in times past. Those times are long gone.

Pastor, the lost are all around you outside of your study and your church building. Do not wait for them to come to you. Go to them! Preach the same Words of Life that once rang sweetly in your own ears on the day you first believed! Remember what it was like to hear Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners like you. Remember what it was like when the Spirit of God brought life and faith into your own heart.

And then on the day you were ordained to gospel ministry – the Lord Jesus Christ entrusted to a sinner like you the greatest message given – Christ and Him Crucified. The gospel message that God in the flesh came to save sinners – offering salvation as a free gift to all who call on the name of the Lord. Be an evangelist. Hear Paul’s exhortation to Timothy:

But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. (2 TIMOTHY 4:5)

Make full proof of your ministry and preach the word to the lost. Do the work of an evangelist!

Members praying with those who have needs as they were drawn by the preaching

WHO SHOULD PREACH?
But that brings me to a topic I must address for our time: not everyone is a preacher. The Word of God says the ones who preach must be “sent” (Romans 10:15). Those sent are men ordained by a Presbytery (1 Timothy 4:14) for gospel ministry. It is not for every member to preach the Word of God. This is a commission and a burden given by the Lord.

I was examined by a Presbytery for the gospel ministry

Sadly, as ministers of the gospel have been unfaithful to their charge to evangelize – church members – seeing a vacuum – attempt to fill it as their souls are provoked by the lost perishing. They take on a burden Christ has not laid upon them. This is why, today, our impression of “street preachers” is almost overwhelmingly negative. Few ordained and trained physicians of souls are found in the public square. Instead, rabble rousers, and confrontational men are preaching to antagonize rather than evangelize.

But when true pastors with a heart for the lost preach on God’s wrath that leads all men to hell, they also find themselves preaching on God’s love in Christ that leads to heaven through a Cross – salvation as a free gift by faith in Jesus. They preach good news. Not just the bad news. For they were commissioned and sent with this burden: “for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).

HINDRANCES
Is the thought of preaching the gospel in the open intimidating? At first, it is, at least to most men. But if you are a pastor, I hope you have felt the same trepidation when opening the Word of God to preach. As John Knox was reputed to have said, “I have never once feared the devil, but I tremble every time I enter the pulpit”. I still tremble every Lord’s Day and every Prayer Meeting where I preach a sermon. Because God is my judge. At first, I felt the burden of preaching in the open – but it struck me – do I think man is going to judge me more severely than Christ? No.

John Knox quote: I have never once feared the devil, but I tremble...

Some men also do not want to be seen as a fool. This is a real but seldom expressed fear. After all, it is much easier to preach to those who are friendly to the Christian faith inside of our meeting halls. A man who preaches in the open is going to be a laughingstock to man. Get used to being called a fool by the world, brother. It is the foolishness of preaching that God uses to save (1 Corinthians 1:21). Be a fool for Christ’s sake (1 Corinthians 4:10)!

Both fear and foolishness are removed when you realize that the man of God who preaches goes with the Spirit of God. Preaching is an activity that is blessed by the Spirit. The fact that men do not realize this is why there are many ineffective preachers today. The man of God goes for the Almighty and with the Almighty. “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118:6). He cannot be touched by the world that rages against the Lord and His Christ (Psalm 2) – even if they kill the preacher – his life is hidden with Christ above (Colossians 3:3).

When I preached at the McKinney square I felt as though the stool I stood on was the firmest place in the universe to stand. Because I stood on the Word of God and I stood in Christ. I proclaimed the everlasting gospel with the pleasure and blessing of Jesus Christ Himself. And when a pastor pleads with God that he might preach in the Spirit – there is great power which removes the fear of men.

A congregational effort
Some who have read this might think that an open air witness must be a lone effort by the minister. After all, only the minister is called to preach. This is an opposite problem from the one I spoke of before. A strict clericalism can sneak into Reformed churches that ought never be there. No, evangelism can be a most blessed congregational activity. Ask God to rouse up the spirits of your congregation. Go together! While they will not preach – they will be a great encouragement and a great witness. They will be there to “watch your back” and pray for you. They will meet and greet those who show an interest in the word. They will pray with those who have prayer needs. They will tell others of how great things the Lord hath done for them, and hath had compassion on them (Mark 5:19). When they “swim in their lane”, so to speak, they are most blessed. They will not feel a burden that ought never be theirs. And they will find that Christ bears them up to be a public witness.

All that happened at our last event in McKinney. Their faith was strengthened and their spirits were renewed as they saw the work of God on display around them and through them. Knowing that the Spirit moved in my congregation, seeing their love for the gospel, love for Christ, love for the lost, and yes, even their love for me was a tremendous boost to my own spirit as I preached.

Breaking bread before taking the gospel to McKinney

Format
As for the format of our open air preaching event: I would preach for about 10 minutes on a text of Scripture. And each message must be a pointed gospel message. Messages were preached on salvation as the free gift of God in Jesus Christ, faith, heaven, salvation, and damnation. After a message was preached, one of the men would pray that the Lord would bless the word sown, and all would sing a psalm together as a public witness of praise to our God.

This was a wonderful way to have the congregation involved. Next time we plan to spread our members through the crowd with DRPC shirts on so that they might be able to talk to those who are interested. Go and be wise as serpents and harmless as doves in your witness for Christ. Mobilize the body – they can have a great part to play even if they can not preach!

For a sample of what was preached – you can view this video. Next time, we hope to have video captured of the congregation’s involvement so you can see how they worked together, prayed together, and sang together.

The final gospel call preached

Final thoughts
I chose to write on this topic not to exalt our congregation. But that Christ would be exalted. And exalted through your congregation as well as ours. Each time the Cross is preached, Christ is glorified, whether or not a soul is saved. That is our greatest aim in witnessing – to proclaim the excellences of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord. No souls came forward at our event to be converted. But many listened to the Word intently. I had a small audience at a Café across the street that paid attention. One woman listened for twenty minutes or more. Many believers said a hearty ‘amen’ to the preaching as they walked by and signaled their support. And our congregation was strengthened spiritually. Most of all the Cross was preached and Christ was proclaimed.

We are simply called to be faithful to sow the good seed of the Word. God will make sure it does not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11). The Godhead asks – “who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8). Pastors – go out into the fields. The harvest is ripe. The Lord Jesus must be publicly proclaimed. Compel the lost to come in (Luke 14:23). Do it for the same Christ who loved you and died for you. Be used by Him to bring His lost sheep into His sheepfold. Be an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). Yes, continue doing what you are doing for evangelism (you are doing something, right? 2 Timothy 4:5) but make sure to not neglect preaching to where the lost congregate. It is preaching that God most greatly blesses. If revival will break out in our land, we must rediscover the promise and power of preaching. Pastor, God has given you the gift of preaching the Word. You were not given that gift to only preach to saved people. You are equipped for the work of open air preaching. Your ordination is proof of it.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. My contact information is on the church website. Please also check out our Dallas RPCNA Facebook page for more pictures and videos from our event.

To hear a sermon I recently preached from Proverbs 1:20-33 on the need for Open Air preaching, you can listen to this:
https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=592122345485.

May Christ cry out in the open square through His Church! Soli Deo Gloria!

Confirming ministers by Presbytery

At the November 2019 meeting of the Midwest Presbytery of the RPCNA, I was made eligible to receive a call as a minister of the gospel. In the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, candidates for the ministry are required to pass thirteen Presbytery exams before they may be ordained to gospel ministry.

If the notion of a Presbytery is foreign to you, a brief explanation might be helpful. A Presbytery (from the Greek word for an elder: presbyter) is composed of the elders of churches in a geographic region that form a broader court above the local churches. In Acts 15, such an assembly adjudicated a problem too difficult/controversial/far-reaching for individual congregations to resolve. Much fruit has come out of such assemblies – the great creeds and confessions of the faith have come through these God-ordained church councils.

the-court_o

A Presbytery meeting. Photo credit: Bryan Schneider.

In Presbyterian churches, a minister’s credentials are held by a Presbytery and not a local congregation. As such, Presbyteries are responsible for approving men to become ministers. Much more can be said on this, so I would suggest James Bannerman’s The Church of Christ if you wish to plumb the depths of Presbyterian church government. A free PDF copy can be found at Monergism.

With that by way of background, Presbytery exams for candidates are not easy. Our forefathers might have called them “trials” rather than “exams”. A fellow student stood on the floor of Presbytery for three hours in the taking of five exams (Preaching 2, Exegesis Paper, Systematic Theology 2, Church History, and Pastoral Gifts). I “only” took three this time around (Systematics 2, Church History, and Pastoral Gifts) and was examined on the floor of Presbytery for two hours.

McFarland - Questions

Candidate (me) answering questions in front of the Presbytery. Photo credit: Nick Schoeneberger.

In addition to the examiner, any Presbyter can ask the candidate questions. When the exam concludes, the entirety of the Presbytery votes up or down on the exams – each presbyter gets an equal vote.

Undergoing these trials can be grueling. But the blessing of being confirmed through the elders of the church is tremendous. Why? Because godly men confirm a man’s inward calling. Consider that the Lord tells potential ministers of the gospel:

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15, NKJV)

When we present ourselves approved to God, we do so through the means of a multitude of counselors (Proverbs 11:14) through which safety is found for both church and candidate.

Why must the calling be examined externally and by a multitude of counselors? Because our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). We often think of ourselves more than we ought. Sometimes, we might even think less of ourselves than we should when the devil and the flesh want to discourage a man from serving Christ’s kingdom. As such, Paul writes to Timothy that presbyteries must confirm the calling on a man, finally leading up to his ordination by the laying on of hands by the presbytery:

Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. (1 Timothy 4:14, KJV)

It is the presbytery that confirms the giftedness of the calling and that the man is approved and is capable of “rightly dividing the Word”.

It is a tremendous blessing to not doubt the gifting and calling of the Lord to sacred gospel ministry. No man should feel confident in themselves to proclaim the gospel without a presbytery’s confirmation. There is security in going before God’s people with a calling confirmed by the elders of Christ’s Church.

It also is a comfort to the people of God to know that the man standing in front of them week after week has his calling confirmed and has been approved to feed the Word of Christ to them and to walk with them as an undershepherd of Christ.

taking-queries

Taking the queries of licensure after passing my exams. I was blessed to have my own pastor administer these queries. Photo credit: Bryan Schneider.

For that, and many other reasons, it is a tremendous blessing to be a Presbyterian. I have three more exams to take before being ordained (Lord willing). The Lord may have other plans for me if a congregation does not call me, or I am unable to pass my final three ordination exams.

But through this process, it has been a great comfort to know all has happened under the Christ appointed means: oversight of godly counselors that Christ purchased as gifts to the Church (Ephesians 4:11) and who are granted the keys of the kingdom (Matthew 16:19), and the authority to bind and loose (Matthew 18:19) as undershepherds of Christ.

In all this, Christ as the Head of His Church is glorified and His people are protected. Presbyterianism, the Biblical form of Church Government, is a great gift from Christ to His people.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Back to Apple. A developer’s story

Introduction

I am a software developer. For about twenty years, I was a programmer in the video game business. Four years ago, I left salaried development to start a software development consultancy. These days, my bread and butter is helping small to mid-sized businesses with custom software solutions.

I also have a long history with Apple. As a kid, I cut my teeth with the Apple IIC (after my first computer, the C64). Then, after a long time in the DOS/Windows environment, I bought my first Macintosh in 2007 – a 17″ Intel Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro. I became entrenched due to the Operating System and the power to develop with a Unix shell. I went all in. My very first smartphone was a launch iPhone 8GB.

20180727_065205

My current development station is built around a 2018 32GB 6-core i7 MacBook Pro.

But soon, it came to pass that most of my clients required software developed under Visual Studio, targeting platforms such as .NET, ASP.NET and Azure. For development, I was becoming less and less Mac and Unix-centered.

At the same time, the Surface Pro hit the market and Windows PCs started to undergo a renaissance. As the Mac was stagnating, with Apple focusing on the iPhone, I made the move back to Windows. I sold my 15″ Retina MacBook Pro. Over the years, my decision was confirmed – the MacBook Pros were usually using older processors, capped at 16GB of RAM, with a less than typist friendly keyboard, and the Touch Bar replacing the F-keys. My Windows “laptop” of choice now is a 15″ Surface Book 2, which is an absolutely fantastic machine.

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Doing some Hebrew work with my favorite mobile device: the 15″ Surface Book 2.

The Windows world I came back to was a lot better than the one of Windows XP and Vista that I had left behind. I even used a Windows Phone (Lumia 1520) for a year, which I really liked, and developed a commercial app for it.

Unfortunately, Windows Phone would turn out to be a dead end as Microsoft abandoned it. So I moved to Android. Android has Linux roots, and allowed developers to hack away at it without needing to purchase a Mac.

I was pretty happy with my setup, and my last Android phone (which I still use and enjoy) is the Note8. As a Seminarian, I particularly enjoyed the Note’s stylus – something that helped me do my Greek and Hebrew work on the go by being able to write naturally. I travel quite a bit, so this is very handy.

The problem

But then, I started noticing that apps I developed were being consumed mostly by iOS customers. Even though Android had the lion’s share of the mobile market, most consumers in the developed world, consume applications primarily through iOS.

An example of this is through an app that I wholly own and develop, the 1650 Split Screen Psalter app. I released it simultaneously on Android, iOS, and Kindle Fire, because I wanted it to have as broad of a reach as possible. It is a free app and highly reviewed (4.9 on Google Play, 5.0 on the iOS App Store). There are NO barriers to entry with this product. The code base is maintained in lock step so one does not stagnate over the other.

With all of that, the OS stats are staggering: a four to one ratio of iOS users to Android. Four to one! There is one caveat: this app is primarily used in the English speaking world, and primarily in Reformed Churches, so this metric does not apply everywhere.

On other apps I have worked on, the numbers might not be as skewed. But the gulf is wide, regardless. With paid apps, the story is really bad. What is the end result? Developer care and attention is lacking when it comes to Android apps. The gold is in the iOS hills. It shows. Compare an iOS app to an Android app by the same dev and many times you will see the Android app being incomplete, out of date, or just buggy in comparison. The future looks even bleaker for Android: 80% of US teens prefer iOS to Android.

My biggest issue with sticking to Android was that I wasn’t interacting with Apple products. I was becoming “out of touch” with Apple’s ways. It is easy to fall into development and interaction models with an Android perspective. BUT, if you are going to develop products, it is best to live and breathe the ecosystem that your target audience lives in.

Having a Mac is a requirement

I always had to have a Mac laying around. Why? Because you cannot (legally) get around needing a Mac for iOS development. As a commercial developer, I am not going to break Apple’s license for macOS by creating what is known as a “Hackintosh”, that is, a custom built PC that you load macOS onto. In addition, I don’t have the time to mess with one. I need stuff that “just works” day in and day out.

But Apple’s hardware had been so out of date that it made it hard for me to buy a new MacBook Pro. So I did most of my development on the PC and then moved to Xcode for testing and development. I kept using an old Retina MacBook as a stopgap.

But then, out of nowhere, Apple released the 2018 MacBook Pros. Six Cores! Finally, 32GB of RAM! Fastest SSDs on the planet. I felt good about purchasing a Mac.

So I did so. After some teething pains, which I will write of in the future, it proved to be a good move.

Next, I needed a new development iPhone. My last iPhone was a 5s. I was using the emulator in XCode for testing newer devices. So I purchased an iPhone X. It is good. As good as the Note8 for me? No. I don’t think so.

The screen is small. No stylus. No consistent way to go “back” like Android’s dedicated back button. But it is fantastic for most people. The gesture based navigation system is usually quite brilliant. The CPU is fast. Battery life not as good compared to the Note.

Cameras are about the same. Neither camera vows me, but both are good for a smartphone.

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256GB iPhone X next to Original 8GB iPhone.

 

 

I now use the X as my primary phone because its users are my target audience. It is also a very nice phone. Take FaceID, the Notch, and 3D Touch – it is hard to understand those unique Apple touches without living in their world.

A word of advice

In closing, DON’T be dogmatic about the platforms you use. Particularly, if you are a developer. Consider Microsoft, pre-Nadella. They despised Linux  and ignored iOS in the hope that it would go away. Yet, what happened? Microsoft’s marketshare and dominance evaporated.

To survive, they realized their error and now are “promiscuous” in embracing all platforms. Even Linux. Today’s Microsoft is friendlier and more prosperous.

Facebook has had the proper approach (in this area). They have been good about developing wherever their users choose to dwell. Do that and you have a better shot at being successful. Don’t, and you will have a bitter end. BibleWorks recently fell into this trap. They refused to embrace mobile. Macs are huge in Seminaries. Yet their Mac solution relied on Windows emulation. Sadly, their business has now shuttered.

I saw this in the video game business. “We refuse to work on the Playstation”, “we won’t touch the Xbox”, “the PC is not our thing”, or “Nintendo systems are just for kids”, or “mobile devices are terrible”. Several of those companies are no more. Go where your users are!

Platforms are NOT religions. Yet that is how developers treat them. Platforms are an end to serving your customers. Think about your customers and not your preference. In that way, you may prosper in your work.

I will share my experiences with switching to macOS and iOS in a future post.

 

Ronin-M

I recently bought a Panasonic GH4 in order to capture better quality movies for personal use – mostly family and hobby related. I had always had an interest in photography, but for whatever reason, video was never an interest of mine until recently. Strangely enough, it was the acquisition of a Phantom 3 drone and a powerful Alienware desktop that spurred my interest in videography after seeing how easy it is to edit high quality movies these days.

Since I was already invested in the Micro Four Thirds system, and the Full Frame Sony A7S II would require not just the acquisition of a new body, but also new lenses(!) I decided to get the Panasonic GH4. It shoots 4k video, records internally, and has a very good codec. All the major boxes were checked. It is also being regularly improved upon via Firmware upgrades, which I always find commendable.

After this, I started to look into stabilization. I really wanted to do some “run and gun” type video with my children. With them playing in the yard, going out places, etc.

Here is the kind of video I was hoping to capture with the Ronin. Keep in mind this is the very first thing I shot after balancing the unit, and my very first time out with the GH4 as well. A lot of operator inexperience going on. Oh, and I have a background in photography, not video! No color grading was done – this is the “Standard” color profile, mostly because I still haven’t touched any of the color profiles better suited for color grading. It is still more neutral than the other more punchy color profiles.

I have to say that I was very impressed with how “cinematic” (whatever that is!) the shots can feel, even with my novice level abilities. For the most part, the shots when moving are pretty stable. I need to dial in my pan control on the Ronin (done via app, or direct USB connection to the unit itself) because there was a bit too much lag for tracking on that axis. Those are all things that will take time to get right, based upon the kind of thing you are wanting to shoot.

Here are some close ups of the Ronin-M. There are three brushless motors that stabilize the camera, which you can see below:

These motors counter any of the rotational forces that the operator puts upon the camera. The camera then appears to “float” on the gimbal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Camera balanced on the gimbal.

Unfortunately, the difficult part in setting up a Ronin-M is balancing your camera on the gimbal. If you have a Zoom lens, make sure to set it to the focal length you will be shooting at before it goes on the gimbal. Also make sure that all accessories are mounted on the camera (including, for instance, a shotgun mic), and make sure the battery and the memory card are in the unit. You basically do not want to add even an ounce of weight that changes the weight distribution after you balance the camera on the gimbal.

It took me over an hour to balance the camera my first go-around. Lots of frustration, and trying to figure out how on earth this could possibly be done in a timely fashion. After going to bed, and trying it out a second time the next day, I found that it only took me about ten minutes to get it balanced. I expect the next time will be quicker still. DJI says it should take about five minutes to setup and balance. Assuming that your camera configuration doesn’t change much between setups, that’s probably a good estimate for an average user.

These are a couple of the areas where you will have to balance the camera. At times, I found it quite finicky to make precise motions. Note: The Gimbal will still work if the camera is not perfectly balanced, however.

At times I found it quite finicky to make precise adjustments while doing the balancing. Note: The gimbal will still work if the camera is not perfectly balanced, however for optimal results, and improved battery life (and I’d assume motor life, thinking long term) you will want to make sure that it is balanced.

The Ronin-M weighs about five lbs, plus your camera and lens combo. This is not a light piece of gear. There is no backpack or harness either, so you will have to bear the weight yourself. I am just starting off with this piece of kit, so I will write more updates in the future as I get a chance to. In the meantime, feel free to ask questions in the comment box below.

Nissan NV3500 HD – the real life Canyonero

Review

Seventeen years ago, Hank Williams Jr. sang a parody jingle about a Sport Utility Vehicle that was “‘Twelve yards long, two lanes wide/Sixty-five tons of American pride!’” This song was a satire of the SUV craze that had exploded during the late 1990s, and so it was on an episode of The Simpsons that America was introduced to The Canyonero.

I was twenty years old when that episode aired, and a family was the furthest thing from my mind. And yet, today I am the proud owner of a vehicle that bears more than a passing resemblance to the famed Canyonero. How did this happen?

The right vehicle for larger families

Branding

Someone looked at this panel and said, “You know would really set this off? More badges, letters and numbers”

Well, as these stories often go- boy meets girl, boy somehow manages to dupe girl into marrying him, then boy and girl have children. Eventually they outgrow their sedan, and then their minivan after it. After having four children, and wanting more – the minivan starts to look awfully cramped. Especially for the long trips they plan to take across country. Even with only four children, minivans start to feel small when taking all the gear and luggage that goes with the family.

If you have grandparents, friends, or even a pet along for the ride, then things quickly become harder for a minivan to cope with. We also had interest in taking advantage of several ministry opportunities that might require a larger vehicle.

So, if you find yourself in the same boat (ha!) as we are, what are your options? Many eight seater SUV vehicles are hardly eight seaters in practice. They suffice for short trips, but it is often a problem to take eight people comfortably along in day to day life. Even going to the grocery store with eight people can be a problem, as once the third row is in place, the cargo capacity starts to approach that of a Miata.

GM will sell you a Suburban that seats eight passengers, along with the cargo capacity for those eight passengers, but SUVs are typically difficult to cope with when it comes to trying to get into the third row, especially when the children are in carseats.

They also typically have very little headroom as the car is built to have ground clearance and this makes the passenger compartment shorter in height. Minivans are much better with vertical headroom, and they also have an aisle for easy access to the third row, but minivans that seat eight passengers (Odyssey and Sienna) cannot actually seat eight if car seats enter the equation.

It is also worth noting that vehicles that seat eight people can often be pricey. A new Suburban starts around $50,000. To us at least, that is a lot of money for the family car.

At this point, it was starting to look like a full sized passenger van was our best option, and we started to survey the field.

Eventually we found that families in the same boat as us were very pleased with the NV3500 Passenger Van, and so we started to do some research on these. For those who are unaware, the NV3500 Passenger van is the passenger version of the commercial van by the same name. Undoubtedly, Nissan envisioned this vehicle for livery services. This van would make a very nice hotel shuttle. To Nissan’s great surprise however, they didn’t seem to anticipate that large families would also enjoy this vehicle and as such, they severely underestimated demand for this van from families. These vans seem to be flying off of the dealer lots, as they are great for large families.

SUV, Van or Both?

SUV, Van or Both?

One of the compromises with the NV3500 over other passenger vans is its size. The van seats 12, but is the length of a 15 passenger van from Ford or Chevy. The size compromise is because the hood of the vehicle is more like an SUV; the engine does not intrude into the passenger compartment, unlike GM, Ford, Dodge, and Mercedes fullsize vans. This is great for a family, because there is no noise intruding into the cabin, the cabin stays nice and cool, and the vans are easier to service.

On the down side, this adds greatly to the length and the bulk of the vehicle. It is easily 2 feet longer than its counterparts from Ford and Chevy.

Interior

Interior

Due to where the engine sits, the NV3500 does its best impression of a large domestic SUV rather than a commercial van from the front, but becomes more van-like the further back you go.

The styling of this beast reflects this. The Nissan takes on different personalities from the various angles that you look at it from. From the front, it looks like an intimidating SUV, from the rear it looks like a cargo van, and from the side it looks like a hideous mash-up of the two that should never have left Frankenstein’s lab.

It truly looks like two design teams worked on this vehicle. One was told they were making a Nissan Titan based SUV, and the other team was told to make a commercial van inspired by the Nissan Cube. Somewhere near the A-pillar those two teams must have met.

Be that as they may – the looks do eventually grow on you.

How does it drive?

This is an intimidating vehicle to get behind the wheel of. First, unless you have running boards it is a long step up to climb into the vehicle. Then, forget about having rearward visibility. Those headrests which make the van so safe for your passengers are actually horrible for visibility.

The first thing that someone who is used to driving a regular car needs to get a hold of is: Use and trust your mirrors! The mirrors in this van will make your life much easier. Learn to trust the concave mirror which gives you tremendous visibility especially to the sides of the van (massive blindspots otherwise). Ever paid attention to a semi? Look at how many mirrors they have – those guys rely on them.

Interior Features

Dual Climate Control, Backup Camera and Navigation comes in the up level SL trim.

Our van does have the rear backup camera, as well as sonar units on the front and back of the vehicle. All of which are really helpful and handy to have. But use and trust your mirrors.

They are also handy when judging whether you are parked “between the lines” in a parking space. You can see where your back wheels are and the sides of the van in relation to the parking spot lines. Easy enough to judge whether you need to re-position yourself.

The van is really easy to drive. It has a nice turning radius, which makes it easier than expected to navigate. Low speed steering is not highly boosted so will take a little more effort in parking lots than you might be used to in a car, but nothing too strenuous.

It has a nice plush ride, and feels like a big Body on Frame SUV. It is a fantastic companion on long road trips. The driver and passenger seats in the SL trim are some of the nicest I’ve ever sat in.

The V8 in our van has a lot of torque, and never feels bogged down. It is not a sports car, but it certainly can get out of its own way. Throttle response is not exactly crisp, but then you should never feel like you are in a hurry driving this car – if you are, you are likely to get into a bad wreck. There is a lot of mass in this vehicle. The handling is as to be expected, awful. But not as terrible as you might think. Let me put it to you this way: Our Town and Country feels like a Go-Cart after driving this – but this van is still less floaty than the land yachts of yore.

The vehicle does have stability control and other electronic aids to help keep it on the road and shiny side up. Braking is competent. Our minivan is better. Plan to keep extra distance around you.

On the plus side, this is the first vehicle that I’ve driven that intimidates your average Texas pickup truck driver. Even “Texas Edition” pickup trucks scurry out of the way when they see us coming.

The NV3500 can tow almost 9,000 lbs., and so this van makes for an excellent choice to pull a camper with, assuming you don’t need four wheel drive to get to your campground. The mirrors extend out for towing, and there is a tow mode for the transmission – at least on our model.

Want attention? Skip the Lamborghini.

I have owned a Corvette before. The Vette would attract a little bit of attention, but since Corvettes are common enough these days, it wasn’t like I was cruising down the boulevard in a Lambo. Now, I have never owned a true exotic car before – but if I had one, I would imagine the attention I would receive would be much akin to driving the Nissan NV3500.

If you drive one – be prepared for the open mouthed stares as you come lumbering down the road. When you park, everyone wants to know what this thing is.

How many does this seat? Does it have a V8? Who makes this thing? Is it animal, mineral or vegetable?

With the tinted windows, and the seamless looking glass panels, it has the look of a limousine from certain quarters, so I think some people think they are going to catch a glimpse of their favorite sporting team, or perhaps a celebrity passed out in a drunken stupor. Hate to break it to you, but you are more likely to find children screaming for a juice box. Which proves the point that the difference between a celebrity and a toddler is often age, not maturity.

Be that as it may, with chromed bumpers, and chromed wheels, and chromed grill – it truly will blind you in the bright Texas sun.

She blinded me with chrome wheels

She blinded me with chrome wheels

Even the valve stem covers are … chrome. This thing is blinding when clean and in full day light. I didn’t start to wear sunglasses until I owned this thing. I’m serious about that.

Nitrogen

Our dealer installed options including … Nitrogen filled tires. At least we got this snazzy N2 valve stem cover. I wonder if they will sell me an “O” valve stem cover if we just replace it with Oxygen.

Child friendly features

First, the van has a sliding door. This is crucially important when you have children. Most full sized vans have barn doors on the side, which means that you are likely to make those whom you park next to very unhappy as children fling doors open. In cramped parking situations, it is much easier to open a sliding door. In addition, a sliding door is much easier for a child to manage. Our six year old is able to open this van’s sliding doors without any problems.

Sliding door

Sliding door means no door dings for people parked next to you! Also means that you don’t have to worry about how much room you need to open the side doors.

In the NV3500 the seatbelts mounted to the seats. This is a crucial difference between many other passenger vans and the NV3500. The NV3500 seats are self contained pods that contain the seatbelt integrated into the seat. This means that they are not mounted on hard points in the van ceiling like other passenger vans, which makes for a nice clean interior when you take the seats out, or when walking through the van.

Seat mounted cupholders are perfect for holding beverages, or ... baseballs.

Seat mounted cupholders are perfect for holding beverages, or … baseballs.

The van also has integrated headrests into each seat. This is something that was missing from the older Ford and GM vans. The newer Ford vans (the Transit) do have headrests, but these are an important safety feature that protects against whiplash, and so we thought they were an important consideration when hauling our children. Other than space however, there really aren’t any more amenities to speak of for the children. There are no integrated DVD players available from the factory. If you wanted one, you’d have to get your dealer to install one. Given that all of our children have access to computers and tablets, we didn’t think that it was an important addition at this time.If we have more little ones that need passive entertainment, we might consider it in the future. For now, we are just grateful we don’t have to hear Disney movies blaring in the cabin during roadtrips anymore. Important safety consideration – this is one of the few fullsized vans that has full side curtain airbags. This is an important safety consideration when you are taking many little ones with you.

Toys

There aren’t many too speak of compared to plus SUVs and Minivans. Ours has GPS including Bluetooth connectivity to your phone for hands free operation. It has the sonar units on front and back of the vehicle. These can be annoying as they are always on, even when driving. But it does tell you when someone is too close to your bumpers. Ours also has a backup camera. There are plenty of power ports. Two three prong power outlets (one in the front, and one in the back), and two 12V ports. In addition, ours has the USB connection to the stereo system for a smartphone, which can also charge your device. Plenty of power to keep everyone’s devices happy. Given that most of us have plenty of phones and tablets and laptops these days – having power is probably a big consideration for a vehicle that is meant for roadtrips. The NV3500 delivers on this.

Challenges and Compromises

A vehicle such as the NV3500 has some challenges that made me appreciate the constraints that the designers of vehicles even as large as the Suburban work inside of. There are many things about consumer vehicle design that I took for granted. Having this van made me appreciate the box within which most designers have to work with, while still providing a reasonably roomy ride.

Garages – The van will not fit height wise in most garages. It requires 84″ of clearance (7 feet) and so will not fit in our garage. This is a bummer, because we have enough space otherwise. The thoughts of redesigning our home to accommodate it are not appealing, so we will not be doing so, especially with an HOA. The vehicle also will therefore have a hard time fitting into many parking garages. Make sure to keep an eye out on the clearance of any parking garages you visit. I had to take the van one day to work, because I was going to get it prepped for a roadtrip, and wanted to get it washed, etc. before we headed out. I saw that the van will not fit into the parking garage. Fortunately we have a lot of parking spaces outside.

Carwashes – Yes, carwashes are going to be a problem for this van. Our dealership has given us lifetime hand carwashes, so we have a little less of a problem with this. But it can be a significant challenge (and expense!) to get this thing washed.

Gas mileage – This is a commercial vehicle, and so doesn’t even have an EPA gas mileage rating. We get about 12-15 miles per gallon. 15 on the highway, 12 in the city. Budget accordingly.

Insurance – My insurance company (Costco/Ameriprise) didn’t even know what to do with this. We kept the other two vehicles on Ameriprise, and had to take out a separate insurance policy with State Farm who also holds our homeowner’s policy. I was an idiot for not thinking about this before purchasing the vehicle. It all worked out, but insurance will be a little more pricey with this van, than with your average vehicle.

Price and Conclusion

The NV3500 will run you between $32k-$39k brand new depending on engine (V6, or V8) and trim level. Compared to a Suburban this vehicle is a bargain, assuming you are ready to live with the compromises and the rockstar level attention that this thing brings you. Suburbans start at around $50k brand new, and don’t get much better gas mileage than this van. I think the van is charming, is a little offbeat, has character and most importantly is good for our family and our lifestyle. We’ve only had it for a little over a month now, so I will update our blog with any issues we run into in the future, including a post on how Nissan can better suit this vehicle for families for the next iteration of this design.

Hello World!

printf( "Hello world!\n" );

It is a time honored tradition for programmers to emit “Hello World” as the output of their very first program. In today’s internet age, where one is indeed exclaiming, “Hello world!” whenever one posts something publicly – it seems fitting to start this blog out with such a post.

In Christ, Code and Kids – my hope is that the things which interest me, might also be of interest to you. I will be blogging about various topics: Theological, Programming, and Family primarily. This will overlap with my hobbies and interests. I hope what is posted will be edifying, and of some help to those who share my passions.

In the Bible, we are often taught to remember God’s Providences towards us, and in the ways by which He has shepherded us through this life – with all of its peaks and valleys (see: Psalm 23). I hope this blog will be of some small use here as well.

There is no content here yet, but in the upcoming weeks I hope to be more active.

-Rom