Friday, December 17, 2010

Interview with @LifeDiscipler Creator, Tony Guard

On Sunday, I reviewed the innovative LifeDiscipler, which uses technology to remind us of God's constant presence. Today, here (below the video) is an interview with its creator, Tony Guard, about the product, its development process, and how he hopes it will help people.

What inspired you to develop LifeDiscipler?
I have been in product development for close to 20 years, primarily developing products for other people, and inventing products for sale or license. During that time, I always wanted to develop a faith based product to glorify the Lord and share my faith. It took a lot of blessing from the Lord financially for me to have the resources to take on such a venture. And many more blessings beyond that with time, people, resources... etc. But if I went down that road, this may become a small book.

As I approached the idea of developing a product, I soon realized God had been revealing a direction for me throughout the previous years. This direction was focused on seeing the lack of discipling that was and is happening in our churches today. I was seeing too many Christians who were “new believers” without support, believers who were not growing, and young people who were falling away at record numbers. And ultimately, the responsibility comes back to… “what am I doing to grow the Kingdom.”

Through a lot of seeking and even more prayer, God revealed to me that instead of trying to figure out how to encourage someone else to move closer to Him I needed to focus on figuring out what was holding “me” back from growing closer to Him. That one revelation transformed my approach to developing this product and allowed me to get to the place where God revealed the LifeDiscipler to me (Mat 7:7). I realized despite my devotion and prayers in the morning, prayers at night, and church every Sunday… I forgot about Him during the day. And on top of that, not only was I forgetting about God during a time when many important decisions were being made, I was also away from every Godly resource, safety net, and option for accountability. Then it hit me… what if God could "tap me on the shoulder" throughout the day to keep me focused on Him… and better yet, help me get through the tough issues of life with personal guidance on my personal need, anywhere anytime.

Can you explain the idea behind the name?
The name LifeDiscipler grew out of the word disciple (to teach or train) and the word life, representing all that we deal with in this life. The word disciple is almost always associated with a religious context and especially with Christ's 12 disciples. This association is exactly what I wanted since the product was developed specifically for Christians and was created as a first step to needed discipleship for our body of believers. The two words together represent that God's word is the answer for understanding how to deal with the issues of this life... in this world.

What is your view of discipleship, and how does the LifeDiscipler help toward that?
Discipleship, from a Christian "body" perspective, is spiritual training that takes place from one believer to another... some may refer to this as mentoring. From my humble opinion, this is not taking place as much as it should in our current "Christian body" (that’s not to say there are not some great discipleship material and programs – there are – they just aren’t being put into practice enough). Because of this, many spiritually young believers are either left to fend for themselves for growth, become stagnate, or worst of all fall away. The LifeDiscipler is a tool that promotes a step in the direction of growth when there is not a mature believer available to disciple/mentor. My hope and prayer is that when a Christian can honestly experience how easily they can apply God's word to all aspects of their life, and how it can impact their life in amazing visible ways... they will want to go deeper in the Bible and deeper in training. The LifeDiscipler was designed to be a “step” forward in growing closer to God and to understanding His word better… never a replacement for the Bible or believer to believer discipleship.

Your FAQs say only Christians should use the LifeDiscipler because non-Christians won't understand the meaning and application of the verses. Can you say more about that?
God's word is infallible and without question. A non-believer without that spiritual base and compass will not have the ability to interpret the meaning of scripture. True understanding comes from the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), and if the non-believer can’t understand the verses or doesn’t think it’s unquestionable, how can they apply it to their life and believe it. The Holy Spirit must have residence in the heart for true understanding.

Do you think this could still be a way to introduce non-Christians to the Word of God?
Yes. The Holy Spirit is always at work and we need to be prepared at any time to give an answer and to share the love of Christ (2Tim 4:2). Although, we don’t “suggest” the LifeDiscipler for a non-believer, I would always tell you to follow God’s direction wherever He is leading. God’s word and the Holy Spirit work in a way all their own and without any help from the LifeDiscipler, anyone or anything.

This question also takes us to another point… spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is one of many things, as believers, we all have in common… we are all called to share the Good News (Acts 1:8). Within the LifeDiscipler is a life-subject called “TELLING OTHERS.” This subject includes verses that give the foundational verses to understand the option of salvation through Jesus Christ. With the LifeDiscipler in hand, you don’t have to wonder what to say or what verse you should mention… but that also means there are no more excuses.

Please talk about the process of developing the 44 subjects and choosing the 1500 verses. Did you do it alone? How long did it take? How did you decide which translation to use?
In the process of developing a product that deals with Gods word, the most important focus is to honor God and to be in line with His divinely inspired word. The accountability from God placed on anyone representing Him or His word is very high. In developing the LifeDiscipler special and intensive care was taken to make sure of contextual accuracy.  

There was a lot of time (over 6 months) and many resources that ultimately helped define each verse and the subject(s) in which the verse would be categorized. Beyond the resources, five degreed, ordained pastors reviewed every verse to confirm the context and accuracy. This process actually reduced the amount of verses that we were able to include. I have been asked many times, “why don’t you include the entire Bible?”. And my answer is a fairly basic one... Our goal is to provide a quick 1-2 verse insight (quickly read on a small screen) that would express God’s character and guidance within a particular circumstance or situation and still remain in context of the original intent.

What about translations for the LifeDiscipler… Since we are a new Christian company with our first product on the market, we have to make decisions that will benefit the “general” Christian market until a time (Lord willing) when we are established and can develop the more niche products with specific translations. With this in mind, and the understanding that there are many great current translations available, we decided to provide a combination rather than be exclusive to a translation. This also allowed us to get into the market easier and faster.

You say that some of your proceeds go to charities. Can you talk about which ones you chose to support? Why did you decide to give some money to charities rather than just lower the cost of the unit?
The primary goal of LifeDiscipler is to encourage Christians to a closer relationship with God. Our second purpose is to assist other Christian non-profit organizations to continue their ministry and continue serving in His name. This is the first year of our existence in the marketplace and our donations take place at the end of the year. Our first donation will happen the week of December 27, 2010. Our continued focus will be on charities that deal with children and spreading the Gospel. The charities we have selected this year will be Compassion International and Worldvision. We are hoping for this aspect of our business to become a huge blessing to the charities as we grow.

The donation to charities has no bearing on the price of the product. This is simply a corporate decision to continue to honor God (Acts 20:35). This product means much more to us than making money. In fact, it will be a long time before the corporation makes a profit. Don’t get me wrong, we can’t stay in business if we don’t make enough money to continue producing products… again though… it’s not our purpose.

What is your favorite feedback/testimony?
Honestly, the most recent one… Every time I hear how God has revealed Himself to someone in a way that was just what they needed and in a way that changed them spiritually… and in a way only He could do, I am on fire again. So my favorite is the one I am about to hear. I will let you know (we do post some testimonies on our website).

Is there a particular demographic that the LifeDiscipler seems to be popular with or is targeted at?
This is a great question, and one I thought would play itself out as we continued selling. However, what we have found is that it hits almost every generation and demographic for different reasons. The reasons vary and could be discussed in great detail that would probably bore you. In a quick overview, some of the reasons are as follows: as a way to get to know what it means to be a Christian (new believer); as a reference and study tool (new to mature Christian – we even have some pastors using it for quick reference); as a tool to encourage other Christians (great as a gift for any occasion or a gift of comfort); a tool to spread God's word and raise money for a church, school, or charity (Christian organizations/ outreach/ youth groups/ ministries)… as a way to share God daily with the family (some stay-at-home moms are leaving them out on their kitchen counters so everyone has access – and even using it as a teaching resource with their children). As you can see there are many ways the LifeDiscipler reaches into virtually all age groups of Christians.

There is a group that has really stood out during this process and has attached itself to the purpose of the LifeDiscipler… that is the Stay at Home Mom. So often Stay at Home Moms are in need of continual support and assurance from the pressures and pace of their responsibilities. What I have found is that the touch of God’s word throughout the day, specific to their need that day, has become an incredible resource of spiritual encouragement. I receive testimonials from all different age groups but none with the passion and thankfulness as the Stay at Home Moms. Blessings to them for all they do to raise our children in the admonition of the Lord.

Can you talk a bit about the manufacturing process and decisions? Some people, including me, have noted some features that would be nice, but are absent (like vibration alert and backlit screen).
Sure. Throughout the process of developing the LifeDiscipler, we kept certain parameters central to our process; 1) We needed to make the LifeDiscipler in a price range that would allow any Christian the possibility of purchasing it, 2) it should be easy to use and intuitive enough for any person to be able to use, 3) It needed to be an elegant product that would be honoring to God in look and quality. With these parameters set… they drove all of the decisions surrounding features and materials.

I can give you some specific examples;
1) Why the simplified (some say out-dated) LCD screen?
Although we get a few poor reviews on our LCD screen, our intent and purpose remains in tact. When looking into screen types, cost and power consumption needed, the LCD screen stood out as the right choice hands down. If we were to move to an illuminated screen (like that of many cell phones), our retail price would have jumped $20 because of the screen cost and more importantly the larger power supply needed, making the final cost $50.

2) Why the materials?
As previously mentioned, we wanted to make the best God honoring product we could make. Therefore, we used a high density ABS plastic for it’s extreme durability… the lens cover for the screen is made of Polycarbonate (one of the clearest most scratch resistant durable plastics available). We selected the best materials possible for each aspect of the product. Even the protective stretch-on covers are made from “Super Silicone™” for its durability and wear.

3) What about vibration for an alarm?
We agree this would be a nice feature, and we wanted it as part of the first features for the LifeDiscipler. Again, we had to go back to our first priority of keeping our price as low as possible. Any process within an electronic that requires focused action like vibration, sound, and illumination requires a lot of power… and power means money.

The LifeDiscipler is a simple product with a simple purpose… growth. No fancy functions or features, just allowing God’s word to have access to you to deepen your relationship with Him… when you typically don’t have it.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Got a question, struggle, or doubt you'd like to see addressed here? Contact me, and I'll try to discuss it (and may even help you get an answer).