The Dangers of the Church’s Pursuit of Technology

Thursday, I blogged about two articles – one in the L.A. Times the other in the Wall Street Journal – that took a look at how churches are using the latest technology to reach people. It caused me to ponder the question, “How does a church decide what technology to embrace?”

Generally speaking, I am of the philosophy that Christians ought to use whatever means necessary to best communicate the Gospel. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:22 come to mind: “I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.” We’ve advocated all sorts of innovative uses of technology here in the Christian Web Trends Blog. But there are some things to be wary of when it comes to technology. Here are three dangers to consider.

First, technology has the potential to deceive people into trading the virtual world for the real thing. Could you imagine someone saying they’re not interested in going to the Grand Canyon because they can experience it (with pictures and video) online anytime they like? Sounds silly, but more and more people say that about church. People fall prey to the idea that technology and online relationships can replace real, in-person Christian community. I would also guess that most people who attempt to connect spiritually online rather than at a church don’t serve others or support the church financially. We have to guard against allowing podcast sermons, videocast services, and online Bible studies to become acceptable replacements for the real thing rather than supplements.

Second, trying to keep up with technology can divert time and resources from more important endeavors. This can be especially true for small churches that see what big churches are doing and feel they have to do the same thing. A church might think they need to put $30,000 into audio, video, and computer systems to be culturally relevant when a better use of that money might be to hire another staff person or fund missions work. Another small church may require a 10-person tech team to do a service, which overtaxes their volunteers to the point where they don’t have enough Sunday school teachers.

Third, an obsession with the latest technology can be part of a larger temptation to appeal to people by any means, which can lead to compromising hard truths and core values. A church may be able to communicate the Gospel more effectively using a Bible translation in today’s English, but will it draw the line at gender-neutral translations that inject a “mother goddess” theology? A church may attempt to be culturally relevant by doing a sermon series on sex, but is it willing to risk offending people by making it clear that the Bible takes a clear stand on the issues homosexuality and cohabitation?

Technology can be a great tool that can help us minister and communicate more effectively. However, we must guard against becoming a slave to it and be wary of its potential pitfalls.

How does your church decide what technology to embrace?

In His Service,
Paul Steinbrueck
OurChurch.Com

P.S. Thursday we’ll announce the results of our survey. We appreciate your feedback.

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

11 Responses to “The Dangers of the Church’s Pursuit of Technology”

  1. All great points. I am glad that my church doesn’t seem to fall into these traps. We would especially love to have better sound equipment, but God has given our leadership great wisdom in avoiding such financial and technological mistakes.

  2. I agree with your warnings about the virtual world verses the real world. We are making everything so easy in our society, and it is no different concerning church. Sometimes in our zeal to make services available in different formats to those who may really need them (those not physically able to make it to church) we inadvertently enable those who are able to go but don’t want to sacrifice the time and make the effort. There is a fine line there that is tough to walk.

    Also, it is nice to know we are doing business with someone who values the authority of God’s Word. It is wonderful to know you consider a gender neutral version a compromise of God’s Word. Also to know that you would mention cohabitation and homosexuality both as sins. Both are sin, but I think sometimes it is very easy for the church today to condemn homosexuality and give a free pass to fornicators and adulterers, especially those within the church. Sin is sin and should be called by what it is. Thank God He gives His grace to us all through the salvation afforded us by Jesus’ death on the cross. It is our prayer that those who are still lost will accept His wonderful gift.

    Thanks for the article. God bless!

  3. The church I attend (christunitedmethodist.org) runs a website, has a blog open to members, and posts sermons, etcetera. But if you really get down to fundamentals, none of this matters.

    What sets a church apart from the world, gets a church noticed by the world, attracts people to a church (for the right reasons as opposed to being another social gathering place or just something that is expected of you) is the power of God present in the church.

    The Egyptians weren’t impressed by many of the miracles God performed before Pharaoh. The court magicians could simulate many of them (although they occasionally lost something doing it). No. Smiting the firstborn across the land got their attention.

    Were the enemies of the Israelites in the promised land impressed with the tabernacle? (Envious and wanting to steal it contents – perhaps, but not impressed). Yet when they took the Ark of the Covenant it eventually got so bad that cities were pleading with the leaders to not bring the Ark into their city because of what God would do to them.

    Was the early church successful because of the disciples great eloquence and words? No. It was successful because the Spirit of God filled the disciples at Pentecost and they began preaching to anyone nearby in their native language about God. They continued the miracles that Jesus had performed. (The rending the veil in the temple, earthquake and darkness over the land when Christ was killed helped, too.)

    Get the power of God back in the church first. Make the church once again something that God can be proud of without corruption and sin at so many levels. Fix the church from the top down and people might start looking up to the church and stop looking for means where they can have virtual arms-length relationship. Be different. Worry about what media to use to reach the lost and minister second (or fourth or fifth or tenth).

  4. Firstly, there are dangers everywhere, even as becoming a slave to a building, calling `it’ the church and serving it. We can become a slave of `ministry’ instead of a bondslave of His love. So yes, the same can go for any `thing’ or anyone, it can become an idol. If we understand the we are the church, His body in the earth, He is not limited to a building or technology. He was not and is not nor ever meant to be boxed and yet that is what we have done( especially in the West). As understanding we are His body, the church, we live in intimate communion with Him, abiding in His presence. From out of the place of abiding, He sets us wheresoever He wills. Which is to mean, our neighborhood, community, city,marketplace, state, nation,etc. He said, `Where ever two or more are gathered in My name, there am I, in your midst.’ As He is Eternal, there is no time nor distance in the spirit realm and we function out of His Eternal realm in the earthly realm. Wherever the saints may gather(via internet, coffee shop, home, building) in His name, Holy Spirit is their to build up, edify the Body. Now we must from that place of being built up in Him, go forth and make disciples…the highway and hedges and compell them to come in. Come in where? To the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ, and encourage them to continue to enter the depths of His kingdom, which is His domain, His Rule, His Reign, His Heart, His Life, His Light, His Love and make known His dominion in the earth. He is Lord!
    As far as our giving, we are to led of the Spirit in all things. Our life is to be one of servanthood, therfore we give liberally which includes but is not limited to, finance. Is your neighbor in need of something? Are they hungry? Are they clothed? Are they hurting? Is the single mother down the street, struggling to make ends meet for her children? Are we BEING the church to these ones? Or are we just inviting them to go to a `church service?’ Has someone lost a loved one and you are giving of yourself, to them, for whatever they need? Is there someone you know who needs transportation, and you offering them a ride? Is your house a house of prayer? Is your home open that others may come and receive of Him, from the blessings of which He has given you? Are you putting the shoes on those who are called to remote places? Can you hug the homosexual and love them, yet utterly hate the sin( as it kills, steals(separates from) and destroys)? Will you be the vessel through whom He brings deliverence? So much to be said….

    We need to `get it’ we are the church, we are the salt, we are the light and wherever He leads us…follow! Whatever He says do, do. Hear and obey the Most Holy Spirit, Christ in you, the hope of glory!

  5. All great points. I was blessed by Kathryn’s comments. She hit the nail on the head and “drove it in with powerful strokes.” I am a district Lay president in the connectional AME Church. The points in Kathryn’s echortation are the same I constantly teach. Thank God for Kathryn and pray that He takes more believers to her level of understanding, knowledge, and wisdom.

    In His Name.

    Tom Sutton

  6. Good and very relevant subject and the points are true and emphatic. God’s people have been known to misuse every good thing. I have been in churches where services can be run without a preacher but not without a hi-tech band, where a muscian gets a larger offering than the preacher, where the pulpit is put on the floor and the hi-tech and latest instrumentation on the platform. TV monitors have replaced Bibles and note books. The TV ministry has been stretched to a point where ministries have been ruined. There was a saying some years ago – “If you want to spoil a minister, teach him to use the Internet” and brother, how many get their messages from cyber space than from the throne of God! In many places, pastors depend on their technology to get people into the church. There are more people involved in technology than in prayer.

    We are to use the things of this world and technology can be a tremendous blessing, but it should be in the right proportion which each church should prayerfully consider in the light of God and His Word.

  7. Wonderful blog going on here!!! Being new with OurChurch.com it is wonderful to know that we have picked an organization that correctly upholds our beliefs!! Thnak you. Joe D, right on Bro, this internet, website, and email stuff are just tools that we use to reach others with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us always remember that is Christ that saves, not lights, video, audio, or internet. We need to remember to uphold the Word of God and preach it the way it needs to be, in its entirety. Blessings to you all.

  8. To a large degree, I think churches choose the technologies with which they have experience. People who have used the technology for other things or who have some knowledge of the technology see some way that it might be used to assist the church in its endeavors. Churches that have websites generally do so because someone saw potential. Churches use radio or television ministries because someone saw the potential.

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