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,