Okay, the title of this post is slightly over the top. Sorry, just
trying to be provocative 😉 Technology, while it may do some harm in the wrong hands, it will not KILL the church. We also know that survival is not the main aim
of the church or the foundation of our Christian faith. We can
argue about what that foundation is and how it is expressed*, but I
think that most will agree that survival for the sake of survival is
not it. Still, it seems that so many of us want to find ways to “save”
the church these days. Not only are we worried about the pure decline
in membership numbers but then we hear of cultural changes such as reported this new study:
that this category now outranks every other major U.S. religious group
except Catholics and Baptists. In a nation that has long been mostly
Christian, “the challenge to Christianity … does not come from other
religions but from a rejection of all forms of organized religion,” the
Ack, we are dying! We are loosing people not just to other churches with “right doctrine,” but they are leaving to join the church of “no religion.” It is no wonder we are struggling to find ways to stop the bleeding, increase membership and NOT die. I understand, I really do, no one WANTS to die. At this same time, when it comes to Christian communities, anything we do that is grounded primarily by a need to survive will ultimately lead to our death, physically and spiritually.
So, naturally, we try to find ways to grow and be healthy.
One of the things that I have noticed in many conversations about the future of the church with folks is the focus and preoccupation with technology. Perspectives range from mildly ambivalent to wildly receptive and comes from all demographics. Some people simply will not be open to or acknowledge the importance of technology; and others, quite frankly do not wish to acknowledge the negatives that can come from an over emphasis on technology. Now obviously I am one that has
embraced the transformational impact that technology can have on communities of faith and their lives in the world, but I am also
committed to the integration and use of technology that takes seriously the contexts in which we serve and provide leadership.
So while I would enthusiastically support and encourage any and all church folks to seek out and dive into those places where
technology and faith converge, there are some dangers to jumping in without some filters. With this in mind I have come up with three Tech Death Beliefs that we need to be aware of. Now some of these are pretty basic and some of you may be offended that I would even think that YOU would think such a thing, but all of these come from experiences, conversations and pretty strong examples of technology gone bad.
Try these three on for size.
TECH DEATH BELIEF #1 – “If we just increase the use of technology, young people will come to church and we will live again!”
This is insidious thought number one when it comes to technology and
the church. For some reason we are caught in this worldview that it we
simple discover the right method, we can structure and build our way
into new life and growth. What this does not account for is the contextual realities
and integrity that any community must have in order to be a compelling
presence. In short, the use of technology must at least resemble the
technical realities of the communities we serve otherwise, we are
putting up a false face to the world, sharing not “who we are”, but
“who we think you want us to be.” Not only does this contaminate the
technology that used, but it boils folks down to one simplistic
demographic, “likes technology” when in fact if a community is genuine in its use of technology, “likes authenticity” will be the drawing element.
TECH DEATH BELIEF #2 – “I would rather be plugged into Twitter and Facebook, than doing some of the pastoral care duties that the church expects me to do.”
Whenever we pastor-types are unsettled in our call, avoiding
conflict or otherwise trying trying to NOT engage in activities that we
do not want to do, we find and justify ways to do something else. For
some that might be paying attention only to folks who like us, for
others it is thinking up new projects to take time and yet for others,
we plug in. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the excitement of engaging in new and creative ministries, but for folks in more traditionally populated churches, the only way our “new fangled myface
, twitter world” will gain any traction with those who don’t quite get
it, is if they still know that, no matter what, their pastor’s still
put them first.
TECH DEATH BELIEF #3 – “I have never seen a widget I didn’t like.”
A few weeks ago I did a redesign of this blog because it was
beginning to look like the widget trolls had vomited all over my design.
We have all seen them, heck, we have all probably helped to deign them.
You know what I mean, websites, blogs and profiles that are just a
mess. We add graphics galore, use twelve fonts, have no color scheme
and some of us *gasp* have music that plays every time one visits.**
To take a quote from Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility” or put another way, just because you have the power, it does not mean you have to use it. Just as you would not welcome folks into your home in a disaster state, we should take the care and time to present a nice look and feel for those interacting with our online presence. Now of course, while I am clearly being a tad bit judgmental
, if the look of your community is joyfully chaotic, eclectic and
otherwise wild, then your website/blog should certainly reflect that.
Do not lie about who you are as a community, but do not do anything
that will scare folks off at the outset. In this day in age, the care
and thought you put into your only identity will tel folks a great deal
about how you might care for them.
Now obviously none of these things exists in pure form or is
embraced with malice, but what is so often missing is one crucial
understanding of the use of technology: like any other tool for
ministry and communication it is only as powerful as the level in which
folks use and embrace it. Context matters as they say. If the
technology is not part of who you or your community is, it will not be
effective in helping to create an atmosphere of health and growth. But
. . . if you find that convergence where the technological air that you
and those around you breath meet, there you have moments of grace and
Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go and twitter this ;-0
*If you want my statement of faith in 140 characters or less, see my Twitter of Faith.
** Unless you are a musical artists or your website is something like musicwillstartnow.com, please, please, please take off any automatic music playing.