The latest blog post by Bill Easum sparked a number of lively conversations on both our LinkedIn and Facebook accounts. I started to reply there, but as my response grew, it seemed more appropriate to bring it here to the public forum.
The responses mostly included assertions that the church has become too focused or dependent on technology. That as long as the gospel is faithfully preached and relationships are built, then that’s really enough.
The problem is, it doesn’t make any difference if the gospel is preached if there are no non-Christians gathered with the body (of whatever size) to hear it. And since the days of a one-time visit that results in an instant conversion are pretty much over, the gospel only gets heard and digested if those non-Christians return again and again (studies have shown that it takes about three years for a non-Christian to make the walk into faith). If an unchurched visitor’s first experience with the body in corporate worship – or in any other setting, for that matter – leads them to conclude that what’s been communicated and how it’s been communicated is irrelevant to their lives, the likelihood of their return is pretty small (and for better or worse in today’s culture, the medium is the message).
A small church doesn’t have to, nor can it, compete with a megachurch’s technology. That’s not the point. The question is this: is that church, or any church, using the technology that’s available to them to communicate effectively? Or are they depending on preaching and sharing the gospel using methods conceived and designed to reach and teach generations that learned primarily through print and aural communication? When this is so, as it is in the majority of churches experiencing plateaus and serious decline, three of the latest generations whose learning proclivities depend on image, technology, and participation are left out completely. And the younger the audience, the more important these tech tools are (is there anyone besides us noticing how difficult it is to get children to engage in Sunday school these days?). It makes an eternal difference what technologies we employ.
But technology doesn’t have to mean electronics, though a plethora of these tools continue to be adopted throughout the mainstream population. As helpful as electronic tools are, they are only tools – tools that the church can choose to use or not. The larger scope of technology includes our preaching and teaching content, our preaching and teaching presentation, our musical selection and presentation, which teaching styles we employ, the setting we gather in, the seating we sit on, and so on. It’s probably true that using some of the electronic tech tools makes it easier to accomplish much of the above, but a church doesn’t have to use every new gadget or app that comes down from the cloud via Google Play or Apple’s App Store. There are times when electronic technology can help and there are times when it can get in the way. And anything that gets in the way of preaching the gospel effectively must be removed… I think Paul had something to say about that about 2000 years ago.
Having and using the latest and greatest tech tools won’t grow a church. But not using today’s technology to effectively communicate the gospel will ensure that a church won’t experience significant and sustainable conversion growth (the only growth that really counts… any other growth is deck chair reorganization).
Technology isn’t a savior, but it’s not a demon either.
Question: What are some of the most helpful and effective technologies you’ve seen used in a worship service? Share with us in the Comments section below.