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Thoughts on Technology and Ministry

September 24, 2009

In Tuesday’s chapel, Dr. Reid showed this video:

I’ve been thinking about it like crazy ever since. As we prepare to church plant and think through the best ways to utilize social media outlets and technology, the issue is more complicated than it may seem. How do we best utilize these means of communication? How do we prevent them from replacing face-to-face contact? As my friend, Alex, noted, “how do we even know what will be ‘in’ two years from now?

Here are three observations I made on the matter:

1. High quality technology does not equate excellence

Just because you have incredible bulletins and a sweet intro video to the sermon doesn’t mean that you’re demonstrating excellence in ministry. This means that you’re demonstrating excellence in your use of technology. The two are not synonymous.

If a cool logo and website replace excellence in the gospel, then it is only a matter of time before you will fail. Even a church name, logo, and website must be reflections of a robust understanding of the gospel.

2. Lack of/low quality technology does not equate holiness

Our hearts are “idol factories,” and this manifests itself in many subtle ways. One way that I’ve observed is that some who abstain from the recent technological trends (facebook, twitter, blogging, etc.) can present this as though it’s the most spiritual decision – apparently the “super-Christian” would never Twitter.

I have no problem with people who think it’s the wisest decision not to own a TV, use Facebook, Twitter, or whatever else, but don’t make it seem like God is a little more proud of you because you have done so. I believe the model example for this is John Piper, who doesn’t own a TV, yet is incredibly gracious whenever he is asked about this during interviews. Let’s not try to further justify ourselves by our lack of technological use.

The same goes for your church if it has a website that’s done poorly. This can be another way for churches to justify themselves, as a poor use of technology is somehow equated with having a greater spirituality.

An acceptance of mediocrity in any area, even in the technological realm, reveals a larger philosophy of ministry where it’s okay to be selective in what we do well for Jesus.

3. Context needs to drive quality to some extent

The question remains, “how do we balance between these two principles then?” I point to J.D. Greear’s “just enough principle” that he applies at The Summit Church. The question applied to matters of facilities, technology, etc. is “what is enough to get the job done?”

This means that technology will look different in various contexts. The quality of the website needs to be better in an urban environment full of young professionals than it does in a context where half the congregation doesn’t have e-mail. For example, do you really need to use flash on a website when most of your people’s browsers won’t even support it? Cautiously allow your context to determine (but not drive) how you use technology.

However, the thing that should transcend our culture should be our desire to do everything with excellence, including our use of technology in the church. This means problems like broken links on the website, regularly misspelled words on the Powerpoint, and old information in the bulletin are inexcusable if they characterize your church. No matter what the context, mediocrity must be rejected and everything must be done well for Jesus.

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