January 10, 2007

Technology Goes to Church

1501 page30 cap 5lick.  Come on, you stupid thing—work!  Click. Click.  What’s wrong with this thing?
Smack-dab in the middle of my sermon, my computer, PowerPoint presentation, and the remote for moving the slides all conspired against me. The result was a spectacularly awkward moment when the congregation and I stared with vacant smiles at each other with no one making a sound except . . . click.
After a full minute the silence reached fever pitch. To help neutralize the situation, I used the one-word joke told whenever something goes haywire: “Technology.”
A courtesy chuckle bought me a few more seconds of impassioned clicking.
Click-click-click-click . . . please . . . please . . . please . . . YES!
The slide moved! All was saved! Well almost.
For whatever reason my computer’s warped little mind had stored up all my clicks. Then it unleashed all of them. Every slide flew past the screen at Mach 5 until the words “The End” glowed from the screen.
1501 page30 intext 1“Uh, sorry folks; won’t be a moment. Just have to, uh, scroll back a bit.”
Technology can get on our nerves. Computer crashes, skipping accompaniment tracks, squealing mikes, and possessed slide shows are just a few things that can make us mutter darkly whenever someone suggests using technology in church. Yet we see it used in the Bible.
God told Noah, “Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch” (Gen. 6:14, ESV).* How many arks were there before the Flood? Noah, with God’s instruction, pioneered cruise ship technology; and it saved the human race.
Consider the tabernacle in the wilderness. God told the people of Israel to “Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you” (Ex. 25:9, NIV). That pattern revealed a collapsible, portable place of worship where God dwelt with His ever-moving people. Can your church do that?
New ideas and new methodologies are not condemned in either Scripture or inspired counsel (provided they don’t become gods in themselves, or get used just for the sake of using them). Ellen White offered this counsel on the subject: “Men [and women] are needed who pray to God for wisdom, and who, under the guidance of God, can put new life into the old methods of labor and can invent new plans and new methods of awakening the interest of church members and reaching the men and women of the world” (Evangelism, p. 105).
Every method we use to reach people for Jesus is like a tool in a toolbox. Because each person is unique with a distinct background and collection of needs, not every tool always fits the job (although a personal testimony comes close). You wouldn’t trust a builder who offered to build your home with only a hammer and some shingles. Would you be pleased if your doctor prescribed aspirin for every illness?
Technology simply represents more tools to add to our arsenal for tearing down the walls of darkness that keep people from seeing the light of Jesus Christ. It would be foolish to reject a tool just because we weren’t familiar or comfortable with it. Because the world changes the way it communicates, learns, and understands information, shouldn’t we strive to learn and master any tool available to us for expressing God’s love?
This month, try something new in your church, in the ministry you’re involved with, or in your personal time with God. Add a piece of technology you’ve never used or haven’t used in a long time. It could be as simple as playing some worshipful music on CD as you study the Bible, sharing a DVD on an important topic facing Christians instead of the usual Sabbath school lesson or it could be as complicated as using PowerPoint pictures in a sermon or worship service. The choice—and the gain—is yours.
Yes, something might go wrong. But something might go wrong anyway. I’ve seen soloists sing off-key and preachers lose their place—all of which had nothing to do with technology. The point is to grow in our ability to communicate the gospel—and add one more tool to our toolbox.
*Texts credited to ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Seth Pierce studies at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary . He and his wife, Angela, live with two trouble making cats in Berrien Springs, Michigan.