May 9, 2007

A Flattening World

2007 1513 page6 capechnologically savvy is not a term that would even remotely describe me.
I am very grateful for technology—for my computer, my cell phone, e-mail, the Internet. I can’t imagine accomplishing my daily editorial duties without these tools.
But I don’t catch on to new gadgets quickly. To me, a BlackBerry is still a fruit. But what technology can accomplish boggles the mind.
In The World Is Flat, New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas L. Friedman discusses advances in technology and communication and how they are “flattening” the world by “put[ting] people all over the globe in touch as never before.”
As an example, Friedman describes a process called supply-chaining, used by businesses such as Wal-Mart.
2007 1513 page6 “A consumer will lift [a product] off the shelf, and the cashier will scan it in, and the moment that happens, a signal will be generated,” Friedman writes. Apparently, that signal reaches the product supplier—whether the factory is in China or Maine—prompting them to immediately make and ship another of that item.
Then, of course, we have Google. “Never before in the history of the planet have so many people—on their own—had the ability to find so much information about so many things and about so many other people,” Friedman writes.
Russian-born Google cofounder Sergey Brin says, “Google hopes that in time, with a Palm Pilot or a cell phone, everyone everywhere will be able to carry around access to all the world’s knowledge in their pockets.”
Remember libraries—the places of knowledge we used to visit, in person, not-so-many years ago? Times have definitely changed, and the Adventist Church has changed with them.
The church held its first satellite evangelism event in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1995. General Conference reports state that since then nearly 100 satellite uplink series have been held around the world, and more than 1 million people have been baptized.
Adventist-owned Hope Channel currently uses nine satellites for its 24/7 coverage, and programs are available in up to 13 languages.
Adventist World Radio’s first broadcasts via shortwave radio took place in Portugal in 1971, and now it broadcasts around the world in nearly 70 languages using not only shortwave but local AM and FM stations, satellite, and the Internet.
And the list goes on.
Technology definitely plays a continually enlarging role in the church’s mission to “Tell the World” about Jesus—and rightly so.
Technology played a role in my own family hearing the Advent message. The most important element, however, was the personal contact with members of the small Adventist church located not far from where we lived.
On a Sabbath afternoon almost 40 years ago youth from the local church left on our door a brochure advertising It Is Written with speaker George Vandeman. My mom began watching the program. Pastor Vandeman one day announced an upcoming evangelistic series in a nearby city, which my mom was able to attend because of the kindness of a church member who drove her to each of the meetings. By the end of that series, my mom had accepted Jesus. She then began praying that the Holy Spirit would work on the hearts of her family. I’m a Christian today because of both technology and the people the Lord used to witness to my family and me.
Technology is remarkable and should be utilized as fully as possible, but it can’t replace the personal touch—the face-to-face conversations in which we share our faith and our love for Jesus with those we meet in the workplace, the grocery story—maybe even the library.
It might be tempting to think that type of witnessing is no longer relevant. After all, a pastor today can preach a sermon heard almost simultaneously by millions of people throughout the world. Will my talking to a neighbor really count for much?
The Bible—and experience—leave no doubt it does.