November 21, 2007

Logging On to Tech's Benefits

2007 1533 page6 capt’s been quite a number of months since I’ve written a check to return tithe.
Don’t hyperventilate: I still honor the Lord with the firstfruits, but I do it electronically, with a few clicks of a computer keyboard, in the cool of the early morning. In fact, it’s a new ritual for me: wake up, confirm the automatic deposit to my bank account, and log on at a church Web site where tithes and offerings can be processed electronically. A brief prayer precedes the final mouse-click.
I think it’s great, though some traditionalists might feel otherwise. And, indeed, the Adventist Giving Web site, run by the church’s North American Division, offers a printable receipt with a small slip one can cut out to place in an offering plate. (Any Adventist church here can sign up for the free service at
It’s not my intention, nor, I believe, the church’s, to make an act of worship—returning the tithe—into an ordinary commercial transaction. Instead, I believe this online system is designed to make it easier for the giver, in much the same way ADRA, Adventist World Radio, Adventist Mission, and several other institutions have made it easier for donors.
2007 1533 page6The simple fact is that technology in our present age has many wonderful ways of making life better. Computers make it easier, of course, to produce the copy of Adventist Review in which these words appear, or for you to read them online at Having access to the Internet and electronic mail, which can speed items to our offices far more quickly than even the fastest overnight courier, enhances research and writing.
There are those who might “get the vapors” when seeing sermon points, Bible verses, and even, gasp, hymn lyrics projected onto a large screen in the sanctuary. Then again, those of us who wear “progressive” lenses (mine seem to be of dubious value) might well appreciate the big letters. Younger worshippers seem to relate to these displays, too.
Even at the recent Festival of the Laity, in Orlando, Florida, there was a gracious response to the use of a short, dramatic video to illustrate a point in the weekly Sabbath school lesson. I’m not saying this should be done in every circumstance, or every location, but the judicious use of multimedia might help get a point across better than just words alone.
Years ago, I found a book in my parents’ living room. It told the story of the sweep of Bible history, basic Christian doctrines, and had a nice dose of the health message, to boot. That book was Your Bible and You, authored by the late Arthur Maxwell. What impressed me about it, even today, nearly 40 years after I first picked it up, is that it also employed plenty of illustrations to help get the point across. Is it that much of a leap from a well-illustrated book to a sermon backed up by PowerPoint slides?
Or think about podcasts. What’s a podcast? It’s a digitized audio or video file that can be downloaded to a music player such as Apple, Inc.’s iPod or Microsoft’s Zune, and listened to when you desire. I can keep in touch with the Voice of Prophecy and It Is Written that way. What’s more, several Adventist congregations offer their weekly services, or at least sermons, via podcast. Other church entities have podcasts, including ADRA and the Ground 7 news program from Adventist News Network.
I’m also keen on blogs, short for Weblogs, where people post ad hoc comments on various topics and/or news of interest. There are tons of those, too, that relate to Adventism and offer either enlightening or infuriating (depending on your point of view) commentary on current affairs.
I want my church to embrace digital technology, just as it has for the past 20 years or more. Indeed, it was coming across the church’s first Web site, when I wrote God on the Internet back in 1996 (IDG Books), which ultimately connected me with an Adventist named Carlos Medley (yes, that Carlos Medley!) and helped make me favorably disposed to the church’s message. I’m a Seventh-day Adventist today in part because of the role technology played.
Would Ellen G. White blog? I can’t say for sure, but I’d like to imagine she would. Since its earliest days, Adventism has been noted for using the latest technology available to spread the word. The Whites had printing presses—and used them. H.M.S. Richards, Sr., had radio—and pioneered its use for gospel broadcasting. George Vandeman and William Fagal had television—and didn’t shrink from its demands.

So, is there an Adventist readying content for the iPhone? I hope so!

Mark A. Kellner is news editor of the Adventist Review.