We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Monday, November 25, 2013

Technology & Churches

In his posting, "COMMENTARY: Sunday mornings are broken, Tom Ehrich offers churches and pastors a five point program for moving forward.  In his second point, he states, "use today’s tools (especially technology) to reach today’s people, who are largely diverse, scattered, isolated and not joiners."  He is correct that use of technology in churches is important, so much so that the point almost seems to be a no-brainer.  It is a basic premise of church life that congregations must live in the age in which they find themselves, that we must be "in the world but not of the world."  In the early 21st century, being "in the world" means living in the world of communications technology.

A study release by the Hartford Institute for Religious Research entitled, "Virtually Religious: Technology and Internet Use in American Congregations," indicates that the majority of religious congregations "get it" to one degree or another when it comes to using that technology.  As of 2010, 90% of congregations used email, 69% had a website, and 66% used and had both.  Some 34% had both a website and a Facebook page, and 67% were using visual projection equipment of some sort in worship.  There are gaps in the use of modern media for congregational life, but the trend is clear.  Especially in the last 10 years or so, there has been a decided move toward modern technology.  The report also observes that there is a connection between the overall health of congregations and their use of modern communications technologies.  High technology churches tend to be healthier and more vital.

None of this is actually new.  In past generations, churches have adapted themselves to the printing revolution to such an extent that we don't even notice all of the print media we use in worship including esp. hymnals.  When "desk top publishing" became available with the invention of mimeograph machines, churches began to publish newsletters and use bulletins on Sunday mornings.  The development of audio technology led to the use of sound systems.  All of this is taken for granted today, but we should not underestimate the importance of the adoption of older technologies as forerunners of the use of today's technologies.

Looking forward, we had better get used to technological innovation in congregational worship and life.  The arc of technological change is trending upward at an ever increasing pace, and the truth is "we ain't seen nothin' yet."  The challenge of being in the world is only going to become more pressing in the days to come.