Technology and Theology

The iGeneration handles technology comfortably and easily. They are “natives.” Others of us (who remember life before computers) are “immigrants.” These terms are not new.

Yet, while some of us are scrambling to “find an App for that” or work out how to sync our devices to “the cloud,” an important conversation seems amiss. How does technology shape our understanding of God, of the church, and of faith itself? Make no mistake; its impact is profound.

It seems that many Christians ask “How can we use technology for the Kingdom of God?” rather than the more fundamental question “Should it be used?” At the risk of sounding like a Neo-Luddite, I’d propose we ask the latter question a little more often.

Information Technology ConceptCars—a major technology of the last century—have certainly made mega-churches possible, and have thereby impacted our understanding and experience of the church.

Video-streaming has made the multi-site church possible and continues to change our core understanding of the church. Canned laughter built into pre-recorded sermons, and careful filming efforts to create the illusion of genuine “presence,” surely raise questions about integrity (not so much truthfulness as wholeness and authenticity). The cameras demand genericism.

Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook turn local pastors into mini-celebrities (much “liked”), while church management programs seek to identify “at risk” people who may be slipping through the cracks; a task done personally by pastors in days gone by.

How does technology drive us to a greater awareness of the work of the Holy Spirit in us and among us? Does technology deepen and affirm the work of Christ in a local community, or does it gradually and subtly supplant it? Is technology—some technology—counter-productive to “walking by the Spirit”?

I’m not suggesting we return to the Middle Ages or an ascetic monasticism. Nor do I want to somehow extol the past as “a golden era.” But if we do not question the trends and technology of our day as they re-shape our understanding of the Kingdom of God, we might find ourselves drawn into something other than what Jesus intended. As Marshall McLuhan famously said: “The medium is the message.”

How have you seen technology re-shape our theology?

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18 Responses to Technology and Theology

  1. Certainly questions that have to be asked. Our church and wider diocese is embarking on a decade of mission. How will the church look a decade from now? Gods love and our love and care for others wont change hopefully and will continue to underpin choices we make. Blessings Paula Franklin, Russell, New Zealand

  2. Tim Ross says:

    I stayed away from facebook for many years because I saw it as a waste of time. I got on to Facebook two and a half years ago because I saw it as a ministry tool. I use technology to encourage, to comfort, to strengthen, and to give hope. I believe technology can be used for God’s kingdom as long as we always ensure that what we are doing honors God.

    • David Timms says:

      No doubt that technology can “be used” for the Kingdom. Also no doubt that, if we’re not aware, technology “uses us.” It communicates its own message and creates new paradigms, sometimes without us even realizing it. Even something as simple as using Powerpoint to cast Scripture on a screen during a sermon, means that folk no longer need to bring Bibles or become familiar with them. Something gained; perhaps something lost.

      • Tim Ross says:

        I have noticed that when I put Scripture on the screen using Powerpoint that it does indeed mean people don’t have to follow along with their Bibles…and that has bothered me. I don’t know how to remedy it yet but I’m pondering it. Very true…something is gained and lost. Good things to watch and ponder.

  3. I think that technology has invaded our church services too. Now, many services are timed down to the second to make sure that various campuses and their live video feeds are timed and coordinated – and we have turned our services into a “show” with limited time in the church service allowed to experience God “in the moment” as a corporate body. Whatever happened to “tarrying meetings” and waiting on the Lord’s presence together? Maybe we have become so oriented about consuming knowledge (which is precisely what this “Google-that Generation” has attracted us to become), that we have forgotten the Word of God made flesh was a person (to know, experience and to walk with), and not just a message? I find that Christians who go to church, now demand the “wham bam, get ‘er done” services where the presence of God is not on anyone’s mind … but rather, it is just “give me the message, so I can get out of here.” Church is no longer an experience that we participate in – but rather, we watch. We listen. We let the band do the singing for us. Church has become a Disneyland ride experience in which you tarry to go through the trouble of getting there – and then you sit for just a few minutes – WHEE – and then evaluate how great the thrill was, after it is over. Personally, as someone who has been healed by Jesus of MS for 22 years because of a whimsical moment where the Holy Spirit “showed up” and we were allowed to simply experience the presence of God … it’s got me deeply concerned. Are we going to church to experience God and to seek Him together – or are we going simply to be entertained and fulfill the requirements of the law in our own hearts that shouts what we need to do to make us acceptable to God? Isn’t anyone thirsty for God any more?

    • David Timms says:

      Tom, might it also be that our constant electronic connections (gotta constantly check email, Facebook, Twitter, texts, and YouTube) steals the time and attentiveness we might otherwise have for Christ? The electronic addictions (another post, another day) may make us insensitive to the soft whisperings of the Holy Spirit.

  4. Great thoughts again David. We should always evaluate a mean of communication, or technology before we use it. How many congregations spend more on technology than evangelism each year?

  5. Scott says:

    When they start recommending that it will be easier to tithe with a computer chip injected in my hand that might be going a bit far with technology. 🙂

    http://www.csoonline.com/article/2881463/mobile-security/office-complex-implants-rfid-chips-in-employees-hands.html

  6. Tim ross says:

    Another thing to consider…the young crowd has grown up with technology so much so that they all have their technology constantly in their face. The church has changed to reach the culture of the day but has not changed the message of Christ. I think we are seeing churches changing to reach this techie generation. For us who grew up without it, this seems very strange and is concerning. But the world is changing dramatically. Young couples on dates are frequently sitting together both looking at their phones and they are comfortable with that. We just don’t get that. If the church needs to change to reach them, then I think we need to do it. We just need to keep our eye on Christ and constantly measure all that we do against our relationship with Him. If our relationship with Him withers, then we are indeed a Disneyland ride.

  7. Phil McKinley says:

    Good thoughts. At our little church relationships are very important. Technology has helped with that immensely, but technology has not made its way into our worship services. It does help me prepare for Sundays. I agree, we should consider the latter question more often.

  8. churchtechlauren says:

    Great insights! I’ve personally experienced closer connections with my local church family through Facebook. The other day, I posted an article about my husband in the newspaper and subsequently had lots of positive conversations with people who care about us as a family when I was at church Wednesday night. I love how it allows us to deepen connections if we let it! I wrestly with these types of issues and more over at my site, http://ChurchTechToday.com.

  9. Dellena Ludwig says:

    As a believer for about 60 years, I have barely touched my toes into technology! I find facebook a way to share prayer requests quickly and to encourage others, as has been stated above. I appreciate the joy in which the younger generation embraces new technology and am glad my son can help us figure out new gadgets! However I do understand how much cyber conversations eliminate face to face interaction and with that the ability to “read” the emotions behind the words. I am excited about how organizations are using technology to spread the gospel. Wycliffe has programs like Adapt which help translate the scriptures into new languages for tribal groups in record time helping to reach their goal of giving the printed Word to every language group a time frame I might even be able to see in my life time. Yes, technology has it’s down side and the enemy is using it against us! But I am glad we have the opportunity to see the blessings God can give our world before He returns!

    • David Timms says:

      Nicely stated, Dellena. It’s a double-edged sword. It has wonderful benefits — these blog posts and conversations are only possible because of it — but we also want to be careful not to be cut by it. Blessings as you keep dipping those toes. 🙂

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