Times change. Technology changes. Attitudes change. Nowhere does this seem to be more of a problem for people than inside a church.
My dad forwarded an email to me from a friend of his the other day. As religious-themed email memes go, it at least didn’t attempt to create some dire scare about how the “end times” were beginning next Tuesday.
But what I read did seem a little sad to me in its apparent “attack”, even through parody, of “the church of the future”. I wanted to dissect it a bit to see what the big deal about the trends in this so-called church of the future happen to be.
Church Service of the Future:
PASTOR: “Praise the Lord!”
PASTOR: “Will everyone please turn on their tablet ,
PC, iPad, smart phone, and Kindle Bibles to 1 Cor 13:13.
And please switch on your Bluetooth to download the sermon.”
Some people seem to have a major issue with others using technology to read the Bible. I would think any rational Christian would be pleased that someone would read the Bible at all rather than getting hung up on whether the Bible happens to be printed on paper or displayed on a screen.
Indeed, for many of us, an electronic version of the Bible helps us find passages pertinent to issues we face on a moment-by-moment basis faster and more efficiently than even a well-detailed index in a printed book will.
Isn’t that more important?
The meme continues:
“Now, Let us pray committing this week into God’s hands.
Open your Apps, BBM, Twitter and Facebook, and chat with God”
Here’s where this little fictional account from the future just turns absurd. I don’t know of anyone who honestly believes that they can “chat with God” more effectively through an app than you can in prayer. In fact, I know quite a few people who pray a great deal and are committed to hearing from God and listening to what they believe He tells them.
I also don’t know of any genuine faith-centered app that claims it will help you talk “one-on-one” with God just like a tech company can reach tech support.
I also don’t see the church of the future, at least not one based on the church of the present, heading in this direction.
The meme continues:
“As we take our Sunday tithes and offerings, please have your credit and debit cards ready.”
“You can log on to the church wi-fi using the password ‘Lord909887. ‘
The ushers will circulate mobile card swipe machines among the worshipers:
a.. Those who prefer to make electronic fund transfers are directed to computers and laptops at
the rear of the church.
b.. Those who prefer to use iPads can open them.
c.. Those who prefer telephone banking, take out your cellphones to transfer your contributions to the church account. ”
The holy atmosphere of the Church becomes truly electrified as ALL the smart phones, iPads, PCs and laptops beep and flicker!
This, while only bordering on the absurd, has a little more reality behind it. People seem to get bent out of shape if money isn’t tithed the “old fashioned way.” The majority of people I’ve seen snicker at using technology to give to the church are themselves old-fashioned by today’s standards of commerce.
There are young people who don’t even own a checkbook. What would you have them do? (Here’s a hint: they’re not going to go back in time to obtain one just to donate to the church your way.) Those who’d poke fun at younger Christians for being too tech-oriented might want to spend a few moments in genuine contemplation of the possibility that they may be the problem rather than the younger people.
The meme concludes:
“ Final Blessing and Closing Announcements…
a.. This week’s ministry cell meetings will be held on the various Facebook group pages where the usual
group chatting takes place. Please log in and don’t miss out.
b.. Thursday’s Bible study will be held live on Skype at 1900hrs GMT. Please don’t miss out.
c.. You can follow your Pastor on Twitter this weekend for counseling and prayers.
d.. God bless you and have nice day. ”
Ah, more absurdity.
I help co-lead a “community gathering”-style small group (which is, essentially, a large small group). We use a Facebook page for our group to communicate when our next meeting is and to share prayer requests with each other or celebrate moments that are worth celebrating. We also use it to reach out on behalf of those within our group who may be in need to those who might be in a position to help.
We meet in person. Always.
But let’s play, pardon the expression, Devil’s Advocate here for a second: if a genuine Bible study happens to occur online via a Facebook chat, a Twitter chat or a Skype call, what, exactly, is so wrong with that? If we’re seeking God and the true meaning of His purpose in our lives, it shouldn’t matter how we meet or where that meeting occurs. I daresay that if we only find true meaning about what God wants for us when we’re within the four walls of church, I sincerely hope whoever crafted this little email stopped patting himself on the back shortly after sending it out and immediately began acquiring army cots to cram into his own house of worship: because if we’re to find a problem — or even something to make fun of — in the notion of using technology to further evangelism, the unescapable conclusion with that objection is that we should pretty much spend the whole of our time in a church building.
Just so we never miss a call from God when He picks up the spiritual phone and dials our number.
By the writer’s own judgement, it seems that is what the church of the future should be.
Is technology “too involved” or too much a part of today’s church service?
Well, the answer to that question largely depends on your own opinion of church and how you worship.
But it’s grossly unfair, not to mention, unChristian, to be so judgmental as to assume that someone who might pick up a device during a church service isn’t just as committed as you are to hearing God’s voice or learning who He is and what following in Christ’s footsteps mean.
It’s a shame that for some, it‘s so easy to find a self-righteous humor in such a meme.