Yesterday I spoke at the NSRBA pastor's conference. For years I have been attending that meeting, but I usually stay quiet. Most of those men have been pastoring longer than I have been alive, so I often feel unqualified to contribute. I always thought that when I had something to contribute, I would. Back in December I realized that I did have something to add to the conversation in that room, so I asked to speak. I taught on technology and the church. It was very well received, and since it's already written, I thought I'd post about it here on my blog. That concept works for Ed Stetzer, why not for me?
We'll begin with a video. You've probably seen it before, it's been posted on many a blog.
To me, largely a product of the information age, this video is a bit frightening. But I think it illustrates the neeed for the church to embrace technology. We are already losing ground in the culture wars, and without tech, soon we will find we are fighting a war on different terms. (Mennonites and Amish likely live fulfilled lives and people admire them to some degree, but they are not evangelizing the world.)
What is Technology? It's hard to define, but I'd call it the use of engineering to interact with our world differently. For almost everyone there is a certain era of technology beyond which they never advance. Some folks never get beyond movable type, invented by Gutenberg. (Though I'll admit, I've never heard anyone say, "Scrolls were good enough for Isaiah, they are good enough for me.") Some maybe never advance past the television. Even though they are no longer made, some people may be stuck on the VCR even though the DVR is superior in every way. And many preachers especially never got past the wireless phone.
Why does technology matter to the church? Well for one thing because it is changing the way the youngest generation interacts with the world. According to neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, our brains are literally being rewired. I think I can demonstrate the way technology has changed your life with just a short quiz. When is the last time you memorized a phone number? I literally only know one phone number today that I didn't know when I was 15 years old. When you are searching for a Bible pasage, how often do you use a software or internet Bible instead of your concordance? I wrote a blog post about this quite a long time ago I call the phenomenon, the death of remembering stuff.
If it's afecting me, in my 30s, what about the millennial generation?
Is the digital divide equal to the generation gap? What I am asking in this question is; is the inability for one generation to relate to other generatons caused by, or even equal to, the differences in the way we use technology. Barna published a recent study that highlights the digital divide and the generation gap. The younger you are, the more central tech is to your life. The moral of the study is that the digital divide doesn't cause the generation gap, but it highlights it.
Is the technological takeover wrong? In short I would say that the technology is morally neutral. Surely there is a moral component to the utter dependance upon tech to communicate and function, but the technology itself is neutral.
Can't we just call the younger generations stupid and get on with our lives? Certainly you can, but you might as well be telling them to go to hell. Jesus died for kids who only know how to talk through a cell phone, just like he died for fogies who think putting hymn lyrics on a screen was thought up by Satan.
If you are of a certain generation and simply cannot understand the mind of millennials, maybe you should view them as a people group to be reached.
Tomorrow in part two, I will address some specific ways your church can use technology.