Technology & Church

A Little Story

The old, red, brick church towered over the young man, a massive construct representative of the way things used to be. Even though he was in the middle of the Bible Belt, the church looked like something out of a gothic painting. The double doors of the church were weathered and one could easily see the splits in the wood from quite a distance. The mortar was crumbling from between the bricks, a clear sign of many decades of weathering. Despite the church’s intimidating presence, the young man walked to the door. He carried his bag in his hand, ready for whatever awaited him inside. As the young man grabbed the brass door handle and pressed the thumb latch the bolt releasing the door caused it to drop a little, the weight of the door combined with the click of the metal gears could be heard echoing through the sanctuary. “Great,” he thought nervously, regretting making the noise.


There were people scattered all about the sanctuary and the pastor stood up at the pulpit ready to get started. The pews were covered in flimsy stuffed fabric that was supposed to pass for some sort of cushion, but the young man couldn’t help wonder if just sitting on the bare wood may be easier on his back. It was dusty, hot, uncomfortable, and to be quite honest the young man already counting the minutes until he felt it was safe to leave. “Safe? Why would it not be ‘safe’ to leave any time I want? What did that word pop in my head instead? Surely the congregation wouldn’t chase me out with pitchforks.” At least, that is what he hoped, but he was not really sure they wouldn’t either.


As the pastor was calling the congregation to order—it did feel like a courtroom after all—the young man opened his bag and quietly pulled out a small laptop. He made no noise, no more so than the shuffling and thumping of Bibles, hymnals, and that annoying little kid with a bag of candy kicking the pew in front of him anyway. The pastor looked at him, but didn’t say anything. As the service went on the young man would occasionally pick up his computer, type a little something, and then put it back down.


At the end of the service, people greeted the young man and even though the smiled, not many missed the opportunity to tell him he should bring a Bible instead of “that thing” next time. “Ignorance at its finest,” he thought. Their “greeting” was cut short by their need to take a stab at something they did not understand. The pastor noticed the look on the young man’s face as he finally got to the pew he was standing by to speak with him. The pastor greeted him and then promptly asked what was wrong. The young man told him about the experience he just had with the congregation.


Then he said, “They didn’t even see me. They saw this, holding up the laptop, and assumed I was different and not doing things right.”


The pastor nodded, and said, “Well, I thought the same thing. It’s just not something any of us are used to seeing. I hope you will forgive us being old fashioned and give us another chance. Also, what made you decide to bring that instead of a Bible?”


The young man smiled and said, “That’s what I wish they could have seen.”


He opened up the laptop, clicked a couple of things and showed the pastor the screen. The pastor’s eyes widened as he saw the size of the text on the screen was rather large. He thought for a moment and said, “I didn’t even think about a digital Bible. Those large text versions of actual Bibles can be expensive and don’t have many features.”


The young man took a breath and laughed a bit, “You just made my point. That IS an actual Bible. It doesn’t have flimsy pages that are a pain to turn and tear easily. It’s not nearly as heavy and I can go to sections considerably faster. You said mentioned Bibles and features, look at this.” The pastor was shown the laptop again and he could see highlights and notes in on the passages he used for the sermon, and he realized the young man had probably paid more attention than some of the regular members. “I’d like you to show me some more of this” the pastor said approvingly.


Is it that simple?

No, it is not entirely that simple. Technology has its share of pros and cons in the church world. Like anything else, used wisely it can be of great benefit but can also cause trouble if abused. The young man in the story was paying attention to the pastor, and only used his computer to take a couple of quick notes. I am a lot like this young man. I don’t like marking in my Bibles, and I do not like sticky notes and cards hanging out of them.


A few quick notes is one thing, but some people don’t stop there. I have seen people thumbing through their phone, tablet, or other device and rarely look up to engage with what is going on around them. They are like the little kid that looks at the pictures in their Bible all service instead of paying attention to what is going on. The whole point of corporate worship is the coming together of the community of believers. If everyone is just going to ignore that part of service—the whole point of leaving the house in the first place—then they should just stay home and watch a sermon on YouTube while in the bed.


I went to a church one time that had all kinds of fancy things going on with lights and big projection screens. It was entertaining, but that’s about all. It wasn’t entertaining enough to make me want to go back for it. If I want entertainment, I get much higher quality from video games or tv. You know what those screens are really good for though? The draw focus where they are, which is usually behind whoever is leading the service at the moment. They also allow Bible verses to be posted large enough for people to read. Some people also can never seem to find a Bible verse before the pastor is finished reading it, so there it is and that little bit of stress is avoided. A lot of people cannot read music, so it’s great to have the lyrics to songs posted front and center with a little ball keeping the tempo for everyone. That also means everyone is looking up and singing out instead of into a dusty block of paper that God only knows who has had their hands all over (think about that mother that wiped her kid’s snotty nose with her bare hand because she had nothing else to use, then she picked the hymnal back up. Actually, don’t think about that).


Technology used for the right purpose is a good thing. Just make sure you are not using that convenience at the expense of everything else about church.

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