Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Importance of Technology


You’re rummaging through your tool box, and you suddenly discover a brand new tool that does just what you want to do and in less time. So what do you do? Do you say, “Hey, I am used to my old tool, so I will just stick with it”? Or do you say, “Thank goodness, I have finally found something to make my life easier”? If you are smart, you use the new tool that you just found and save yourself some time and effort.

Given the above scenario, you can understand why I am surprised when I find a minister who says with disdain, “I just don’t do the Internet. It’s not my thing.” I look at that person and think to myself, “Well, I guess you don’t use a cell phone, microwave, or electricity either, do you?”

You may think that this is mean-spirited, but I have a difficult time understanding a person who does not use the tools available to him or her. If we are to deal with the challenges of the 21st century, we have to be ready to use the technologies that will make our ministries more effective.

When the printing press came along, Protestants could have said, “Oh, no. Now people can read the Bible in their own language. This is going to mean trouble!” Actually, the Protestant reformers saw this as a way to encourage the priesthood of all believers and to give people the opportunity to hear and receive the gospel in a way that they could understand. They wrote, published, and distributed books to the people and also taught them to read.

In the first half of the 20th century, preachers like Charles E. Fuller used radio to present the gospel across America (and along the way create seminary that bears his name). Bishop Fulton J. Sheen saw the potential provided by television to preach to the masses and spoke to more people than any other Roman Catholic priest of his time. Billy Graham understood that motion pictures could both entertain and evangelize, so he began to produce movies that drew crowds to theaters and stadiums.

I could name any number of ministers who have had the vision to embrace technology in constructive ways, often redeeming these enterprises from the commercial uses for which they were being used.

In today’s climate, at least someone in each church or denominational organization needs to be an advocate for the use of the Internet, social media, and digital communication. This advocate needs to both practice the use of these 21st century tools and challenge peers to think how these tools can make their work more effective.

Certainly tools can be misused. A hammer can drive a nail to build a house or crush a skull, but I don’t see us outlawing hammers! If there is a problem with a tool, it is most often in the way that it is used and that is up to the user. Some tools have created new problems for us, but the same tools can well provide the answers to those problems.

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