In the last couple of days I’ve been reflecting on the impact of the Internet on the church, especially with respect to the calling of a new pastor in a church. I want to finish up (for now) with some general reflections.
1. We can’t go back to Kansas.
If Kansas represents a world of secure, local communications, a world where the confidentiality of things like pastor-calling efforts can be protected, then we can’t go back to Kansas. There are no Ruby slippers for the church. What the Internet, cell phones, and related technologies have started cannot be stopped. Oh, I expect some churches will manage to hold back the tide for a while. And, just you watch, soon we’ll be seeing younger generations rejecting electronic church and going unplugged. This kind of reaction is almost guaranteed. But, for the most part, we will not be able to unflatten the world. (By the way, the metaphor of the Internet-related flatness of the world comes from Thomas L. Friedman’s watershed book, The World is Flat. Photo: My daughter and her friend dressing up as ruby slippers for Halloween.)
2. Just because the technology is available, that does not mean we should use it.
Though I think the Internet and related technologies are here to stay, and though I think the church needs to use them in a thoughtful and faithful way, I do not assume that just because a technology is available that it should, therefore, be used. My family and I, for example, still live in the dinosaur age of TV antennas. We do have a television at home, but we do not have cable, or sattelite, or whatever else is available. The only TV we get comes in for free from the small antenna attached to our chimney. We have made this unusual choice, not only to save money, but also because we just don’t need more TV in our home.
3. Christians and churches need to learn to think strategically, creatively, and, most of all, theologically about technology.
In my experience, we’re pretty good at the first, thinking strategically about technology. We can evaluate its impact on our lives and ministries, though sometimes we do not consider unintended consequences of technology.
I have not sensed an abundance of creativity among Christians and churches when it comes to technology. Mostly we do what the world does. Or we copy the megachurches. Or at least we try (usually, without much success). I include myself in this observation, by the way.
But I am most concerned about the lack of theological reflection on technology among Christians of all stripes (conservative, liberal, pro-tech, anti-tech, etc. etc.).
4. Technology is part of this world, which means it necessarily includes both good and evil, as well as relatively neutral “stuff.”
There’s a bit of theological reflection. If we take seriously the fundamental goodness of creation and its fallenness, then we should expect all technologies to be a mix of good and evil, right and wrong. Moreover, they will be used by us fallen people, who, even if we have been redeemed, are not yet fully renewed. In my opinion, the example of Rich Kannwischer and St. Andrew’s exemplifies the moral mixed-up-ness of technology.
5. Those of us who have the resources to entertain ourselves with technological wonders, even in church, need to think long and hard about how our choices impact (or do not impact) Christians and churches who don’t have such resources.
I sometimes wonder if our lavish technological expenditures make sense in a world where so many Christians and churches have so little.
6. I have no idea how much technology there will be in the new creation, but a part of me hopes it’s rather more like a garden than a Wi-Fi hotspot.
I won’t be all that sad if there are cell phones and even the Web in the new heaven and new earth. But I do hope there’s something like an iPod for listening to music. Angelic choirs are fine, but I would prefer a little variety.