Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Theory of Church Technology

I just started reading a book called Audio, Video, and Media in the Ministry by Clarence Floyd Richmond.  To be completely fair I have only read the first chapter and therefore cannot comment on the book as a whole, but I have some serious issues with some of Mr. Richmond's assumptions.  While I totally agree with what he is trying to do with this book, I think some of the things that he presented as common knowledge speak to some of the assumptions that many churches have when considering the use of technology and therefore can be a jumping off point to talk about some of the problems with these assumptions.

I would like to start out this conversation by what I see as the prevailing assumption about technology in most mainline denominations.  It seems that most mainline churches that want to start using technology have a fundamental assumption that technology will magically make their church relevant and well attended.  To qualify this assumption a little bit, churches seem to mean projection when they mention "technology." It also seems that there is no in depth plan about how that projection will be used within the worship, mission and ministry of a particular congregation.

It seems to me that this fundamental assumption about technology comes from the megachurch movement and the decline of the mainline denominations.  In the 1950s and the 1960s very large churches called megachurches began to gain popularity.  In addition to being large, these churches were (and still are) characterized by their openness for "seekers" (non-Christians exploring Christianity), their use of contemporary worship music, and their use of projection and other entertainment technology in worship.  As megachurches grew in popularity in the United States, the mainline denominations declined.  In the last 20 years mainline churches have desperately looked for ways to increase the number of people that they have in worship on a weekly basis.  Seeing the success of megachurches, mainline church leaders took a look at megachurches to figure out what made them so popular.  For some reason, mainline church leaders grasped onto projection as the thing that made megachurches successful.  These churches simply jumped into the use of projection in worship without analyzing their worship to see how projection might naturally fit in.

The simple fact of the matter is that projection is not the end all be all of worship.  Projection is not going to magically save anyone's worship.  It is possible that projection, when used poorly, can hurt the worship experience of individual churches.  There is a range of technology out there that can enhance worship, but technology will not enhance worship as a matter of course.  The technology available today simply gives churches more tools to use in crafting their worship experience.  Churches who want to use technology need to analyze their worship and understand how a particular piece of technology will fit in with their worship and with their whole identity as a congregation.

In my next few posts, I would like to take some of the simple statements that Richmond presents in Audio, Video and Media in the Ministry and respectfully disagree with them.

Have you experienced worship in a congregation that could benefit from better planning for their use of technology in worship?