Christian Technology

If information technology is described as “the technology involving the development, maintenance, and use of computer systems, software, and networks for the processing and distribution of data”, then what might Christian technology be?

Is it “dedicated to fighting filth and corruption and non-determinism with applied Christian technology”?

Is it “people with high tech and spiritual expertise”?

Or is it just a great diversion from the highest good?

In a session entitled, “Creating Irresistible Environments” at the 2005 Drive Conference held by Northpoint Community Church, Andy Stanley says that the objective of the church team is to create an environment conducive to the moving of the Holy Spirit. He points out that whether it was at a church worship service, a retreat, a conference, a revival, or some other point in time, our decision to follow Christ occurred in a particular environment, and while we cannot guarantee a conversion experience, we can create environments that promote an open heart.

Christian Technology then, borrowing from the definition of information technology, might read somewhat as “the technology involving the development, maintenance, and use of computer systems, software, and networks for the creation and distribution of environments that promote the movement of the Holy Spirit.”

According to this definition, Christian technology is heavily oriented around production and aesthetics as well as presentation and usability. A suitable context for the transmission of the Gospel is the objective. This seems to be the working definition for a number of megachurches, but is it an effective one. What happens when a Christian is outside that context? Are we all supposed to be working towards re-creating that type of context? like some sort of Christian McDonald’s? What happens to all those churches that are low tech?

What if we find that so many Christian technologists are more into the art of the environment and ambiance than in Christ himself? Obviously, information technology translates to all kinds of fields but IT personnel are not required to be completely immersed in the industry that they are a part of, they need only to ensure that the systems run properly to the desired goal, so it stands a good chance that we have many people that work towards increasing the quality of church environments without the vested interest in Jesus. What is to become of the Christian Technology boom?

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Comments

  1. daniel so says:

    David — These are some very thought-provoking questions you raise. It is a strange irony of following Christ that we so easily end up loving the things that should help us love Christ more than we actually love Him (e.g., worship music, a particular theology, technology, ambiance, etc.).

    At first glance, it might seem very innocent, missional even, to say that we should always adopt new methods to communicate the unchanging Gospel. Shane Hipps develops some very interesting thoughts in his book “The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture” about how our reliance on modern technology does change the message. To overstate it a bit: the medium *is* the message.

  2. MrPages says:

    I think this is a HUGE trap to fall into.

    Britney Spears can manipulate a crowd into euphoria and tears and emotional states through the clever use of imagery, lighting, song choices and other forms of mood management. If we use those tools, we’re not “inviting the Spirit” or “promoting the movement of the Spirit”, we’re just manipulating people. People make enotional choices, and then when the emotions are gone and they aren’t in an emotionally charged environment, they feel that God isn’t with them, or that they are falling away from God. We’re creating a generation of Worship Junkies who need that large crowd, heavy-echo guitar, breathy-prayer-over-guitar-fills feeling in order to feel like they are close to God, when actually what they are feeling is emotionally charged by completely non-spiritual factors. We’re creating people who’s dedication to Christ is more like Deadheads following the band around the country. Our working so hard and putting so much effort and money into “helping the Spirit along” is hubris of the highest order. Neal Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves To Death” needs to be translated into the Christian milieu and taken seriously.

    The Spirit is given to believers and to others when believers obey:

    Stephen is described as being full of the Spirit when he is standing firm in his faith and is stoned to death (Acts 7:55)
    Paul received the Spirit when Ananias obeyed God and went to him and prayed for him. (Acts 9:17)
    The Spirit is given to theose who obey God (Acts 5:32)
    The disciples were locked in a room when Christ breathed on them. (John 20:22)
    The disciples gathered on Pentecost when the Spirit came as a wind. (Acts 2)
    No one in Samaria received the Spirit until Peter and John prayed and laid hands on them (Acts 8:15)

    The Spirit is given to others when they hear the gospel and believe:

    When you heard the gospel and believed, you were given the seal of the Spirit (Eph 1:13)
    Peter settles an unruly crowd by telling them that in order to get the Spirit, the gathered crowd must repent and be baptised. (Acts 2:38)
    Peter addresses a large crowd with the gospel and everyone who heard received the Spirit (Acts 10:44)
    Unbelievers can not receive the “things of the Spirit” because they do not yet believe (1 Cor 2:14)
    God gives the Spirit to those who believe (Gal 3:5)

    There is nothing in scripture about creating the proper mood. The Spirit comes to people who are on the road to Damascus, in a mocking crowd, in a listening group of people, in a palanquin with a single disciple.

    The way we “promote the movement of the Spirit” is to preach the gospel, to tell the gospel, to share the gospel, not by buying more computers and bigger screens and better guitars and planning sets properly.

    My vote is that all the tech, while interesting and cool, is merely a distraction to keep people from actually sharing the gospel.

  3. djchuang says:

    I’m going to blow the whistle here: false dichotomy! The environment can be a distraction or an enhancement to a worship experience, or it can be a non-issue. The church has been about environment since the days of the cathedral, where the architecture of church buildings has (and still does?) speak volumes about who God is.

    I don’t think (most) proponents, Andy Stanley included, would say they rely on the environment, and the use of technology as a part of that, as the means of how the Spirit will move in a place, but that there are certainly ways that God can use everything that’s done intentionally and with careful planning to make a worship service, its content and its environment, to be more conducive for more people to respond. And, God can work in the midst of lack of planning too, but perhaps God does use planning more than non-planning for many (most?) parts of real life.

    My opinion: where I’ve seen technology used well is when it is seamless with the overall experience. When technology becomes the fireworks of technical whiz-bang prowess, then it can border on distraction.

  4. MrPages says:

    I don’t think the dichotomy is planning vs. non-planning either.

    Planning != technology

    Environments can be created without technology.

    But when significant percentages of church budgets go to creating an environment, and upgrading that environment, that’s a cause for concern. When we put more money into setting up the sanctuary than into missions and local service, that’s a problem.

    When we spend money that could be used on missions and local service and real outreach on things that aren’t essential for a service, that’s a problem. We get sucked into “well, a larger screen would be better” and “well, if the whole network was upgraded to the latest version of the software it would be much easier” and “it would be less distracting if we had an invisible sound system and a new rack of in-ear monitor transmitters instead of the big ones we have now.”.

    That’s the danger, and it’s a really easy trap to fall into. When we get into the trap that the better our service looks the better the spirit works, that’s dangerous. No one is saying that messy, unplanned crap is good worship, but when we get too into latest and greatest for the sake of the show, it’s time for a priority check.

    God works when we present the gospel. Not when we do it with seamless experience.

  5. e cho says:

    good thoughts.

    for me, it’s simple: we’re all consumers and if we say, we aren’t, we’re lying consumers.

    so, while we access technology and different mediums to get the message across, a great reminder is to regularly examine..if we stripped away everything, what do we have left? the answer might be more scary than we think.

    e

  6. The tendency with the church seems to consider the new with suspicion. By implication, the traditional is thus held with esteem. And this for good reason, especially when it comes to theology, creed, and practice. However, even “old” teachings must give way to “new” teachings, when the old has been examined and found wanting (Case in point: Slavery was once considered biblical, and “godly” leaders subscribed to this. Just ask the Southern Baptists. But I digress)

    The question when it comes to technology isn’t “What is it’s place in Christendom today?” but “Why are we even asking the question?” There is no such thing as Christian technology any more than there is a Christian alphabet, a Christian color (perhaps orange?) or a Christian cell phone. Technology just is, it is here to stay, it is evolving faster than we realize, and while we ponder the virtues of the color orange, the church becomes less and less connected with the people we need to impact.

    I remember when the argument in the church was whether it was unspiritual to switch from the hymnal to the overhead projector. That issue is now moot, except among the Amish. There are no shortcuts to effectively reaching people- by dint of hard work, the culling together of the best technology available, the best talents available, and always, the passion of the gospel that centers it all.

  7. I’m with emerging truth on this one. As someone who spent his entire professional career in high tech, I find the notion of “Christian technology” odd. Is there such a thing?

    Technology is common grace from God…to be used, to be enjoyed…we don’t need to “christianize” it, to legitimize it’s place in the church. I’d like to see the use of technology in churches go beyond multi-media and websites but that’s probably a different discussion.

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