Thursday, September 27, 2007

Worship Goes Big-Screen and Hi-Fi, With Direct-Deposit Tithing -

Worship Goes Big-Screen and Hi-Fi, With Direct-Deposit Tithing -
"... The stepped-up use of technology has changed the way people worship in a way that some parishioners and experts like and others don't.

'I think God would be pleased with this,' said the Rev. Grainger Browning Jr., pastor of the 10,000-member Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington. 'I don't think that God would want us to try to evangelize like Jesus did 2,000 years ago.'

Or would he? Critics of high-tech churches contend that the big screens, flickering lights and Internet take away from the traditional atmosphere. They also say that some churches are using so much high technology that they look and feel more like entertainment venues than houses of worship.

'I feel like it's too much and it takes over the worship,' said the Rev. Dorothy LaPenta, pastor of the 150-member Hope Presbyterian Church in Mitchellville. 'People will just be sitting there, their eyes fixated on the screen. They're waiting to be given something instead of participating.' ..."
This is a local story in Northern Virginia and Maryland, but it describes a phenomenon that is common throughout the country. Personally, I appreciate how technology can facilitate communication, but there can be no substitute for a handshake, eye contact, and a friendly greeting in Christian fellowship.

Technology is a tool -- nothing more -- and some churches are starting to realize that focusing on the delivery can obscure the message.

This reminds me of my days as a graduate student when I used the single departmental Apple II Plus computer with 48K of memory and a program called EasyWriter to write out answers (more like 10 page papers) for a qualifying examination. I printed it out on an Epson MX-80 dot matrix printer using bold and italics where appropriate. The few grad students who were doing this caused a stir among the faculty, most of whom were were awe-struck at the appearance of the final product. Within ten years, Laser printers with multiple fonts and text effects became common and it seemed that we were in an era where presentation had overshadowed content. Style had become more important than substance.

Are we going through such a phase with technology-driven worship? Eventually printer technology became so ubiquitous that substance could once again take its proper place. I have no doubt that should this be a problem in worship that it, too, will resolve itself.

Spiritual hunger will always need to be addressed, and like physical hunger, will we go for empty calories or will we look for nourishment? Technology can be an important help to getting the message across, but when it morphs from a servant to our master, then we have forgotten who our Master really is.

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