Technology and Ministry

Technology and Ministry

Technology can be an incredibly wonderful thing.  When I was coming of age, cell phones were not particularly common and payphones were still to be found at gas stations and stores.  If I wanted to get in touch with a friend, I had to find a landline and call him on another landline, hoping that he would be there.  What’s more, I actually had to remember his number, instead of just tapping on a name on a touchscreen phone!  If I wanted to know what a friend was doing, I had two choices:  I could be with him in person or I had to ask him the next time I saw him.  There was no Facebook for me to scroll through, looking for interesting tidbits and photos of meals he had eaten.  If someone asked a question to which no one knew the answer, it meant engaging in a trip to the library.  Utilizing a card catalog (kids, ask your grandparents about this!), you would search for a book (an archaic device constructed from mashed tree pulp with ink letters printed in it) that would contain the information you were seeking.  Google (or more specifically, a googol), at that time, was merely the name for a one with one hundred zeroes after it.

Though I grew up using a card catalog and doing research on microfilm and microfiche at the library, I wonder how efficient I would be if I had to return to that method.  I am thankful for how much easier research is in the digital age, though it bothers me greatly how much incorrect and inaccurate data exists out there in cyberspace that can be deceptive to those who do not have the best discernment.  Yet technology also provides us with a tremendous tool for the proliferation of the Gospel.  To think that not only the Bible, but entire libraries as well, are available to us at our fingertips wherever we may be is something that would have been too wonderful to comprehend by people like Erasmus (Erasmus, a great Christian thinker of the Reformation period, once said, “If I get a little money, I buy books.  If I have any left over, I buy food and clothes”).  We can leverage our Facebook and Twitter accounts to share the Gospel, and we can write about our theological thoughts on our websites and in the discussion section of news stories.  The opportunity to reach untold numbers of people with the Word has never been greater in the history of humanity.  As a church, we seek to use any and every tool available to us in this endeavor, utilizing our website, our Facebook page, our Twitter account, and YouTube to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.

Still, a danger lurks in technology that can, if we are not careful and diligent, distract us from actual ministry to the actual people that God brings before us.  When we are overly concerned with all of the online ministry opportunities that exist before us, we can very easily miss the needs God has placed right at our feet in the form of flesh and blood people.  We can be so concerned with ministering in a virtual context that we forget about the real context in which God had placed us.  By all means, we ought to engage whatever tools are available to us, but if those tools interfere with loving the neighbor who is right here with us, then we must adjust how we are using those tools.  The truth is, it can be much easier and cleaner to minister to someone online through Facebook.  You won’t see them cry because of the pain in their life; you won’t have to put your arm around them to help hold them up when their knees buckle under the weight of this life.  Virtual ministry is, well, antiseptic.  Now, there’s a time and place for this kind of ministering, but if it’s the only kind of ministering we do, we’re effectively acting like the priest and the Levite from the parable of the Good Samaritan.  We pass by those who are right at our feet, bloodied and bruised, needing the love, mercy, and grace of the Savior which we can physically demonstrate to them.  Just something to think about…


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