Ray Hollenbach on the Dangers of Church Tech

Jesus calls us to be faithful, but sometimes we might mistake that for the calling to be efficient. There’s certainly nothing wrong with efficiency, but in ministry, what are the instruments of love? Let me tell you a not-necessarily fictional story about the dangers of church tech.

A parable: a pastor hears a tone and looks down at his iWatch to see a text message, “Urgent! Dave Johnson has had a heart attack—his family is at the Emergency Room in a nearby suburb—can you meet them there?” The pastor taps a thumbs-up and instantly his afternoon has been turned over like a fruit cart. He pulls his car to the side of the road, grabs his mobile phone, and opens the church app.

Within moments he sees a picture of Dave Johnson (in a congregation of 400 people how can a pastor be expected to remember the details of everyone on the church?). The app begins to fill in the blanks: wife is named Nancy; they have two teenagers still in high school. The first hurdle has been cleared—when the walks into the Emergency room he will call each one by name, able to hold a hand or look someone in the eye without worries of seeming distant in a crisis. Still at the roadside the pastor identifies which community group the Johnsons have recently attended, along with the names of other people in that group. He messages the office, asking them to reach out to the Johnson’s friends and arrange a meal; he remotely checks the church budget and confirms there’s enough available in the benevolence budget to offer to put the family up in hotel across the street for the first night of their ordeal.

Back at the office the church staff (just one other full time person and two part-timers) discretely contact other members of the church family to arrange practical help. By the time the pastor pulls into the hospital parking lot he has a follow-up message waiting for him—the church is pulling together its human resources to show love in a dozen practical ways. The pastor opens the car door, utters a prayer for family. Now his real work begins.

Pastors and church staff, indeed, members of any congregation have always been committed to providing care for the flock, but in recent years the ability to respond quickly, deeply, and fully has been improved by such strange-sounding things as databases, spreadsheets, text notifications, phone calls, and even .jpeg files, all of them now available via Wi-Fi or cellular data. Whether in response to a local family tragedy or disaster relief in another country, now—more than ever—the church can imitate the actions demonstrated in church in Philippi, when Paul observed, “you have revived your concern . . . indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.”

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Source: Church Leaders