YouTube videos of some mega-church wanting to be "cool" and "edgy" and "relevant" by replacing the altar with a stage complete with a state-of-the-art sound system and perhaps even a giant movie screen or two too.
In fact, some of you reading this might already be experiencing this sort of thing (or have for years now) at the small, local church you attend, which is taking its cues from these "Missional-minded" mega-churches.
However, did you ever stop to think about the historical use of technology within Christ's Church? Of course, we Lutherans know all about Martin Luther's use of the Printing Press or the most sophisticated technology available to him in his day and age.
What about modern day technology though and how it's presently being used by contemporary Christians? Is it the same thing?
Now, none of this is to say that technology in and of itself is inherently evil. That would be silly. Yet, I wonder if we've ever stopped to really think about this subject in terms of Pop Culture's effects on the Church regardless of whichever side of the aisle we find ourselves on.
Thankfully, Pastor Todd Wilken of Issues, Etc. conducted a 2-part interview with Pastor Jonathan Fisk of Worldview Everlasting in which that was the specific focus on their discussion. You can (and should) listen to that here...
I had never really thought about it with any kind of depth, but simply concluded that it probably wasn't best to use technology during the church service due to all the poor examples I've experienced, heard about, read about, and seen over the years.
It was a very thought-provoking 60-minute interview for sure, but there was one segment in particular where I think Pastor Fisk accurately captured my sentiments on the whole debate.
So my question again is, 'Ok, great, you've got this person to have an experience in the pew, but did they walk out more of a Christian or less of a Christian?' And by that I don't mean growing in their righteousness, but growing in their belief and knowledge of the Word of God. When they walked out are they able to believe, confess, state what Christianity is, or do they just kind of believe in a pop, spiritual existence, a 'Moral Therapeutic Deism' to put the terms to it from Christian Smith's work, and there off 'live their best life now!' chasing whatever they want, and believing all the while that that's what Christianity is. What I'd really love, I guess, to see is for one of this big box churches that spent so much money all these years growing as big as they have, and using all of this technology, to actually give a quiz to their members on sort of a...they wouldn't have to use Lutheran doctrine, but their doctrine -- what do they believe? What do they believe the most important tents of doctrine are? Trinity, Virgin Birth, Return of Jesus. To actually give a quiz to their membership and see, you know, what actually is believed in their pew, and whether or not all of this use of this technology has actually increased their knowledge of the Word. When Paul says, I think it's in Colossians, that we should 'lift one another up, singing psalms and hymns, and spiritual psalms,' the whole point of it is to dwell richly in the Word, and that that Word would be part of our minds, to renew and transform how we think. So, yeah, you go ahead and have your 'exciting experience' but I tell ya, you know, I'm watching the 20-year-olds and they're having exciting experiences at the football game, and out hunting, and doing all sorts of other stuff, and they don't gotta come put money in a brass plate in your pew to have a good experience, in fact, they're tell ya that's pretty boring! No matter how exciting you've made it, it's not as good as what they kind find out there in the world, and it if we train them to judge truth based on 'fun,' which again, is what you're doing when you're basing things on experience or basically based on what I think is fun, then they're religion will be fun, and I hate to break it to you, but Christianity ain't fun! I love the religion, I'm thankful I'm in it, but it's not fun. It's one of the more painful, struggling affairs of my life. It's salvific, it's true, but it's not fun.
We're having this big fight as LCMS Lutherans still to this day -- Wiki/FiveTwo just had their conference and you guys just interviewed last week on that as well -- and I'd love to see one of them give a quiz to their members after three years of all this change, and have their members basically try to confess the Catechism without leading them to he answers. Now, maybe your average, traditional LCMS church wouldn't be any better, and I think that's a fair question as well. This gets back to, it gets us away from the technology and back the Pop thinking, 'How much of our decisions about whether or not a church is healthy is based on whether or not there are people in the pews?' Its not based upon what the people in the pews can confess. And all of our questions about fixing churches and helping churches tends to be about how we can get more people in the pews, and not about how we can have those in the pews be capable of dying as Christians. I think that Pop misunderstanding about the health of a church is kind of more important than all of the questions about technology we could possibly be asking.
Maybe there is a way to use the technology, but if it's not helping to answer that question rightly, um, then it doesn't do us any good to study the technology, or to use it, or to not use it. Right? If I don't have screens in my church and people still don't know the Catechism I'm not doing any better just because I don't have screens. It is a fair thing to say, you know, with the shift to the screen-based information receiving culture that we live in, where people are illiterate, um, you know, how does a church of the Word, uh, engage them, teach them, make it so that they become confessors of the faith, and I would ask openly, I'm not sure the answer is to put all-or-nothing in a 15-minute rhetorical diatribe from a pulpit. I think it's gotta be bigger than that. We maybe sit back on our laurels too much and think that's all the preaching that can be done when we should be preaching in every corner of our world. I don't want to let anyone off the hook and let anyone come out of this interview patting themselves on the back. I think we're in a world of hurt and trouble as the Church in this culture, but the important questions need to be asked, and the important question isn't first and foremost, 'Do I have a guitar or an organ?' The important question is, 'Is learning the Word of God the most important thing in our church?' And the person who says, 'We're trying to give them a good experience!' They've said, 'No, it's not.' They've said, 'No, learning the Word of God is not the most important thing! The most important thing is that you're happy!' And then, we shouldn't be surprised if that's all our children care about when they grow up is 'being happy.' I watch enough families now, and see that, and they think, 'What went wrong?' I'm not going to point any fingers at any individual, but I know what's going on in the culture. What went wrong is we have placed a premium on feeling good, and the only way out of that is repentance, and a premium on Christ crucified; words about Christ crucified.
This is most certainly true.
Speaking of Christians using Pop Culture and technology, "Donut Church" is the right way to do it!
In a Lutheran layman's terms, and all kidding aside, if we're not careful I worry that we'll all just amuse ourselves to eternal death.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Executive Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 2 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!