One of the greatest opportunities for the church of Jesus Christ in the twenty-first century is the availability of incredible technology for communicating God’s grace, truth, and ways of faithful discipleship—not only in virtual worship centers and classrooms locally, but throughout the world.
Is it, perhaps, a blessing in disguise that the current pandemic has suddenly required preachers and congregations to create virtual opportunities for worship and teaching? Is there a silver lining in the fact that all theological educators have been forced to revisit the usefulness of technology in virtual classrooms?
Many who have kicked and screamed against the development of online worship or theological education have had to admit that, in the sudden absence of a traditional worship center or classroom, it’s the only viable option for addressing these needs. Unfortunately for many, the only serious question is: When can we dispense with this season of inconvenient tribulation and get back to our preferred, traditional patterns of doing things?
Tired prejudices against maximizing tools of technology for ministry tend to include:
- I/we never did it that way
- It couldn’t possibly as good as my preferred way
- It’s not possible to do it well
- Jesus didn’t own a computer
- It requires investment and therefore costs too much
- They can do it my way
- We don’t want to spend time to learn how to do it well the new way
The good news is that we need not live in a past that is fading away. From a Wesleyan theological viewpoint that emphasizes grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, there are fresh and hopeful ways to respond to the technological opportunities and challenges before us. John Wesley used the word prudential to describe means of God’s grace that vary necessarily according to circumstances and time. Instead of balking, we might open ourselves to welcome and seize upon the possibilities of technology as a prudential means of grace by considering:
- What new thing is God doing through the use of technology in our midst?
- Is there anything God cannot use to fulfill God’s purposes?
- Can the Holy Spirit help us with our weaknesses?
- If I can use technology to stay in touch with family and friends at a distance, why can’t I use it to help me stay in touch with God?
- How can technology be leveraged to lead people closer to God?
- How can the Holy Spirit help me to grow so that I can love others more?
- How can the Holy Spirit move through technology and people to fulfill God’s amazing purposes in the world?
- How can we invest all that God has entrusted to us for the best possible yield for God’s kingdom?
- How can technology help us to fulfill the Great Commission in even greater ways than we’ve already seen?
Every form of worship, evangelism, or theological education, at its best, has its merits and potential usefulness. The converse is also true. There is no perfect form of worship, evangelism, or theological education, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, that is best for everyone in all times and places.
Like many, my own preference is to gather in person for worship with the community of faith in our local church building down the street, and to meet with students face to face in a traditional classroom. But what if the greatest opportunity for meeting and communicating with the largest number of people, considering their needs, whether in worship or education, will continue to involve or expand the use of technology?
I should not have been surprised when my pastor told me our local church is reaching more people now with online worship services than it did when offering only face-to-face worship services.
What selfish or devilish distractions are holding us back from pivoting and taking a lead to embrace the technological opportunities before us for the sake of Christ’s ministry in a season of global crisis?
What would it look like if we leveraged for true ministry, using technology, all the time and money being wasted on division? Beyond our current practices, what incredible worship, evangelism, and educational resources could we build and employ using the technology at our collective disposal?
Is it not God’s way to shower faithful disciples with grace, unity, and Holy Spirit power for the ministry of Jesus Christ? Indeed, especially in this strange time of monumental need?
Why would we even want to go back to the way things were when God is already doing amazing new things in our midst? This same God is able to help us redirect our efforts to maximize all the God-given resources at hand, even the far reach of technology, for God’s glory.