I have a love-hate relationship with technology. With a short time until I retire, my preference is still, ‘Give me pen and paper’; it may be better than asking for a quill and ink in this digital age of pixels and Artificial Intelligence [whatever they might be].
As a pastor of two congregations that do not meet in their building, the challenge for my church members and me was to have a 24/7 presence and get our message out. The answer was twofold: Technology and T-shirts. The T-shirts were for the church family and associated groups to wear as walking advertisements (low-tech) that directed people to our chosen technological presence. The youth even wanted QR codes on their hoodies so their friends could scan them and be taken directly to our website.
Christ’s command and our reason for existing are to “go and share what God has done for you” (Luke 8:39). The Apostle Paul met that challenge. Also, he encouraged believers not only to have an urgent sense of but be involved in mission in a variety of ways “so that for the sake of the Gospel, by any means possible we might win some (1 Corinthians 9:21). Updating, to borrow a technology term, is necessary. In an age when everyone is expected to have a device that connects to others and the Internet to bank, shop and share life, we would be wise to pay attention to the opportunity technology gives us.
Martin Luther kick-started the Reformation by utilising the social media of his day – nailing messages to the church door. The advent of the printing press in 1455, one of the greatest of all technological advances, by Gutenberg and his associates resulted in millions of Bibles being placed in people’s homes. Interestingly the page builder for the most popular blogging platform, WordPress, is Gutenberg.
The Adventist Church embraced radio when it was still a new technology. Later the church began using television and now uses YouTube to share the message of God’s love to nameless thousands who would never dream of entering a church building. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when church buildings were closed and forced to stream services online, many still gave their lives to Christ.
So how did one of my churches overcome the challenge of using technology to communicate the Gospel to our 21st Century audience?
Firstly we looked at what social media technology people were using locally. The top two were WhatsApp and Facebook. More recently, TikTok and Discord. Then we decided that our website (www.thewateringhole.org.uk) would be organised and worded with our local community in mind, not as an internal information hub but for evangelistic purposes.
Many of our ministries, such as the card-making club, have dedicated Facebook groups where people connect and post pictures of cards along with personal comments. This has enabled us to mingle, draw closer to, get to know people, meet needs and even win one person to Christ.
Jesus, our Saviour, Leader and Mentor, is a remarkably effective example of communicating God’s love and kingdom values. He didn’t rely on remote means to connect with us but “moved into the neighbourhood” (John 1:14), using stories about everyday objects to help people understand how God thinks and acts towards us. More than remote technology alone will be needed to get the work done.
“Ancient words, ever true, [that are] changing me, changing you” need imparting to our 21st-century communities in contemporary ways, using modern means. So now I am asking for a pen, paper and a computer!
My challenge to you is, “Go and do likewise”.
Pastor Rosemary Lethbridge is a commissioned minister that serves the Dorchester and The Watering Hole (Totton) SDA churches in the South England Conference, UK