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Technology in Worship v. Worship of Technology


I have moved from two small congregations in small-town, west-central Ohio to a mid-size congregation in the wealthiest suburb of the largest city in the state of Oklahoma.  In a variety of ways, my current context is different than my former context… and one of the areas in which this plays out is technology.

In one of my two congregations (I served two congregation at once; this is called a two-point call), not only was there no web presence… no e-mail address… but there was no internet access at the congregation – and the computer, when I left in the summer of 2011, was still using Windows 98.  Needless to say, the technology question rarely come up in my former call.

But do you know what we did today, in my current call?  We created QR codes to put on our announcement board so folks can download the current newsletter or the day’s worship bulletin to their mobile device.

QR Code for Peace Lutheran, Edmond, OK's 12-18-11 Bulletin

For those unfamiliar with QR (quick response) codes; an application on a smartphone or tablet will use the phone or tablet’s camera to scan the above image.  The QR can be used to send a message, or a link, or a document.  In this case, the QR code will open a link (or, depending settings, open the file directly) to a .pdf version of PLC’s Sunday bulletin.  This Sunday is our congregation’s Christmas Program.

For the record, I don’t believe using a QR code in this case falls into the worshiping technology category.  But as we become more and more creative with our use of technology, I can’t help but wonder when technology in worship becomes the worship of technology.  Those of us from the Lutheran family tree should be at the cutting edge; after all, Luther wanted the liturgy and Scripture in the common language so people could understand what was being said and what they were reading – and today we communicate with tweets, status updates, and so on – it is our common language.  Additionally the Reformers were not opposed to using modern technology – witness their use of that new-fangled moving type printing press.

To safeguard us from worshiping our technology – a guideline to make sure we are sticking to using technology in worship – is Article VII of the Augsburg Confession.  Is what we are doing in service to the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments according to the Gospel?  If so, then have at it.  If, however, what we are pursuing detracts from or obscures the Gospel preached in its purity and the administration of the sacraments in accordance with the Gospel, then we need to stop.

My encouragement is this:  when approaching technology, make the first question be, “How does this help us proclaim the Gospel?” rather than, “How much does it cost?” or “Who will it make mad?” or “Is this the newest/coolest/most relevant thing?”


P.S.  How does the QR code on our signboard help us proclaim the Gospel?  Not only is the worship service easier to read on a tablet (no paper shuffling, and you can enlarge the text to whatever size you need), but people are more likely to have their iPad or phone with them at work or play… making it easier to show and invite their neighbor to Peace Lutheran Church.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 16December2011 08:40

    This is an important reminder! Thank you! We have found that we need to keep an eye on the technological grapevine at our church. (We being the staff). Recently a member, who is a “friend” of the CRLC Facebook page posted a video of a pole dancer (decently dressed but offering some incredible physical contortions). It stimulated some admiring comments from others that, quite frankly, wouldn’t be the language we would want to be seen by somebody checking in on what is happening at CRLC. How are others experiencing the pros/cons of networking?
    By the way, I spotted the inappropriate comment and hid the posting. Then I called the friend who was the source of the original posting and kindly told her why I had taken it from the church wall. No major harm done, but a reminder that once things are out there we have little control over their domino effect.

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