The church where I serve has just installed a brand new audio-visual system with a huge control desk and two flat screen TVs in the front of the auditorium. As we adjust to using them, the new microphones and speakers will help all of us to hear better, and the big monitors will enhance our worship with videos and written material. There is a lot we can do with it; the possibilities are endless. We used the donation from the inheritance of one man who recently passed to buy it. As a church we are praising the Lord for that gift.
But we must be careful! We don’t want this new system to become a golden calf in the church. You remember the story of the Israelites in the desert (Exodus 32:1-6); their worship was getting old, as they waited for Pastor Moses to return from his sabbatical. They needed an image to jazz up their worship. So the associate pastor, Aaron, conducted a fundraising campaign, and when the goal was met, he created a state-of-the art idol, just like those that were in, back in Egypt. After the ribbon cutting ceremony, they worshipped it and had a big meal in the fellowship tent.
Any new technology can easily become such an idol. Take how some teens act with a new smartphone. Their life is so wrapped up in it that you don’t see them anymore and can’t talk face to face with them. It has become an idol that controls their lives, rather than a tool to enhance their lives. In modern parlance, we call such idolatry, materialism.
In my research, I came across an article from ShareFaith Magazine that shows what materialism looks like in the church. Based on that picture here are some questions to ask to safeguard the church as it takes on new technology:
- Is it seen as a way to overcome problems in the church?
- Is it more important and time-consuming than the lives of those in the church?
- Is it symptomatic of a preoccupation with budgets, balances and funding?
- Is the money for it an indication of our security as a church?
- Are we more committed to putting on a good show than feeding the sheep?
- Is it a way of being obsessed with the programs of the church?
- Are we relying on the beauty of the media, the power of the music, or the skill of the technicians to drive the church service?
If the answer to any of these is yes, then we have fallen into idolatry.
So as we think about new technology in the church, let’s make sure it’s not an idol of materialism that preoccupies and controls us. Instead let’s use it for serving the church as a tool for God’s glory.