Most of us don’t think twice about adopting technology in our lives and churches. But should we? That’s the kind of question this article asked. These are important questions, and ones we should be asking more often.
I wrote the comment below in response to that article:
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit, too. No technology is neutral. Each technology is imbued with its own set of values (your cell phone, for instance, values constant connection and interruptibility). So yes, the medium matters a great deal.
While I’ve benefitted enormously from online resources like sermons and classes, I think we’ve got to do a better job of determining what should be online and what shouldn’t. For instance, a midday theology class that only 20 people can attend is a great resource to put online and allow more people to access it. But a worship service that includes communion and prayer requires presence (physical, mental, and spiritual) and would make less sense to put online.
Every technological advance requires a tradeoff, usually in the form of personal interaction or interaction with the elements of nature. The thing is, we were made to experience those things. The problem is less that we have technological advances and more that we don’t consider the tradeoffs, then adjust our lives accordingly.
Video preaching loses a personal connection to the speaker (regardless of gifting). That connection is worth something. This is especially significant to consider given the rise of VR and the soon-to-be normal VR worship experience (see http://churchonlineplatform.com/vr and https://live.life.church/?experimental=vr). If we take away all the friction of meeting together, a lot of us are going to be fine with that. The problem is, friction forms us. The friction of meeting in the flesh and having to look someone in the eye is what we were made for.
None of what I wrote above means I’m necessarily against the things mentioned, only that we should be thinking about the implications instead of passively accepting every technological advance.
What I’m most concerned about is the point I made about friction forming us. We call it spiritual formation for a reason—it requires forming our hearts, minds, and souls. Specifically, forming them into the image of Christ.
We were made for face-to-face, in the flesh interactions. These kinds of relationships leave us the most vulnerable, but it is precisely for this reason that they are so critical to spiritual formation. The greater the friction of meeting with other people, the greater the opportunity for sanctification (or being conformed into the image of Christ).
Our digital relationships and advances remove much of this friction. At the same time, tools like smartphones and social media can supplement and even complement in-person relationships, but they should never fully replace them. When we do so, we will remove some of the friction and vulnerability required to relate to others, but we also lose something of what it means to be human.