Could you imagine a time when the printing press was invented and people said no to printing bibles or other materials? That conversation is unfathomable to us! Never printing bibles? No Christian books? No bible study material? The idea of that is just beyond comprehension. You see – the church couldn’t afford to ignore the printing press.
Yet that conversation could have happened. Maybe someone objected… “We don’t need to print bibles… the way we have the Bible read to us is just fine!” or others could say “Why would we want to read the bible ourselves when the pastor reads it to us so well.” Maybe others would say “Who needs Bible when most people don’t know how to read!”. All these arguments make no sense to us, but culturally would have been relevant at the time. Still we can’t truly imagine the idea of ignoring the printing press as a potential tool for ministry. Can we? The printed book and materials is so integrated into our sanctuaries and our churches.
Now fast forward to three months ago. If I encouraged people to live stream a service the response was ‘We don’t know how’ or ‘we don’t need another thing to do’ or ‘our church won’t use that’. So many of us would ignore the opportunity live streaming presented. Other pastors would tell me social media is a waste of time. The idea of having virtual groups and meetings was crazy – why wouldn’t we just meet in person?
Now fast forward again to today. A season where churches are live streaming in droves out of necessity. Some churches and pastors are engaging on social media for the first time. Other churches having virtual groups via Zoom. All these things that just months ago we would have ignored or seen as unnecessary.
What we’ve ignored for so long… we no longer can.
Ignoring these new forms of communication is much akin to people ignoring the printing press. Down the road it would be incredible to think of churches not wanting to offer online services and groups or to connect with people on social media. Why? It is a standard way of communicating in our world currently. It is an arena in which the church needs to be present. Paul talks about being all things to all people… shouldn’t we have the same attitude?
Now God has placed the church in a spot where they have to embrace these technologies and churches are learning on the fly! The question will be, when this pandemic is done and churches can resume meeting, what will happen with the technology we have embraced? Will we leverage it for the Kingdom? Will we keep uploading sermons and livestreaming services so those who are sick or housebound can still participate? Will we keep doing groups on Zoom so those who can’t afford babysitting can be in a small group? Will we stay on social media so people in our church have another avenue to connect with their pastor?
I understand for many pastors and churches they are overwhelmed by all the new technology they have to use and implement. Yet God has faithfully brought them forward into this time when they are using it. I hope we as churches are able to reflect and recognize the potential long term to continue the work we started in this season.
So the choice remains before us – will we return to what we did before, or will we recognize we no longer can afford to ignore the opportunities in front of us.