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Is There an App for That?

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What our church needs is an interactive bulletin. Really! It would have one if the board would just approve the tech budget! That way, hymnal racks or seat backs would have tablets for every computer-savvy parishioner. Boot-up would be precisely 19 minutes before each service, with announcements and church news available. Visitors could peruse maps of the building and virtually walk through each space, easily locating the coffee bar and nearest restrooms, even requesting valet delivery of their vehicle at close of the service. Everything would be geared toward maximizing the bulletin experience!

Think of the concept—a “tile” mosaic OS afloat on the bulletin face! With a password, regulars could log into their fully customized opening screen. Worship lyrics and band member profiles would appear as things get underway. Sermon points and outlines are there, of course— with a “vote-for- your-favorite-sermon-point” opportunity. Moms and dads can virtually “pop in” to the nursery to check on their children. An appropriate part of the screen would (silently) signal receipt of an in-house text when one’s golf buddy three rows over wished to “bulle-text” his displeasure at a sermon point or suggest that tee-off time will certainly be missed unless you both skip the final worship song.

The Internet would be disabled, of course. You couldn’t “friend,” “unfriend” or “tweet,” and smart phones would be jammed within 200 feet of the church campus (doctors and emergency personnel excepted). Even an ink-smudged “vintage edition” of the bulletin (cranked by mimeograph in dank boiler rooms) would be provided for the truly sentimental by special subscription!

Sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? Still, I’m guessing that some of our attitudes and technologies are steering us ever closer to the scenario I’ve described. Here’s what I mean:

Growing numbers of church attendees are demanding an ever-broadening menu of ministries—often hopping to the next narthex whenever the entertainment or menu choices fail to meet their family’s expectations. Because of this, a whole generation of transient “consumer Christians” have come to the church’s doors, bringing expectations of a competitive “market church” geared to supplying everything its “customers” desire.

Pastors and church leaders are not immune to the seductions of this deadly virus. It seems evident that the catalysts for many new ministries have been compelling technological demands rather than compelling calls from above.

When homes are selling cheaply, we say it is a buyer’s market. I wonder if the cheap sale of our ministries has created a “worshiper’s market.” Fear of losing people is a powerful motivator, and we may be putting too much energy into our delivery systems and not enough into the Source of the Message.

I don’t believe God is pleased when attendees hold a take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward His congregations. His will is not found in the demands placed upon church leaders to provide an increasing menu of entertainments. “I’m not being fed” is a catchy, often vacuous, phrase that has too many times been synonymous with “I’m not being sufficiently entertained.” God’s grace is never found in the rejection of His churches or servants simply because they’ve failed to placate us with unprofitable activities.

God is pleased when we demonstrate qualities of loyalty, unity and self-sacrifice. Combining these with energetic and biblical labors for His Kingdom creates a scenario for powerful Kingdom advance. It pleases God when we serve Him instead of satiating self—and when we think more in terms of how we might contribute to the efforts of advance rather than shopping for the most impressive menu of activities at a house of worship.

Neither technologies nor the lack of them are the real issues of the Kingdom.

The personal irony for me is that I adamantly believe that God’s Church should remain culturally aware and attuned. In fact, I would likely enjoy much of the facetious digitized scenario I described above! I would not, however, make my choice of which church to attend based on technological considerations; I would make it on the basis of where I encountered the Living God!

Will a tablet bulletin with interactive tiles arrive soon at church near you? Actually, it probably will—but if you’re wise you’ll pass it by as the principle criteria for attending or leaving.

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