Et Al

Vintage Church Challenges Churches to Rethink Technology

driscoll-vintage-churchI hyped up Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears’ new book Vintage Church last week when it arrived in the office, so I thought I’d pass along my thoughts on chapter eleven, “How Can a Church Utilize Technology?” I’m sure the rest of the book was awesome, but I’m on a technology kick right now, so I only read the one chapter before passing it on to the boss.

The chapter wasn’t exactly what I expected. Naturally, I was hoping for more Internet insights, but mostly the chapter was about technology in worship services and such. A lot of the chapter can still apply to me, though. First off, I loved this quote, “No matter what the medium, the message needs to be clear” (271). Can I get a “Woot!” for the five pillars of technical communication? (They are clarity, accuracy, brevity, organization, and ethical, for the record.) In case you haven’t figured it out, the message is always the gospel even when the message is an announcement about a roller skating party.

Driscoll and Breshears also advocated “stickiness,” allowing the content generated by the church (sermons, music, etc.) to be accessed for more than one Sunday, one geographical area at one time. The Internet enables the church to increase its influence when the church makes its resources–those sermons, songs, etc.–available online. By doing so, the Internet is the new “front door” to the church and lets people visit the church before gracing it with their physical presence. I’m not looking for a new church home, but if I were, the first place I’d go in my search is the Internet, and because I’m such an eSnob, if the church doesn’t have a decent website with a few essential functions (i.e. service times, maps, ministry descriptions, etc.), I’m not likely to visit that church in person.

I knew this, but it was good to read it: “The preached Word is the most important aspect of the church service. … It is also the most visible and distinguishing aspect of a church” (273). These sentences alone challenged me to rethink my priorities in web development at LPC. If the preached Word is the most visible and distinguishing part of the church, then more than likely, that’s the number one deciding factor in whether a visitor decides to stick around. We have sermon archives on the LPC web site, but I wonder if there’s more we can do…

Another fantastic quote:

No matter what you do, you will draw some people and repel others, so don’t be grieved when you lose people. Rather, decide whom you intend to draw and whom you are willing to repel (273-274).

Those are tough words. No one, not even a church, wants to be rejected; furthermore, I don’t think any church would want to admit that there are some people they want to repel. Icky. But at the same time, that’s why, based upon my understanding of the church, God initiated the local church in Acts. Every church has its own “church-ality,” and just like people are drawn to certain personalities, so are people to certain churches. Other churches aren’t better or worse. They’re just different.

That said, churches need to attract people, which requires name recognition in the community (275) and invitations via personal relationships and the Web (276). In Ozark, LifePoint has built a rapport with the community, but outside Ozark and into Springfield, we get mixed up with NorthPoint Church. We don’t have a PR department (or if we do, that’s me), so we don’t do any press releases and barely have any advertising, but the word-of-mouth approach seems to work well for us. Of course, we’ll probably do a big PR push when we move into the new building. Naturally, that’s going to get a lot of attention from the community. (So if anyone reading this is a PR person and goes to LPC, I need your help.)

Driscoll and Breshears also encouraged us to experiment before committing to any technology, whether it’s online or in the production booth. We’re also to visit other churches and businesses for ideas, hire consultants, and count the cost of new technology on our time, staff, and finances before committing. Most importantly, I thought, we’re to use technology as a tool. Lane always says, “We don’t use people to get ministry done. We use ministry to get people done.” I think the same goes for technology.

Technology is a tool for the church to connect with people and provide them with gospel content about Jesus. Now more than ever, churches that want to reach out effectively to lost people, particularly young people, don’t necessarily need to love technology but must learn to use it to connect with people they love. Any church that is willing to use technology well is demonstrating love by approaching lost people in a way they are accustomed to. this technological hospitality is the practical outpouring of Jesus’ love for our neighbor (281).

I love technological hospitality. It’s like LifePoint’s web presence needs to feel like my living room: comfy couches, lit candles, fresh cookies, NPR playing in the background, and snuggly cats to lower your blood pressure. (OK, maybe not my living room, but a figurative living room. Maybe Lori O’Dell’s.)

Lots and lots to think about. I love it.