I had a great question emailed to me from a worship pastor who had found my blog. Instead of just replying to him, I decided to post my answer here. Here’s the question
How does a church incorporate technology (ie. video, graphics, etc) into the worship service without compromising the integrity of worship? We use graphics, some video, contemporary music. I want to be relevant but it seems the way we want to move is just to get butts in seats and feed the cash cow. Forgive those expressions, but, those are exact quotes – not from me. I don’t mind the technology, but, I struggle with incorporating this stuff if for those reasons. I want our worship ministry to operate in integrity, humility, and purpose.
This is a great question since so many churches are moving to add technology to keep up with the church down the street. We have to really stop and examine our motives when it comes to technology. Do we want the latest and greatest just to be cool, or are we looking for fresh ways to communicate a timeless truth. In our church, the worship leaders have discussed how we can reduce distractions to worship. And I include myself and anyone else who is preaching as worship leaders. Everything we do in a service from the announcements to the singing to the sharing and preaching is worship. From the moment people walk in the door, we want them to focus on Christ. If people leave saying we had an awesome video system, then we have missed our purpose. They should leave saying that we worship an awesome God.
If we are trying to reduce distractions, then we must ask ourselves the question “is technology hindering or helping people worship?” The answer to that question will be different for different churches, based on your people and your area and your history. For us, we started very early incorporating video into our worship. It is part of our DNA as a church, so it is easily accepted. We have used numerous sermon illustration videos to help communicate the message each week. During worship we also use moving backgrounds behind our lyrics to help create an environment that leads people closer to Christ. But in everything we do, we seek to use technology to connect and communicate the truth of God’s Word.
My personal opinion is that we should use every method possible to help in our communication. Not because we are trying to be cool, but because we have the most important message in the world to share. Think about sound amplification in churches. That is a technology that helps people hear and understand what is being said. Graphics have the same application. Many people in our congregations are visual learners instead of auditory. When they see words and images in addition to hearing them they will actually remember them much more clearly. They will see and understand what is being said.
With that said, we must be intentional about using technology in the church. How do we do that? Here are some examples:
- Image magnification must be used to help people far from the stage to see the body language and facial expressions of the pastor, not to feed the ego of the speaker.
- Video backgrounds must not distract, but must be used to create an environment that engages the senses. Check out Visual Worshipper for some awesome examples of using video to create immersive environments
- Sermon Illustrations must actually be relevant to the message! Instead of using contemporary clips to entertain, we need to use them to help reinforce the message. In other words, start with the truth and find ways to illustrate it, instead of starting with a cool video and trying to work it into the message. In Acts 17, we see a great example of Paul leveraging contemporary culture in order to reach out, but he didn’t compromise the truth in using it.
These are just some of the ways that technology can be used. I didn’t mention anything about websites and podcasts. Technology can be a powerful way to connect with your people, or it can be a powerful tool to distract you from your main purpose. It’s up to each church to choose how to use it.