A pastor in Arizona actually encourages social media during the worship service. "What" say you, or at least that's what I say. I'm a pastor. Is that really a good idea?
Just before The Office took a nose dive in quality, it depicted a beautifully tragic/accurate cell phone addiction scene. Ryan, one of the younger characters on the show had his cell phone taken away during a game of bar trivia. He was cheating with it. After it was taken away, and for just only a matter of minutes, he confessed he couldn't play the game any longer because, "I can't live without my cell phone."
I confess now that I have a smart phone, I use it all the time. I take it places where I probably shouldn't. But is "having to have it" all times a good thing? My wife says no, and I think I agree with her. And I'm pretty sure Jesus is on her side on this one.
If you watch the short clip, which of course you should, you'll see a pastor leading his congregation to share the gospel on facebook and other social media. During the service. He argues that the church should be ahead of the times and take advantage of these opportunities.
As one who tends to embrace the pragmatic, I can sympathize with this direction. The Reformers certainly embraced technology in the form of the printing press. They took great advantage of it, and one wonders what kind of influence they would have had without that wonderful piece of technology. I don't remember Luther or Calvin saying, "I want to go 'old school.' Let's just get some people to hand-write our materials. Helmut or Pierre, you guys have good penmanship, right?" Nope they took advantage of what was out there and used it for the spread of the gospel.
While I love the outward facing direction of this pastor, and the truth that people need to hear the gospel preached each week, my concern is more in regards to the timing of when this should happen. Here are my three main concerns:
1.) Cell phone idolatry. We're on our cell phones 24-7. Can we not take a break from them, taking our gaze off our idols (even if we're using them for good things like inviting folks to church)? Aren't we more like Ryan from The Office than we want to admit? Who greater to deal with our idolatry than the beautiful risen Savior King Jesus?
2.) Church and worship. Should the church worship service be a time no different than any other during the week? Or is it a once-a-week special time when God's covenant people gather together to offer up their hearts, minds, time, wallets, voices to serve the God who has graciously saved them and lavished them with grace? Invite people to worship. Ask early and ask often. But when God issues His call to worship Him, just direct your attention on Him as much as is possible. You've got tons of time to invite folks over facebook, twitter, text messages, etc....
3.) Are invitations during worship more effective than invitations extended before or after church? Do you really think its more effective to take a picture of yourself singing and then tweet it to others than to send the same message after or before worship starts? Perhaps the most effective communicative tool is asking someone in person. You don't even need a cell phone plan to do that.
Other pastors have thought through the issues of technology during worship. Some don't even want power point or media shout. Some think printing words in the bulletin is from the devil (God only wants you to sing out of man-made hymnbooks I guess...). That's not me. Use technology for God's glory, our edification, for outreach and mercy.
Use technology but don't let technology use you. I think someone smarter than myself probably already said that once. Or twice maybe....
If you're interested why well known Reformed pastor Tim Challies thinks you absolutely should not tweet sermons in real time, check this out. I don't always agree with him-why do pastors feel the need to always make that disclaimer when its pretty obvious we can't agree with everyone all the time-but he is very biblical, thoughtful, and "down with the times."
Next post will be on some spiritual benefits of technology folks have passed on to me.