A congregation was faced with a financial dilemma. They had just installed a very expensive, high-end audio and video system for their church sanctuary and were way over budget. To solve the problem, the congregation decided to lay off one of its two pastors. Technology, they were forced to conclude, had a higher priority than pastoral care. In another congregation, the pastoral staff no longer makes decisions about what to preach. Instead, the authority falls to the technologists who run the high-tech worship. Their ability to get images to project during the service dictates the preaching topics. In his latest book High-Tech Worship?: Using Presentational Technologies Wisely, Calvin College professor Quentin Schultze probes what is behind situations like these. Now, neither Schultze nor I want to suggest that there's anything wrong with the use of worship technology. I worship in a wonderful church where words, announcements, and graphics are projected on a screen, helpfully so. I have also been in churches where I was dazzled by the high-tech displays -- so dazzled, I lost the sense of worship. What Schultze urges us to do is to ask some basic questions before we make decisions about high-tech equipment. What is the purpose of worship? How should we worship? How will technology enhance -- or detract -- from our worship? "Worship," he writes, "is a natural response of praise to God as our Creator, Redeemer, and Comforter. We worship because we recognize by grace what God has done, is doing, and has promised to continue doing . . . God promises to carry through on His gift of salvation. Worship, therefore, is partly a memorial that enables us together to thank God for His 'covenant fidelity.'" Worship is the result of a worldview that recognizes God as the one who made us, provides for us, and gives our lives meaning and direction. Worship is not about us and our well being, but about God and His glory. As to how we should worship, Schultze suggests we take into account our own church's worship tradition and the congregation's personality and goals. Only after that are we prepared to think wisely about the impact technology has on us as we worship. On the one hand, Schultze recognizes that congregational singing often benefits when everyone looks up to a screen. On the other hand, he writes that if we're not careful, worship through technology "can be reduced to engineering maximum impact on audiences. This mechanistic concept assumes that worship should be like a machine, calculated and packaged to meet spiritual and religious needs." When that happens, technology robs us of true worship. He goes on to say, "This is a deeply held belief in America: Money buys technology, which can improve just about everything." Yet technology doesn't improve "just about everything." It does change just about everything, for it is not neutral. Technology changes the way we view the world, and when used in worship, it can change the way we view God, ourselves, and our faith. Technology must always be a means, not an end. Quentin Schultze's book is a reminder that everything matters to the Christian, and we are to be wise stewards of all things, including technology -- particularly as it applies to worship. For further reading and information: Quentin Schultze, High-Tech Worship?: Using Presentational Technologies Wisely (Wynwood, 2004).Learn more about the book. Learn about the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Nathan Bierma, "Books and Culture Corner: Wholly, Wholly, Wholly," Christianity Today, 2 February 2004 (report from the seventeenth annual Calvin Symposium on Worship and the Arts). Jodi Noffsinger, "Churches Worship in the High-Tech World," FOX News, 7 July 2003. Wendy Hundley, "Church expands to maintain an intimate feel," Dallas Morning News, 3 April 2004. (Free registration required.) Quentin Schultze, "Living Virtuously in the Information Age," a speech delivered at Calvin College's January Series. "High-Tech Worship" -- In this "BreakPoint This Week" interview, Dr. Quentin Schultze discusses his new book, High-Tech Worship?, a must-read for pastors and other church leaders. This CD includes a talk Dr. Schultze delivered on Capitol Hill in March 2004 on "Leadership in the Information Age." Also see this past "BreakPoint This Week" conversation with Dr. Schultze discussing his book Habits of the High-Tech Heart. Learn more about Dr. Quentin Schultze and Calvin College's workshops in media and theatre.
  1. M. Moore, "Whatever Happened to Singing?BreakPoint Online, 5 December 2003.
Stuart M. Hoover, Lynn Schofield Clark, and Lee Rainie, "Faith Online," Pew Internet and American Life Project, 7 April 2004. (Adobe Acrobat Reader required.)


Chuck Colson


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