Apr 25, 2013

Outline from Talk at Highlands UMC

I had a great time visiting with the folks at Highlands UMC last evening. They invited me to speak and I talked about "Thinking about Technology as a Christian." They had some great questions afterwards and I met a few fellow Georgia Tech grads. For anyone interested, here's my outline.

Intro: Our technological world

What is technology?
-God gave technology

Technology is value-infused
-Uses scarce resources
-Makes designer/builder and user "neighbors"
-Reveals designer’s values
-Its selection and use reveals our values
-Technology work can witness to God

God places importance on technology
-Technology-related stories in the Bible (Ark, Tower of Babel, Tabernacle, Crucifixion)
-Technology required for worship

How to think about a technology
-Two reactions: fearful rejection or enthusiastic embrace
-Look for good and harm in each

-Technology as a concept is good, but must be used wisely & thoughtfully
-Technology is dignified, even commanded by God
-Any technology is somewhere on the spectrum of helpful & hurtful
-Technology makers: pursue what is good out of love for neighbor
-Technology cannot save us

Apr 23, 2013

Top Seven Reasons to Post Sermons Online

A while back I reviewed the book SimChurch (part 1 and part 2) which argued in favor of virtual/online forms of doing church.  In those reviews, I strongly objected to making a virtual church your personal church experience & place of membership mainly due to the need for physical presence to administer the sacraments and to fellowship without a mediating technology.  While I still think this way, I've put more thought lately into posting sermons online.  Our church plant posts sermons online and I've come to see a number of benefits to even smaller churches doing this.
  1. The Great Commission: Our call is to "make disciples" and to "teach" them (Matt 28:18-20) and preaching is a primary means for this teaching.  Making sermons available is much like the work of the Gideons placing Bibles all over - get the Word out there for any who will benefit from it.
  2. Nursery workers: I love to volunteer in the nursery so other parents can relax and participate in worship with less distraction (and appreciate that service myself!).  However, I miss the sermon.  Even if the sermon is piped in to the nursery, crying or active children makes it hard to hear.  If I can download it later, I can keep up with a sermon series.
  3. Members with short- or long-term illness: My dad has ALS and isn't able to come on Sunday mornings to worship anymore.  However, he can watch a broadcast on TV or listen via a podcast.  This technology is a great solution for someone without physical access and I'm grateful that he has it.
  4. Visitors: A collection of recent sermons gives potential visitors a chance to learn a bit about your church.  They get a flavor for how the pastor preaches and for the broad style by going through the archive (topical, sequential through a book, or a mix)
  5. Christians outside your church: Our church's men's group went through Ephesians recently, and now my parent's church is going through a sermon series on it.  Listening through those has been a great way to reinforce what I learned or see another application for a passage.  
  6. Repeat listening inside your church: If I'm particularly struck or confused by a sermon, I can listen to it again and pause if I need to.
  7. Redeem the time: We all have time in the car, doing chores, or relaxing after the kids are in bed when we can have some audio going in the background.  Providing sermons gives us more "meat" to listen to while doing those other activities.
Put any I missed in the comments below.

Apr 18, 2013

Reflecting on the Boston Attack

I've followed the news of the bomb attack in Boston.  Many, such as a pastor in Boston, have written on how to react to these events.  We now understand that the bombs were made in part from "kitchen pressure cookers packed with explosives, nails and other lethal shrapnel."  That got me thinking about the nature of technology and something I think I can safely claim:

Any technology can be used for evil.

Doing evil is inherent in our nature as the creators of technology.  We are fallen and sinful.  "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" - Jeremiah 17:9.  We are also creative, able to create amazing works of practical use and art out of the earth's raw materials.  Put those together and we can creatively make technology to increase our ability to sin.

I vaguely remember some cooking with a pressure cooker when I was growing up, and that seems so incongruous compared to the events in Boston.  How could the same device be used in both ways?  But it is so, and we must face it - face the sin and evil that dwells in human nature.

There may be an appropriate government/security/regulation type response to this - I won't claim to speak to that.  What I do know is that no amount of technology will stop all sinful acts.  We're too creative for that.  More importantly, the sinful heart needs the Gospel.

UPDATE: According to the news, one suspect is dead and the other captured in critical condition.  It is right to expect justice from the state, but let me say it specifically about this young man: what he needs most is the Gospel.