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Superintendent Writes

Sunday, 25th April, 2004

I remember when my son David became Senior Minister in a large church, he said, “Dad, the sound and video system cost a quarter of a million dollars.” That was an expense an early generation of worshippers never countered upon paying! A local church to us recently started in a leased factory. Their technology system has cost more than the annual lease of the factory! Some people cannot worship or preach these days without a data and video projector and possibly large screen for image projection of the preacher.

Now I am not knocking the use of technology. I used an overhead projector in the 1960’s along with an epidiascope before you would have seen one in the church. In the 1950’s I produced audiovisuals for Sunday evening services, and in the 1970’s movie films on Super 8 in colour with sound! In the 1980’s I led in the setting up of a film company that has produced over 50 films and videos, and have been on television and radio continuously longer than any other Christian in the nation. Likewise we were the first into selling DVD’s and every Sunday as I preach, I used PowerPoint to present the scripture passage and sermon points and direct projection onto the screen of baptisms and so on.

Yet I know that worship needs none of this. I challenged a class recently to write an assignment on how they could worship without singing, without instruments, technology or even words. They did not know how to answer!

In his latest book High-Tech Worship? Using Presentational Technologies Wisely, Calvin College professor Quentin Schultze probes the issue. Some churches dazzle with high-tech displays — so dazzle that people lose the sense of worship. Some ministers use cartoons and sketches that I think detract from worship.

Last week one Sydney Minister used a mechanical bull throwing people from the congregation off the platform to amuse his teenagers! No bull!

We must ask: why do we use high-tech equipment? What is the purpose of worship? How should we worship? 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 is not about us, our amusement or well-being, but about God and His glory. Worship is not even about how we feel — now that is a radical thought for some readers! 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.

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