This past Saturday I was privileged to lead a workshop on “Projecting Worship” at the Essex Association annual meeting. The folks who joined me at the seminar were a pleasure to work with, which made a rainy day a lot more fun!
The temptation for technology seminars is often to jump right to the “how” portion of technology integration. How do we make a PowerPoint? How do we create a web-site? How do we use social media? “How” questions are certainly necessary, and feel more urgent, but there is a far more important question to ask – “Why?”
When we ask why we want to do something, we are led to examine the core purposes from which our impulses spring. As churches, it also encourages us to ask ourselves, “Is this impulse consistent with both who we are and who we are called to become?”
When I have put churches on the spot and asked them why they want to embrace a new technology I typically get some of the following responses:
- People expect us to use this technology
- “Successful churches” are all using it
- It will encourage “young people” to come to our church
When we are going to change people's experience of worship we need to go deeper. The typical answers, while heart-felt, don't emerge from the realm of “why?” Instead they emerge from the well of “how?” They answer the question, “How do we get people, especially young people, to come into our churches?” They treat the integration of new technology into worship as a gimmick – something which will help fill the seats. Worship technology, then, is treated little differently than “dollar dog night” at Citizen's Bank Park.
Worship, however, is significantly greater than a baseball game. It is the mystical expression of the union between Heaven and Earth, and the gathering of all the saints in Heaven and Earth in praise before the King of Creation. Any change in worship experience, then, must be deliberately yanked back so it conforms with the purpose of worship – the experience of the “mystic sweet communion” with both our Savior and his saints. The failure to tie both experience and purpose together, leads to a theological drift that can have disastrous results on a church. As the drift progresses the theological purpose of worship becomes forgotten and new purposes emerge from people preferences – town meeting, concert, and lecture are only a few of the ways worship can drift away from Jesus' calling. The reality of this drift should make us cautious when we want to change the experience of worship. Not timid or defensive, but deliberate in the steps we take. Worship is simply too important to our spiritual well-being to do otherwise.
Here's the thing, there is no one single legitimate answer for the question, “Why do we want to integrate this technology into our worship?” Different churches are called to express different aspects of the Kingdom, and therefore are likely to come up with many different reasons for including something in worship. In fact, I'm as pleased with a congregation which has examined it's identity and mission and come come up with a “why not,” as I am with a congregation which has successfully answered, “Why?” All I hope for from the congregations I advise is this – whether they project their worship or not, I pray they will be moved by the Spirit's power and from a sense of Kingdom calling.