The Tech Effect
Shane Hipps is pastor of Trinity Mennonite Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Prior to pastoral ministry, Shane had a career in advertising.
John Palmieri is a pastor of multi-cultural, multi-site, New Life Community Church in Chicago. Prior to pastoral ministry, he was involved in the food business.
Jarrett Stevens is director of the college and singles ministry, and teacher for 7|22 at North Point Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. Previously he served as a teaching pastor for Axis at Willow Creek Community Church.
Twenty-five years ago, the film Tron told the story of video game maker Kevin Flynn who was transplanted into the virtual universe within a computer. Flynn battled sinister digital forces to survive and partnered with friendly programs to discover a way back to the real world. Today, Tron's story appears prophetic. We find ourselves in a digital universe. Technology is more than merely a tool. It permeates every part of our existencefamily, work, recreation, even worship.
Initially, churches used video technology to put lyrics and images onto screens while singing. Pastors now are using these tools while preaching. PowerPoint, film clips, photos, and video are augmenting the spoken word, and in some cases replacing it. With the growth of video preaching, will the pastor, like Flynn from Tron, enter the machine and become part of a digital projection?
Some pastors resist this trend. Preaching, they contend, is a sacred act that carries power in the spoken word, person to person, apart from "the machine." But these digital iconoclasts seem to be the minority. Eager to communicate Scripture in a relevant way, most preachers are embracing the new media.
Tron was a revolution in filmmakingthe first movie to use digital animation extensively. But critics almost universally panned the movie. One said, "Tron is loaded with visual delights but falls way short of the mark in story and viewer involvement."
How can preachers avoid that same trap? With our increasing ability to produce "visual delights," can we forget what matters most? How can we use technology to help, not hinder, the proclamation of God's Word? At the most recent National Pastors Convention, we brought together three pastors to discuss these questions.
What does "good preaching" mean in your church's context?
John Palmieri: Our church is in an urban setting with a multi-ethnic congregation that is about 65 percent Hispanic. We also have Indians, African-Americans, Chinese, Filipinos, Italians, and whites. Good preaching means people's lives are being changed. If I can see that, if I see the connection taking place, I consider that good preaching.
Jarrett Stevens: Ours is a multi-cultural church, too, made up of light white, darker white, and medium whitebut definitely white. (Laughter.)
For us transformation is the goal of preaching. We're coming out of a time when merely presenting the text was the goal. That's still incredibly important, but now we're asking, "Does the preaching help anyone? Is it changing lives? Did the sermon help Christ be formed in people?"