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November 18, 2020
Pastors tell me quite often:
“We don’t need new technology.”
“The church will always exist.”
“Technology isn’t the gospel.”
These are half-truths.
It’s true that the church doesn’t exist to be a platform for the latest tech fads.
It’s true that God could convert a donkey with a wooden spoon.
It’s true that tech shouldn’t become the essence of your church.
But every church whose basic instinct toward technology is hesitancy rather than curiosity and industry is a struggling church.
They’re struggling to get members.
They’re struggling financially.
They’re struggling in their leadership.
In this article, I’m going to give you seven reasons why church leaders should make church innovation a core value of their church—rather than a dirty word.
Let’s jump right in!
Look at the technology your church uses right now.
Revolutionary innovation that started with clay tablets (c. 2500 B.C.).
Imagine all the oral-tradition-only advocates who were skeptical off all these “written things.” There’s nothing like a good ‘ole spoken story, I say. But without books, we don’t have Western Culture. Thank God for those innovative enough to transition from orally transmitted knowledge to written, codified communication.
Once revolutionary innovative technology (invented in 1440 A.D.).
There was huge backlash to the printing press. There was a 15th century technopanic that believed the printing press would corrode the moral fiber of Europe. Priests believed that writing documents by hand better instilled hard work and understanding of the content in those who wrote it. And yet, if it weren’t for those early technophiles like Martin Luther who spread tracts and Christian writings throughout Europe, the adoption of the printing press could have been significantly delayed. .
Very innovative technology (invented in 1925 A.D.).
Christians originally thought the speaker system was the domain of the devil because he was the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). Thankfully, through biblical scholars, we now know that Paul clearly meant by “air” the unseen spiritual world all around us—that Satan wages war in the domain of the spiritual, since “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age” (Eph. 6:12).
Thanks to innovation-minded church leaders like Billy Graham, millions today have become Christians and are expanding the cause of Christ all over the world.
Once innovative technology (invented in 1970 A.D.).
Every church uses email.
Yet, when it was invented, there was widespread suspicion about whether it was trustworthy, and many believed it cheapened the authenticity of communication which was supposedly richer and more meaningful in handwritten and printed form.
Yet, email marketing today has become one of the primary means of church communication, organization, mobilization, missions, and evangelism.
A recently innovative technology (2005 A.D.).
There was less pushback against this technology, because churches were already becoming tech-friendly. But an enormous gap grew between early adopters and late adopters. Early adopters were able to build enormous brands, and the “mega church” grew from a novelty in big cities to a plausible model and goal for church planting in smaller towns.
The technology your church uses is more about doing what you’ve always done.
Text marketing. Church management system. Automated digital giving. A church app. YouTube livestreaming. Member monitoring.
These realities will be considered “best practices” in 20 years, just like the printing press and email. Yet, just like every technology, it will disrupt the current church climate and provide early adopters a chance to grow, and leave late-adopters to look amateurish and old-fashioned in a new world.
King Solomon writes in the book of Proverbs: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man” (Prov. 24:33-34).
Let’s be clear about one thing:
Resistance to innovation can be coming from a place of misinformation or misunderstanding .
Besides, there are several common barriers to adopting technology in your church.
Because innovation is hard. It has a steep learning curve. It requires work.
A pastor may not think it’s his job to be innovative, but if he doesn’t do it, no one else will. If a book publishing CEO resisted working with Amazon in 2006-2010 by standing on some moral principal, that would have meant he was bad at his job. Pastors have many responsibilities. Learning and implementing innovative tech is only one of them, but it is still a responsibility.
Rural communities may not feel the impact of the need to innovate until years after urban contexts. But tech innovation will eventually be a global issue about which every church must make a decision.
50 years ago, tech innovation wasn’t moving at such a fast pace, so that role wasn’t as pronounced. In the 21st century, the pastor’s technological responsibilities are very pronounced.
The silver lining?
The more you innovate, the easier innovation gets.
If you make technological innovation part of your church culture, it will be easier for you to innovate in the future.
Learning is a skill you can learn to do better.
If you can learn to learn well, you can learn to innovate quickly.
And if you can learn to innovate quickly, you can learn to innovate well.
It’s easy for churches to think that “the old way of doing things” is God’s preferred way.
The weird implication:
Technology is selling out the richness of God’s tradition for a cheap fad.
Again—we don’t say this about books. We don’t say this about printed materials. We don’t say this about email. And we are saying it less about social media.
Newer tools will become commonplace among churches at a faster and faster rate.
Innovation isn’t selling out. It’s doing God’s work excellently and responsibly.
Of course, there is a way to sell out.
If your church tech becomes the centerpiece of every church meeting, then that’s not a problem with the tech—it’s a problem with the hearts of the leaders.
Tech is one way of exalting Christ.
And, in an age where tech is only getting better and better, excellent use of technology is becoming an unavoidable element of that exaltation.
The Bible doesn’t praise “being old-fashioned” as a virtue.
Because Christianity has been handed down to us over time through a great tradition of thinkers, it’s easy to think that tradition itself calls us backward.
But if you look at the history of the church, it’s easy to see that the Christian concept of tradition is meant to propel innovation, not stifle it.
We also see this reality painted clearly in Bible verses about technology.
All remembrance is geared toward action.
Remembering the Christian tradition is like remembering skill training. It guides and informs new action.
Therefore, the Christian tradition encourages the rich embrace of technological innovation into the life of the church, not its rejection.
Not all innovation is effective.
Tech must be adopted excellently and launched persuasively. Tech poorly adopted and amateurishly executed can become a liability to a church, rather than an asset.
But technological innovation that is implemented excellently in a church will produce results that every church should have.
For example, Tithe.ly Giving, a digital tithing automation software, increases tithes in churches that adopt it by 165% year over year.
What could your church do with 165% more money this year?
To do the math, take your annual budget, and multiply it by 2.65. That’s a 165% increase.
And Tithe.ly, unlike other platforms, is free.
There’s no contract.
There’s no monthly fee.
The only reason you wouldn’t want to use a morally neutral tool proven to meet your goals is that you don’t really believe in meeting your goals.
The technology is not morally objectionable.
The path is free.
Why wouldn’t you use it?
Even though the learning curve is shorter than it’s ever been, and the return on investment is higher than its ever been, those who don’t want to innovate in their churches will simply destine themselves to innovate as latecomers 10 years down the road.
People like the idea of being part of something that does what it does well.
Whether that’s a team, a community, a product, or a church, they want to know that those they do business with are professional.
Technological innovation is a way of showcasing that professionalism.
High-quality print materials.
Efficient, well-managed software.
High-tech giving solutions.
The more you can give people a “Wow, that’s cool” experience in your church, the more they will be willing to follow your lead.
If you can showcase professionalism with technological innovation, it actually adds spiritual credibility to your message for those who are new.
Think about it from the opposite angle.
People already think religious people are anti-tech Luddites who think tech is evil (justified or not, that’s Hollywood for you).
If your church is super low-tech, it will look dated and unprofessional. People will simply assume that there is a theological reason for this.
Having well-executed technological innovation in your church is one way to prompt newcomers to think: “Maybe my preconceptions don’t apply to these people.”
Of course, there could be a downside to any innovation.
With sophistication comes complexity.
But there is no necessary downside.
A fork is technically technology.
What would you do without a fork?
You’d eat with your hands.
Forks make it easier to eat Italian food.
Is there a downside to the fork?
Only that you have to buy a fork and wash it.
But what’s the benefit?
You can enjoy Italian food without getting your hands burned and messy.
So there is no necessary net cost—or, downside—to technology.
If you use it right and use the right tools, there is no downside to technology.
Where should you start as a church with technology?
The best place to being is with Tithe.ly.
I know that it can be time-consuming and difficult to learn new technology (and even a bit scary, if we’re honest).
But it’s worth it.
You won’t find a simpler, more rewarding place to start implementing helpful, clean technology into your church communications and branding strategy today.