Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lessons from Looking Back ...

It's funny (and sad) how many people in the Church fear technology and fail to see the potential it offers. And yet, if we look back in Church history we know that the Protestant Reformation would never have happened had it not been for the technology of the printing press that allowed for the wide spread dissemination of the writings and reflections of the Reformers like Luther and Calvin who forever changed the Church.

I can remember when I started in ministry in Bella Coola BC seeing the potential of the Internet for communication and committee work. I suggested that we use the Ecunet forum that almost ALL of us in the Presbytery were members of, to conduct a committee meeting. To my thinking the confidential bulletin board format of the Ecunet was a perfect means to 'meet' as a committee. The four of us who were members could each sign in from our respective corners and we could have our discussions online, thereby saving THOUSANDS of dollars in travel costs that would be needed to hold face to face meetings.

I was ridiculed and the idea was soundly rejected. The spending of travel money was opted for instead and what could have cost us a few dozen dollars instead cost THOUSANDS and took months longer than needed.

Today most of our Church business is conducted by email. On a local level our Council and Committees do much of their communication via email, and we have had no less than two Council 'meetings' via emails.

When I worked for the Federal Government in Brandon we regularly held online consultations and workshops via a wide range of technologies and gizmos.

And for the last half a decade I've maintained this and other blogs as a means of Church outreach. Today though, as I snapped the picture above with my iPhone, I couldn't help but think about the amazing changes that I've witnessed even in the last five years when it comes to our online communicating.

In the past when I wanted to post a picture here I had to pull out my camera, tether it to the computer via a cumbersome cord, wait for the camera and the computer to start talking, then download the picture to the computer, then upload the picture from the computer to the web page and HOPE everything went according to Hoyle.

Today I point my cell phone camera, snap the picture then with the touch of a couple of buttons I have sent my picture to my computer. The next step is to simply load the picture to the webpage and within minutes I can post a picture of what is happening around me. I know there is a way to do it DIRECTLY from my camera to the blog much like Facebook, but so far I haven't explored the technology ... one day I will though !!

What struck me though, was the amazing possibilities that this technology has for The Church, and yet in many corners people approach this technology with fear and apprehension. The first three years of blogging was met would outright opposition by folks within the Church and even inspired the Presbytery where I served to propose a BAN on Blogs by Church Ministers. The fear was we might make people uncomfortable, or reveal some deeply hidden secret and violate the sanctity of the minister-congregational relationship.

Yet, at a National Level we have staff who are acting as consultants and teachers to show us how to better use the many modern technologies as a means of outreach and evangelism.

The profound disconnect is striking.

On one hand, people get the new technology, and like our forefathers see the potential of sharing the Good News. While on the other hand, others fear change and see in the technology uncontrollable change and want to shut it down ... it makes me realize that today, those of us who have pioneered the use of Blogs, and Social Media as a means of communication within the Church are very much like Luther standing on the steps of Wittenburg nailing his 95 questions to the door of the Cathedral.

Some will and do embrace change, while others fear change. Hopefully, we will have an experience like Luther that sees powerful allies stepping up and holding back the violent backlash that comes when people are scared by something they fail to understand.

Today taking a simple picture of the snow outside my window and choosing to post it here, I realized that my actions are not in and of themselves all that remarkable, but in the context of The Church as it struggles in the opening years of the 21st Century, my actions are part of a greater revolution (or to be theologically appropriate a REFORMATION) that will and is profoundly changing how we function as Church, and how we get the Word out to others.

In 20 years of ministry the Church has made leaps and bounds technologically, and I for one am delighted to be able to say that I have tried to stay current and ride this amazing wave of change as it sweeps through our communities and our world.

The Internet and the many new media formats it offers are not things the Church should fear, but rather they are tools the Church MUST embrace if it is to continue to proclaim and share the Good News!!

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