By Pastor Brian Richard
As we continue to navigate the challenges of living through a global pandemic and enduring a divisive election season, it’s clear that our culture is rapidly changing. Before March 2020, most Christians worshipped God almost exclusively in a brick-and-mortar building, and relatively few churches used digital technology to connect with their members.
At a recent conference I attended, the speaker reminded us that the church has historically been painfully slow at adapting new technologies. But he then pointed out that, technologically, we’ve advanced six to eight years in the last six to eight months! Currently, almost 70% of churches have an online service, and many are exploring other forms of technology to keep people engaged.
One of the primary reasons for the slow start is our reluctance to change. You know the old saying, “the only person who likes change is a wet baby.” Resistance to change is an embedded characteristic of the church. While it’s healthy in some respects, such as in our unchanging position on the inerrancy of the Word of God, it’s impeded innovation and fresh new ideas. Please hear me well; the message we preach and teach must never change, but the methods can and should.
Technological innovation in the 21st century has been one of incredible advancement. Consider the evolution from 45 records, 8-track tapes, cassettes, and CDs to our current ability to access any music of any genre through an online app. Technological change is occurring so rapidly that we can only imagine what the next decade will bring. Virtual reality, gene editing, artificial intelligence, 3D food printing, quantum computing, transhumanism, and DNA storage are a few of the technologies that are set to change our world and spark intense cultural debate.
This is the new reality in which we’re called to minster. Most of the people in our churches have checked their email, looked at news feeds, and interacted with social media on their smartphone before getting out of the bed this morning. We no longer have the luxury of limiting our ministry to either physical or digital connection. We need both. As we pastors anticipate life after COVID-19, let’s carefully consider how we can leverage technology for God’s glory by asking questions like:
• What technology will we continue after the pandemic?
• What does a welcoming church look like in a digital age?
• Who in our church community can help provide digital expertise?
• What tools and platforms make sense to our specific ministry?
• What is our digital media strategy?
The challenges we face also present incredible opportunities. Let’s make the most of them.
Brian Richard is senior pastor of Brookridge Church in Plover, Wisconsin. Brian has a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin, an M.Div. from Liberty University, and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree at Dallas Theological Seminary. He lives with his wife, Caryn, in Plover.