I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed, but there has been something subtle happening in our church. This may be happening in many churches, but I can only speak about my own. Within the last year, I have seen the Bible being replaced. For a Baptist, that may be the most horrifying phrase that I could possibly utter. But hear me out. I don’t mean that the Word of God is being replaced, but the way we consume it.
A few months ago, I was leading our Wednesday night Bible study and opened my Bible to begin to teach. Baptists are trained. When the preacher opens his Bible, they open theirs. But my wife rebelled. Instead of opening her Bible, she pulled out her phone. If this were a youth group, then the odds are good that she was texting. But it wasn’t the youth group, it was a mid-week Bible study. She was using the Bible app on her phone. After the service, a gentleman came up to me to apologize. He thought that she was texting, and when he leaned a little closer to catch her in the act, he saw that she was reading along with me on her screen.
Like it or not, I’ve seen more and more people leaving their leather-bound Bibles at home and bringing with them various electronic toys. E-Readers and iPads are becoming more and more common. I have Sunday School teachers who are leaving their curriculum at home and teaching from an electronic screen on a regular basis. This is not a change in the Word of God. But it is a change in how we consume it.
I’m amazed at how technology has changed even the way I prepare for a sermon. I have at least a dozen different Bibles on my bookshelf. I must confess that I rarely open them. I use various websites and apps that provide me a far more efficient method of study and preparation. I still rely on a lot of print books and commentaries, only because I don’t want to reinvest in electronic versions of those resources. I will open my leather-bound “preaching” bible to read from during worship services in order to keep from being a stumbling block to those who do not understand that the text on my screen is the same as the text on the paper.
Churches and denominational publishers would do well to pay attention to this tech revolution that is brewing in our own sanctuaries. We do a good job at demonizing technology for the obvious reasons. From the smorgasbord of pornography that lies just a mouse click away, to the adultery that is being fueled by old flames reconnecting on social networking sites, there is no doubt that the internet can be a dangerous, sinful place. But, if we were honest with ourselves, we would need to admit that every form of media has its dark side. Print has its Playboys. Television has its Cinemaxes. Music has its MTVs. Video Games have their Grand Theft Autos. As humans, we have the natural ability to defile anything. It’s in our blood. This is why someone can use a cell phone as a distraction during church or to read the Scripture. Technology is morally neutral. It is what we do with it that makes a blessing or a curse.
So, here’s the question. What would happen if churches embraced this revolution and allowed it to change the way we do our primary task of discipleship? What if denominational publishers stopped printing Sunday School curriculum and started emailing it? What if churches stopped doing “tape ministries” and started podcasting, or vodcasting? Could God possibly bless Discipleship 2.0 or what I like to call iDisciple? Over the next several weeks, I am going to begin considering some of the opportunities afforded to us by the tech revolution. I will be reviewing some of my favorite apps, and extending cautions where appropriate. Join with me as we consider what the new breed of iDisciple looks like.
Just remember, before texting, there was pen and paper. Many a notes have been passed on torn pieces of church bulletins. At least texting doesn’t leave a mess in the floor.