Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Church is Not an iPhone App

History's greatest evangelical tools:

1. The Apostle Paul's feet (and pen)
2. Gutenberg's printing press
3. Billy Graham's voice
4. Apple's iPhone?

Maybe. Mars Hill Church in Seattle, one of the nation's most tech-savvy congregations, has announced the release of its new iPhone app. The Mars Hill app will let you listen to or watch any sermon, prayer or song, get all of the congregation's news and announcements, and even put money in the virtual offering plate.

"God has often used technological advancement to spread the Gospel through the church," Mars Hill explained in a blog. "At the time of Paul it was the Roman's system of roads. For the Reformers it was the printing press. For Billy Graham it was sound amplification systems and stadiums. For Mars Hill, we have been blessed to have the opportunity to use the advances in video and internet distribution."

The Mars Hill app looks and sounds cool, and it's a great way to help busy congregation members stay in touch. Wireless digital technology certainly has the potential to "spread the Gospel" -- at least the actual words of and about the Gospel -- faster and farther than ever. But what might be lost if worship becomes just another download?

Church is more than a building, but if you can download a worship service anytime you want wherever you are, why bother to take the time to go to the actual service?

Church is more than a sermon, but if your mobile can deliver sermons by Mars Hill's "charismatic Calvinist" Marc Driscoll -- or T.D. Jakes, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen -- why bother going to hear the perhaps less than charismatic preacher down the street or across town?

Church is more than a weekly public event, but it's not meant to be a solitary or remote activity.
As Verna Dozier explained in The Dream of God, "there must be those resting places where the story is treasured and passed on in liturgy and education. There must be those islands of refuge where the wounded find healing; the confused, light; the fearful, courage, the lonely, community; the alienated, acceptance; the strong, gratitude."
Church is not an app.

By David Waters

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