Technology is a powerful agent that shapes those who use it in ways that are often unintended. For example, Air Conditioning has been credited with being one of the most culture-altering technologies because people tend to stay inside more- isolated from the community around them. As the Church we can see this unintended technological consequences as well. Consider the printing press, something we celebrate as believers who are now better able to study God’s Word. One of the unintended consequences of the printing press is the growth of individual interpretation over a communal interpretation. This has led to denominationalism and the elevation of personal interpretation. Add to this a Bible where the chapter and verse were printed, it influences a move from seeing the Bible in it’s whole as a story, to approaching it as a dictionary or encyclopedia of facts and trivia. (Concepts presented at my session at Echo: A Look into the Near & Distant Future of Online Ministry)
As we are in another significant technological revolution it is important to consider how technology may influence the church, and what unintended consequences could impact future generations. Here are three I’ve been thinking about:
1. Sickly Online Christianity – With the increased access online to preachers, teachers and resources many Christians may try to self-select their own content rather than participating in the life of a community. One unintended consequence is people will only seek out the things that interest them, therefore they will avoid the whole counsel of God’s Word.
2. Homogeneous Digitized Churches – With technology, more churches will find ways to automate and/or systematize their discipleship programs. These programs will tend to be one-size-fits-all with a small variation. These Christians may develop homogeneous traits thereby trending toward an inability to use the diversity of the body to ward of heresy and/or be equipped to be healthy replicating community.
3. Internet Generation: Bible Illiterate – Recently a speaker at a church conference said 85% of content will be video in 2015 (if I recall or some date thereafter). Video is a powerful tool that brings many benefits but an unintended consequences could be more Christians relying on and learning through this video teaching rather than studying God’s Word on their own, becoming increasingly Bible illiterate.
As someone who is involved in serving thousands of churches with websites, technology and media I don’t want to appear an alarmist as I’m thankful for many of the blessings the Internet and technology has brought to the greater Church. My desire is that more thoughtful theological consideration and prayer will continue to surround the websites, applications and technologies we endeavor toward as they do impact the user in ways we may not have considered or intend.