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Elizabeth Drescher, PhD

All technology is not created equal. As I argue in my book Tweet If You ♥ Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation (Morehouse, 2011), there's a big difference between passively engaged broadcast technology like the videos described in the post and actively social technologies (FB, Twitter, blogs like this one) that can enhance and extend relationships. To wit: I learned of this post through a Twitter follower (@BrockCassian), with whom I have been able to be in conversation about the topic even though I'm in CA and he's in IL (I think). Were we in the same local church community, we'd be extending our Sunday engagement through the week in meaningful ways. From a distance, we're developing something of a shared interest that is the basis for a manner of "authentic" relationship that we all are just beginning to define.

I'm not necessarily suggesting the use of social media in church services (though many churches do encourage this), but merely suggesting that there is nothing inherent in technology that makes it good or bad for services. A preacher blah-blah-blah-ing on is just as dull as a dull video or lame music. So, too, an engaging, interactive minister who genuinely connects to people and--and this is a HUGE point in the Digital Reformation--encourages their connection to one another is going to be compelling face-2-face and in technologically-enabled engagements (see, e.g., @texasbishop, @breyeschow @MeredithGould).

Finally, the research British sociologist Grace Davie has done on the relationship between broadcast ministry and "believing-but-not-belonging" and "vicarious religion" carries into the techno-tricked-out local church to the extent that an unsophisticated use of technology will grow "pew potatoes" who don't really connect spiritually with God or neighbor whether they're at home or in the built church. Whitsitt, it seems to me, is right in insisting that churches do well to integrate the symbols of engagement with contemporary cultural practice into their ministries, but it's not about technology for its own sake. It's about using technology (or not) in ways that facilitate connection, compassion, and community.


Thank you Dr Drescher for your reference and insight.

I agree that media is too multifaceted to say "a screen" equal use of technology in a community. I have sat through many a worship where the screen was more intrusive than helpful, and many a gathering where the use of multi-media fostered community and prayer.

It is important to look at how both passive and social media are being used.

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It's about using technology (or not) in ways that facilitate connection, compassion, and community.

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i went to the same school as patrick. i remeber those girls from my school who wrote in. they were white trash...i always felt so bad for them.

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Good stuff as per usual, thanks. I do hope this kind of thing gets more exposure.

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