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The Church & Technology

I am currently reading Analog Church by Jay Y. Kim. The point of Kim’s book is not to argue against using technology in our churches, but to reserve technology for its proper purpose. A line Kim uses in his book is, “Digital informs; Analog transforms.” He goes on to clarify:

The truth is we need both. We need information. But information should always move us toward transformation. Information is the means; transformation is the end.[1]

So far, it is an interesting read.

Of particular note so far is Kim’s discussion of Marshall McLuhan’s (A philosopher in the 1960s) Four Laws of Media. According to Kim, McLuhan’s Four Laws of Media can be summarized as a series of questions to ask about any and every form of media:

1. What does it enhance, improve, or make possible?

2. What does it push aside or make obsolete?

3. What does it retrieve that was previously pushed aside or made obsolete?

4. What does it turn into when pushed to an extreme?

Kim illustrates:

Take the smartphone as an example. The smartphone enhanced the human capacity to communicate—specifically, to talk and to listen to one another. It also made it possible to access information at any time, with its constant connectivity to the internet. It pushed aside mobile phones and made home phones and payphones obsolete. Of the many things it retrieved, an obvious example is the camera; previously, even those who owned cameras, whether film or digital, rarely carried them around constantly, only bringing them along for specific occasions. But smartphones made photography and video capture a common, everyday occurrence for the masses.
Regarding the last question of the Four Laws, McLuhan stated that when a form of media is pushed to its extreme, it eventually reverses in on itself and works in direct opposition to the very human capacity it was originally intended to enhance. So in the case of the smartphone, its ability to extend the human capacity for communication (to talk and listen, while also being able to see one another, even across great distances) has reversed in on itself. It’s now commonplace for people to be sitting right in front of each other, at restaurants and coffee shops and dinner tables, and be totally disconnected from one another, not talking, not listening, not seeing, not communicating, and instead tethered to their devices.[2]

All of this consideration about media / technology has me thinking about the WARBC churches during the pandemic.

I wonder how your church is adjusting to the use of media during the pandemic? For some churches, the switch to livestreaming was seamless. But for other churches, the change was much more difficult.

I wonder how many churches who started streaming for the pandemic will continue streaming?

I also wonder about the responses your church has received from any technological change you were forced to make during this time?

Finally, how are you balancing the appeal (need?) for streaming services and the importance of in-person gathering? In other words, are you hearing from people that online service is good enough for them, or are you seeing people desire to gather in person over online?

Let me know what your church is experiencing and your thoughts about Kim’s premise that “Analog informs; Digital transforms.” I also would love to hear your feedback about McLuhan’s Four Laws of Media.

[1] Jay Y. Kim, Analog Church: Why We Need Real People, Places, and Things in the Digital Age. (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2020), 60. [2] Ibid., 40.

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