How can we ensure that the newest gear and gadgetry is being used as effective ministry tools rather than flashy new toys? This is the first in a series of columns which will study the philosophy of incorporating new technology into the worship place.
Technology is a funny thing.
To some of us, it is a strange and powerful force, making otherwise sensible men and women seek a life of perpetual manual reading and ever increasing learning curves. An existence continually devoted to re-thinking, re-working, re-investing and re-wiring. It also goes a long way towards making sure that we are never overly burdened with too much cash.
On the other hand, some of us have been so sheepish when it comes to the cutting edge, that we have denied ourselves some truly expressive instruments and problem solving devices for the sake of maintaining the status quo, or at the very least, our sanity. I, for one, count myself amongst the former – a techno junkie – guilty as charged in this area and in many ways, uniquely suited to expound the virtues of technology in all forms… as well as the dangers.
I speak of the dangers of technology specifically when addressing those of us with a calling in our lives to lead, or otherwise support, God’s people in worship. To most of the folks out there, technology represents a way of making life easier, or at least more interesting. But when is it too much? In the case of Worship, I think it is pretty easily defined. If a bit of technology enables or enhances the worship experience, it is good. A tool. If it in any way detracts, distracts or intrudes… well, that’s obvious. A toy.
I train thousands of worship leaders, musicians and technicians every year on the use of technology in worship. All over the country, all age groups, all skill levels and all denominations. For the most part, embracing a new technology is useful and rewarding, but every so often, a situation will arise where it is just not clear to me why a musician, an audio tech or a church is trying to incorporate a certain piece of gear or some cutting edge technology. It seems that we will sometimes try to incorporate technology for technologies’ sake with no clear grasp of its value as a tool in worship. Within these moments began to germinate the idea for this column.
Is that bit of technology a tool or a toy?
I thought a column dedicated to technology in worship would be easy to write, but truth be told, this has been a tricky column. It has required me to think and re-think a lot of things that I had come to believe about technology… and more interestingly… what I had come to believe about worship. I sincerely believe that the technologies that some of us find so indispensable can sometimes be nothing more than novel (and sometimes intrusive) toys, while other “scary” technologies, stuff we are apprehensive about incorporating at all, can end up being powerful worship enabling tools. There is no cut and dried answer to most of this— one person’s toy can be another person’s tool. And you thought this column was going to clear things up for you!
But don’t lose hope. What we can do is look at some of these technologies and begin to understand what they can do in general, and more importantly, what they can do specifically for your worship or ministry situation. It will be our goal to cast each featured bit if techno babble in two lights. Both the creative and artistic ways to incorporate technology in worship as well as the corresponding ways to make every person in your congregation rue the day you were ever given the thumbs up to try something new.
In upcoming issues we will explore as many of the different technologies out there as possible. We will tackle the hows and whys of digital technology as it applies to our audio systems and recording needs. Digital mixers, digital networks and all manner of digital recording. We will begin to unravel the mysteries of all those different digital keyboards and what they can do, and what they can’t. We will explore some incredible cutting edge music technology – amp modelers, virtual synths, digital drums, alternate controllers etc. Why you need them… and why you may not. I know this looks like a two-sided and double-minded way to approach a topic, but there is method to this madness. It would be our ultimate goal to provide you with the information and insight you need to make the tool or toy decision on your own.
My hope and desire is that this column would be looked forward to with excitement and apprehension. With the firm understanding that you may be asked to rethink or reevaluate some pre conceived notions and concepts regarding technology and what it may, or may not be able to provide. At the end of the day, will that new widget end up in the tool box… or the toy box?