Thursday, July 20, 2006

Is e-mail the New Snail Mail?

I have to admit it ... I am an e-mail junkie. I love to receive e-mail messages. I cannot even to begin to count the number of times that I check my e-mail accounts each day.

But I am, after all, one of the old guys. (I remember those glorious days when there was no such thing as "call waiting," microwaves, or home computers!) E-mail, as it turns out, has been labeled the technology of us older folks. It seems that the next generation is not so fond of my favorite way of sending messages.

Joe Ball, Youth Strategist fo the Kentucky Baptist Convention, noted this trend in his blog this week. He included a link to a fascinating story in USA Today. The writer claims that the up and coming generation is much more motivated by instant communication: media such as IM, text messaging, blogs, Facebook, and MySpace.

I was a bit skeptical at first, but after checking the communication habits of my two teen-age daughters, I now realize that Joe (and the USA Today person) is speaking the truth. Neither of them check their e-mail that often, but they will camp for hours in front of a computer, playing solitaire and sending messages through MSN. I can't help but think that all of this will have a tremendous impact upon the church ... and church planting. But I'm not quite sure how it will have an impact, or whether said impact will be constructive or problematic.

I need some input. Let me pose a few questions:
  • How do you think the established church will deal with the communication habits and techonological prowess of our youth?
  • How can we utilize this trend in communication within the youth culture in a creative, positive way?
  • What do you think will be the impact of instant communication upon Church Planting in the near future?
I'm looking forward to hearing your views.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Todd Terry said...

I think whatever impact this technology has on church planting should be a secondary concern.

The truth remains that it is God's Word that changes peoples lives...not technology. As long as church plants have God's Word as the foundation from which they function...all the other stuff will fall into place.

I really think we over analyze what is happening today with technology. It is great to be in the know and utilize it, but it seems like we focus more on technology in church rather than life change.

10:58 AM  
Blogger Geoff Baggett said...

Todd,

I appreciate your comment and respect your sentiment. But I beg to differ with both. Technology and "life change" are not mutually exclusive concepts.

First of all, I reject the notion that the Word of God (the Bible) is the actual agent of change in our lives. The change agent is the Living Word, Jesus Christ. It is His message that changes lives and eternities. And Jesus was a communicator! He used the media of his day ... interactive discussions, object lessons, and parables. I don't think that I am wrong in believing that Jesus was on the "cutting edge" of communication in His day.

Absolutely, without question, the Word is our guide. It is the unchanging standard upon which we build our ministries. It is that precious book which contains the perfect, inerrant message of God that points us to the Savior. But it is a fallacy to think that any church, or church plant for that matter, will succeed, reach people, and grow simply because of faithful preaching of the Bible. I know of far too many churches, led and taught by faithful men of God who preach the Word faithfully each Sunday, that are only a few years of funerals away from closing their doors. Furthermore, I know of far too many church plants that have floundered and failed, despite the faithful preaching of the church planters.

Technology, methods of communication, and innovation must be tantamount in our strategies and methods to reach people and plant churches. The church can no longer afford to share a "flannel board" message in a 21st-century digital world.

I agree with the Apostle Paul, who asked, "And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?" (Romans 10:15) Far too often today, the church tries to share its message through methods and media that this next generation no longer listens to. Most of our churches are still cranking out sermons on VHS and cassette tapes … and our kids don’t even know how to load a cassette player or VCR anymore. It's a lot like that age-old quandary, "If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is there to hear it, did it really make a noise?"

If we truly desire to see the life change, we had better wise up and start understanding and using technology and media that will engage the next generation. We have to, or we will join a long and distinguished line of churches that continues to share the message ... only no one new (and certainly, no one from the next generation) is there to hear it.

Something to think about. Thanks for your input.

Geoff

2:35 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Geoff- Oh man. I will consider these questions and try to answer them as best as I can and then I'll post a real comment!

10:50 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Okay Geoff. I suppose I've thought about it long enough.

I see technology become the paradigm shift that the church needs to begin moving forward. I'm not saying that all churches that sing hymns,use hymnals and still read from the KJV without the use of powerpoint are all bad. I've seen some very well meaning churches still existing in the 1970's. I think that many churches are beginning to understand that in order to be relevant to today's society, they're going to have to think outside of the box. Sooner or later it's going to be shockingly apparent to many in ministry that they're losing ground because they didn't "jump the bandwagon" so to speak. I think that since this technology, such as, cell phones, powerpoint, blogs, PDAs and other really cool toys have become available to us, we should use them to bring the message of the gospel to those who wouldn't step into a church building but would get on the internet and explore different religions. I figure, if they're looking we better be there ready and willing to receive them.

I feel like I'm chasing rabbits here. It's late.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Michael Jones said...

I personally have never been into IM's that much but it seems to be a great way to communicate to multiple people quickly.

I think that a site that a youth pastor can place a message on for their students can be a very thought provoking way to engage the youth. It would be a good way for the youth to get unchurched friends involved. They could read the blog, ask questions and get connected without felling pressure from anyone else.

I have a question for you. Could a pastor lead a bible study online using IM's or a chat room? If that is possible, I think that would be a great way to get kids/adults involved that might not be allowed to go to a bible study lead at a church building.

6:22 PM  

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