Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Is the Technology the "Thing?"

One of the blogs on my Bloglines account (my list is in the sidebar) is Out of Ur. This is the blog of Leadership magazine.

Their latest article is called The Tech Effect. When does the use of technology is worship become a competition to the message instead of an enhancement of the message?

Consider first the Star Wars trilogies. Hang with me; I'm going somewhere with this. I loved the first three movies, that came out in '77, '80 and '83. They are three of my favorite movies. I love the characters and their relationships with each other. Even though they are science fiction movies, with special effects considered ground breaking at the time, the human element is center. It is what we are watching when we watch the movies.

Compare that to the newer trilogy. In those movies, the main character is the technology, in my opinion. The special effects are fantastic -- glorious, but the relationships and the characters sink into oblivion in the glare of the fantastic.

Does that ever happen with our projection systems and screens? The questions asked in this article are:

With our increasing ability to produce "visual delights," can we forget what matters most? How can we use technology to help, not hinder, the proclamation of God's Word?
Media is not neutral. Images are not neutral. They make us feel something, bring us a message, function to either enhance or distract from the message. Who is declaring the message? If it is the worship leader (and it should be) then the media used in the service should not be the center of attention. I think images should be carefully chosen to enhance the message which the worship leader is proclaiming.

One of the ministers quoted in this article says the following:

I occasionally use visual media and technology as a crutch to help keep what I'm saying interesting. But when an 80-year-old woman who lived through the Great Depression stood up in my congregation and told a story, she didn't use any technology, and everyone was on the edge of their seats listening to her suffering and what she lived through.

As the medium, she was infinitely more powerful than any technology I could bring.

I think that screens and projection systems in worship can be powerful tools for the enhancement of the proclamation of God's word. When used badly, they detract from worship. I think we need to be very careful in that balancing act, choosing images wisely, which will add to the worship experience.

What do you remember when you leave worship? The message proclaimed by the worship leader? The images projected on the screen? Your experience in a closer relationship with God? Let's not forget the role of the worship leader -- to lead the congregation to God. That's a heavy responsibility that needs to be taken seriously.



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