When it comes to stewardship and technology in the church where do you draw the line? At what point do you say yes to new technology and at what point is it a waste of money? Will someones eternal destiny really be determined by the type of microphone a singer uses? Will the lumens and contrast ratio of your projector really bring someone lasting peace? Will the quality of the lighting allow Gods Spirit to do what He pleases in someones heart? I have wrestled with these questions and more in my 18 years of ministry.
I started running my church sound system when I was in high school. I never had formal education in that area but my dad had volunteered in the sound booth when he saw that it was too much for the custodian to handle by himself. No one should have to do it every week with no break. I hung around enough to become familiar with where the cords get plugged in and what the knobs and faders did. Within a couple of years I was running the sound system myself for two of the churchs three services on Sunday.
In my next church I started experimenting with theatrical lighting. The budget for this was $100 per month but I was rarely allowed to spend it. It just wasnt the top priority for a new church. As people saw what I was able to do with lighting they saw more of a need for it. It really can set a mood. When the lighting is just right you just stop and admire the beauty of it all and praise the God that made it possible. But enough about sunsets and full moons, lets get back to sound. As I write this on my laptop on my backyard swing I am enjoying the happy sounds of my kids playing, the trickling of water in a nearby garden pond, and a neighbor mowing the lawn. Well, two out of three isnt bad.
When the sound is clear and loud enough, but not too loud, it is very enjoyable. The message, either spoken or sung, doesnt get lost as easily when there are no distractions. Quality sound reinforcement is necessary in larger rooms. Jesus didnt use an amplifier, so why should we? Jesus also didnt use a telephone. I guess we should get rid of those too, huh? There are many technical tools that enhance our ability to get a message delivered, whether the audience is in the room or on the Internet. Some of these tools are being used very creatively and effectively in the church to enhance the mood and create a receptive attitude in the listener. But have we gone too far? Is the message second place to the delivery of that message? Are the technical tools of ministry becoming technical toys used for enjoyment?
Can we justify spending $500 for a microphone when a $400 microphone will sound the same to 95% of the audience? Could we feed a hungry family with the difference? Can we justify a $5000 moving light fixture when two $2000 units will do almost as much? Could you pay someones medical bill with the difference? Are we called to be different from our world, or the same?
I love technology. I love the things it can do. I love good quality sound and lighting. I love to edit videos and wow an audience, mix it with the right music and touch people emotionally. I love the feelings that technology can bring out. But I love people more. I love Jesus more. Where your money is your heart will be also. I challenge all churches to consider doing this: For every dollar you spend on technology, put a dollar in the benevolence fund to take care of the needy. When we truly meet the needs of people in all areas of their lives the feeling they get on Sunday just may last longer than the final song, the last lighting cue, or the ending PowerPoint slide.
It all comes down to balance. When technology is used in the church the results can bring people closer to God. Or it can bring people closer to technology. Like a loaded gun, technology can bring a good result or a bad result depending on who uses it and for what purpose. Make sure you understand what the technology will do and why you need it before spending the money. If it will enhance your praise and worship of God then it is good stewardship. If it helps you meet the needs of people it is good stewardship. Remember to keep all things in balance. As Ryan Hodges said in Church Production Magazine, Good stewardship isnt about how much money you save, but how much money you dont waste.