April 27, 2008
By Alan Dowd
It’s easy, amid the tidal wave of online gambling and pornography, distracting noise of cell phones, violent world of virtual-reality gaming, and sex-saturated music that fills many iPods, to dismiss today’s technologies as beneath God’s purposes and off limits to His children.
But we shouldn’t surrender the new frontiers of technology to an unbelieving world. Instead, we should follow the example set in scripture and use the technologies at our disposal for Kingdom work.
People of faith have always used technology to share God’s word, do their work and change the world. Consider some of the highlights:
- Noah built a great sea-going ship to preserve the human race, which means he lived out one of the main definitions of technology: “a manner of accomplishing a task, especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge.”
- David used a slingshot to slay Goliath, a harp to soothe Saul and a pen to pour out his heart.
- Solomon used the pen to preserve his wisdom for posterity, and he used stonecutters and carpenters, goldsmiths and silversmiths, surveyors and artisans—the very best Israel had to offer in technology—to build the temple.
- Before he began his public ministry, Jesus was a carpenter, which means he used tools to turn simple pieces of wood into furniture and art.
- Luke was a physician, doubtless with training in the best Greek and Roman medical technologies of the day. The New Testament records times when Paul and Luke, a preacher and a doctor, worked together to heal the sick.[i]
- Paul relied on modern transportation technologies to travel all around the Mediterranean, which comprised most of the known world. He drafted scores of letters and sent them off to the Church. If he were in ministry today, I daresay he would be hopping on planes, firing off emails and writing blogs.
- Long after the first generation of Christians had died away, the Church and its mission to carry the Good News to the ends of the earth would be transformed by the printing press—and again by the telegraph, and again by the telephone, and again by radio, and again by television, and again by satellites, and again by computer technologies.
In short, those who went before us did not reject technology or refuse to take advantage of it just because someone else might have misused it. Instead, they used the technology at their disposal to do God’s work.
The Good News Goes Global
To be sure, modern technology is often misused. After all, a PC can be used to write great sermons or surf for pornography; email can be used to ask for prayers or spread gossip; DVDs can lead people to Christ or plant seeds of doubt. But how technology is used or misused says more about the user than the technology. Just think about how much good—from an eternal perspective—modern technology has accomplished.
It has, quite literally, empowered us to live out the Great Commission and carry the Good News into “all nations” and “all the world” and “all creation”—to borrow the words of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
The Bible Gateway website, http://www.biblegateway.com/, offers 89 versions of the Bible in 42 different languages—English and Bulgarian, Chinese and Tagalog, Arabic and Hebrew, Korean and Kiswahili. It provides audio versions of the Bible for the visually impaired. Some 12 million people visit the site every month. And best of all, it never goes on vacation or shuts its doors.[ii]
Since 1979, the Jesus Film Project (JFP) has distributed the Gospel of Luke in video form to every country on earth. The video has been translated into literally hundreds of languages. JFP estimates more than six billion viewings worldwide since 1979. “As a result,” according to JFP, “more than 200 million people have indicated decisions to accept Christ as their personal Savior and Lord.”
All the World
Thanks to fast, inexpensive transcontinental air travel, believers are answering Christ’s call and following Paul’s example in ways the early Church could never have imagined. Rev. Billy Graham, for example, has witnessed to 100 million souls on six continents—in person. Thanks to satellite television, his ministry has reached two billion people all around the world.[iii] And his is just one of many ministries with a passion for global evangelism.
When Apollo VIII entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, 1968, NASA instructed the crew to “say something appropriate” for the historic occasion. “Almost the whole world would be listening to us,” as Astronaut Jim Lovell later told PBS. And what the world heard, with a picture of this tiny marble off in the distance, must have brought a smile to the Lord’s face.[iv]
“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good. And God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night...And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters He called the Seas. And God saw that it was good.”
Astronaut Frank Borman closed with these poignant, simple words: “Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you—all of you on the good Earth.”
A year later, Astronaut Buzz Aldrin actually celebrated communion on the surface of the moon. Quietly quoting from John 15, he whispered, “I am the vine and you are the branches...Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For you can do nothing without me.”
The point is this: It was technology that enabled God’s word to be sent back to a planet hushed and transfixed in awe, if only for a moment. In fact, ever since the first sermon was broadcast on radio, ever since the first revival was captured on satellite TV, the Good News has been beamed out beyond the edges of this galaxy and into the far reaches of the universe—to “all creation.”
But today’s technology is not only used for grand and global purposes. God’s people also use it for the nuts and bolts of everyday life.
For example, http://www.bibleplayer.com/ allows iPod users to download the entire Bible in audio format. Websites like http://www.standardpub.com/ and http://www.equip.org/ offer resources for living the abundant life, connecting with fellow believers, witnessing to nonbelievers, teaching and equipping new Christians, and building community.
Speaking of community, TechMission (http://www.techmission.org/) helps Christian organizations use technology “to transform vulnerable communities.” Formed in 2000, TechMisison develops and supports “Christian community computer centers across the world in their effort to provide access, skills and relationships needed to succeed in the information age.”
Toward that end, the organization creates “technology hubs” that energize after-school programs, support workforce development, promote safe surfing for young people by distributing free internet filtering software, and help urban ministries and churches expand their reach by leveraging technology.
In a similar vein, Sagamore Institute’s Center on Faith in Communities created the Faith and Service Technical Education Network website (http://www.fastennetwork.org/) to help faith-based leaders do what they do best—namely, help those in need. Launched by a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the site provides hundreds of how-to resources for faith-based groups involved in ministries aimed at improving their communities. FASTEN helps ministry leaders learn from one another and collaborate in urban renewal, and it helps connect with them public officials interested in partnering on community renewal.
“The Internet makes available literally thousands upon thousands of pieces of information,” says Amy Sherman, director of FASTENnetwork.org. “A site like FASTEN serves the Kingdom by filtering and organizing that information so that ministry practitioners can quickly obtain just the right information they need.”
Calling FASTEN “the faith-based practitioner’s R&D arm,” Sherman notes that the website has quickly grown into “a massive clearinghouse of educational materials that inspire and equip.”
Such a service simply wouldn’t be possible without today’s technology. “The Web allows grassroots ministry leaders to quickly, easily and cheaply find what they need with just a few clicks,” Sherman explains.
We should never put our faith in technology—that is idolatry—but neither should we fear it. Technology is what we make it. By our choices, our will, we can make technology an instrument of inspiration or a tool of depravity, an expression of God’s creative gifts or a waste of time, a doorway to eternity or to sin.
It’s up to you and me.
[i] See Acts 28.
[ii] Gospel Communications, “Casting the Net,” 2006, www.gospelcommunications.org/communique/wp-content/uploads/2006/11/GCINewsLetWinter06FF.pdf.
[iii] Barry M. Horstman, “Man with a mission,” Cincinnati Post, www.cincinnati.com/billygraham/p_man.html.
[iv] See “Race to the Moon,” PBS American Experience, www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/moon/peopleevents/e_telecasts.html.