In his new book High-Tech Worship? Using Presentation Technologies Wisely, Calvin communication arts and sciences professor Quentin Schultze tells the story of a worship service in which the pastor was welcoming worshipers “in the name of” when the Microsoft Windows logo came up on the screen behind him. “Worse yet,” he writes, “the computer program then blasted the Windows boot-up sound over the house speakers. Instead of hearing the name of Jesus Christ, worshipers heard the Microsoft musical boot.”
Schultze uses the example to symbolize the fact that technology and God sometimes compete for attention in worship. The same technologies that can enhance worship can detract from it — and not always so obviously.
“Technology,” he said, “has become a critical part of many church worship settings in North America. Interestingly, the church is growing the fastest in places like Africa and Latin America, where technology is rarely if ever incorporated into worship. But in North America, particularly in the U.S., we are the most tech-optimistic people in the world. We see tech as the solution for problems in education, in politics, in medicine and now in religion.”
But in his quintessential Quentin Schultze way, he is no Luddite, seeking to remove all technology from worship experiences. Rather, he urges churches to neither reject technology in worship nor revere it.
Churches, he said, need to figure out what their strengths are and then consider how technology might enhance those strengths. So, he says, a church whose hallmark is strong singing and harmony would not want to sing from an overhead screen featuring only lyrics. But a church with a strong history of art in the sanctuary — banners, paintings, sculpture — might want to look at how projected art could add to the worship experience.
“Technology in worship,” said Schultze, “needs to be fitting — fitting to the experience of worshiping God, but also fitting to the tradition of the church, its denomination, and its local mission. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.”
The church in the 21st century has a glorious opportunity before it, said Schultze, and not just with new technologies.
“The unfolding of God’s creation gives us the opportunity to adapt worship practices from church history as well as from existing human culture anywhere in the world. We can use voice and microphone, press and projector, body and vestment, candle and spotlight.”
For High-Tech Worship?, Schultze worked with Calvin’s Institute of Christian Worship. His former student and now seminarian, Steve Koster, surveyed churches in Kent and Ottawa counties in West Michigan to determine how many are using new technologies and what sorts of advantages and drawbacks they have experienced.
When asked what motivated churches to adopt visual media technologies, 84 percent of the respondents said “to gain contemporary relevance” and 77 percent said “to gain youth relevance.” Schultze doesn’t think the reasons are necessarily bad, but he does worry that many churches are putting too much hope in the power of technology alone to revive worship, attract youth and evangelize.
He noted that that an in-depth study of seven technology-intensive churches across the country — including CentrePointe in southeast Grand Rapids — found that the real benefits are much more subtle yet very important. Using technology tends to get more members involved in planning and conducting worship. It even leads more contemporary churches to consider older forms of visual communication in worship, from liturgical dance to decoration of the sanctuary.
The book, said Schultze, is meant to help churches use technology appropriately as well as effectively. “A lot of churches,” he said, “are really struggling with this issue.”
In this book, the author combines his two favorite hobbies in essays designed for the ordinary reader. Schelhaas spotlights 100 common words in his book, usually introducing the word with a personal anecdote, then delving into the word’s historical roots and often making analogies to the Christian life. “My hope is that it will enhance the reader’s sense of delight and wonder: delight in the hidden stories most words contain and wonder at the marvelous, erratic journeys most words have taken as they have been used across the centuries,” he said.
Ice, and Whales: The Antarctic Adventures of a Dutch Artist on a Norwegian
During the heroic age of Antarctic exploration, Dutch artist Willem van der Does talked his way aboard a Norwegian whaler and made the challenging voyage in 1923. The book is the riveting, eyewitness account of this nine-month journey. First published in the Dutch East Indies in 1934 and later in the Netherlands, this book is now available in English, thanks to the translation by van Baak Griffioen.
Giving to Calvin
Majors & Minors
People at Calvin