New technology is not good or evil in and of itself. It’s all about how people choose to use it.
Preaching is my chosen profession and that of my father’s. Many of my youthful memories consist of walking into my father’s office at the church building and sitting on his sofa reading Bible stories or drawing pictures of Jesus walking on water while he wrote his sermons.
Other than remembering him reading his Bible or looking over his prepared lessons at home, my father’s office is where I remember him doing most of his sermon preparation. That’s where his ancient typewriter was. I’m not exaggerating when I call it “ancient.” It was one of those gray behemoths that had each key on the end of a metallic rod and had a bell go off when you had reached the right margin to alert you to push the roll holding the paper all the way back to the left so the sentence you were typing wouldn’t go off the right end of the paper. It would be a major inconvenience for Dad to lug that monster home with him, so he typed his sermon outlines at his office on paper which he would then put into a binder labeled “1979,” “1980,” or whatever year it was and stick that binder on the bookshelf alongside all the others.
Whereas I am currently sitting in Chick-Fil-A on Highway 53 in Calhoun, typing out this column on my HP laptop while my daughters play on the playground. When I am done with this column, there will be no need to print out a hard copy and mail it to the Calhoun Times offices because I can connect to the Internet via Chick-Fil-A’s Wi-Fi and e-mail it to the editor with the click of a button. I can then pull up all the sermons and lessons I’ve ever written on a flash drive if I wish, or I could go online to Google Drive and Dropbox and view them there. I can do this on my laptop here in Chick-Fil-A, on my smart phone while I’m waiting to see the chiropractor later today, at home on my tablet, and at my office. No binders for me, at least not since 2012 or so when I realized how easy it would be to store everything online.
The technological advances of the past two decades have made many aspects of church work much easier and more expeditious for today’s preachers and Bible teachers. When I became a preacher in 2000, my father and later my wife’s grandfather who was also a preacher gave me a big portion of their libraries. Because of their generosity the bookshelves in my office are filled with commentaries, Greek and Hebrew lexicons, books filled with manuscripts and outlines written by many preachers and theologians which cover a variety of subjects, and books which cover a variety of many other theological topics. When I am in my office, I find those books very valuable to my study of Scripture. If I am studying a specific passage in the Old Testament and want to know what a word means in the original Hebrew, there are several books in my office to which I could turn for guidance. If my schedule shows me I am meeting tomorrow with someone who has recently lost a loved one, I grab a book that gives guidance on how to support and encourage those who are grieving. At times when I want to take my work home with me or somewhere else, I will take a couple of books with me.
I can also be almost anywhere and have access to these same aids online through my smartphone, tablet, or laptop. In a Bible study over breakfast at Shoney’s with a deacon and he suddenly has a question about where something is found in the Bible or what a particular word means in the original Greek? There’s an app for that, and I have that app on my phone and tablet. Sitting at home on Sunday night after a busy day of preaching and I get a text from a church member asking if they could have the outline of the sermon I preached that day so they could study it further? Less than a minute later I can have the link to that outline pulled up on the Google Drive app on my smartphone to text it to them. In the surgery waiting room with a family who’s waiting for word on their loved one in the OR? Many times those surgeries last all day. I don’t want to leave the hospital, but I do need to have time to work on the lessons I have to preach later that week. I’ve found most Christians won’t mind if, after I sit with them for several hours offering support, I ask them if I could go down to the cafeteria with my laptop to work on sermons for a bit. They have my cell number and know that I’m just a call or text away should they need me. While in the cafeteria I can connect to the hospital’s Internet and have access online to many of the same study aids I have in book form at my office.
What’s more exciting is that these online tools are available to any Christian who is so inclined to go deeper in their study of God’s Word. It has never been easier for anyone to have access to a Bible and learn as much as any Bible scholar. It’s all a swipe of a finger or a click of a button away. I consider it evidence of the providence of God. He wants all of us to grow in our knowledge of the Bible. With how accessible it is today, do any of us have any real excuse for not learning more about the Bible every single day?