When Jesus Christ said in the scriptures that the gate of hell would not prevail over the church of God, he saw into the future thousands of years ahead to note that there would be population explosion, the advent of technology and that current Covid-19 pandemic would make it impossible for anyone to ignore the importance of information technology in day to day activities.
In 2020 when Covid-19 became a global pandemic, and in the bid to curb its spread, authorities across the world restricted human movement and gathering especially social and religious gatherings, many had though the church would be negatively impacted. In spite this, the development opened a new vista for the body of Christ to tap into the unmaximised opportunities in the ICT to spread the gospel.
Prior to this moment, many church leaders had viewed the ICT as a tool of distraction for faithful and had at every opportunity canvassed against its use and earned of addiction to it.
In 2011, a survey carried out by Tyndale University College and Seminary, revealed that 35% of church leaders believe that churches are too focused on technology, 13.6% believe that there are more important things to focus on than technology, and 11.5% believe that technology distracts people from worship. In spite this revelation, and the influence these church leaders have on faithful, smartphone ownership has more than doubled from about 35% of American adults to 77%.
Some have argued that mobile technology possess the tendency to divide, distract, and cause people to focus on self. It has become harder to focus on sermons or pray for extended lengths of time, all because social media and mobile technology has the ability to cut short human attention. The constant availability of technology means a constant pull toward phones to update social interactions on the internet.
In spite this, the use of technology, especially the social media and other technological applications that provide virtual meetings and interactions, has helped in no small measure to increase and improve churches engagement and interactions through technology. Today, while churches hold real world programmed with huge congregation in attendance, with the adoption of various social media platforms, millions of faithful connect to church programmes without missing any bit.
In terms of finances, technology has also enhanced monetary donations to churches, while the use of technology has increased church attendance remotely; it has equally enhanced church finance. While what was obtainable previously was the movement of cash after each services or programmes to banks, this days church members and faithful through mobile technology can now transfer donations electronically to church accounts. This has reduced the movement of cash around.
Technology has made life easier for spiritual leaders. It has made it easier for church leaders to connect with church members and has allowed churches to spread positivity throughout the world through live streaming and social channels, and it has helped automate tedious tasks to save time for more important community building.
So for church leaders to leverage technology to rebuild communities, they must therefore acknowledge that technology is far more that instrument to enhance social interactions but that people connecting with church online are part of the church community.
While there are those who have argued that live streaming of church services would contribute to decline in church attendance, it is however one of the biggest advantages that churches have with the current development and advancement in technology. Live streaming allows churches to bring those who are physically unable to attend back into the community as well.
Speaking on the role of ICT gadgets in church activities and programmes, Rt. Rev. Humphrey Olumakaiye, Archbishop of Anglican Province of Lagos, said they are for the advantage of the church. According to the clergy, “the world is gradually becoming a global village and I do not see anything bad in the use of ICT gadgets, including electronics Bible and laptops.
“When we look into the Bible, we see the root of modern technology and, so, all we are experiencing today, have their root in the scriptures. They are things that had been predicted that would happen and form part of God-given wisdom to mankind.
“It facilitates the perusal of the word of God. We can see some people carrying their electronics Bible and their handsets everywhere they go, they can have their quiet time anywhere and at anytime. It is something that one should encourage, but at the same time, we should not overdo it. We should try as much as possible to regulate it in such a way that it would not constitute a nuisance in the Church. We should use it wisely for our advantage,” he advised.
But Rt. Rev. Joseph Musa, Bishop of Ida Diocese, warned that the church must not allow ICT gadgets to take the place of the printed Bible.
“The Church must not lag behind, but at the same time, one must not replace the searching of the scriptures with visiting the Internet to download materials. The use of ICT is good, as the Church is part of the modern world.
“If a leader in the Church says he does not understand what the modern gadgets are all about while his members do, it then means that the congregation is ahead of the leader. This means that the pew is higher than the pulpit and as such the leader would not be able to meet the needs of his congregation. Pastors should be familiar with modern gadgets, but it must not take the place of searching the scriptures, as well as personally making research to equip oneself instead of relying on downloaded materials from the Internet.”