11.08.2007

Advantage, Community

Technology makes it possible for us to consume information in
unprecedented ways. Why attend a faraway meeting when you can follow
the presentation in real-time, audio and video? Why go to a concert
or a movie when you can consume them in the comfort of your own home,
and start and pause and finish as needed? Why go to college when you
can download podcasts of lectures and entire chapters of textbooks?
Why go to church when you can read sermons online and chat with other
believers?

Of course, there is something lost in all of these channels, and that
is the importance of the human touch. Technology may have made the
business world smaller, but it also made face-to-face meetings more
important, not less. Entertainment, for all of the ways we love it
on-demand, is still best experienced in a multi-sensory, communal way.
The transmissional aspect of education may be facilitated by
technology, but there's no substitute for actually rubbing elbows with
fellow students, whether it's to learn from the back-and-forth of
class discussion, or to solidify relationships whose long-term value
far outstrips the gain of the knowledge itself. And the church is at
its best when it is not just disseminating information but engaging
its members in a shared, high-touch, outreach-oriented life. The
church that is less than the sum of its content parts has truly failed
its calling to be the body of Christ in this world.

Technology is neither the Savior of the World nor the Devil Incarnate.
It is but a tool. We needn't bow at its altar nor self-righteously
resist the progress it represents. It only isolates to the extent
that humans let themselves use it to isolate themselves. We have to
regain the advantage of community in the midst of such an age.

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