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Chaplaincy, Worship and Technology

In: Religion Topics

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The purpose of this paper is to explain how the chaplain/pastor leads in worship using the world of technology and how evangelical chaplains can provide worship in the military or corporate setting. Bryant and Brunson quotes George Barna in his book “Boiling Point” that, “10 to 20 percent of the population will rely on the Internet for their spiritual input by the year 2010 and if a church doesn't have a presence on the Web, then that church does not exist for most people.” It doesn’t matter if your church is a small or mega church, traditional, hybrid, or attractional church, there is a tremendous benefit in using technology to remain connected to people and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Brunson and Bryant points out that using “emails as a quick effective way to respond to questions and issues or to announce important events within the church, and many pastors are using “blogs” as a sounding board to clarify their thoughts and the direction of their churches or simply to share insights into current events.” Additionally, some pastors and churches utilize graphics via data projection systems, and online streaming as a means of leading worship not only to the local congregation but to others viewing the worship service from around the world. For example, my pastor is extremely focused on the utilization of technology in how worship is lead. One of the tools we use is “Live Stream.” We broadcast our Sunday services, Wednesday night services as well as most of our special services where people are able to view our services around the world via the internet. Another technology tool use by my pastor and congregation, is our Morning Prayer Line conference bridge. Our pastor instituted the prayer call four years ago where we averaged approximately 800 prayer partners per day. We are currently averaging about six hundred per day Monday through Friday. The Pastor along with the ministerial staff effectively use the internet and Facebook as ministry tools as well, to carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. Additionally, pastors use technology such as online giving through our website, and through “Push Pay” accounts on mobile devices.
Brunson and Bryant warns that “Technology is a tool. It cannot replace a pastor's heart, passion, or calling. But it can enhance what a pastor does, and it allows him to reach more people in more ways.” In addition to utilizing technology via the internet/web, in-house technology is of vital importance. According to Brunson and Bryant, “Good audio in the worship service is a must. If people can't hear you, nothing else matters. The myth that you only need a powerful system for concerts has cost congregations a lot of intelligibility during worship. Inadequate sound systems tend to muddle the sound and cause the congregation not to be able to hear lyrics and even the spoken word clearly.” Proper lighting in a worship service is key to the overall success of the worship service. Good lighting help to hold the attention of the People. In other words if the people can’t see you, you will lose them. Pastors use video clips to enhance their sermons, and also to provide a new and interesting way to present the weekly and or monthly announcements of events. Many pastors and churches use their high tech video and projection systems to display the words to the worship songs being sung.
The online approach to worship at my church has been quite successful. Many non-members know about the weekly services and events before some of our regular members. Brunson and Bryant encourages pastors and churches to, “Make your online strategy a vital part of your ministry focus. The Web is not a “fad” that will be replaced by the next “big thing.”
How effective a pastor/chaplain leads in worship in today’s world depends a great deal on their strategy from a technology perspective. In other words, what does the church want to accomplish “online.” Areas that a pastor might want to concentrate on are outreach, which entails making a first impression before people get to your church; inreach, focuses on how to communicate with your own members; music and fine arts ministries; assimilation of new members, and stewardship, in other words how can your church use the web or online giving more effectively. To make their point regarding the effectiveness of technology in worship, Brunson and Bryant states that, “In 2004, 64 percent of the 128 million Internet users in the United States used it for religious and spiritual matters. That is over 82 million Americans, and the number is growing exponentially.” It is important for pastors and their churches to understand that if they are fighting technology in their worship service experience, “Technology is neither spiritual nor unspiritual; it is simply a tool to reach the next generation for Christ.” Bryant and Brunson encourages pastors/chaplains when they are considering technology in their ministries, to “do their homework and spend time learning about technology, develop a strategy, don't attempt to do everything by yourself, don't overwhelm your congregation with the latest gadgetry, and don't use technology to impress people. The use of any technology should have a purpose.” The key is not an attempt to impress people with our technology; but through this method, preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. “Technology is just a tool for enhancing the gospel message. Technology gives you the opportunity to minister to people you would never meet or reach any other way.”
With regards to how evangelical chaplains can provide worship in the military setting, it can be accomplished, however, it must be under specific guidelines. It is important to understand that chaplains are responsible to their commanders, specifically to ensure that the military personnel and their families have an opportunity to worship in a fashion they choose under their first amendment rights. However, chaplains have the freedom to conduct worship services and administer sacraments that are consistent with their own faith tradition. Also, they are called upon to facilitate accommodations for individuals of other faiths as well. For example, a Protestant chaplain cannot perform a Mass for Roman Catholics, but can locate a Roman Catholic chaplain to administer the sacrament.
According to Laing, “evangelical involvement in military chaplaincy has recently been given new impetus due to the Global War on Terror.” The duties of the chaplain to provide religious support to the soldiers in his unit, has not changed, however, “a new role or duty has evolved in the contemporary use of the military in Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW).”
Laing states that, “chaplains have ample opportunity to make their personal convictions clear to all who believe. The evangelistic concerns of the chaplain can/should be communicated to all in attendance at chapel services {e.g., have an altar call}, and so there should be no confusion regarding the chaplain’s or the Bible’s stance on issues to soteriological inclusivism, pluralism and or universalism.”

Bibliography

Bryant James W, McCall Brunson, Donald. The New Guidebook for Pastors. Nashville: B&H Publishers Group, 2007.
Laing, John D. In Jesus’ Name. Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2010.
Paget, Naomi K, and Janet R McCormack. The Work of the Chaplain. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 2006.

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