Today, instead of doing anything at church, I just went there.
Strange and rare thing.
Anyway, I went to the 10am service, which is the busiest one. The auditorium was almost full.
The opener for service was a duet between two horn players, which evolved into a "recycled percussion" performance with hip-hop dancers.
It was pretty awesome.
I tend to look around the crowd instead of just looking on stage the whole time. And I saw something pretty significant.
Lots of them.
I mean really. There were dozens of, if not a hundred or more, people who had their cell phones out during the opening element.
Taking pictures, recording video, texting to people in between--I'd imagine often sending the pics/videos.
When worship started after the special, several people put their phones away. But not everyone.
Some were still taking pictures, videos, and texting.
During the sermon, I saw the same. Periodically someone would take a picture of Tommy while he was preaching. Or people were texting on their phones, I wouldn't be surprised if people were taking small videos of parts of his sermon either.
There was a 40-50 year old woman 2 seats over from me who was on her iPhone texting nearly the entire time. I know she was paying attention to the sermon, because I was close enough to read what she was writing...and it was about what Tommy was preaching on.
After coming home and making lunch, I checked facebook to find that many of my friends had posted videos and photos from service either last night or this morning (including Jenny who recorded the opener).
And they looked awesome.
More than that...they were getting comments.
People were bragging about their church, and how much they love it.
Others were impressed by the way it looked. Or in disbelief that a church service looked like that. Or statements regretting that they missed it...
There is a world of conversation happening in and around the church.
It's happening online.
These dozens & dozens of people (this was just 1 service, not all 5) are the church's biggest advocate. They are the strongest "marketing system" you can get because they are putting their reputation out to their family and friends; stating that it is worth their time to look at what they're posting.
And they're posting about the church.
Most of us have a device in our pocket with more computing power than a top of the line PC from less than 5 years ago. Cell phones are no longer merely portable phones; they are computers, they are video cameras, they are a connection to a larger world than what is possible from physical contact, they are "lifestyle devices."
This is not just some new fad. This type of technology is not something that we can close our eyes about and hope it goes away. It's only going to grow from here, as it always does.
What if we didn't fight against the system, but embraced it?
Instead of people having the mindset that they need to turn their cell phones off to "be respectful" that we encouraged them to turn them ON instead? Turn them on to let people know what they're involved in.
What is important to them.
What their contacts could be involved in too.
What if we encouraged people to be both physically present during a service and to be spreading a message about it simultaneously?
If this became the normal thing to do instead of the exception?
If you weren't shot dirty looks for texting during church, or taking pictures.
If we really engaged the congregation and promoted their engagement with others who were not physically present at the time.
I think we can.
I think we should.
I don't think that God is afraid of technology. That he feels disrespected by it. That he wants us to abstain from this sort of thing. I think it's our responsibility to embrace and utilize every form of communication available to us to further his message.