The tension between technology and faith

There’s a tension that exists sometimes when you talk about the relationship between technology and the church.

By Derek SYSTEM OF GENEROSITY_2Gillette

A few months ago, we wrote an article: “How Pastors Can Lead Their Church to Greater Year-End Giving.” One of the reader’s comments stuck out to me:

The title of this article shows the sad state of many churches today … I want to vomit when I see articles like this.

This commenter continued:

When a congregation is walking with the Lord and the Holy Spirit is moving in peoples [sic] hearts and transforming them to be more like Christ, you do not need to ever preach on giving or come up with gimmicks and ideas to increase peoples [sic] giving. They will give because they are moved by the spirit to give.

Yes, the tension between technology and faith is very real.

Digging deeper

We wanted to dig more into the connection between faith, relevance and technology. So, we put together a short three-question study. We then administered this study to some of the 2,500 attendees of the Nazarene M15 Conference, held in Kansas City, MO, in February.

ECG021215_M15_survey NEWQuestion 1: On a scale of 1-5, how relevant do you feel your church is to your local community?

Church leaders, as a group, rated themselves a 3.5 out of 5 in terms of relevance. This answer speaks to a feeling that their churches are planted firmly in the middle between relevance and being out of touch. Many of the pastors made comments to the effect of, “We’re close, but we’re just not quite there yet.”

Question 2: On a scale of 1-5, how big of a role do you feel technology plays in staying relevant?

When we asked specifically about the role of technology, 78 percent of church leaders said they believe it plays a crucial or very important role in staying relevant.

Question 3: What holds you back from being more relevant and effective in your local community: time, money, technology or people catching the vision?

For this final question, we wanted to force church leaders to choose one of four potential lacks. We know that this is a bit of an impossible question, since they all play a part; not surprisingly, many pastors wanted to select all of the above. However, when forced to select one, 67 percent of church leaders chose people catching the vision. And an underwhelming 5 percent chose technology as their primary lack.

What does this tell us?

Church leaders, as a group, rated themselves a 3.5 out of 5 in terms of relevance. This answer speaks to a feeling that their churches are planted firmly in the middle between relevance and being out of touch. Many of the pastors made comments to the effect of, “We’re close, but we’re just not quite there yet.”

While technology will never replace the importance of catching the vision, it plays a crucial role in helping churches stay relevant.

Keeping this in mind, it starts to make sense why some would feel so negative about promoting giving techniques and technology. Technology — in place of a heart and vision connection — is never an acceptable substitute. In fact, when responding to our original commenter, this is what I said:

What’s been really cool for [Pushpay] is to see churches who partner with us, and after going live, see the amount of new givers increase by as much as 33 percent. That’s huge!

Now, were these people not obedient before, or was their heart not in the right place, or were they spiritually lacking? I’m not sure how to answer that, but I do know that they are giving faithfully now and the church as a whole is benefitting.

How to preserve the balance

When we talk to churches about giving technology, we use the phrase “Unlocking Generosity.” This refers back to a statistic we mentioned in the first part of our Creating a Culture of Generosity series: 80 percent of people want to be more generous than they currently are, but 92 percent feel held back by a lack of money.

Download the "Creating a Culture of Generosity eBook!
Download the “Creating a Culture of Generosity eBook!

The desire to be generous exists; it’s just waiting to be unlocked.

I like to use the analogy of working out. We all know we need to do it. Most of us want to do it. But, the act of signing up for a gym membership, and then driving there multiple times a week — it’s something that very few of us do consistently. However, if a gym existed next door to my house and a personal trainer was the re waiting for me, working out would become a lot more of a regular habit.

Some people — probably 20 percent of us — will exercise consistently, no matter the circumstances. For the remaining 80 percent, we might exercise from time to time, but getting that extra boost is what’s needed to develop a healthy and regular routine.

We work hard to help churches engage those 80 percent of non-regular givers. In doing so, we know that the technology is just a tool to make the process easier, resulting in an outcome that gets us all excited: a changed heart and healthy habits that help transform us to be more like Christ.

Derek Gillette is Communications Manager for Pushpay in Seattle, WA.

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