<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <b>What Does Technology Have to Do with Ministry?</b> <p> <p> Technology is more than gadgets, shiny monitors, fast computers, cool programs and other services on the Internet. The computer, and the many applications that have been developed since their introduction into our society, have become the leading way for many in our society to communicate. Thus, it has become the glue that binds relationships, the source for growing friendships, and provides the connection tools that help keep families together. In essence, the ability to communicate via the Internet and mobile computing devices has begun to bury traditional mass media communications. <p> Newspapers and those who have lived by the barrel of ink for the past century have had to adapt. Television has not been able to increase its audience, and those that provide our national news have had to adapt to the new tools in order to broadcast their message or face the reality that their message will go unheard. Even those running for the presidency of the United States have realized the power of personal communication options and have made great use of tools like texting. In fact, President Barack Obama may have obtained the highest office in the land because of his willingness to expand into new ways of spreading his message. Yet, many of those with the greatest message-and the most pressing need to communicate that message-have held back. The church, by far, is one of the last institutions in America to press forward and effectively use technology, and especially the communication opportunities that come with it, for their own purpose. <p> What does technology have to do with ministry? Maybe everything! <p> <i>"Christians are now making up a declining percentage of the American population."</i> <p> <p> The statement above was published in <i>Newsweek</i>, April 4, 2009, in an article entitled "The End of Christian America" (by Jon Meacham). It wasn't intended as an attack on Christianity. It also wasn't "spin" by those hoping to discourage the church, nor was it a proclamation from a victory party held by those who have worked hard to remove the visible symbols of Christianity from public view. Instead, it was a simple fact. The church is declining in America, and frankly, at an alarming rate. <p> According to the American Religious Identification Survey, the percentage of individuals in America that identify themselves as being a Christian has fallen by 10 percent since 1990. That means the population in America that <i>admits</i> to being Christian is around 76 percent. Some would blame other religions that have experienced some growth in America during the last decade. However, the number of people who state they are not affiliated with any particular faith has doubled since 1988, going from 5 to 12 percent of the American population. <p> In addition, the overall number of people that identify themselves as members of a Protestant denomination in America has declined over the last 10 years by 9.5 percent, while the national population has increased by 11 percent. <p> Why is the number of Christians declining? Around half of all Christian churches in America did not receive a single addition to their membership as a result of someone having a conversion experience. The Hartford Institute for Religion Research believes there are 300,000 churches in America. If this number is correct, that means 150,000-plus churches opened their doors each and every Sunday to hold services, yet went the entire year without seeing the result of one person coming to a conversion experience and beginning a walk with Christ. They sang hymns which gave testimony to the glory and majesty of God, served as verbal testimony to those sitting in the pew around them as they declared their desire to "serve the Lord with gladness," and wished they had "a thousand tongues to sing of their great Redeemer's praise." Following these musical outbursts of dedication and testimony, someone stood in the pulpit and preached a message, with most using passages from the Bible. Many of these attendees found themselves surrounded by stained glass, pipes that were connected to air bellows and an organ, and a large wooden cross. Yet with 150,000-plus churches doing this week after week, 52 weeks per year-and many holding not one, but <i>two</i> services on Sunday-not one person who'd been living without Christ decided to convert and become a Christian. <p> With those statistics and track record, it should be obvious as to why we are declining in numbers. We're simply not getting our message out to those that need to hear it. America is not hearing the testimonies we are singing as we sit in our pews on Sunday. Why are they not impressed as we sing about God's power, his "sweet Holy Spirit", and his "joy, joy, joy, joy, down in our hearts"? Could it be that they are not hearing our songs? Maybe they're not aware that we put steeples on our roofs because they are symbols that the church is the place to come to find God. It could be that when they drive by our church signs and see that we're having an "organ recital" on Sunday afternoon that this is our way of inviting them to come to Jesus and have a life-changing experience. It could also be that the lines of communication have broken down somewhere! <p> <p> <b>OK, THIS IS GOING TO HURT A LITTLE</b> <p> I know that my words might sting a little, and that my sarcasm might seem harsh. But we are losing the opportunity to win our nation to Christ, and Christianity is dying. So, while some of what I have yet to say will hurt, my intent is not to harm. There is a difference. Dentists hurt, but they do so in order to help us have better teeth. Doctors have to hurt, but they do it because sometimes it is necessary to prevent real harm. I hate it when my doctor says, "Ok, this is going to hurt a little," but I know that sometimes I have to endure a little pain in order to experience the overall benefit. <p> In reporting about church growth in America between 1990 and 2000, George Barna and Mark Hatch reported in their book, <i>Boiling Point</i>, that "More than 80 percent of the adults who get counted as new adherents and thus as a part of the growth statistic are really just transplants from other churches-religious consumers in search of the perfect, or at least more exciting and enjoyable, church experience. Disturbingly little church growth is attributed to new converts. All in all, it was not a good decade for church growth." (pg. 236) <p> Some point out that all is not lost. While the overall number of churches in America is declining, there are also many new mega-churches popping up across the country. Willow Creek, Saddleback and other mega-churches are commonly known names in Christendom. They give us hope for the chance to turn around this slide away from Christianity that American seems to be going through. Yet only two percent of churches in America have 1,000 or more adults attending in a typical week. <p> <p> <b>THE "WHY" BEHIND THE WHY?</b> <p> There are many articles on why America is moving away from Christ. Some believe it is because of the messages sent by Hollywood to our movie theaters. Others believe it's because of efforts to remove God and Christ from the public view. Some might claim it's because public prayer has been removed from our schools. Frankly, I don't believe that any of these can be blamed for the decline in the number of Christians in America. I am a firm believer that anytime the church is ready they can bring their light out from under the bushel, and that nothing will be able to hide it. We know that Christians can thrive in the midst of persecution. Christians started and spread across the known world during a time of worldwide persecution, leading to the martyrdom of the very apostles that helped spread the Word. From pulpits across America, I have heard people declare different reasons for the decline of Christianity in America, yet I believe most are missing the real reason for our decline <p> I don't believe we're losing the battle because the world has overcome us, and in fact the Bible declares this will never happen. I don't believe that people are turning away from Christianity because we suffer such great persecution here in the United States. If something or someone is to blame for the decline of Christianity in America, it is the church itself. Most churches simply do not set a high priority on using the tools available to them to bridge the communication gap that separates the way we used to do things from the way we need to do them today in order to communicate the Gospel to our nation. <p> The tools already exist for churches to reach their communities, and we just need to use them. We need to recognize that we're not just talking about computers, computer programs and Internet services; we're talking about communication tools and opportunities. <p> I have seen them. I have seen them in churches up north, out east, and even down south in our nation's Bible belt. Over the years I literally have visited hundreds of churches in my travels across the country while speaking at conferences. I have visited Churches of all denominations, flavor and size, and I have heard from church leaders who share with me their frustration in dealing with church memberships that purposely stand in the way of their church using the necessary tools to communicate the Gospel to their communities. I have heard the excuses and the illogical reasons. I have been invited to speak at churches across the nation on how to use the many new tools available to help expand the ministry of churches in our nation, and everywhere I've been I always find those that resist the chance to look at new technology tools to advance their ministry. They simply don't want to change and they do not want to be uncomfortable with anything that takes them out of their comfort zone. <p> We are failing because too many of our members, and too many of our leaders, don't want to be uncomfortable. They don't want to try something new, or learn a new technique. They are happy to have become keepers of the fish bowl, instead of fisher's of men. <p> <p> <b>DO YOU LIKE TO FISH?</b> <p> I love to fish. I love to fish for bass, crappie and catfish, all native to my native state of Missouri. I also love to fish for trout. <p> In Missouri, trout fishing is different. In our state we have to go to special trout farms since trout are not natural to our state. Normally our lakes and rivers are too hot for trout. But there are a couple of places where we have large natural springs where the water is ice cold. <p> Since I love to fish for trout, I've discovered a perfect place down at Bennett Springs State Park. There is this one spot in one of the streams where I know there is a hole. And while the water goes by swiftly at the surface, the hole itself is a great place for the trout to drop in and feed. There are different fishing rules for different areas in the park. Up near the spring, you can fly fish only. A bit farther down the stream, you can use spinners and lures. My favorite hole is in an area where you can use live bait, and if you put a minnow on a hook in front of a shinny spinner and wade out into that cold water and drop your bait just above that hole and let it drift down, you will normally catch your limit in about an hour or so. <p> A couple of years ago, I took some friends down to Bennett to fish. The night before, in anticipation of everyone in our group catching their limit, I told them all about my favorite spot and what to do. I even drew a picture of where my special hole was. We all got up at 5:30 a.m. to be sure to reserve our spot on the side of the stream so that when the whistle blew we could all wade out and catch some trout. Well, when the whistle finally blew, my friends followed me and we all waded out into that cold stream, grabbed a minnow and were ready to go. I noticed everyone in my little party was standing around me ready to learn exactly where to cast except for the wife of one of my friends. When she hit that cold water she decided it was too uncomfortable for her, so she decided she was going to fish on the side of the stream. I tried to tell her that from where she was standing she would never be able to cast out far enough to reach deep enough water to catch anything. We were fishing with very light tackle and two-pound test line, so were very limited in how far we could cast. She informed me that she really didn't care as the water was simply too cold, and it was more comfortable for her to sit in a folding chair on the bank rather than wade out into the cold water. She also had an issue with using minnows, and decided to fish with a bare hook and spinner. After a couple of hours everyone else in the group had a nice stringer of trout ... all except one. And you can guess which one it was, right? She hadn't caught anything. Now, the point could be made that everyone had an equally good time, and she actually seemed to enjoy the morning on her lawn chair casting out into the water near the shore. She never got a bite, nor caught a fish, but she made it clear that she wasn't disappointed and as good a time as any one of us did. <p> My point is this: She didn't catch any fish. And she was happy about not catching any fish. This is a great example of what is happening in many churches today. They are not willing to do anything uncomfortable, and are happy with the appearance that they are trying. As long as they maintain that appearance, continue to be a part of the group and are comfortable, then the end result doesn't really matter. <p> But when it comes to the mission and ministry of a church, results <i>do</i> matter. Many years ago, steeples on the buildings, organs with pipes, and stained glass were all the allure we needed to let seekers know that the church was the answer and the way to find God. Today, this simply doesn't work. <p> The fish are biting, but we're not using the right bait. You might say that I'm wrong, that we're not catching anything because the fish simply aren't biting. If you look around you will see that this simply isn't true, and here are two glaring examples to prove it. <p> First, visit any bookstore and you will find a large selection of books under the heading of "Spirituality." People are seeking spiritual things. They have become disillusioned with a church that insists on trying to reach them without answering their questions. The Bible is applicable to today's problems and does have the answer to the questions people have. It's just that most churches refuse to wade into the cold water and bait the hook with the items that men and women are seeking. <p> Barna and others report that the search for spiritual answers is on the rise, although church attendance is on the decline and there are less and less Christians each year. Why? Barna reported in 2001 that within this decade as many as 50 million individuals may rely solely upon the Internet for all of their faith-based experiences. And what do they find if they visit a church Web site? They find a picture of the church's pastor, maybe a picture of the building, a church services schedule and, if they're really innovative, a map to help find the building. This is not what people are looking for when they're up late at night, sitting in front of their computers desperately surfing the Internet for answers. <p> <p> <b>IT'S TIME TO GET UNCOMFORTABLE AND WADE INTO THE COLD WATER</b> <p> Churches that are made up of older adults (yep, those of us 50 and over) will die if they don't recruit new members in their 20's, 30's and 40's. It's a fact ... they don't have a choice. So the choice is to get a little uncomfortable and wade into the water, or just hold on to the illusion and convince yourselves it's enough. This doesn't mean that church members who don't like to text <i>must</i> start texting. It does mean, however, that the older members of the church-normally the financial backbone of a church-need to commit to supporting new ways, new ideas and new methodology in order to expand and enhance their churches' ministry. They can't just sit it out. All of us need to be held accountable for our part in the evangelistic impact of the churches we belong to and attend. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Windows PCs in the Ministry</b> by <b>STEVE HEWITT</b> Copyright © 2010 by Thomas Nelson Publishers. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.