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At this point the conversation on technology in the church is almost as old as time, highly technological time that is. If you attend church with any frequency you’ve probably sat next to someone who was reading the Bible on an iPhone or Andriod or have seen your pastor scrolling through his or her sermon on an iPad or other tablet device. Long gone are the days when you were asked to turn off your cell phone before service begun. Nowadays you are strongly encouraged to keep them on and maybe even tweet something to the world outside of the church’s four walls. The latter is what Jason Caston and AT&T’s Inspired Mobility campaign are banking on.
Caston, author of the “iChurch Method,” and manager of Digital Platforms and Innovation for T.D. Jakes Ministries is also a consultant for AT&T and a lead on Inspired Mobility, a national conversation that highlights how people use technology to find inspiration and connect with others in the faith. Through the use of the hashtag #inspiredmobility people can connect with one another and share their faith. Of this Caston says, “We are evolving from the typical ‘tell your neighbor’ on the left model to making that experience global. We believe that technology has a place inside of the worship experience.” Through the #inspiredmobility campaign Caston is hoping to educate church leadership on how to connect with the congregation and help them come to the realization that they need technology to connect and meet people where they are.
It should come as no surprise that the early launch stories on the campaign came from black media outlets and black churches given that the particular demographic are early adopters of technology, particularly smartphones. According to the 2013 Consumer Report, “African Americans outpace the population with smartphone ownership. Seventy-one perfect of African-Americans own smartphones, compared to 62% of the total population. Most African-Americans use Androids (73%) versus iPhones (27%).” But #inspiredmobility isn’t just about the black church it’s about the global church, and Caston suggests that churches must understand that as soon as they go online they become an international entity that impacts more than their local areas. “The content they [churches] have is life changing and all people are asking for is access to it. We, the people, want more access to what churches already know is life-changing content,” he says.
Concord Church–highlighted in the video below–is bringing Inspired Mobility to life through a number of methods such as streaming of services, mobile giving, Hot Spots around campus and even selfie encouragement–encouragement of taking selfies in church.
But there is something else to campaigns such as #inspiredmobility that we must pay attention to, the issue of quality of connection over quantity. Technology allows churches to increase their exposure to people and vice versa, but what of the quality of people’s connection to God? It is easy to encourage people to tweet during service–and for them to comply–but we must also encourage them to cultivate their soil so that the seed of the Word may fall upon it and grow. This is a challenging task in a world that is very reactive and, arguably, sometimes distracted by technology. To this Caston offers up an example of a church that is bridging the quality over quantity gap, the Potter’s House Internet Church Campus. The church boasts 20,000 e-members, a staff of over 20 people, and over 40 elders and ministers who connect with, disciple, and build relationships with people virtually. “We are taking everything we do offline and mimicking it online,” Caston says of the internet campus. This is all in the name of proving that technology not only has the capability to reach as many people as possible but it can also foster solid, life-giving relationships between people and God. The point is to work the technology instead of letting the technology work us, a delicate balance that Caston seems to be taking on in his work for the Potter’s House and AT&T.
Inspired Mobility is a continuous campaign that will grow as people’s participation in it grow, so share your stories using the #inspiredmobility hashtag and help this campaign reach true universal status.