A Theology of Technology

How do Christians handle technology? We we blindly accept it all forms as neutral? Do we withdraw in a sort of isolationist rejection? Fascinating questions we must tackle as faithful followers of Jesus during the digital revolution. These are the questions Craig Detwiler discusses in a fascinating new book, iGods. I had the change to chat with him this week over at Leadership Journal. Here’s a snippet of that conversation:

If you could counsel church leaders, how would you advise them to approach, in their teaching and personal life example, an adequate theology of technology?

As with entertainment, the temptation seems to be disengagement or overindulgence. How do develop a maturity that welcomes the wonders and gifts of technology without letting our devices drive our decision-making?

I’ve been rereading Scripture with an eye on technology, wondering how to translate enduring truths into contemporary terms. For example, can we call God the original technologist? Perhaps it is helpful to talk about Genesis in terms of engineering and aesthetics. We know that Jesus was more than a carpenter’s son, but do we also realize the Greek word for “carpenter” was tekton? Perhaps the “magic” that we associate with the iPhone isn’t so far removed from the original Designer.

I haven’t heard enough pastors talking and modeling digital discipleship. If our congregants spend hours each week involved in social media, then how do we follow God and craft a winsome witness via our smart phones? In the 21st century, we all have the capacity to be narrowcasters, with the possibility of becoming broadcasters. That is a remarkable moment to preach and teach within.

We also might find ourselves distinguished by our ongoing belief in the sacredness of the body, the need to relieve physical and psychic pain and suffering via presence—from chicken soup to bedside prayers. I’m confident the Spirit will continue to lead us towards acts of kindness towards our neighbors and into the farthest corners of the Internet.

You really should read the rest of this interview here:

Guest Post: Living Out a Risky Faith

I’m pleased to feature a guest post from my good friend, Owen StrachanOwen is a gifted communicator whose work appears in publications ranging from Christianity Today to Atlantic Monthly. He is executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and assistant professor of Christian Theology and Church History at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky.  He also teaches for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Risky Gospel: Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome.  He is married to Bethany and is the father of two children. You can check out the website for this book here

Something has happened in evangelicalism in recent years. We’re like the kid in the corner of the schoolroom with his head down. The teacher comes over to us and asks how we are and we only mumble in response. Recess comes and we walk listlessly around the playground. We feel depressed, we lack confidence, and nobody wants to play four-square with us.

Evangelicals need a shot in the arm today. We need some spring in our step. There are some folks out there who want to help us. They tell us that, if we buy their books and DVDs, we’ll learn the secret to being endlessly buoyant. Our troubles will evaporate; we might even become as rich as <insert name of guru here> if we really pray hard. Other voices take us a different way. They tell us to play down our Christianity, to soften our faith, to focus on making friends and influencing societies. If we would stop representing ethics from a bygone era, we’d do ourselves a lot of favors, and get invited to a lot more dinner parties besides.

There’s another way we could go, though. It doesn’t involve chasing money, being relentlessly upbeat, or backing away from biblical conviction. It is a risk, though. It’s a challenge. In Scripture, Jesus calls us to a larger, bigger, surround-sound faith. He takes us by the shoulder, looks us in the eye, and tells us we can get on mission for him. In places like the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30, the Lord of the Word challenges us to break with fearful Christianity, and to adopt a bold, aggressive brand of faith. We have a choice: we can be like the wicked servant who kept his head down, fearful of his great master, or we can be like the faithful servant who took his master’s investment and made more talents. The choice is simple; the options are stark.

We’re tempted in numerous ways today to be like the fearful servant. God seems like he’s out to get us. We’ve embraced a mystical faith that leaves us unable to make even basic decisions. We’re unsure whether to wear the white socks or the tan ones, and we’re nervous that if we make the wrong decision, we’ll mess up the work of the kingdom. We have no plan for our lives because the thought of long-term planning scares us. Better to keep our heads down, muddle through life, not make anyone really mad at us, and hope for God to zap us with wisdom and blessing from the sky.

The gospel offers us a better life than this. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a powerful gospel. It’s got a ton of horsepower. It will swallow us whole. But that’s the point: too many of us are looking for a solution to life outside of Christ and his call to follow him all the way with all our heart. What you and I most need is not a life of ease and comfort, where our daily troubles are gone. What we most need is a big vision of God that will push us onward and enable us to transcend our weaknesses. We need a dynamic Lord of heaven and earth and a plan for glorifying him with our careers, our families, our evangelism, our churches, and every aspect of our lives. Here’s the good news: Scripture gives us just this kind of plan.

This won’t look the same for every believer. God gives us his own specific calling on our lives. We often think of this as a bad thing–”Too bad I’m not her; then I could really be serving the Lord.” That’s backwards. God has given us our job, our family, our church, our friends. He doesn’t want you and me to be living someone else’s life and doing someone else’s ministry. He wants us to be faithful right where we are. He wants us to stop muddling through the day, the week, or the year, and to start approaching every minute of every hour as if it counts for eternity–because it does.

The solution for many of us who want to lead a more God-glorifying life is not going to be leaving where we are. It’s going to be staying in this place and working in Christ’s name. Evangelicals are really good at guilt. We constantly feel like we should be somewhere else; call it “Spiritual Dislocation Syndrome.” We should always be open to God’s leading, and he may call us to something far, far away. If so, great! But many of us need to approach the day-to-day existence he’s given us with greater purpose, purpose derived from the gospel of Jesus.

Maybe the risk God is leading you to take isn’t a career change. Maybe it’s that you need to risk your small vision of your life in order to honor him more thoroughly. Maybe you need to stop pursuing comfort, safety, and security, which we can easily make into false gospels. We think, “If I could just get along with my family, I’d be happy.” Or “If I could just like my career more, then I’d be content.” Or “If I could just get married, then my problems would be over.” None of these pursuits are bad in and of themselves. But here’s the deal: only God, and more of God, will make us truly happy. But to get more of God, you need to reframe your life.

It needs, in other words, to be about him.

How can you get there? What are the tips to happiness? Well, I’m not sure there’s a neat-and-clean checklist out there. I do know that if you truly embrace the call of the gospel, and if you find your identity in nothing but Christ and him crucified, you will find yourself remarkably free to serve your Savior. Christians are those who are loved by God. They know this truth, and it liberates them to lead God-intoxicated lives. There’s nothing holding you and me back from that. You’re not alone. You’re not stuck in the corner of the classroom. God has given his Son and 10,000 gifts to you.

Now all you need to do is open your eyes and start living in the power of the Spirit.

From Pulpit to Pew: On Joining a New Church

After five years in the pulpit and 30 years prior growing up in, working, and serving in my home church, I found myself in the oddly new position of looking for a place to worship. And so our quest for a new church began as soon as we moved from Chicago area to Nashville. After years of looking askance at those who “church shop”, I was in the buying mood. We felt it was important for us to find and get settled in a church as soon as we could, but we knew our search must be spirit-directed and guided by prayer. Our criteria was pretty simple:

  • It must be a church that preaches and teaches the Word of God (in a systematic, deep way.) We’re big on gospel-centered, expository preaching and teaching.
  • It must be proudly Southern Baptist.
  • It must be close to our house. In my pastoral experience, I’ve found greater distance from home to church usually prevents the type of community and closeness needed to become an essential part of a local body.

We also had some other criteria, but things that are not as much “deal-breakers” such as church culture, children’s ministry, welcoming atmosphere, friends who go there, etc. One thing we were determined not to do was choose a church based on flimsy things like the color of the carpet or the flavor of the coffee. We want to worship where God would have us worship, meaning we knew we wouldn’t find a church that exactly matches our preferences–and this is good because the point of worship is not me, but God.

So I created a spreadsheet of about 8 churches to visit, based on referrals from friends and web research and other criteria. Our plan was to visit all eight, then circle back and do second visits, just to get another look. But halfway through our search, something happened. We found a church we not only liked, but felt God calling us to join: First Baptist Church of Mt. Juliet. Angela and I went one after the first Sunday and said, “It’s okay if we just say we like this one and stay here, right?” And so we did.

There are a few reasons we feel compelled to worship at FBMJ. First, we just had a sense, after worshipping there, that this was the place for us. It was amazing, after talking with Pastor Andy Hale and his team, just how much we track with where God is taking this congregation: the desire to take the gospel to the community, to exalt Christ and seek His glory in all we do. Secondly, we really enjoy Pastor Andy’s preaching. By “enjoy” I don’t mean, “we found someone who politely affirms everything we believe so we leave feeling good.” By “enjoy,” I mean, we are fed by the rich, deep truths of Scripture every week. We’re challenged, convicted, and brought to repentance and confession weekly. Third, we have good friends who are involved at FBMJ. Jonathan and Beth Howe are longtime friends. Beth is the new director of children’s ministry at FBMJ. It’s helpful to have at least one family that you know very well attend church with you. Fourth, this church is close to our home, so we can be involved in activities and begin to build relationships with this body of believers.

Those are just a few of the reasons we like our new church home. There are many more. Mostly, though, we’re glad to join, get involved, to give and to take, to love and be loved, to nurture and be nurtured.

It’s a bit of a strange feeling sitting in a pew after being in the pulpit. I’ll admit there is a part of me that wants to get up and preach, but I know in this season of life God is wanting me to hear preaching rather than deliver preaching. And yet there is some relief in enjoying worship as a church member and not a church leader. Plus, I’m grateful to serve an organization at ERLC whose mission is to serve the Church.


What I’m most encouraged by is God’s work in every community, every corner of this world, building His church in big and small ways. There is much hand-wringing and debate about “the future of the Church”, but we have this sure promise from Jesus:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18 (ESV)

Finding God in the Boring

Had a chance to interview my friend, Michael Kelly about his new book, Boring, which you should buy. Michael is a Director of Discipleship at Lifeway Christian Resources. He’s a creative speaker and author. If you have not read his book, Wednesdays Were Pretty Normalyou should. In that book, Michael walks thru the difficult journey he and his wife endured with their son, Joshua who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 2.

In this video, we discuss the meaningfulness of the ordinary parts of our lives, how we glorify God in the mundane details of everyday.

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