It occurred to me recently that we may need a Luddite revolution in our attitude towards ministry.
Now, if you know who the Luddites were, you've probably already picked up an irony in the fact that I'm blogging about the need to become Christian Luddites. The Luddites were basically a group of tradies in 19th-century England. They saw the threat posed by the spread of industrial technology, and protested against it—even sabotaging local wool and cotton mills.
Now before you take an axe to your latest iMac, let me clarify: the sort of Luddite I have in mind is someone who is not opposed to technology itself, but who feels that the way we are using certain technologies is unhelpful and counter-productive.
Straight away I thought of three ways that I probably need to embrace the Luddite way. Here are some resolutions:
- When I need to communicate with an individual, I will speak to them directly, on the phone or in person. I will not email, text or Facebook them. Email is useful for mass-broadcasting information, but it is not adequate for building relationship or ministering to someone.
- As a paid minister of the Word, I won't spend my day at a computer behind a desk and call that work.
- In public, I will seek to talk to people rather than listening to podcast sermons from Seattle.
In each case, the technology is doing the same thing to me: it is reducing the quality of my relationships. The email sent to 10 members of a Bible study group giving them details for an upcoming social event might seem efficient, and, in one sense, it is. However, the email does not provide an opportunity for the unplanned informal conversations that build relationship or give mutual encouragement.
The podcast sermon is also a far less relational experience than listening to a talk at your local church or fellowship group. The latter is delivered by someone with whom you are in relationship, or at least someone who knows your local context and community.
Of course, the reason why this matters is because ministry is always about relationships with people. As Paul writes to the Thessalonian church, he reminds them that his ministry among them was intensely personal: he was like a mother nursing a child (1 Thess 2:7); he was willing to expend everything he had for them (2:8); he exhorted them like a father (2:11-12); and now that he has been physically wrenched away, he desperately desires to see them again “face to face” in order to further his ministry amongst them (2:17, 3:10).
Ministry is about real relationships with people. So we need to ask ourselves, “Is technology working against that goal?” Any more thoughts as to the ways in which we might need to embrace a Luddite revolution in the way we use technology?