Thursday, March 10, 2011

Extensions to the Body of Christ?

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
On this dreary, rainy evening in the Valley, I had the pleasure of consulting with a local Mennonite congregation, facilitating a dialogue on their use of technology (after they fed me which was great). Major topics of discussion centered around the church website and social media, technology in worship services, and what to do with the diminishing use of the church library. It's a congregation that already has a lot going for it in those areas and the knowledge for where to go seemed to already reside in the group, so hopefully my facilitation helped corral that and point it in positive directions.

As I was driving away from the church after the meeting, a thought struck me from Shane Hipps' book, The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture. He talks about all technologies being extensions of our human bodies. So a hammer is an extension of our hands. Rollerblades and cars are extensions of our feet. A camera is an extension of our eye. Microphones, websites, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, are all extensions of our mouths. The reading of stories, textbooks, news articles, or essays all supplement the intellect housed in our brains, and the knowledge we acquire can then work itself out through other parts of the body. And in general, any form of communication involves the use of our rational and imaginative capacities. So all these things involve a body or bodies.

I like this embodied way of thinking about technology because it offers interesting ways to talk about my favorite metaphor for the church: the Body of Christ. Christians are all members of that body and if we're being faithful we're helping the body be healthy. So in our use of technologies - extensions of our various members/body parts - how can we use it in such a way that maintains faithfulness and edifies the body of Christ? That's an important thing to keep in mind when congregations start talking about the myriad technologies, because there are so many details involved with using just even one, that you can quickly get dragged down into the weeds and lose sight of that overall purpose: worshiping and glorifying God.

So as we extend the body of Christ through our use of technology, let's do so wisely and discern with the Holy Spirit in our midst, so the wielders don't end up being the wielded.

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