Will 2012 Be the Year The Church Really Goes High-Tech?

Some local churches are starting out 2012 will current and future high-tech ways of worship. Richmond’s First African Baptist and Nashville’s Mt. Zion are just two examples.

Because it falls on a Sunday, New Year’s Day has a spiritual ring to it for those of us in the Body of Christ (better known as “The Church”).  But, today is seems that ring has an especially high-tech feel to it.  

Can you imagine watching baptism on an iPhone?  What about one of the nation’s oldest churches doing away with the use of hymnals?   Wireless connectivity enabling computing anywhere in the church building?

These things are already the norm in many places of worship, especially so-called megachurches.   But, in 2012 it may not  just be the megachurch that’s going high tech . 

I couldn’t help but note the tweets of Bishop Joseph Walker’s parishioners at Mount Zion Baptist in Nashville.

@ Angelo1906 tweeted

Watching @MtZionNashville on my Mt. Zion iPhone app. Man oh man, how I miss Nashville! Watched nearly 20 baptisms this mornin. #GloryToGod

@06Chocolate Thunder also wrote

@MtZionNashville has an app. It’s free…. Go download it. #TeamAndroid and #TeamIphone.

These tweets from Mt. Zion Baptist in the Music City (which most would term mega-churches with multiple locations) came on the same day as Richmond’s First African Baptist launched a new media and technology initiative that will take advantage of the smartphones that more and more churchgoers are bringing to church even as others are reading their Bible on an iPad or other ereader. 

Photo Courtesy: ZDNet

“Most people come to church, they bring some sort of device,” said Rodney Waller, senior pastor of Richmond’s First African Baptist Church. “We want our church to become wireless.”

Waller says by Easter, which falls on April 8, he wants his hundreds of parishioners to be reading the scripture from a large screen in the front of the church, which is located in Barton Heights community on the city’s northside.   Instead of hymnals, worshipers will sing from words projected on screen and scripture references will be beamed so that everyone has the same translation of the Bible.

The shift in technology at the 231-year-old First African Baptist  may be  indicative of a move that is happening in more and more local churches, regardless of size.  The reality of churchgoers who use smartphones and tablet devices everywhere else mandates that the traditional ways of worship be brought into the 21st century.

Today is the first Sunday I can remember when there was no church bulletin at First African Baptist Church (my home church).  The bulletins are not distributed at every service, replaced by a monthly printed newsletter.

It will be an exciting year to watch places of worship as they gear-up for high-tech Bible Study, evangelism, mission work and community ministry.   Stay tuned.

Author: George Daniels

George L. Daniels is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. After spending eight years in the local television newsroom working as a producer at stations in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia, Daniels moved from the newsroom to the classroom. He’s conducted research on diversity issues in the media workplace and change in the television newsroom as well as media convergence. Before going to work in television news, Daniels worked briefly as a freelance writer for The Richmond Free Press in his hometown of Richmond, Va.

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