Tim Garrison is a pastor in the Southern California Conference

Last week I attended a wedding in a beautiful outdoor setting. The Pastor who performed the ceremony did an excellent job. I did notice that instead of a leather bound Bible, he held an iPad in his hand, although an “iPad boy” did not carry it down the center isle and hand it to him!

It reminded me of a recent clergy conference I attended. I looked down my row of seats at one of the general sessions and there were countless “blue faces” in the darkened room, basking in the glow of our high tech age.

When I was at seminary in 1982 I wrote a paper on “The Positive Use of Television”. The premise of the paper was the power of the screen and the need to train ourselves and our children how to best use it. I didn’t realize how much of a prophet I was. Almost 30 years later screens are a dominate part of our culture. Ever wonder how much texting and emailchecking is going on during your sermon? We look down at our “smart phones” and up at the countdowns, video clips and projected song words in church. Our sermons are visually enhanced by POWER Point. I am waiting for the day we hand out 3-D glasses.

When does the medium cross the line from enhancing to surpassing the message? When does the use of technology create unrealistic expectations?

Anyone who uses computers, projectors, screens, enhanced audio and theatrical lighting knows that it’s a myth that technology makes things easier. The fact is the more you use these current communication tools the higher you raise the level of audience expectation.

I must confess to what I call “tech temptation.” I love browsing sermonspice.com or faithvisuals.com for the latest countdown or funny video clip. There is nothing more satisfying than a graphically enhanced well-designed PowerPoint slide, or the amazing movement of the ocean waves on a lyric background slide.

The screen has great power. A video clip I used last week positioned scripture using the word “amazing” against scenes of Christ with an updated version of Amazing Grace. People were visibly moved and commented on how much they were impacted by a six-minute visual.

The challenge for all of us who love and use these wonderful tools, is knowing when our worshipers are so overpowered by TECHnique that they miss the teaching.

Tim Garrison is a pastor in the Southern California Conference

This was originally published in “Best Practices,” a free email newsletter from the North American Division Resource Center.