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Homosexual rights activists gain influence in public schools (10/17/04)

Church’s prayer births children’s ministry (10/17/04)

Partner program revitalizes dying church (10/10/04)

Church music festival attracts variety of visitors (10/10/04)

Churches urge compassion for alienated smokers (9/19/04)

Youth ride wooden waves in church parking lots (9/12/04)

A/G, COGIC join forces through inner-city campus (9/12/04)

Christians respond to victimized women and children (8/29/04)

Growing slavic church shares new facility (8/29/04)

Couple embarks on capitol prayer tour (8/29/04)

ADHD requires multifaceted treatment approach (8/22/04)

Small congregation grows — by planting churches (8/22/04)

‘Under God’ stays in Pledge of Allegiance, at least for now (8/8/04)

Church reaches out to those feeling loss (8/8/04)

Churches act pre-emptively to reduce risk of abuse (7/25/04)

Credit cards ensnare record number of Americans (7/25/04)

Church helps out with donated CD, recycled buses (7/25/04)

New wave of pastors minister to emerging adults (7/18/04)

‘Walking Witnesses’ raise thousands for missions (7/18/04)

Healing center offers alternative medicine (7/18/04)

Growing number of Hispanics impact economy (7/11/04)

'Busy' couple finds time for compassion ministry (7/11/04)

Hand-copied Bible leaves 40-year legacy (7/11/04)

Pastor ends hunger strike when strip club promises to sell (6/27/04)

‘Military survival kit’ requests inundate A/G (6/27/04)

Fourth of July outreach draws thousands (6/27/04)

Drivers warned to steer clear of distractions (6/27/04)

Pastors face more counseling demands (6/20/04)

Church uses touch of ‘flavor’ to reach community (6/20/04)

Outrageous self-expression often starts, stops at home (6/13/04)

Runner raises $5,200 for Convoy of Hope (6/13/04)

Euphemisms tempt Christians to conveniently shed sin, guilt (5/30/04)

Funds for Easter play buy groceries instead (5/30/04)

Identity theft threatens millions of Americans (5/23/04)

Spanish speakers face challenges, opportunities in United States culture (5/16/04)

Health experts implore Americans to get fit (5/9/04)

Leaders say Christian faith stems recidivism (4/25/04)

Riders feel at home in Orlando sanctuary (4/18/04)

Churches try to keep human touch with new media (4/11/04)

Christians see Passion as ministry opportunity (3/28/04)

Tutoring improves lives, opens doors for evangelism (3/21/04)

Cybertheft costly — especially for Christians (3/14/04)

A/G women seize new ministry opportunities (2/29/04)

Investment in early spiritual maturity reaps rewards (2/22/04)

Christian families respond to foster care opportunities (2/15/04)

Childless couples grapple with emotional roller coaster, faith challenges (2/8/04)

Few men seek help from abortion grief, guilt (1/18/04)

Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

2003 PE Report stories

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2002 PE Report stories

2001 News Digest stories

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Churches try to keep human touch with new media

By Mark A. Kellner (4/11/04)

A growing number of 21st-century churches are moving toward technologically driven worship services. Digital cameras capture worship throughout the sanctuary; PowerPoint presentations deliver the words to songs, sermon points and even Scripture passages.

Some see technology as a means of ministering more effectively in church services; others see it as a distraction.

One thing is clear: Technology has changed and will continue to change the way American Christians worship.

According to media ministers at several larger Assemblies of God churches, “high-tech” worship systems are enabling newcomers, as well as longtime attendees, to experience personal worship even when the sanctuary seats 3,000 people and is packed to the rafters.

Brian Steckman, lighting director at Phoenix First Assembly in Arizona, says multimedia efforts help orient first-time visitors to the order of the service. “We try to gear what happens on the big screen to show people how to become participators in worship as opposed to spectators of worship,” he says.

Siobhan Klos, production director at Phoenix First Assembly, agrees.

“When people are unchurched and don’t know the words to a song, if they see words on a screen they’re more likely to sing along,” Klos says. “If they don’t know the words, they won’t join in. It creates an atmosphere to help worship.”

“The goal of any church today is to be relevant to the community and the people who are walking in the doors,” says Mark Hermann, media and technologies director at Capital Christian Center in Sacramento, Calif. “We are so attuned to walking in and watching TV. While some might classify [our use of technology] as entertainment, we call it being relevant to the people we are trying to reach.”

Of course, anything can be used to excess, and already warnings are being sounded about the deployment of technology in sanctuaries.

In his new book, High-Tech Worship? Using Presentation Technologies Wisely, Christian author and media expert Quentin Schultze takes aim at the PowerPointing of America’s churches. Schultze says church leaders must realize that these technologies are not neutral when placed in the sanctuary.

“We have to put them in the context of worship, rather than allow them to distort worship,” says Schultze, who lives in Grand Rapids, Mich. “Technological distortion of worship is transforming it into either entertainment or teaching as is found in a university or business setting.”

Schultze notes that the body of Christ is growing fastest in Africa and Latin America, where technology is rarely incorporated into worship. “In the United States we are the most tech-optimistic people in the world,” Schultze says. “We see tech as the solution for problems in education, politics, medicine and now religion.”

At the same time, however, the grafting of high-tech onto the high touch of traditional worship is producing some positive results, according to Brian Fuller, who owns Full Circle Media in Raleigh, N.C. Fuller believes that using technology can draw more members of the church into participating in worship, even if only in the background.

“Ten years ago, there was a sense in which the people in the pews considered themselves to be the audience,” Fuller says. “The congregation was preached at or to. They were occasionally enlisted in singing, but they were not performing. Now, even in a church of 300 people, a media-savvy service involves a lot more people.”

Fuller adds that the 14-year-olds who know how to make PowerPoint presentations are connecting with 80-year-olds who have visual materials that can be used for those slides: “That’s a kind of intergenerational collaboration of worship we haven’t seen for a long time. I’m wholly excited.”

Greg Slape, director of communications technologies at James River Assembly in Ozark, Mo., is an enthusiastic user of technology, but advises there must be balance.

“It should be used to make the experience easier,” says Slape. “If that’s a case of putting the Scripture on the screen so somebody could actually take notes, then fine. All we’re doing is making it possible to take notes more accurately.”

Sharon Lister, a member of James River Assembly for 12 years, has severe nerve deafness and reads lips. She is grateful that technology has aided her in understanding preaching and worship and believes that technological advances encourage more people with a hearing loss to attend church.

“Music, especially fast-tempo music, is hard to follow, so I appreciate the words on the screen,” Lister says. “Also, when the choir or soloist sings, I can enjoy the music along with the words.”

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