I grew up surrounded by technology. I am child of the 80s, a time before most people had a personal computer much less the internet in their home. But my dad worked for Xerox for over 25 years so we have had a personal computer and some form of the internet for as long as I can remember. We had the old dial up modems that would kick your sister off the phone with her boyfriend when you logged on. My dad decided to add two phone lines to our home so that the sibling fights would stop. Those days seem like an eternity ago in this internet powered digital age.

In 2018, we have a host of new technology issues to think through like protecting our online privacy in a world of data mining and how to deploy artificial intelligence in ethical ways. Even our coffee pots and other household items are “smart” and connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) and these items have more processing power than some supercomputers did in the when I growing up.

So how do we minister to and help guide our churches through this digital age? Here are two ways that you can help your people to navigate in our ever-changing society.

1. Remember that some things will be different, but the most important never change.

This future we enter is very different from the one that our parents had. Gone are the days of dial-up internet and cell phones so big that they had a corded handsets and car-mounted antennas. Today, there is not a single sector of society that has not been affected by the rapid expansion and adoption of technology especially artificial intelligence. 

AI is being adopted at an exponential rate in career fields like medicine, manufacturing, finance, security, and even warfare. Most sectors of society will be connected to some form of AI in the near future. In the transportation sector, it is estimated that five million professional drivers will have their jobs replaced by self-driving technologies within the next decade or two if trend line continues with the rise of AI-empowered self-driving vehicles. This will affect cross-country freight drivers and even local delivery drivers dropping off your latest Amazon purchase.

This leaves many in our churches rightfully fearful and overwhelmed by the amount of the change. Many fear if there job is next to be cut or drastically affected by technology. Though others will be full of optimism and hope at the new opportunities that technology allows us to have as a result of the rapid expansion. This is not just a generational divide.

Church leaders have the unique God-given role to remind our people of the foundational truths of the Bible that will never change. No amount of technological innovation will change the fact that we are each created in the image of God and that our worth and dignity is found solely in how we were each created. Much of technology, especially artificial intelligence, is based in an evolutionary worldview that sees these technological shifts as another phase of evolution where humans create machines that are able to outpace us in terms of productivity, quality, and sheer breadth of work. These machines just serve as the next phase of evolution.

When our worth and dignity is tied directly to what we can offer society, human value decreases because we are entering an age where machines will be able to do things in ways that we can only imagine today. But as Christians, we know that our dignity is tied to the fact that we are the only part of the entire creation to bear the image of God. Even the angels which are much more powerful than we are recognize that humans were created uniquely in this image. They even long to know what has been revealed to directly to us (1 Pet. 1:12). The know that even with lesser abilities that we are the crowning part of creation.

Pastors are able to help their people see the truth of the gospel and the fact that our God is not surprised or caught off guard by this rise of technology. Technology is a good gift that God has given us to use as tools to glorify him and to seek the good of society. You do not need to know everything there is to know about technological trends and artificial intelligence, but we do need to be up to date on how these things might affect our people’s daily lives. The church will be there when things change and become challenging for our people. We must proclaim the good news of our God that is always reigning above the heavens and that nothing takes him off guard.

2. Guard family and community time.

It should come as no surprise that there are new and unique challenges to the family in this digital age.  The inability to disconnect from smart devices is growing by the day. We fill our homes with technology that makes our lives easier but also keeps us from connecting deeply with the ones that we love. We waste countless hours on social media or the internet, often to the neglect of our kids, spouses, and neighbors. We are tempted to automate mundane tasks and outsource others in the name of speed and saving time. Today, you can even purchase robots to clean your home and mow your lawn. But what are we doing with all of this time that we are “saving”?

Pastors need to encourage our families to take time to disconnect from wireless world around us to focus on caring for one another. This will be harder than you think but we were each created for this type of authentic personal connection with other people. We were never meant to live life alone or just socially connected through various online platforms. We were created to be in flesh and blood relationships with one another that are often hard, messy, and uncomfortable.

We need to encourage ourselves and our people to take time to be with family and friends without all of the distractions. Maybe that means a no-phone dinner and game night. Or maybe a vacation where we don’t document it all on social media. You might even do something manually, like mow your lawn, and learn together the value of hard work and how to develop work ethic.

It is easy to become overwhelmed with all of the technology developments and news coming out these days. But as pastors, you have the unique role to speak into the lives of your people to remind them that even though things are changing by the minute all around us that the foundational truths of the Bible don’t change. Our God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow regardless of the challenges that technological development brings. 

We will be reminded of those truth as we gather together to proclaim the glorious gospel of Christ as a church as together as families. So let’s power down, seek to connect with one another, and encourage each other to press on as we together proclaim the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).