This morning on Facebook I re-shared this post from a weeks ago about projectors in worship. One of those who commented was Frank Ezinga, the church organist from the first congregation I served (in Langley, British Columbia). I thought Frank’s comments deserved a wider audience so, with his permission, I’m sharing them here:
I think there is a place for technology in the church, but: with all technology, there are unintended consequences. In churches, unintended consequences are due to a lack of research, planning, and intentionality. As a Reformed church, should we “keep up with the Joneses; otherwise, more young people will join the evangelical church in town?” I observed that baby boomers and gen-X want to use technology because they didn’t grow up with them. Those “born with a device in their hand” are indifferent to technology. A church does not become more attractive because of technology (Barna group has done the research.)
Projectors have an impact in Reformed churches, such as:
The congregation becomes PASSIVE: people read from the screen, and some only stare at it. When there is a problem, few remember that there is a Book of Praise in the pew and the singing stalls. When the minister moves from A. to B. to C., the people in the pew inertly wait for the next slide to appear.
SONG SELECTION changes: When learning new tunes, the congregation struggles, so ministers only select songs with familiar tunes. This impacts the opinion of the congregation and skews “testing results.” Existing Psalm tunes that are less frequently sung are omitted because the congregation will not like singing them from the screen. Singing is part of spiritual formation, which is now directed by what practically works rather than what is spiritually needed.
The congregation LOSES CONTEXT = losing understanding = losing knowledge. We hardly sing Psalm 1:3, and some people don’t remember that stanza 3 exists. Psalm 130: 2,4 are favorite, but we don’t see the “Out of the depth” in our peripheral vision. We read a Scripture passage but don’t see what is before or after – which can be crucial in understanding. As a result, ministers less often ask the congregation to keep the bible open because they didn’t have it open in the first place.
Using screens for worship DEVALUES Scripture and the Book of Praise as merely books we read and sing from. Not physically using a Bible may result in not knowing which books are OT and NT, where the Minor Prophets are, the five books of Moses, or the Four Gospels. The Book of Praise is not just a songbook but a book for worship. The next generation will not know that it contains an order of worship, three Creeds with an introduction, that the Canons of Dort have five chapters, that the Psalms are divided into five books, what the forms of subscription are, the prayers in the back, and that we have a transparent Church Order.
One of my fellow students at LU is a minister in a 4,000-member church in California, where the leadership and congregation decided NOT to use screens in worship. In class, we went through considerations for using technology in worship. A central question was: does the use of technology (screens) increase the knowledge of God and his Word so that the people grow closer to God, worship Him with greater love and understanding, and can be more effective disciples in the world?
Consistories are concerned about the spiritual well-being of their flock. I am curious about their intended or expected outcome of using screens for the congregation’s spiritual growth over the next few decades. (In our congregation the screens were quietly installed in during the pandemic without any explanation.) I hope that your post will cause other consistories to evaluate their motivations, intentions, and desired outcomes of using screens in worship from a spiritual perspective.
There were a few other comments as well — you can read them all on my FB author page here.