Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Pastor and His Gadgets

For quite some time I have been wondering about the technologies that a pastor needs. Every occupation has certain tools of the trade that are non-negotiable essentials. Does the pastor need anything more than a Bible and a car, however?

This is relevant to me because I see so many of my colleagues with plenty of gadgetry. It seems as though most pastors would have a person believe that to not have an iPhone or a BlackBerry or Macbook would be akin to living in the Dark Ages. But can a pastor survive without these things?

And this discussion applies to technology in general. Ten years ago, a cell phone would probably have been a "luxury" item. Now, just about everyone has one, and for a pastor not to have one is very rare (though there are some - leaving me to believe that maybe a cell phone isn't as "essential" as we would like to think). But when does something go from simply being a convenience to an essential? I doubt anyone would argue that having a phone is simply a convenience, for example, or even a computer (though my father-in-law has a T-Shirt that says "Computers: Just another fad.") But in our pursuit of aquiring more and more gadgets, have we lost the call to lead a life of simplicity? Do we really need a new BlackBerry every couple of years?

I, personally, have never been at the front of the technological race. I am usually a couple years behind, which is fine. I don't need to have the latest and greatest "stuff," but there does come a time - like now - when I wonder if it is essential that I acquire something new. For example: I have a very simple cell phone, which seems to do the trick. It has never been my desire to get a more sophisticated or advanced wireless device. For one thing, I will never enjoy putting my appointments in an electronic device. I prefer the 'ol fashinoned feel-it-in-your-hands experience of a planner, complete with paper and all. There's something about being able to flip through the pages and see where your appointments are in relation to other places in the planner.

The same is true for me with books. I don't do electronic books. I need to be able to feel the pages, know where I am in relation to the rest of the book - and the toggle bar on the right-hand side of a computer screen doesn't accomplish that for me.

But, on the other hand, as someone who communicates via e-mail about 75% of the time, having a BlackBerry or iPhone would be a whole lot more convenient. When I was sitting in the airport in Detroit yesterday, for example, it would have been very efficient for me to catch up with my e-mails during my time. True, I could have easily called people that I needed to communicate with, but as one who hates talking on the phone (I love talking to people face-to-face, however), e-mail is a whole lot better proposition.

But do I really need such a gadget? It would be more money spent, both on the BlackBerry and on the monthly fees, and I have somehow seemed to survive without it thus far. Over the last year or so that I've been pastoring again, there has probably been only a handfull of times when I've been on the road - out visiting - and needed to check my e-mail immediately to see if there were any updates on my scheduled appointments (this is partly because the individuals I had an appointment with didn't even have cell phones, but communicated via e-mail themselves! Maybe I should just buy them a cell phone.)

I will say that communicating via e-mail is so much more convenient. You don't risk interupting a person if they are in a meeting or talking with someone. But does all this gadgetry just complicate our lives more? Do we get enslaved to these technologies, thinking we always need to check our e-mail or voicemail? And should the expectations of society - or church members - influence our acquisition of new technology? Or are these simply excuses we use to justify buying the latest and greatest things every few months?

These are all questions I often ask myself. Of course, I must also tell you that I just bought a used lens for my camera on eBay for $365. But when I buy camera stuff, I'm not under the delusion that I "need" it for professional reasons. It is purely a luxury item, I understand. Of course, this doesn't necessarily make it okay, either.


Dingo said...

As you pointed out, there are things now in common use that were once luxuries. When I was a kid 50 years ago, the poorest people did not have telephones. For them to get one was an unthinkable luxury. But for the past 30 years or so, phones have been a necessity for people hoping to get a job,cope with emergencies, etc. Some transactions just don't come off at all without a phone.

Maybe as luxury gadgets find their way into common use, more and more important services such as medicine, employers, public services, etc. build their operational procedures around the gadgets so that the gadgets do become necessary if one is to do business, communicate, reach out, etc.

We rarely stand out on street corners preaching like Paul did. We don't even do slide show evangelism. It's power point, webnars, satellite seminars, and blogs now.

Sounds like if God has blessed you with sufficient funds to spare safely and the gadget will enable you to minister more effectively, be a good steward of your time, etc. it might be something to consider buying.

Raspusha said...

Humans need to connect. These technologies facilitate more efficient and frequent connections. They are no more essential than forks or spoons. You don't "need" them but they sure are nice to have.

I would imagine these technologies (iPhone, BB) being a "must have" for a pastor. You would be providing a better ministry service.

Read Wikinomics then make the decision.