The Typecast Church: Old-School, Tech-Junkie, or Digital Church?

When it comes to technology in the Church, my experience tells me that there are primarily three types of churches. The line between these can be very blurry.

1) The Old-School Church – that outright rejects technology.

2) The Tech-Junkie Church – that blindly embraces technology, for technologies sake.

3) The Digital Church – that intentionally uses certain technologies with a specific goal in mind.

Before we dive into the types, let me define ‘technology’ in our context. When I am speaking about the local church, by technology I typically mean digital technology. In modern-day America, you would be hard-pressed to find a church that gathered without air conditioning or heat in the extreme seasons, or the use of lights, and general electricity. I do not believe that many churches argue over the use of these, however, there are churches that still debate the use of various production technologies (lights, camera, action!), even electric or digital instrumentation, and of course digital media.

The Old-School Church

The church that rejects digital technology could be doing so for any number of reasons. Commonly their philosophies may collide with the use of technology. Some in this group might see technology as too worldly, or downright evil, which conflicts with their desire to be more holy. On the other hand, others might genuinely be trying to avoid certain stumbling-blocks and spiritual distractions. This would all be perfectly fine, were it just an internal philosophy that could split the difference with those of other methodology.

However, these churches are usually of the mindset that “technology is bad, so those who use it are also bad.”

I have seen these churches, so I will say that while the people can have pure intentions, this philosophy is difficult to argue for biblically, and difficult to maintain practically in this evolving world.

Typically this is the church that is not growing and has little influence in their communities. Most church closings occur where the church has not adapted to modern methods of worship and outreach. The message of the Gospel is timeless, but the world has certainly changed around us and there are new mediums to be considered.

The Tech-Junkie Church

3 Church TypesLiving on the other end of the spectrum is the second church, blindly embracing technology, simply for technologies’ sakeThis church may be to do everything it can to be cool, hip, or edgy. Production may be the primary focus of this church. This church may even strive for excellence in every detail, but if using technology means sacrificing ministry for entertainment-value, then they miss the point.

This church will often throw out all the stops, expecting the technology to do the work of the gospel. The truth is, the highly produced band, quality videos, fantastic fog and light shows mean nothing without purpose. A church’s use of technology of any kind means nothing unless it is intentional to the mission of that church- which has always been to reach the world, engage them in more meaningful ways, and see a return of spiritual growth and more investment in disciple-making.

Technology is not the secret sauce that brings people to Jesus.

It is a tool which like a hammer, needs to be in the hands of someone who knows how to use it with a constructive intention. This church may be great at packing the house, but may miss out on impacting the house. The tech-junkie church lacks strategy and purpose.

The Digital Church

Finally, the third church is very intentional with their use of technology. This is a church that prayerfully considers why it exists, weighing every church program and every piece of technology against that purpose.

The reality is, in the same way that turning on the lights in the building does not fill the house, ramping up the technology does not guarantee success.

The buy-in with the expectation that some thing is going to make your ministry successful is a highball. I believe this third church finds a nice balance between church strategy in technology and spirit-led ministry.

They choose to use certain technologies, and they know what their goal is either way. This third category would have a gospel-first mentality, with an intentional, strategic use of its technologies as tools. Studies show that churches with higher use of digital media technologies have greater weekly attendance, higher involvement from members in volunteering and activities, and even more giving. I guarantee you though that it is not the technology alone that accounts for that growth, it’s the combination of the right medium with the right message.

Over the millennia, the message of the Church has not changed, but the medium certainly has.

Today, the Digital Church is leading the future of church engagement, world outreach, and spiritual return. They are best positioned to become leaders in the digital church and bridge the gap between “four wall methodology”- where all church activities and spiritual experiences happen within the four walls of the local church- and the constantly-connected internet age.

How has technology impacted your spiritual engagement? Does your church have a digital church strategy?

[The article was written by valued site sponsor, 316 Networks.]

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About the author  ⁄ Robert Coletti

Robert Coletti is an Account Manager at Piksel Faith and is passionate about helping churches embrace digital technology. He's also a Christ Follower, jazz musician and chicken farmer. Connect with him on Twitter @rcoletti116 or @PikselFaith.


  • Reply
    February 22, 2014

    Awesome article and so on point!! Currently in the Tech-Junkie mode but heading to the Digital Church as God leads and guides me to help our church understand and embrace technology!! Love 316 and the way they deliver the message of the gospel..we went from no real technology landscape to a more involved and engaged technology ministry with a long way to go but with a God leading we will get there. We have conversations about technology that we would of never had 3 years ago. It is a true blessing to be serving God in capacity as a technology and social media ministry leader. A headache at times but when you walking in your purpose you already know that God planted you and equipped you for the battle!!! I Will definitely be sharing this article with my ministry and the youth that I mentor via the technology ministry. Showing them how to use technology for Gods purpose and not mans twisted vision of why we have technology…thanks again for all you that you do to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, looking forward to the day when a ministry such as 316 will be available to our congregation…

    • Reply
      February 23, 2014

      Brenda, thanks for sharing! Appreciate your heart for ministry!

  • Reply
    February 17, 2014

    I’ve experienced all three (raised in the first category, saw friends in the second, and attending one in the third) and will say that it is as much about having the staff on board to succeed in being a digital church as it is to have the congregation on board too. I’ve seen churches strive to be a digital church and have a congregation hold them back.

    Of course, I have seen churches that theoretically want to be a digital church but completely miss its mark because of time, money, effort, or any number of other reasons and completely squander the possibilities. It’s a tough situation that requires constant strategy evaluations at many points in the process.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts for the rural church of 100 or less and how they could move to a digital church without a budget but a heart to reach more?

    • Reply
      Robert Coletti Author
      February 19, 2014

      Awesome comment. I agree 100% – the strategy is key.

      My first thought is to set aside the budget conversation until you have a strong strategy in place. Specifically, the Church needs to have a strong sense of identity, mission, and immediate and long-term goals. Critical questions are “who are we?”, “what are our goals?” and “who do we want to reach?” There is a huge difference in strategies for solely engaging current members vs. reaching more people in the community and even doing both. A clear goal needs to be set, followed by an actionable plan, then backed by a budget.

      One mistake many Churches make is taking a piece-meal approach. They will go to one place for their apps, another for their streaming, somewhere else for on demand video. Having a vendor for every different piece of the puzzle makes the process less organized, creates work for the Church, and in the long run, ends up costing more. I’d also recommend to not be misled by the high cost of ‘FREE’! The most cost-effective approach is going to a vendor that can provide a “one-stop shop” with everything that the Church needs to fulfill their strategy.

      It is also important for Churches to acknowledge that they should be the masters of the Message, rather than being experts in digital media technology. When the Church tries to take on this task, its money, effort, and time are misused. That’s why companies like Piksel 316Networks exists – to provide Pastors and Church leaders with technology solutions and with the educated consultation to go along with it.

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