Per this link, there is a very definite effect of technology in worship.

The benefits of using, say, an iPad to reference Scripture and all of the additional source material (commentaries, interlinears, etc...) are fairly straightforward - the pastor can teach, and leave as an exercise to the "student," finding the resources, etc... needed to back up an presentation. Additionally, if the preacher references "Balaam" or uses a word like "eschatalogical hope," it is beneficial if people can look up that term.

On the other hand, if the point of a sermon and or a worship service is simply to bring about a contemplative mental state, then these distractions (e.g. the lights emanating from the device, the temptation to go to non-church resources) would most likely outweigh the benefits.

So, how do Christians even go about answering what the purpose of the worship service is, in order to decide for themselves if i-Paraphenalia is to be encouraged or discouraged?

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    I don't think a "worship service" is ever really "instructive." True, contemporary church services often incorporate both worship and instruction, but that doesn't make instruction a function of a worship service, nor worship a function of a teaching service. It's just by convention and out of convenience that they're done together, and it's only an error in terminology that a sermon is ever called a "worship service." – Flimzy Mar 21 '12 at 2:03

I think the real question is what God wants out of worship. In Amos 5:21-24, God clearly tells the Israelites that He hated their worship. This was worship He had commanded that they were doing. I think that the real issue here is doing what God wants in worship.

I believe that iDevices can be a help. I am a very old fashioned and conservative (Reformed) Christian and I use my iPad as my Bible in worship. However I use it basically the same way that I would use my Bible, to read along with the pastor as he is going through passages. When the minister preaches it is a holy event. Hebrews 10:14 states, "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" The Greek does not say 'whom they have not heard about?' as some translations have it, but as the NKJV translates correctly, 'whom they have not heard?' And Christ being heard here is directly related to the preaching of the Word by a preacher. So when I am listening to a sermon I am listening for the Words of Christ. I do not believe that every word a preacher says are Christ's words to His people (He would then be inconsistent) but that the Words of Christ do come through His ministers to His people.

So if I am sitting in church fiddling with my iPad and looking up some minor point (out of pride) to bust the ministers chops after the service, or if I am distracted by my device then I think that I have totally missed the point of why we are there. We are in Church to give glory, worship and praise to our God, and to hear His very words from the minister. I think this is the real issue.

So if you can use an iDevice in worship to give greater glory to God then do so, if it is a distraction or point of pride, leave it at home.

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I think this is a personal question with no "right" answer, and it hinges on the question "What do you want to get out of Church attendance?"

For me, personally, I want the following things (not necessarily in order):

  1. I want to learn something new
  2. I want to experience some sort of conviction - that twinge of guilt that tells me I need to change something in my life/behavior/thought process to be more pleasing to God.
  3. I want to offer back songs and praises to the God I love.

There are some things I DON'T want as well.

  1. I don't want a message that's hateful or teaches hate (thank God a true Bible-teaching Church won't spit venom from the pulpit)
  2. I don't want "warm and fuzzy feelings" that do absolutely nothing to teach, instruct, or edify. (I can get that watching TV or a game when the Packers are winning).
  3. I don't want to hear the opinions of the Pastor when they conflict with God's word.

So for me, the answer would be that it's more important to instruct, because with instruction and truth, I get the things from my first list without the things on the second. For others, it may be reversed.

Some people go to Church to feel good, or because they feel they have to, or any number of reasons. Some do go, just to feel "closer to God". I don't know that there's anything wrong with that. It's just not my reason for going.

That said, addressing the use of technology in Church, I personally would rather take notes on paper in Church and look them up online later. First, writing things down in pen and paper tend to commit the teaching to memory, and second, if I had an electronic device handy I know I'd get distracted and miss something important.

In all honesty, knowing that the electronic devices are distracting, that it's less likely I'll pay attention means that for me, using an electronic device would be detracting whether I wanted instruction or contemplation.

Finally, I think it's rude to the Pastor to come in using electronic devices. He has no idea if we're looking up something he said, or updating our Facebook status, or answering questions here. For all he knows, we're completely ignoring him, and that's likely to break his flow of concentration, same as it would for anyone else. It's simply more polite to listen attentively, and taking notes the old-fashioned way is less of a distraction for him.

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    +1 This is a good answer from experience. If anyone has any Scriptural reference or theological reflection from any of the traditions, I'd love to see that – Affable Geek Mar 20 '12 at 0:48

What does the Bible say about early Christian services? Here are some samples:

Acts 2:42 (NIV) They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.


Acts 17:11 (NIV) Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Advice to a young pastor

1 Timothy 4:13 (NIV) Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

Acts 2:42 seems to be representative: there was teaching and learning, relationships and eating together, and prayer to God. Except perhaps the prayer, it was not contemplative, it was actively learning how to follow the two great commandments: love God, love people.

1 Corinthians 12-14 is rebuking the people for having services that were inwardly based and were not building up the whole church: they were not instructing and learning but all doing their own thing. They were being self-centered instead of loving. Paul didn't say that they were wrong in looking inward, but in a service the purpose was to build others up:

1 Cor 14:3-4 (NIV) But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prohesies edifies the church.

Contemplation is certainly encouraged, teaching and learning are even better.

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The question stems for a more general one. What is the purpose of worship?

Who is supposed to be the recipient of worship? Is it an event for us to ‘get something out of’? Or do we worship so that God can receive our praise and adoration, however imperfect and tainted it may be?

The word ‘worship’ denotes the latter: a service is meant to serve God; worship similarly is meant for God. Of course God does not ‘need’ our worship (cf. Acts 17:24–25), but he graciously accepts our humble offerings.

Certainly there is much in a liturgy intended for human benefit. Scripture reading, for the most part, falls into this category, as does the sermon. The Eucharist certainly benefits those who partake. However, the hymns, prayers, intercessions, petitions and thanksgivings are directed towards God, and the Eucharist also can be seen as a God-ward communion (and worship) rather than a human-ward communion.

It seems to me that the ‘high-church’ traditions concentrate on this act of giving to God, while ‘low-church’ Protestant traditions emphasize the human aspect. This plays out in the liturgy. ‘Low-church’ liturgies tend to have longer sermons, which may even replace the Eucharist as the central aspect of the service. Similarly in music: instead of hymns (which technically refer to songs of praise addressed to God), spiritual songs addressed to others or as a monologue seem to be more common. (As an example, compare “O Gladsome Light” with “Amazing Grace”.) Of course there are many exceptions; this is just a trend I think may exist.

Seen in this light, it may be a secondary question as to how a service makes the worshipper feel. The specific question would then become: Does the use of an iPad make me more or less worshipful? Does it enable me to give greater or lesser glory to God? The contemplative/instructive dichotomy then becomes a single coin with two sides: something certainly desirable, but not necessarily primary.

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