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The Power of the iPad

I am one of the now two million brand new iPad owners. I, like most of you, saw the advertisements for the iPad and thought to myself, “What would I do with one of those?” So, naturally, I discounted the iPad as another high tech gadget that does the same things as just about any smart phone these days, only on a bigger screen. But that was before I got my hands on one. My father-in-law received one as a gift on his birthday and let me play with it. Within moments I was hooked and, suddenly, I have become one of the several million Apple fans. What do I love about the iPad? Well, everything. But to give you some specifics I will examine it from the perspective of my role as a pastor.

In my role as a pastor I find myself doing several things on a constant basis: responding to e-mails, reading and studying, and planning my week. Now I’ve done all those things for years without an iPad and done them just fine, but what the iPad has allowed me to do is to take on these same tasks from beyond the walls of my office. Without having to lug around a bag full of books, a laptop, and a daily planner I am able to pick up my work and move to the coffee shop up the street and work for several hours. This has opened up so many more opportunities for evangelism.

One of the downfalls of being in pastoral ministry is that you can very easily spend all of your days with Christians and lose sight of the need for pastors to be consistently involved in evangelism. The iPad has allowed me the freedom to do my work and share the gospel (not to mention that every average Joe wants a peek at it, thus opening doors for conversation). With the iPad I have my Greek and Hebrew tools accessible to me anywhere I go, I have countless books at my fingertips, and I can drop an e-mail as quickly as I want. All that being said, however, there is a common language about the iPad and ministry that is beginning to concern me.

The iPad is being hailed as a technological revolution. I am not sure it warrants that title… not yet, anyways. It has certainly opened up a whole new category of products between laptops and smart phones, but the real stretch in my mind are the young tech savy pastors who claim that the iPad will “revolutionize ministry.” This seems not simply a stretch to me, but a dangerous train of thought. Pastoral ministry is about helping people grow in their knowledge of, love for, and obedience to God. It is about ministering to people, pointing them to the gospel, opening God’s Word for them and with them. As great as the iPad is I am not quite sure how it is going to “revolutionize” all of that.

There are some who view technology as the key to successful business and successful ministry (these people obviously haven’t read Jim Collins). Some think that if you’re going to grow, if you’re going to connect with people, if you’re going to maintain relevance then technology is an absolute necessity. I’ll be the first to admit that technology has much untapped potential for the church, but to suggest that ministry in the 21st century can’t be conducted without it is, in my view, ridiculous. The iPad may change many things (reading, web-surfing, etc.), but to suggest that it will drastically transform pastoral ministry may say more about the quality of some pastor’s ministry than about the iPad.

I love my iPad, I really do. But if I need it to love my people then I am not a good pastor. If I can use it to help serve them, then I will, but I, like all Christians, need to be cautious about overly sanctifying my technology. True pastoral ministry can’t be centered around technology, but it can always be done without it.

Sent from my iPad

About Dave Dunham
  • http://writingdownthejones.com Charles

    I agree that the iPad is no technological revolution, and that it’s unlikely to “revolutionize ministry”. But I don’t think it’s a particularly dangerous train of thought if you alter it from the unadulterated enthusiasm you seem to be seeing to an awareness of it’s potential to represent a change to the way we do ministry.

    The printing press revolutionized ministry (and the rest of Western Society), as did telephones, radios, planes, trains, and automobiles. Even something so invisible as the electrical outlet has significantly altered the practice of ministry.

    Use of the iPad may or may not have a direct impact, but the technology niche it represents could cause a significant shift in the ways we work and live. We can’t stop it, we can only move forward with it thoughtfully.