Pastors and other Christian leaders often find themselves treading water in the rising flood of technology and its ministry applications.

They ponder how the digital revolution can enhance community and personal/corporate connectivity with church members. They wonder what technologies will best serve the church and how to get started. Furthermore, most leaders intuitively realize the dangers of technology and its threat to genuine community, as well as the drowning out of the message of the gospel.

John Jewell offers a thoughtful, attention-grabbing look at the nexus between ministry and technology that is part treatise and part handbook. Through Scripture and careful analysis, Jewell’s book offers wisdom for the technology-obsessed leader, as well as nuts-and-bolts knowledge for ministers and laypeople who can barely turn on a computer.

The heart of Wired for Ministry is the need for connection and the need to communicate the gospel. The Internet seems to offer the ultimate tool for connectivity and communication, but does it foster genuine community? In what ways can the use of technology detract from the sharing of the gospel and the building of relationships? No matter what tool is being used, the goal must always be ministry.

“Technology is a means,” Jewell writes, “not an answer for everything that ails the church. It brings new possibilities, but not new basic principles to the life of the church. Technology provides new tools, but not new technology.” The question becomes, how can the church make the most efficient use of the new technology?

Three themes help the reader to discern appropriate ways to integrate new technologies into ministry: 1) the need to be aware of the pitfalls of new technology relative to the goal of building Christian community, 2) the need to develop a knowledge of the technologies that can enhance ministry, and 3) the need to develop a working strategy to best implement such technologies. These three questions form the book’s framework. Wired for Ministry opens doors to imagining the possibilities of Web ministry that go beyond maintaining a Web site and sending the church newsletter by e-mail. Pastors and other leaders will be introduced to such ideas as online learning systems (such as Bible studies and confirmation classes) and digital brochures to introduce outsiders to church life. The author provides helpful detail in how to begin such ministries, from the need for planning and vision to the probable costs for the integration of new technologies.

Jewell also offers practical advice to avoid the subtle dangers that confront those who want to stay connected with community and current with technology. He suggests limiting e-mail and cell phone use, as well as taking a “technology fast” one day a week. Wired for Ministry provides a comprehensive resource for pastors, educators, youth ministers and lay leaders who wish to use the digital age for the benefit of ministry. It could be used for group-learning with church staff, administrative boards or worship teams.

Brent McDougal is pastor of Corinth Heights Baptist Church in Haleyville, Ala., and author of River of the Soul: A Spirituality Guide for Christian Youth.
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