Churches moving with technology

HARARE - As the youthful church pastor orders the congregation to open a certain chapter of the Bible for that day’s sermon, Zvamaida Mtisi, 81, gracefully opens his holy book.

But Mtisi is one of the few still reading the Bible “on paper” because after the pastor’s request, laptops, iPads and all sorts of computerised gadgets comprising a Bible are pulled from bags.

Indeed, it is more like the church has been swaggafied!

For Mtisi it doesn’t end there; even tithing, offerings and other form of donations are being paid through cyber with some churches preferring the Ecocash facility in order to keep up with the digital revolution.

The pastor even confuses Mtisi, he urges fellow Christians to visit the church website for more information pertaining to the sermon he had just given.

“Church website, what is it, where do I find it?” he asks.

“You feel out of place holding a traditional Bible in this church because it is like a taboo to posses it.”

The silent growing tension between generations, especially those attending Pentecostal churches, has seen church elders lagging behind.

The poor who should receive solemn in churches have been segregated as they cannot cope with the fast pace as practised in today’s church.

They feel they are being discarded and left out in the day-to-day running of the church.

“While one may want to be a member of these modern churches, I find discomfort when gadgets block my easy worship to God.

“They now depend on computers and they have developed a familiar fastness that is questionable. One then feels like a stranger — isolated.”

Most Pentecostal churches in Zimbabwe, Harare precisely — are joining the rest of the world to embrace technology.

Churches such as United Family International, Spirit Embassy led by flamboyant preachers Emmanuel ?Makandiwa and Uebert Angel respectively, Heartfelt International Ministries and New Life Covenant have been quick to adjust and adapt to the latest technology.

Angel has gone a step further and launched his television station.

Bishop Tudor Bismark a well-known pastor at New Life Covenant has been urging his members to pay offerings and tithes among other cash related transactions using the Ecocash money transfer facility.

Unlike during olden days when churches depended on donations from the people, in our days the tables have changed; it is actually the people who are depending on churches for survival.

Today’s church has created jobs — runs hospitals, schools, orphanages, farms and several associated companies.

They even have the capacity to employ media practitioners, information and technology personnel and security, sound engineer personnel and accountants among others. These are ?employed on full time basis to ensure the growth of church in the light of globalisation.

By and large technology simplifies things and makes work easier.

A report from the Church of Scotland titled The Church in a Changing World examines the issue of “Mission in a Digital Age” and asks how the Church can realise its targets in a fast-evolving culture in which growth of Internet and social media shows few signs of slowing and coincides with a rise in secularism.

It encourages modern churches to “grasp the ?opportunities and challenges” posed by modern society in order to remain relevant.

However, the advancement in technology has tremendously affected operations of the modern church not only in the country but on the entire world.

Technology is viewed as a substitute for attendance at worship as some church members prefer buying? recorded DVDs of the church services and pray while they are at the comfort of their homes. Wayne Chamboko a member of Christ Embassy church founded by Pastor Chris Oyakhilome said he prefers listening to the preaching of Pastor Chris on DVDs so he rarely attends local church services of the Christ Embassy.

“My mobile phone and a set of television is now my church. I prefer worshipping God through these gadgets because I feel being closer to my favourite Pastor (Chris) each time.

“Since we are living in a global village I believe in doing things in private, so with these gadgets I stay away from the congregation. 

“I avoid the church gossip among other unholy acts, but with my phone I will always be closer to God.

“I used to wait seven days to get Sunday sermons, but now everyday is a Sunday,” said Chamboko.

United Family International Church made headlines in local media last year after it introduced “Christian Spiritual Link airtime recharge cards”.

The church’s founder Makandiwa got into trouble with the regulatory board; Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe for operating a cellular phone airtime recharge service without lawful authority.

His state-of-the-art public address system unveiled at the National Sports Stadium last year during an all night prayer meeting dubbed Judgment Night has also left tongues wagging.

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