Listening to NPR this morning, I heard a piece from KUT Austin that church leaders should listen to:
It is about crepes. It is also about an app. More importantly, it is about how someone leveraged technology to make something happen.
It caught my attention because my job is to help churches leverage technology to reach the mission field. When people develop technology, they usually have a point or purpose in mind. However, they don’t control how people will use it. We have the ability, and the propensity, to take this technology and use it for whatever mission is in front of us.
In case you don’t listen to the story or read it, let me summarize. Crepe Crazy is a crepe restaurant in Austin that started as a food truck. Owner Inna Giterman, like approximately 1 million Americans, happens to be deaf. As her business expanded, it made sense for her and her husband to hire staff who were deaf.
Enter technology. Giterman had been using an app called Glide to communicate with friends and family. Glide is a very simple video messaging app. It allows people to send instant messages via video, either live or for later playback. Other apps have this feature, but this is the central function of Glide. This makes it work very well for instant communication in sign language. That makes it work exceptionally well for employee communication at Crepe Crazy.
Here is the thing. Glide wasn’t designed for the hearing impaired. However, people who needed a tool appropriated it for their need. And now this app is serving an important function in the community and for this business.
What can church leaders learn from this? Twitter wasn’t designed to help churches reach the mission field. Either was email or the world wide web. Video conferencing was developed for government and large businesses. But now we have access to all this stuff. The means by which churches use technology to reach the mission field isn’t going to be developed by app developers, software engineers or computer companies. It is going to be created by people finding creative ways to appropriate the technology for the mission.
When there is a big enough need, people get creative. I learned that lesson at the 2015 Game Changers Summit in Nashville. Leaders involved in global development have learned the lesson that the most innovative ideas for harnessing technology come from those who have the biggest need. Innovative uses of text messaging as mobile currency, ham radio for emergency communications, and creative ways of producing electricity have come, not from 1st world experts, but from third world front line users.
So, why isn’t there more innovation in the church?
I suggest it comes down to one thing: lack of perceived need. The small number of people in the church who are stretching their imaginations and create innovative uses for technology see the burning need to spread the gospel. But a large percentage of the body of Christ just doesn’t recognize or feel any urgency. We live in a moment where there are more technological tools than we could have ever imagined. Some of the most brilliant innovators fill our pews (well maybe not “fill.”) What is lacking is a deep desire to connect more people with a life saving, life changing, life giving, eternal relationship with our creator.
There is no app to fix that.