Isn’t technology a wonderful thing? First digital cable, and now this: It seems a Canadian Pentecostal church has discovered a way to utilize the latest financial technology to create a whole new generation of card-swiping tithers.
According to Christian Week Online (March 5, 2002), about 16 months ago the church installed a CIBC Interac machine (like those used by merchants to process debit card payments) in the church foyer as a way to encourage parishioners in their tithing habits. When the 250-member church installed the machine, they were projecting a $40,000 budget shortfall. Now that some 40 percent of weekly offerings come through Interac, that shortfall was turned into a $50,000 surplus.
Church leaders say they do have their limits. For example, the machine won’t accept credit cards. “We don’t want people to go into debt giving to God,” the bookkeeper explains. (Actually, I can think of many far worse things to go into debt for. Somehow I suspect overgiving to God is very low on the list of things which create debt for most people.)
The church seems happy with the new technology, which pastor Kevin Dowling likens to a video projector as just another technological tool. In fact, he says the only problem is that “there’s usually a lineup there every Sunday with people using it.”
Now there’s a sight to make any pastor’s heart do flip-flops: people lined up to swipe their debit cards and give to the Lord’s work.
Personally, I think if this has been successful, there ought to be a bunch of additional ways to use technology to advance the work of the church. For example:
– Instant messaging between churches. The hottest trend in personal computing these days is instant messaging, or IM. While I’m on my computer and linked to the Internet, people on my “buddy list” can break right in to offer any inane comment they come up with. You can see why that would be so popular.
Why not set up IM between churches? Not happy with your pastor’s exegetical study of Hebrew grammar this morning? Just IM over to the First Happy Church of your city and watch the fun and frivolity without ever leaving your pew. You’re happy, your pastor’s happy (as long as you brought your debit card), and the people over at Happy Church look REALLY happy. IM works for everybody!
– “Pop up ads.” You’ve seen them when you go to certain web sites. You’re just surfing along, minding your own business, when all at once out pops this big advertisement, filling your screen, and screaming, “BUY THIS JUNK!” (OK, they aren’t quite that honest, but you get the point.) Seems crazy, but somebody must be buying the stuff.
So how about “pop up ads” in church? Like, maybe you’re preaching along in Leviticus when all at once the educational director jumps up in the middle of the service and starts screaming, “COME TO SUNDAY SCHOOL NOW!!!” Or, better yet, the bookkeeper jumps up and starts shouting, “WE’VE GOT AN ATM IN THE CHURCH FOYER!!!” That’s bound to get some action, don’t you think?
– Worship services on DVD. People go see a movie then buy it on DVD to watch it again and again, or to enjoy the special features (like a “director’s cut”). Why not put your church’s Sunday morning services on DVD, so that members can enjoy that sermon and Miss Bertha’s special music over and over.
And just think of the special features your DVD could include: a “pastor’s cut” (which includes all that great exegetical material you just didn’t have time to pack into the live sermon), or those hilarious outtakes we all enjoy so much (“Hey, pastor, why in the world are we spending so much to polish these floors till they’re so slippereeeaaaa!!” )
Then again, maybe all this technology isn’t that important. Maybe what we really need is better signage in our churches. For example: “ATM This Way. Bring Debit Card.”

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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