COVID-19 has caused churches to shift even more of their programming online in order to continue services and maintain a sense of community. What will the lasting impact of the pandemic be on local congregations?

Christianity has always leveraged technology to communicate the gospel. Troy Dearborn extensively researched Christianity's use of technology in both the past and present as part of his Master of Divinity studies at Providence Theological Seminary. Dearborn is also an associate pastor at St. Pierre Bible Fellowship Church, in St. Pierre, Man.

"All throughout history, we have Christians leveraging technology for the purposes of the gospel. From Luther and the printing press to Billy Graham and radio, there are so many examples of where the gospel has effectively gone out through media and technology."

However, Dearborn says that we need to take new technological innovations with a grain of salt.

"Lets not just jump on board with everything. We should ask what this technology is doing. Whatever medium you're using inherently has a message that goes with it. There are dangers for going completely digital with our relationships. For example, social media, something that has been designed to connect us, has sometimes made people more disconnected."

"The centrepiece of our faith is that Jesus Christ came as a physical, embodied person and lived in close community with other people."

Technology is also beginning to change the way our brains are wired. Studies have shown that technology is reducing our attention spans and that our online interactions are increasingly polarized. However, Dearborn says that this doesn't mean we should reject technology completely.

"People are online, and we have a whole generation of kids who have grown up with the internet. So if you're a church that's trying to reach people, you need to be online as well."

Instead, he suggests that we think critically through the ways in which we can leverage technology while retaining the essence of Christian faith and community.

t the embodied church community provides.

"I believe the future of evangelism is community. People are entertained to death. They need something relational and real, even if it's messy. For now, let's leverage the tools that will help us connect. But ultimately, digital gatherings are not meant to replace the physical gatherings of Christ's body. The Church is imperfect, but it's in the imperfection that Jesus works."