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High-Tech Church

 

BOB ABERNETHY, host: In Dallas, Texas, a milestone for the evangelist and writer Bishop T.D. Jakes, and the 25,000 members of his Potter’s House church.

Bishop T.D. JAKES (The Potter’s House): Ooh, God. Ooh, can you feel it? Do all you can. Feel it. Nothing else. I don’t know what that’s going to mean to you in the days to come, but this is something worth giving, worth hearing, worth writing down, worth putting on your computer. When it comes on, do all you can.

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ABERNETHY: This weekend Bishop Jakes will lead his congregation into the cyber age with the dedication of his new, ultra-contemporary, high-tech, 8,000-plus-seat sanctuary.

Bishop JAKES: I think that people who go to our churches are not necessarily looking for traditional religion. I think that they’re using — they’re looking for Christ, and they’re looking for ways to incorporate Christ and Christianity within their modern, everyday lives. The message hasn’t changed, just the method.

ABERNETHY: And has it ever. At The Potter’s House, old-fashioned stained-glass windows have been replaced with computer data terminals and Palm Pilots.

Mr. NATHANIEL TATE (Administrator, The Potter’s House): What we wanted to do was allow the laptop users in our congregation the ability to download the pastor’s outline of the sermon or other material.

Under the benches, we have actual inputs and power for the computers, for the laptops. Every other row, for four rows, is wired for computers. We’re looking at about 200 people that can sit with their laptops or more and download the information.

ABERNETHY: And some parishioners obviously enjoy opening their laptops as well as their Bibles.

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Mr. CRAIG JACKSON: It’ll allow me to download the sermon and take notes, and I can go back home, and I can take it and build a library, and just something I can keep for years and years to come.

ABERNETHY: Contemporary technology also has a role in other aspects of the church. Take, for example, the Language Translation Center. When completed, it will have the capability to translate six languages simultaneously. And Palm Pilots play an active part during the church’s altar call.

Bishop JAKES: We use Palm Pilots for new converts and things like that. Just so that we can more proficiently handle the 25,000 members that we have. We have to be organized in order to do that.

ABERNETHY: But Jakes and his parishioners insist all the high-tech engineering designed to bring the church into the 21st century will never overshadow the reason people come to The Potter’s House church.

Mr. TATE: It’s not just, “Let’s have more bells and whistles. Let’s not have magic buttons that do this.” But do these tools help us with the goals and objectives of presenting the gospel? And that’s the bottom line.