April 28, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Is Jesus the next killer app?

LAS VEGAS--Tech companies are getting religion.

Companies such as Sony, Panasonic, Avid and Hitachi are helping churches spread the gospel as part of an effort to cash in on an exploding market known as "house of worship technology."

In recent years, members of the clergy have begun competing with MTV, video games and the Internet by jazzing up sermons with image magnification systems and large-screen video displays, a la Apple Computer's Steve Jobs at a product launch. The trend has evolved, and churches now are Webcasting to distant parishioners with sophisticated multicamera operations and pumping up the volume inside worship areas with state-of-the-art sound systems.

"Let's face it, we've all experienced the occasional sleeper on Sunday morning. But it doesn't have to be that way. Technology can inspire your congregation in new ways."
--Online ad for Audio Visual Mart

"It's like going to a rock concert," says Patrick Teagarden, one of the growing number of sound-and-video technicians whose main customers are churches. "It's a fact: Media helps make it easier for people to pay attention."

An illustration of the market's growing clout came this week at the National Association of Broadcasters 2006 electronic media conference. For the first time, NAB dedicated an exhibit area to tech and consumer electronics companies that are catering to churches.

The titles of some of the conference sessions included "Radio Frequency Interference & The Church Sound System," "Worship Software to Expand Your Media Presentation" and "Microphones & Religious Applications."

Information on the size of the market is hard to come by, but the U.S. has more than 300,000 churches, synagogues and mosques, according to "Congregations in America," a book by author Mark Chaves. While most can count only a few hundred members, a few churches can boast congregations that top 25,000.

Perhaps America's best example of the tech-savvy house of worship is the Houston-based Lakewood Church, which last year recorded a weekly attendance of 30,000. Pastor Joel Osteen needed the Compaq Center, a former basketball arena that was once home of the National Basketball Association's Houston Rockets, to serve as his chapel.

"There's not one major electronics manufacturer who isn't trying to target this space."
--Dan Stark, Stark Raving Solutions

Osteen employs three massive video-display screens to project his image to people sitting in the nosebleed seats. Illuminating the walls and the giant globe spinning behind Osteen's pulpit are Altman Micro Strips, strip lights that use a range of tungsten halogen lamps to create different lighting effects.

Lakewood is also planning a migration to HDTV and recently bought eight high-definition cameras from Sony. The dollar value on Lakewood's video and production facilities is about $4 million, according to CIOinsight.com.

At Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., the technology budget is $1 million a year out of a total annual budget of $27 million, CIOinsight.com reported.

This kind of spending attracts disciples.

"There's not one major electronics manufacturer who isn't trying to target this space," said Dan Stark, who operates Stark Raving Solutions, a company that specializes in outfitting churches with the latest in audio and video technology.

CONTINUED: Media-delivered message…
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Problem is, on 30' screens, PowerPoint still sucks
It's time for Churches to wake up to Keynote 3.0.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://homepage.mac.com/lesposen/blogwavestudio/" target="_newWindow">http://homepage.mac.com/lesposen/blogwavestudio/</a>
Posted by CentrOS (126 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree. Fortunately our small church got a mac system with
Keynote. It blows PowerPoint out of the water. The apple remote
works wonderfully too.
Posted by jwmoreland (48 comments )
Link Flag
...and that's why there's MediaShout
(www.mediashout.com) absolutely amazing.
Posted by BobbyHMan (1 comment )
Link Flag
Been Using Keynote for 2 years now
Keynote is beautiful presentation software. I have discovered many
tricks for using it for worship. I plan on having a new section about
Keynote on my worship image site at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://writeclik.com" target="_newWindow">http://writeclik.com</a>

Posted by Writeclik (3 comments )
Link Flag
Church's as Businesses
What more needs to be said about what is wrong with evangelical Christianity today?
Posted by miketkrw (86 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I don't think that's what the article said...
I'm not sure the article claimed that churches were operating as a business. The point of the article was that churches are finally using new technologies, such as projection systems, sound systems, etc.
Posted by andyengle (74 comments )
Link Flag
amen. orphans? No. Video? YES!
How many aids orphans in africa could that $4,000,000 AV budget take care of? ...how many immunization shots for disease in the world's poor? ...how many bibles for kids that have never held one in their hands? Jesus IS the "killer app" but he said true religion is taking care of widows and orphans. Maybe we can stop paying for someone else to live our chistian lives and put that money where it will be more life changing.
Posted by swesleyd (3 comments )
Link Flag
Some businesses are catering to churches
They won't even hire you unless you're God fearing.
Posted by casper2004 (267 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Salvation Is Like A Vegas Floor Show
What religion does with attention enhancing technology is to brainwash attendees to pony up all the more. Conveniently "God" is beyond reproach for the spokepersons who proclaim they will save you from finality in death and ambiguity in life. The danger is when religious hot-air cranks are taken seriously, all too often the case, usually to endorse the prevaling plutocracy.
Posted by Witless in Santa Cruz (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Message has been deleted.
Posted by My-Self (242 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I disagree
in my small group, we all agree that our way may not be the right way, and that our way is not the only way to be a good person. we believe what we believe and everyone else believes what they believe, and we respect that. any good person would. you don't have to be of any specific religion to know that respecting someone's beleifs is something that a good person does. I don't think humanity is bad, and i enjoy my part in it. there are some ways that things go wrong, but at the same time, church groups, including mine, all have problems as well. and what the greatest virtue is, is a personal idea. no one group is right to claim that they are right and you are wrong, because in the same way, they may very well be the wrong ones.
Posted by Amazingant (146 comments )
Link Flag
Thank you for that completely thoughtless and irrelevant diatribe. Next time I want to hear athiest dogma, I'll Google Nietzche.

Perhaps you could, you know, stay on topic?
Posted by goyster (7 comments )
Link Flag
Stick to the topic please. The subject is technology, not your intolerent attitude towards people with different philosophies than yours.
Posted by jjones730 (10 comments )
Link Flag
If they've eaten an onion, it's even worse
I don't rent or buy books anymore. I'm sick of the what you read police breathing down my neck just to see what I'm taking.
Posted by casper2004 (267 comments )
Link Flag
Changing the key has added loads of fun to the Sunday's service.
I can only speek infront of the cameras on this point; though, I do become very animated at church. We never feel presured to give even a dime. I feel alone, invalid, or predeposited into other junk bond offerings. Rather, the returns here just don't come through the bottom line.
Posted by Pop4 (88 comments )
Reply Link Flag
closer we lumber towards THX 1138 style worship
Anyone see that movie? Not the most riveting tale, but remember
how religion and the rest of it worked? After the theme park /
theater show style.. that style is the next and last step.

Enjoy, everyone, as you dig yourselves into that hole.
Posted by Hobyx (24 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Let's hope the artists voices are heard
Right now much of worship media is driven by techies rather than
artists. Unfortunately this has led to a "if it looks cool, project it"

Thoughtful worship media can be a great addition to worship.
Pointless images and video are merely distractions.
Posted by Writeclik (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Let's hope the artists voices are heard
Right now much of worship media is driven by techies rather than
artists. Unfortunately this has led to a "if it looks cool, project it"

Thoughtful worship media can be a great addition to worship.
Pointless images and video are merely distractions.
Posted by Writeclik (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I imagine
I imagine something along the lines of a Christian training video.

Sort like the ones where you start some crappy job at 5.25 an hour.

Except it won't be about drive-thru service. Probably something
cheesy like not saying bad words.
Posted by ethernet76 (88 comments )
Link Flag
Christianity has been doing this for centuries.
Adopting new technologies is just the latest development in a faith that has long understood the importance of theater and spectacle.

The grand cathedrals of Europe are prime examples of 'shock and awe' marketing to the hovel-dwelling masses of the middle ages. The lavish regalia of Catholic churches and clergy were the Armani and Versaci of their day.

The Protestant Reformation stripped away these theatrical trappings in an effort to return to a more spiritually pure form of worship. After all, how can a religion founded on the sanctity of poverty and humility justify dressing its ministers in robes worthy of royalty?

Well, after 500 years, the game has come full circle. The evangelical Christian churches of today are just as lavishly-funded and image-obsessed as the Medici Popes. Its hardly surprising, therefore, that modern churches are now turning to the glitz and glamor of Hollywood to get their 'message' across.

Unfortunatly, in the headlong rush to turn religion into entertainment, Marshall McLuhan's dictum 'the medium is the message' has been forgotten. The faithful will not learn about peace, love and understanding. They will instead learn about high production values and 'awesome' graphics.

The most popular and successful churches will be the ones with the best Dolby THX audio setup.
Posted by JFDMit (180 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Christian internet customization tool
I just saw this article and was excited to read about how technology is being used in churches. I have developed an internet tool that fits into this space, called "faithbrowser" (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.faithbrowser.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.faithbrowser.com</a>). Faithbrowser enables users to change the appearance of their browser to reflect their faith. For example, a rotating Bible verse will be displayed at the top of the internet page.

My team stumbled upon this idea because we believe that Christians will appreciate being able to have a constant reminder of their faith when they're searching the internet.

If you like this tool, we'd really appreciate it if you would tell your friends about it - and if you have any feedback, please feel free to send it along.

Many thanks,
Posted by bblumenstein (1 comment )
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