Published by Brian Slezak on 07 Mar 2009
I’ve become very bad about reading anything, but Clif put up a post that sparked my interest and it actually sparked a post of my own. I read some of the other posts Clif linked to, and I recognized some old rhetoric applied to a new subject. The new subject is online communities, with the old rhetoric being how destructive “online church” could be to Christian community.
The old rhetoric, believe it or not, was aimed at sermons available via on-demand audio and video. I read posts and heard conversations about how this enabled people to sit at home and watch the sermons rather than “going to church!” People were essentially asking, “What if people stop coming to church,” or to freshen this question, “What if people stop having a full and authentic Christian life?”
My opinion is that this thinking is founded in fear. Fear that providing a church experience consumed while sitting at home will create some new sub-human mutant race of almost-Christians with hideous skin quality and large eyes adapted to viewing 320×200 video in low light who sit around in tattered underwear. Aaaaahhh!
I am certain that just as many people were fearful of projectors in the sanctuary and on demand audio streams as are now fearful of churches providing fuller online experiences.
So what have churches learned from providing sermons online? I can tell you that Resurrection has found that it reaches people in ways no one could have ever imagined. People around the world, not just in the nearby state, are able to connect to a Christian message and find the narrow path, some for the first time. I wish I could post the hundreds of positive, uplifting thanks we have received by providing this service.
I will suggest that if you are out there discussing the negative ramifications of providing church experiences online, you must recognize that you can not imagine all the amazing and powerful ways God may use that experience.
Acts 5:38-39 – “Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these people alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these people; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
I admit that fear aside, the remaining question needing an answer is whether an authentic community born and maintained solely online can be a theologically grounded authentic Christian community. If inauthentic online Christian communities could exist, should we be paralyzed with fear that they might happen? Can’t they be horribly inauthentic offline as well?? What might also happen is that God uses those experiences in profound ways that we could have never imagined. Do this for godly purposes, not human purposes. Leave the imaginary sub-human mutant Christians behind and hand it over to God to throw down or lift up.