The internet is rapidly advancing at a rate that is hard to keep up with. People are twittering their every movement and facebooking all their photos. Musicians are using MySpace to get their music out to the masses without a label. Everything seems to be online these days. Even political campaigns are jumping on board. President Obama’s 2008 campaign boasted a large grassroots effort, much of which was due to his campaigns internet savvy (one could donate to his campaign at the click of button, sign up to help, or to be notified of any big announcements).
This article on CNN.com shows that the internet community is even moving into the Church. There are actual online churches where people log in and sit in front of their computer screen and have “church”. How anyone can call it a church without their being a physical meeting of people I have no idea, but its happening.
This is very dangerous. The people arguing that church can be done online keep saying church is more than a building, and I agree, but I think they need to listen closer to their own arguments. Doug Estes, a pastor of one of these online churches, said that, “The Bible sees church not as a man-made building but as a people gathered to glorify God with their lives.” The key word in his argument was, “gathered.”
Can a community truly gather online? How exactly does the Bible describe Church?
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 2:42-47 ESV
I think the key here is that their was physical presence of others. There is something about the being together that makes a group of Christians a Church. I think anyone who has problems being in the physical presence of other believers and is more comfortable in some sort of virtual church should ask themselves some serious questions about that, such as why, and what does the Bible say about that.
Why is this important? Because while technology grows and we get better at using it, like blogging, or twitter, and every other outlet, we are also getting better at avoiding the physical confrontations and putting them online. We see it all the time, people posting nasty comments that they would never say to anyones face. People writing horrible things under a fake name so no one will ever know who actually said it.
The moment the Church starts to participate in this, we lose who we are.
The article says that participants can click links that allow them to, “‘raise their hands’ and publicly commit to Christ.” The only problem with this is that as much as we would like to call the internet public, it is not. You can put all of your information on it, post all your pictures, tell the world what you are doing every second, and still be known by no one.
Church isn’t about listening to a sermon, or singing, although those things are typically apart of a church meeting. Church is about living together and seeking to follow Jesus together. I don’t think that can be done well if there is not a physical presence. This is one area in technology I think the Church can not follow the rest of the world.