Online Churches draw Believers, Critics

A few posts back, I took on the Virtual Church.  Well, it was good to see someone like CNN taking up the matter, rather, reporting the matter:

  • From a believer of online church:

“We were blown away at how people could actually worship along [online],” says Craig Groeschel, senior pastor at LifeChurch.tv. “The whole family will gather around the computer, and they’ll sing and they’ll worship together. Instead of trying to get people to come to a church, we feel like we can take a church to them.”  (emphasis mine)

  • From a critic of online church:

“Online church is close enough to the real thing to be dangerous,” says Bob Hyatt, a pastor who leads the brick-and-mortar Evergreen Community Church in Portland, Oregon. In a blog post for ChristianityToday.com, he writes that calling it virtual church “gives people the idea that everything they need is available here.”  (emphasis mine)

  • A conclusion:

“There is only one substantive difference between an online church and a brick-and-mortar church: The place where they meet.”

Simply put: believers of online churches have become victims of our cultural’s shallow marketing strategies. (read full article…)

This entry was posted in Church and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Online Churches draw Believers, Critics

  1. Bryon says:

    I think in Gk. “gathering” is sometimes indicated? I forgot which word was could mean it. I understand this as real human contact.

  2. T.C. R says:

    Bryon,
    For example, Revelation 2 speaks of the “synagogue [Gk. synagoge)of satan.”

    I accept online church as “a supplement” but not as a “replacement.”

  3. I am concerned the whole concept of internet church goes against the very idea of community and koinonia

  4. T.C. R says:

    Brian, exactly my concern. It simply cannot be sustained biblically and experientially.

  5. Bryan L says:

    What’s up with the truncated posts showing up in Google Reader?

    Bryan L

  6. T.C. R says:

    Ah, that was an option, but I thought it expanded there. I really don’t check my Reader that regularly.

  7. Bryan L says:

    Just to push back a bit, what can you get on an average church Sunday in a regular church building that you can’t get from online church? A physical hug or handshake? Swine flu?

    Bryan L

  8. T.C. R says:

    Apart from the exception of passing on some virus, Don’t you see the meaningful community dynamic to physical touch?

  9. Bryan L says:

    So that’s all someone is missing? A hug or a handshake? Not everyone feels as sentimental about those things as you might. I personally can’t stand holding hands in church during prayer.

  10. T.C. R says:

    Then Bryan, you’re missing the beauty of a personal human touch. 😉

  11. I don’t think physical touch is the only thing missing for the “online church” experience. Where does the use of spiritual gifts come into play in such a scheme? Where are the opportunities to see godly examples of devotion in other people? What about the other senses that may be neglected? For example, f you’re a single guy “attending” an “online church” you don’t experience the sound of a group of believers singing with joy to the Lord. Where is the experience of sitting next to that person who gets on your nerves, and yet recognizing in them the work of the Spirit and joining with them to worship? Where is the accountability of the saints when online anonymity allows me to say all kinds of things knowing no one may know me well enough to know if I’m full of it or not?

    • T.C. R says:

      Yes, the application of a passage like 1 Cor.12-14 seems to be eliminated or somewhat distorted.

    • Bryan L says:

      Meto:
      Your objections sound like things that could be addressed over time as technology gets better or that could be ironed out as online churches “mature”. Just because you don’t see how something could happen in an online church doesn’t mean it couldn’t.

      I normally don’t sit next to people who get on my nerves in church. Is that a bad thing? Is there something noble about sitting next to annoying people? Can’t I recognize the Spirit of working in them from afar? : )

      Speaking of online anonymity I’m not sure if you think it is a good thing or a bad thing since you are obviously somewhat anonymous (not totally). Should we assume you are full of it or not? ; ) I for one like a degree of anonymity and even among people who I have flesh and blood relationships, I don’t share with them everything abou my private life. Each relationship I have gets a different slice of me, some bigger slices than others. The same is true whether it’s a flesh and blood relationship or an online relationship. Aren’t most people that way? Is that a bad thing?

      Bryan L

      • Perhaps these objections could be addressed, but why to address those things when we have a solution already? Meet together.

        The point about sitting next to someone who gets on your nerves . . .btw, THAT person may not be the annoying one! 😉 . . . is that online interactions allow us to slink away from people with whom we have difficulties. When we meet together, we must deal with these folks to a certain extent.

        As to online anonymity, it’s one thing to be anonymous on a blog (and I can assure you that although I might be anonymous to you, or partially so, there are people from my church body who know about my blog and thus I am made accountable to them). It’s another thing to be anonymous as a “member” of covenant community.

  12. The point of “real” church rather than “virtual” church is that real relationships are messy. Church must happen beyong the Sunday morning gathering. Our lives must be deeply interconnected for real church to happen. If we are not face-to-face we cannot be heart-to-heart.

    For examply, I had an intense communication to deliver to someone. My son suggested I text message the individual because he said I have a hard time communicating intense messages without offending people. He suggested a text message to take the emotional content out of the communication. My response was that either 1.) the emotional content is an important part of the message, 2.) I need to learn to communicate intensity without offense, or 3.) both. That’s real church. Real life. Real messy. Real growth. Real glory.

    • T.C. R says:

      Kyle,
      “Messy church” vs. “Clean church.” Put another way: “Brick-and-mortal-church” vs “Online church.”

      You illustration certainly didn’t help the cause of online church. 😉

    • Bryan L says:

      Kyle:
      So you don’t think there is anyway for an online relationship to be “messy”? If telling someone something face to face is so important can’t you just video chat with them or something? Heck I think a phone call will suffice, since many people do that already and it seems to work well most of the time.

      I appreciate the ideal you are holding up of what church should be but the reality is that most churches probably don’t live up to that and especially not for the majority of people who attend. To penalize online churches for supposedly not living up to that (Who knows if they do or not. Have you tried to participate in one? I haven’t.) seems to be singling them out when that’s a problem that most churches experience.

      Bryan L

      • Tomg says:

        I think what everyone is saying is that our society in it’s alleged attempt to be more connected is actually much more fractured then it ever has been. If Online Church were to become a mainstay or standard that would only add to society’s lack of connectedness. Sure! Blogs are a nice way to communicate and discuss subjects and issues. Online Church can even be a nice substitute when needed or even as a supplement. But they are not true community.

        Facebook and MySpace are NOT social networks as there is nothing even remotely social about them. They are just a way for shallow people to feel deep and inter connected without having to take the risks that come from actually being connected with someone….even that annoying person sitting in the pew next to you.

  13. Bryan L :Kyle:I appreciate the ideal you are holding up of what church should be but the reality is that most churches probably don’t live up to that and especially not for the majority of people who attend. Bryan L

    Bryan, Yep. Churches generally avoid messy relationships in many, many ways. I just can’t see how an online relationship can first, communicate the deeper qualities of emotion that come through only in body language, tone, eye contact, etc. Video doesn’t do it for me. Second, it is far too easy to check out of an online relationship. The delete button can be brutal. In a real relationship, I can go over to a person’s house and pound on the door if need by. Online is “virtual” and it simply is not able to carry the nuances of a “real” relationship.

  14. T.C. R says:

    I think what everyone is saying is that our society in it’s alleged attempt to be more connected is actually much more fractured then it ever has been. If Online Church were to become a mainstay or standard that would only add to society’s lack of connectedness.

    Tomg,
    Indeed. Thanks for this insight. 😉

  15. Bryan L says:

    Tom:
    whatever you belive that’s fine but I don’t think you had to call people who use Facebook or Myspace shallow. Who are you to judge millions of people who you don’t even know? Who are you to think you must be so deep while these people live shallow lives deluded about their relationships?

    Bryan L

    • Tomg says:

      I didn’t judge ALL Facebook or MySpace users. But I do stand by my assessment of Facebook and Myspace. They DO indeed allow shallow people to feel deep and interconnected without having to take the risks associated with human to human interaction. This (along with many other things) has severely damaged the way people interact and you can look at the public discourse and the news to see how this is damaging our society.

      In our rush to be thinly “connected” to many through the use of convenient technology, we are actually losing our ability to be truly connected to any.

  16. T.C. R says:

    In our rush to be thinly “connected” to many through the use of convenient technology, we are actually losing our ability to be truly connected to any.

    Tomg,
    You have “connected” with your words. That’s an awesome quote. 😉

  17. Bryan L says:

    Whatever. Shallow people are gonna be shallow regardless of whether it’s the Internet or in person and they’ll be deluded about their shallowness eitherway.

    I think many are speaking of what can and can’t take place on the Internet, in regards to relationship, out of ignorance. Just because you can’t have a meaningful or deep relationship with someone over the Internet doesn’t mean nobody can, and it doesn’t mean that relationship is inferior. We all have relationships that take place in various domains (some which overlap with others) and I think it’s unwise to rank them in importance based solely on those domain. Only you know how deep and meaningful each of your relationships are and it would be foolish to try and speak for others or prejudge them based on our own experiences and prejudices.

    Bryan L

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s