Friday, June 01, 2007

No Churches in Cyberspace

Belief.net solicited a post by me on "churches in cyberspace." I warned of this kind of thing a decade ago in The Soul in Cyberspace (which fell still-born from the presses). To answer the question, "What are the best churches in cyberspace?" is impossible, since the question commits the fallacy of the complex question. It presupposes something false and then demands a response, as in: "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" (when one has not been beating one's wife).

There are no churches in cyberspace. There are Christians interacting in various ways--wisely or stupidly, thoughtfully or compulsively--on line. There are churches with web pages, which (if done well) is fine. But the church is a group of Christ-following, Bible-believing people who meet together face to face for teaching, worship, prayer, the public reading of Scripture, and fellowship. One cannot celebrate communion on line. "Now click the bread icon. Next click the wine icon." It is deeply absurd. One cannot sing unto the Lord together on line. One cannot be baptized or witness it in person on line: "Click and drag the little man over to the pool." It cannot be done.

Congregational life must have a strongly unmediated element: being there, being with humans attempting to worship and serve God. It should not be yet another designer operation: cyberchurch, my way, in my time--all mediated by the screen.

Consider the inspired words of the Apostle John on the meaning of fellowship:

13 I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name. --3 John 13-14.

5 comments:

FRANCIS said...

Amen & Amen. It would be so easy to stay in bed on Sunday, put my laptop on my belly, and think I was worshiping with the brethren. But, in reality I am alone in my own individualistic, selfish place.

Glen Woods said...

Hi there. Great post. I help run an IRC network where people come to chat about a variety of topics about Christianity and the Bible. I have been doing it for over eight years. It is a Christian network but we interact with users from all over the world who are not believers, sharing with them the gospel and helping them to connect with churches in their local communities.

I completely agree that online communities cannot replace the offline expression of church. I interact with a fair percentage of users who, for reasons that are their own, have become disenchanted with the church and so try to find Christian fellowship online. My colleagues and I frequently challenge them to connect again with believers in the local church.

I also acknowledge that being online can be a selfish, individualistic place, as pointed out by francis. For me the key has been accountability to my pastor, my church board and the church as a whole, all of whom are very much of aware of my online ministry. Frequently I am asked to give an account for my online activities, which I appreciate wholeheartedly.

Blessings,

Glen Woods

Yossman said...

So true indeed! How do you implement church discipline? "Access denied, your password has been altered".

Online activity can be good though for the purpose of extending a real life situation and of course evangelism.

Daniel said...

I was recently asked by an acquaintance to "pastor" a "church" where we all watch a video taped sermon and then I would lead discussion and what not. You make all the right points for why this is a slap in the face to tradition and all us Christians who are serious about our faith and want to go to church to grow.

Paul D. Adams said...

Hum...Clearly there are many things not experienced anywhere else but "face to face." However, I know of not a few churches that uphold all of these traditions and yet lack the Presence of the One and Only. Ergo, "face to face" does not guarantee the presence of God's Spirit. Put differently, meeting together regularly is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a thorough-going biblical worship.