Virtual Church?

Virtual fellowship is just that…virtual. Cyber-relationships are not real, they are 2 dimensional at best. This trend is a poor substitute for the assembly of the brethren and almost a mockery of the means of grace. It’s simply televangelism for the ipod generation.

Sure the net’s great. But, it can’t supplant the vibrant fellowship which a get up in the morning, read the bulletin, turn to hymn #150, everyone pray for Mrs. so and so whose father just died, drop the kids off at the nursery, local church gives the believer.

In the end though, its marketing genius. I mean, church is big business man. Paypal baby!! Sometimes its hard not to get too cynical.

But then again, I’ve been handed a very tidy apologia for a very tidy sort of cyber-assembly of the brethren in a blogservation with a self-proclaimed web campus staffer.  He took some of my comments personally, as so many do, and accused me of claiming that his Christian brethren weren’t real.  However, I never said his brothers weren’t brothers in Christ…just that his relationship with them was two-dimensional (well, even I do admit that is a bit inflammatory). While web-brothers may certainly be believers and therefore real, a web-campus relationship with them cannot satisfy corporate worship. Web-campus contact is a poor substitute for church. While I am a firm believer in the dialoguing capabilities of the web and the possibility for gospel encouragement therein, it ain’t the gathering of the saints man. As you can probably tell I ain’t so pomo yo. I genuinely hope that the Web Campus church trend does not catch on. Heb 10.25 and Act 2.42 help me to view a more touch, taste, and feel  ‘qwertyless’  kind of church.  Really don’t see screen substitutes as being all that healthy.

To all virtual church advocates out there:  If your friends are so excited about the possibilities of community then why don’t you encourage them to try it with 3-dimensional people–some of whom remember when SPAM was breakfast, don’t have a clue who David Crowder is, paint sanctuaries together, play ultimate Frisbee with the youth group, bake cancer casseroles for the ill, and who just might put a check in your hand to help out with that new baby.  But, maybe that’s the very type of stuff that our generation is too selfish to put up with…..we’d much rather have that confirm/deny option…..you know, like Facebook.

I’m not even going to get into the administration of the sacraments problem. Needless to say, I appreciate your sentiment–you’ve got responsibilities, an urban tribe already formed, 3 hours on Sunday morning?  That’s just a dead form. But, in my end of the world we have next door neighbors (single dad and 3 year-old boy) who need the community of faith but don’t even have cable.  IM isn’t going to do it for them. But, our old ladies church daycare can babysit the child one morning.  Meanwhile I take the dad out for lunch and open up a bible written on real paper that I can give him to take home. Then I can pick them both up for church on Sunday where they can meet elder Jones who owns a contracting business that can give my neighbor a job. The deacons help out with money for church daycare while my neighbor builds decks. He meets a nice girl in singles class on Tuesdays, they get married. Now they’ve got cable, he’s a foreman and his boss requires a laptop for the job. One day he’s searching for a book on Google and he hits on Newspring and gets directed to the emerging community forming around the new web campus. You think that’s what his family needs? Maybe so. Then again, people like my neighbor probably are a little too backward to understand the sort of ‘moving forward in worship’ that the communal difference of a Web Campus can provide. But, I could be wrong. It has happened a couple of times before.

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “Virtual Church?

  1. TimH

    As I mentioned in my last comment in another thread, that while I enjoyed the contacts and felt like it was an “internet church” (for a better term to use) I had some issues with this idea of “internet church” and you have hit the nail on the head. Not much to discuss when I agree with the post. I do enjoy the contacts that I have made with those on a few forums I have been on and there have been times where this is where I have been ministered to by others speaking truth of the word to me.

    What I find enjoyable about the idea of “internet church” is that, some of the sites I frequent, do get some really good posts or articles to read that are uplifting, encouraging, etc., and when there is a prayer need/request it is good to know that you have many people, (hopefully believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, who knows who might be reading the site as well) from all over the world praying for the need.

    But I do have a concern that a person could get very comfortable and never go outside the walls of his/her home and not interact with people on a face to face basis and share Christ. There is a whole world out there to shine in, neighborhood, work, school, store, wherever the Lord places/takes you.

    Acts 2:42-47 that you referenced in the post has been the topic of discussion for the past few months in the mens small group that I have been going to. I believe we are given one of the keys to real christian living in these verses, “to have things in common and use them ones needs” and the outcome will be, “many were added to the church” because of these actions. I don’t see that being accomplished in a “virtual” or “internet” church”.

  2. TimH,

    What can I say in reply? Agreement with me…..always the right choice.

  3. TimH

    Hardy Har Har!!

    Well I thought this was going to lead to something else when you stated, “It would make for some vibrant discussion I believe.”

    But when two are gathered together in one accord and in unity, not much to discuss. Maybe I started this when I said that it was like an”internet church” for me when I gave that site I was visiting. But then as you research the site owners you will see that they do have a ministry outside of this internet thing going on. Theya ctually are trying to make it more of a resource for people who would like to read and discuss biblical issues.

    I guess the term “internet church” doesn’t really fit this site in the way it actually means. I think a better term would be “forum” eh? Oh wait, that’s what is called.

    Didn’t Tim LeHaye write something in the “left Behind” series about the developement of the “internet church” as the church became more and more persecuted in his books? I hadn’t read the books (don’t plan to) but someone told me that is in there.

  4. See……those Dispensationalists really are onto something.

  5. Diane S.

    Okay, so I guess I have to stir things up here! :-p

    I have several friends who have literally dropped out of church (Mainly due to conflict with leadership), but still get together with their small groups. Is this enough, or should one commit to an “organized” church?

  6. IWanthetruth

    Diane,

    When you say they had conflicts with leaders what do you mean? Conflicts personally or conflicts in what they were allowing and teaching in the church?

  7. TimH

    Ops, sorry about that. It pre-populated, that was from Tim H

  8. Diane S.

    They were on the board of a church with a very dysfunctional pastor, who sometime after they left, was asked to leave by the board.

    With they whole cyber-church subject, the problem is “church” without relationships with other Christians…but how about relationships with other Christians and not with “church”?

  9. Diane,

    Relationship with other Christians is a good idea, but…not a substitute for church either. I went down that avenue for a while, you know the street sign….. ‘we just want to get together and worship Jesus and not stigmatize ourselves as a church’. Well, where do you think that took us, eventually to the no outlet of calling ourselves a church…..(until of course my pastor decided that we weren’t really a church after all and that he’d made a mistake and that do-overs are apparently a gift of the spirit….aaah but thats another story Diane.) I guess my question is, are your friends resistant to the ideas of 1. The preaching of the gospel 2. A proper administration of the sacraments 3. Church government? If they’re not, and they enjoy worshiping together, have some eldership/pastoral experience among them (or a willingness to call these), and a desire to inhabit biblical Christianity then they should call themselves a church and be done with it. But, a string of small groups are a string of small groups…..what are these leaders getting out of this experience, that is what I would ask? Is it revenge, feelings of importance, money, or are they genuinely desiring to move these people (and perhaps feel responsible to move these people) in the direction of corporate worship?

  10. Diane S.

    I think it is more the rationalization that the Church was more or less a small group at the beginning, and not institutionalized as it is now. Therefore, structure apparently isn’t an issue to them. I don’t know if anyone is a “leader” in the group; it appears to be more of a support/accountability group than anything else.

    Unfortunately, I’m seeing many people from my former church completely dropping out of the church scene, many of which were former elders/leaders. They all left for various reasons (we left due to significant doctrinal issues), but years have passed and they either do not attend church at all, or sporatically try this one or that one when the mood hits.

    I think that’s where the whole Cyber Church issue comes in…people are moving away from traditional churches and embracing other alternatives for various reasons, either due to laziness, leadership issues, people issues, convenience, or whatever. I think that much of it has to do with the individualistic American mindset, and the fact that over the years the importance of organized churches has been downplayed.

  11. Not much accountability in the virtual church. Sign up with an alias, and you can drop out anytime you wish – or when God’s conviction gets too strong. And no one will check up on you like they would (or could) in the real world.

    More significantly, this type of situation seems to encourage the problem of Christians living a double life – more so than in the real world.

    I know that Patricia Cocking has tried to make a go of web church – apparently they’ve got the tithing thing figured out – but I still wonder about the effect of not having the presence in the community of the local body.

    http://www.extremeprophetic.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=37&Itemid=56

    and sure, you can pray on-line in a chat room, but those of us who witnessed the on-line chat prayer when Todd Bentley started up in Lakeland saw some simply sheekaboombable unbelievable nonsense. And unlike a real church, if they don’t like you, they can block you.

    Unreal.

    Cockings webchurch is password protected. You have to pay a fee to get in. And so obviously everything is done is private. The paridigm is “cult friendly” – makes it easy to get off the old paths.

    Whereas the flesh and blood church I attend will let anyone in regardless of their status. Yes, that has its drawbacks – we had a young christian get excited during a sermon- agreeing with the statement the pastor said about the culture- who exclaimed “Bullsh*t!”

    I needed a good laugh that Sunday. My wife almost tottaly lost it.

    -Bill

  12. desean jones

    I too agree that we need to belong to a community of believers – in person.

    Thanks for the laugh Bill. darlene S

  13. Diane S.

    I just got back last week from a mission trip to Port au Prince, Haiti. Wow, after meeting many believers, I can honestly say that I feel poor in comparison to them!

  14. Nothing ‘virtual’ about that experience I gather?

  15. Diane S.

    LOL! Nope. It was honestly one of the best experiences of my life. Even though people are dirt poor, they are still very generous and share what they do have with others. We have a LOT to learn from them!

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