Fear Of Whales

Tales of a reluctant minister

Going to Church on the Internet

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OnlineChurchIt should not surprise me the number of people I know who go to church on the internet. The internet is a hugely impactful thing, and the church is a huge part of people’s lives. I’m people go to college on the internet, of course they also would want go to church there. What does surprise me is the demographics. It’s not the millennials I know who are doing this, it’s the baby boomers. The 55 and better crowd.

And of course by “Go to church” I mean listen to a sermon podcast or watch a televangelist program. I’m not talking about a robust internet experience with avatars and chatooms and virtual communion (some of those have been attempted but to my knowledge have never succeeded) Millennials don’t worry about doing something that “counts” they just stop going.

I’ve wanted for a long time to see the parishioners and church leaders embrace technology, and deliver real teaching in a way that matches the growth of the modern world. To ask questions about why we are still building churches with architecture designed for an era before amplification, and provide a faster, more customized experience. Yet at the same time, I know that this isn’t that.

The much the more common application here is people who want to do church with minimal effort. To half-listen while making breakfast and still count themselves righteous for it. To them Church is a “To Do” and the internet is a time saving appliance to get it “to done”. Yet I want people in churches that challenge their theology, and provoke them to mission, and place them in communion with a diversity of people with whom they would not otherwise interact! They are not getting that!

Yet I oscillate back again, when I recognize that they are not getting that in church either. There are precious few churches in the world where people receive more than they bargained for. Where new friendships are created regularly. Where someone other than the choir is preached to because someone other than the choir is listening. So of course the Millennials leave, and of course the boomers find shortcuts. Crappy churches are literally not worth their time.

Look at the pace of movies that come out today versus the 1960s and consider that by liturgy standards, the 1960s are considered “cutting edge”. Christians are losing the hometown advantage in the United States. We can no longer trust people to come to church because that is “what you do” instead we need to provide them with something valuable and meaningful. And we need to start doing it now.

We need to embrace discipleship and let go of the seeker first last and always model that causes christians to feel like they know it all after year 2. We need to love God with our Minds and speak openly against anti-intellectualism. We need to let go of control and allow someone other than the ordained leader to make meaningful decisions that affect the rest of the community so that the community can feel their presence and not just see the back of their head.

And until then, Here is my only advice: The 80:20 principle applies to churches too, and the most involved minority at any church are generally receiving a worthwhile experience. Something that cannot be simulated in simple audio. So if you are out there listening to church podcasts because church doesn’t do it for you, and the podcasts have started to bore as well, try this: Join a church, even a mediocre one, and then volunteer for everything you can, including, and especially the things that you are not interested in. Drop other commitments if you have to, this is your eternal soul we are talking about. Wait 6 months and tell me if you want to go back to podcasts.


Written by RyanGaffney

July 1, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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