Since I became aware of the “reformed” stream of the emergent church movement, I have been following serveral bloggers from this stream with interest. One of them is Drew Goodmanson. He is an interesting guy because he is also in the front line of thinking about the impact of social media on church. (In fact, he runs a web business.)
Yesterday he reported a conference he was at where some were promoting the idea of planting an online-only church. The thought prompted the question for Drew:
What are we called to be as a Biblical community? And can this be done with technology?
This seems to be a hot running issue and I suspect that a large number of web-savvy people (esp. the young) think that the answer is simply a matter of working it through to a solution on the grounds that the web is simply another cultural medium.
I beg to differ. I wrote a quick response which I thought I would post below. It merely outlines my thoughts on it, but here it is…
Thanks for this interesting, and, I guess, somewhat disturbing post.
I agree with you that there can be community online. My problem is that thinking is subtly changing from church –> fellowship –> community as though these things are synonyms. I find it amazing that anyone can hope to plant an online-only “church”!
Here’s why: I am a reformational guy and when I think about “church” I begin to think about the marks of the church, which were recovered at the Reformation. These are
- preaching of the gospel,
- right administration of the sacraments, and
- church discipline.
So it seems to me that if we want a genuine biblical church (that’s what we want, isn’t it?) we need to ask how these can happen through the online medium. We might argue that online video can deliver the first of these adequately (though I have my doubts).
However, can baptism be done? taking of the Lord’s Supper where we “discern the Lord’s body”? The mind boggles!
Finally, how is discipline carried out online? In fact, how can one possibly have any idea that an online avatar is professing genuine faith without any kind of face to face contact? This is a basic starting point for exercising discipline. Even if one has a method, how can one effectively help with dealing with sin, especially if one is at the stage of getting an individual to see that there is a sin to repent of? I don’t think any of this can be done without life-on-life involvement.
As you can see, I am a bit of a skeptic!