Meditations (Web)Church

A year (and a bit) in the life of NewSpring's first Web pastor

The digitally networked church is a dangerous church. If not now, when?

with 6 comments

Christians hate to play catch up with culture. They just hate to admit that, more often than not, they missed the boat because they weren’t as smart, imaginative or innovative as the world.

And too often, when then they do see value in a great idea or technology, they’re more interested in the way it can provide “a safe alternative” to a secular phenomenon or a social support for the (typically personal) challenges of Christian life, rather than the ways it can be used dangerously for the Kingdom.

There’s a lot of buzz about the sale of Mars Hill’s On The City community building application, which boasts “real not virtual community for Jesus Fame.”  The buyer, Christian media powerhouse Zondervan, is likely hoping for mass adoption by churches.

I’m predicting a lot of uber Christians have already decided to dismiss On the City as “just Facebook for Christians.”

In my view, that fatally misunderstands what On The City is about.

And if we keep rejecting the fundamental premise of the digital revolution as “just another social network,” we’ll just delay building massively influential networked church bodies that will be empowered and seen to do incredible, dangerous acts of God.

Distinctly Christian community is important and indispensable. One of the most powerful theological premises of our faith is that everyone can contribute and must contribute to building the kingdom of God.

From a spiritual perspective we can’t be faithful, powerful and influential Christians unless we are surrounded by encouraging, disciplining and inspiring practical wisdom about how to “work out salvation.”

From a practical perspective, we need to be aware of the gifts, abilities, and resources of other Christians in order that we can work together with them to help a hurting world for God’s glory. No matter whether you are in a small town or a big city, you can live out your God ordained role in the Church.

Distinctly Christian community is not a substitute but a supplement to broader community. There is no doubt a danger that Christian community could become a “holy huddle,” but that’s only if it’s oriented solely around fellowship in a kind of social “bunker mentality:” keep me safe and affirm me.

Create a different pivot point, and everything changes.

The fact is, in the networked world, all of us belong to multiple communities right now – for work and for fun. If the Christians in our churches use the opportunities of the digitally networked church poorly, it is the fault of individual Christians and their pastors, not the potentially life-enhancing technology.

A networked church is a healthy church. A digitally networked church body can be present to itself at all times in all locations, providing instant support and giving the devil much less of an opening.

And a digitally networked church body allows a large and wide range of its social interactions to be transparent to everyone, making it easier for church members to recognize a need for help and guidance, and for church leaders to provide correction and discipline.

On the City has many if not all of the elements of the four principles of healthy church life. It’s not the ultimate church utility, but it’s a good starting point. And it’s way more revolutionary than the new trend of icampuses.

  • Engage: The detailed user-profile features allows you to make connections between like-minded churchgoers so they can develop their own sub-networks, where all the real social and spiritual change happens offline and online. If you could have the ability to declare your gifts and resources (time, money, possessions) and enable others to search for instant matches for whatever burden or vision the Lord gives them, that could be truly revolutionary.
  • Endure: Offering daily bible readings, journal space, and groups feature offers a chance to make learning social (and therefore easier and more pleasant) in self-selected groups that are much more cohesive and productive than those created more or less arbitrarily. Imagine a YouVersion social Bible or a social Bible study guide combined with the power of multiple video chat? That would be a powerhouse for discipleship.
  • Enable: Its events and marketplace features when combined could form the core functionality of a service application, where any community member could take on “project manager” responsibility for a service project, large or small, identifying, gathering and deploying Christian resources for God’s glory.
  • Enlarge: Any amount of digitally networked social activity creates a media overflow that can be displayed, embedded, and discussed across the full range of the secular social media landscape. We know that when Christ is lifted up, he draws people to himself.

What’s your take on On The City? What other functionalities would make the ideal church utility?


Written by NickCharalambous

November 19, 2008 at 4:25 pm

6 Responses

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  1. glad you are on the seen my friend— love the post— too bad i have no idea of how to add to the discussion— so i’ll read and take in all the brilliance that others add—-

    brad cooper

    November 19, 2008 at 4:31 pm

  2. What in the world is an “uber Christian”? Isn’t being a Christian a lot like being pregnant? You’re either pregnant or you are not pregnant.

    Can you explain? Thanks.


    November 21, 2008 at 2:27 am

  3. Fair call, BabushkaBlue. Doesn’t always pay to be too cute. I was referring to Christians who consider themselves on the cutting edge of culture and therefore way too cool to use an idea someone else came up with. Nothing insinuated about Christian salvation.

    Thanks for the comment. Any thoughts on the guts of my point?


    November 21, 2008 at 2:18 pm

  4. […] reminded me that in spring 2007, after at least two years of envisioning what I call the “networked church,” I submitted a plan for such an application to E.W. Scripps Co.’s enterprenuer fund. […]

  5. […] reminded me that in spring 2007, after at least two years of envisioning what I call the “networked church,” I submitted a plan for such an application to E.W. Scripps Co.’s enterprenuer fund. […]

  6. […] The digitally networked church is a dangerous church […]

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