Meditations (Web)Church

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

Wanted: a new creative model for the online church

with 4 comments

Churches should crave our attention because God craves our attention.

One of the things I love most about NewSpring is that its culture of creative excellence forces visitors, especially seekers, to set aside assumptions or preconceptions and pay attention. Loud music. Bright Lights. Video.  We know these things represent drama, discovery, and emotional engagement. The experience of going to rock concerts and movies taught our hearts  to respond in that way. You may be forced to think about what you are experiencing, but only because you are feeling it first.

I wonder how the experience of a staged experience will translate to the web, where it will always be contained by a screen — mobile, computer or TV — and probably wrapped in text. Your own. Or someone else’s.

On the web, you’re always paying attention. It is the message of the medium.

Maybe the issue online isn’t just attention. Maybe it’s the type of attention.

My hunch is that people are always looking for spiritual sanctuary. A place to escape from the noise of our lives. Or maybe just a place to shelter from it. They are giving themselves permission to feel spiritually alive.

Peace and rest are perhaps Jesus’ greatest promises to the lost.

If our online churches are really going to reach the lost, and not just church folks who want to top up on their teaching and skip out of church whenever they want to, then it would seem that we need to meet this need for emotional space online.

Orthodox churches have a narthex, something like a decompression chamber, just before you enter the sanctuary. That’s where you leave the world behind and prepare to enter the world of the spirit. The art and architecture of most great churches and cathedrals had the same effect.

My first thought: Build a unique, visual worship experience. A blend of music, spoken words and images — art, photography, tyography, video — that forces everyone to grapple emotionally with what we think we know about ourselves and the world.

How do you think we can create an environment online for seekers to pursue emotional and spiritual restoration?


Written by NickCharalambous

December 12, 2008 at 5:25 pm

Posted in ruminations

4 Responses

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  1. hmm…

    I think it is a good exercise to try and see how experiences in churches and experiences online could parallel each other.

    I am still processing a lot of the same sort of questions you are – but I don’t know that online environments are close enough to offline ones for a distinct parallel to exist.

    For instance, online environments aren’t nearly as restricted by time as a churches. Online environments need conversational content, not presentational like churches. Online environments need smaller bits of content all the time, 7 days a week, to match people’s attention span. Online environments want to personally engage people one on one, or in smaller groups, where churches only want to connect with people as an audience or a larger mass.

    Do you see these same issues and differences? I am still thinking it through, and probably won’t agree with parts of what I asserted above in a couple days – but I really think trying to copy how church has been done, programmatically, to online community won’t be nearly as successful as we would like because it doesn’t tap into the strengths it has inherently.

    Tony Steward

    December 12, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    • I think I’m in broad agreement with you … conversational interaction about the truth of Christ is at the end of the day probably going to be at the core of online church. What prompted the post was wondering whether there is as much “space” for those conversations as we think there is … I’m thinking particularly when we’re coming into casual or semi-casual contact with the lost, rather than those who are already ready for engagement …. great convo


      December 13, 2008 at 12:10 pm

  2. Great thoughts. My husband and I have been discussing this ourselves lately. Something great about church online is that the environment is comfortable because it’s in peoples’ homes, yet the catch is you want it to be transcendental.

    Of course we know that God meets us all where we are, no matter where we are – and sometimes the deepest encounters are in the simplest envionments.

    Some things that could move people are videos of peoples’ stories. Videos of artists at work would be inspirational and awe-inspiring, too.

    The idea of a narthex is good. It seems all too easy to casually approach one’s laptop for church online since we sit at our computers dozens of times throughout any given day. Making a point of stopping to gather one’s thoughts before consciously attending church is also a step in the right direction.


    December 12, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    • We can’t ever lose sight of the fact that Jesus meets us where we are. So true. But maybe our concern for the environment is about preparing the ground for the seed?


      December 13, 2008 at 12:04 pm

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