Meditations (Web)Church

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

You don’t have Christian community? Sucks to be you …

with 8 comments

I was going to call this post Et Tu Anne Jackson?.

You see, I’m worried about the trend of Christian technocrati who are slowly getting over the techno-hysteria of early social media adoption and are willing to commit the heresy of ‘fessing up to the fact that … shock … real, face-to-face community is better. And social media saturation can be damaging to your health.

We’ve had a blogatical. Social networking fasts like Anne’s. And any number of confessions from B-list bloggers like me who, at varying points on their journeys, find that trying to maintain a social media “brand” on several platforms takes the kind of determined emotional, creative and intellectual effort few of us can muster without damaging other, more important parts of our lives.

So why am i bothered?

Because many of us will — and maybe should — retrench to more modest social media exposure and more humble social media expectations.

So why am I bothered?

Because that means we might not get the opportunity to push through the pain barrier to discover how Christians can successfully develop a community praxis in the online world. And we’re not going to learn that from how people network about their favorite shows on Hulu. We’re going to learn that from trying to plant churches, faith communities, there.

One of the things that I think we, the evangelical techno elite in the North American church, keep fatally forgetting is that we are totally surrounded by Christians and Christ-friendly if not Christ-affirming values. The magnitude and the richness of our real-world Christian community is rarely available to anyone else in the world.

As a pastor of what is already, after three weeks! a global community of believers, I have already had my heart broken by the reality that your faith, your ability to live it out and your capacity to survive the lies, deceptions and temptations of the enemy, is tied to having a supportive Christian community around you.

And how many places in techno-advanced Western Europe, let alone the rest of the world, have large concentrations of committed, faithful, theologically orthodox believers?

Not many.

How do you answer a Christian in Germany who is told of the importance of marriage that is part of God’s plan who doesn’t know many or any Proverbs 31 women? Heck, NewSpring has 10,000 attenders in one more or less contiguous geographic community and we get that complaint.

Missionary dating isn’t the answer. And neither is the cute response that each individual Christian should become a micro-church planter.

Yes. Offline community IS better. But online community is infinitely better than nothing at all.

I believe in God’s plan for developing Christian community. It’s called “go forth and multiply.”

But the remnant we have become has to finds a way to build tight, integrated supportive communities — good soil as it were — for real saving faith and contagious faith to flourish.

Would they look like Holy Huddles? Was the Acts church a Holy Huddle? It grew by thousands daily.

Debates about online community aren’t interesting experiments with marketing and promotions around the edges of a church movement. It is the future of a church movement.

Agree or disagree?

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Written by NickCharalambous

February 26, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Posted in ruminations

8 Responses

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  1. Thanks Nick… Offline Community is better… and in doing j516.com I’ve learnt that… but I also know that in the field I am working, that guys are more likely to open up first online before the churches get them too…

    I would love for ministries like mine to morph into worldwide on and offline ministries…

    We’ll see… and be certain of these hopes.

    God Bless

    Nathan Edwards

    February 26, 2009 at 3:44 pm

  2. Hang in there Nick!! What you and others in your new ministry are doing is pioneering and experimental, with no shortage of people hoping to see you fail and point ‘See? You can’t do community online!’

    Sure there are unique benefits to face-to-face, but that’s just always possible. You are *surely* reaching some people who simply will not be reached any other way. For that reason you not only should continue, but you must!

    If God is telling others to take a break, give it up for 40 days (hopefully to do something relational), they need to listen. Whether breaking or pressing on, the important thing is whether you’re hearing the voice of God in your life and obeying.

    Larry Baxter

    February 26, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    • Larry: Absolutely right … did not want to sound like I was criticizing Anne or Los, although I admit there was a slightly snarky tone to the post. Anne and anyone else should absolutely do what God is calling them to do. I just want to make sure our experiments with online community are taken seriously and aren’t handled just as a straw man argument against how important offline community is to the historic church.

      ipiphanist

      February 26, 2009 at 5:18 pm

  3. It seems to me that there is a huge difference between a so called community that take a lot of effort from one person to drive everything ( a person that is often highly motivated by the almighty graph on Google Analytics) & the community that is organic, that changes with seasons, and that incorporates different voices as equals.

    Chris S.

    February 26, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    • Love that point Chris … it’s something I actually had on my list of future blog topics. There’s a huge difference between community based around a personality (typically blog or Twitter-based and more or less comment, fundraising based), and one that is a groundswell and multi-modal … we have lots of examples of the former; not quite so many of the latter.

      ipiphanist

      February 26, 2009 at 5:28 pm

  4. best. blog. post. ever.

    keep it coming!

    John (Human3rror)

    February 27, 2009 at 10:23 am

  5. Great blog and hope to have some time soon to come back and read more!

    Katie

    February 27, 2009 at 5:40 pm

  6. I completely agree that offline community is better than online community when and where possible. The problem comes that all to often we don’t make the necessary connections to expand our ministries and/or outreaches with face to face interactions alone, commonly because of the tyranny of the moment

    In some of my overseas travels, I discovered that I made more networking connections with US church contacts overseas than I ever had the chance to inside the US. Lets think that one over. Anybody have similar experiences

    Daniel Berman

    March 1, 2009 at 7:58 pm


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