Meditations (Web)Church

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

Archive for April 2009

The future of the Church is online

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NewSpring has some great friends at LifeChurch.tv, and online community manager Tony Steward was kind enough to give me the opportunity this week to be a guest poster for the blog for their web campus, Church Online.

If you missed it, you can read the post here.

I wanted to offer a handful of practical ways to try out and see tangible results from a purposeful use of web tools for the church.

I also offered a quick overview of the overall dynamics of our social economy that lead me to conclude that the future of the church is online.

Here’s a snippet to whet your appetite:

I think our current hang-up over whether you can have true community without physical presence is a colossal distraction from the reasons why.

We’ve got to be where everyone is, use the communication tools everyone else uses, and share what Jesus has to offer wherever people expect to find “knowledge for life.” And in our foreseeable future that will be defined by the web.

Written by NickCharalambous

April 30, 2009 at 9:17 am

Posted in ruminations

My interview with Outreach Mojo about the online church

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I was recently interviewed by Outreach Mojo about the NewSpring Web Campus and my thoughts about the intersection of technology and the church.

The 15-min interview had some good moments, especially the thoughts toward the end regarding whether physical churches would ever disappear.

Written by NickCharalambous

April 29, 2009 at 9:09 am

Posted in ruminations

A church expression for all seasons

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Some have given up on the traditional form of church altogether. And they are in serious pursuit of an expression of church that provides authentic community centered on Jesus Christ. But they cannot find such an expression in their city.

All of these people love the Lord and they love the Body of Christ, but they feel quite alone. And spiritually, they are dry and empty.

In short, they are experiencing the wilderness. — Frank Viola, Are you in the Wilderness?

That’s why i think all churches eventually will be Web Campuses.

Written by NickCharalambous

April 27, 2009 at 3:18 pm

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The future for the church is now

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The church is an institution, we exercise our faith through and with the institution. And most churches have in place particular rules about who can exercise what and when. In a sense the church mediates the believers relationship with God and moderates the believers practice. This sees authority held and dispersed by the church, which is an important safeguard and can be a positive thing. But the fact remains that it is likely this approach will be in conflict with the expectations of the emerging generation.

Generation F Christians have little respect for such institutional practices, preferring to bypass institutions in favor of a direct, unmediated relationship with God. Their question may well be, ‘What is the point of church?’ … We need to create the opportunity for people to ‘be at church’ or part of a community at any moment in the day/week. Setting a special time on Sunday morning is artificial and limiting.

We need to re-consider our geographic mindset when it comes to church governance. The notion of us belonging to a village based church, of walking to church, bumping into the vicar at the shops and so on is for most a thing of the past. The local parish may well be replaced by more of a network of like minded people joined together by mutual google-church.jpginterest from across the world. — Mark Brown, How the Digital Revolution will affect the church.

I couldn’t agree more.

Written by NickCharalambous

April 26, 2009 at 4:28 pm

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Storytelling is about storymaking

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Everyone has a story.

But not everyone knows how to tell a story.

I want to do everything in my power to encourage a greater use of personal stories in my ministry here at NewSpring. But a key to success is recognizing that stories don’t just happen. They are made.

That’s media 101.

I’m not saying that there aren’t a lot of “spontaneous” stories that we share about what God has done or is doing in our lives.

I’m not saying that stories are only stories if they follow specific narrative forms, like a personal testimony.

And I’m not saying that stories can’t be generated by ordinary people using ordinary tools everyone has at their disposal.

I am saying I think that we’re being naive if we think that our responsibility ends the moment that we ask people to share their story with us.

There are ways staff or trained volunteers can employ traditional media techniques to help people:

See their story. This is about recognizing when a private experience of God or a spiritual learning can carry a message of the gospel and/or help teach others about how to respond faithfully to his call on believers.

Express their story. This is about being a “midwife” to the story, making someone comfortable sharing their story, and helping them choose the best tools to capture the story in multimedia.

Shape their story. This is about framing the story by putting it in a context where it will offer the maximum impact and the maximum exposure. That could be focusing the message to speak to a particular topic or audience. That could be choosing the media for the story, the length of the story, or whether the story should be able to stand alone or whether it depends on its place within a wider web of information.

God commands everyone to tell of his good works. This isn’t optional.

In fact, the true richness of our faith and the true greatness of our God can only be captured by releasing the stories in the lives of every faithful follower.

And churches have a critical role to play in harnessing and focusing that storytelling — even, or perhaps especially, now that everyone has the tools to be a media creator.

Written by NickCharalambous

April 23, 2009 at 2:12 pm

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The narcissism of online community?

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From Nicholas Carr

“The great paradox of “social networking” is that it uses narcissism as the glue for “community.” Being online means being alone, and being in an online community means being alone together. The community is purely symbolic, a pixellated simulation conjured up by software to feed the modern self’s bottomless hunger. Hunger for what? For verification of its existence? No, not even that. For verification that it has a role to play.

Via JT via Andrew Sullivan

Discuss.

Written by NickCharalambous

April 21, 2009 at 9:38 am

Posted in ruminations

When Easter is all Greek to me. Part 2

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My mom celebrated Easter this past Sunday. And God always reminds me through her this time of year that Jesus didn’t put up intellectual barriers to his grace, his love and his joy.

My mom, a believing Orthodox, is functionally illiterate. She was never able to read the Bible on her own, mediate on it and memorize scripture. All the theology that she knows was learned in the oral tradition, through word pictures on stained glass and through watching the way faith was modeled among those she knew.

Is her faith as well grounded theologically as it could be? Probably not, based on the conversations we’ve had in my very poor Greek.

As I said in this previous post, based on my personal experience, I don’t think the Greek Orthodox Church really believes it’s necessary to explain faith in Jesus in a way that is relevant to everyday life or attractive to the lost. And that breaks my heart.

But I know my mom has what Jesus refers to as “childlike faith.” She more as much as any good reformed theologian I know would insist on never presuming on tomorrow, knowing that it is only if God wills that anything happen.

A lot has been written about the post-literate culture we’re living in now, where images and video, not the written word, is the primary way we communicate.

Naturally, there are many people who make excuses that the Bible is too hard to understand.

But for every person who uses that as a way to avoid engaging with it, I bet there’s another person who really does struggle to comprehend it.

That’s where everyday stories, such as the one’s Perry likes to use, are so powerful. During the Easter message, he used rooting for an American idol contestant as a way explain why caring about Jesus changes the way you see religion. And he used chickens tied to the handlebars of the bike on the way to a frying pan to describe the easy life on the highway to hell.

That’s the way Jesus did it, too, using word pictures and experiences that everyone could understand, such as farming, drinking, eating etc., to explain spiritual truth.

That’s why I get so mad when people accuse NewSpring and Perry of making the gospel “too easy” to receive.

It’s almost as if they would prefer for someone to have understood and grappled with the weightiest of all the theological mysteries of God before they reason, on the balance of the evidence, that Jesus is who he says he is.

During the invitation on the web campus at last week’s Easter services, we had one person in our chatroom who thought it was appropriate to talk about reprobation in the same breath as Christ dying for our sins.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many people who met God like that. And I don’t see many pictures in the scriptures of saving faith like that.

The Roman Centurion’s extraordinary faith was based purely on understanding Jesus power.

And Jesus’ own disciples were unschooled men who certainly didn’t fully understand his divinity or his purpose until years after they began to follow him.

I’d bet that many of us barely had the faintest understanding of what we were really signing up for when we trusted in Jesus for the first time. What we knew then and now is all spiritually discerned and a gift from God.

I love the Protestant emphasis on Bible understanding. I’m a thinker, so I love engaging with theology.

But it seems to me we should be careful about making intellectual understanding of who Jesus is and what Jesus did — except in the most basic terms (Jesus as God; Jesus as savior) — as a condition on meeting Him.

That’s what my mom taught me. God bless her.

Written by NickCharalambous

April 19, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Posted in ruminations