Meditations (Web)Church

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

“Online church is sick”

with 8 comments

A little while back, I mused about whether my two reformed heroes, John Piper and Mark Driscoll, considered the Web church blasphemy.

Mark Driscoll responded in the last 8 or 10 minutes of his Advance ’09 talk on What is the Church? recapping his arguments (direct link) in Vintage Church.

Now it’s John Piper’s turn to weigh in, and he doesn’t mince words. Here’s the full transcript of the question, “what are your thoughts on worshiping and being part of Christ’s body through an online church?” sent in to “Ask Pastor John.”

“If the question means, “as your only experience of worship,” it seems sick. We are created in bodies, not just in minds. And there is something docetic about this. That may not mean anything to a lot of people. Docetism was an early heresy that said that the body is not very important, and that life in the flesh and the created world is not very important, and that Jesus Christ only seemed to have a body. And usually material is evil.

God made us with bodies. He made us to give holy kisses to one another—embraces, handshakes, eyeball-to-eyeball conversation. He made husband and wife not to have imaginary video sex through Skype. He made them to go to bed together in the same bed. He made them to raise children in the same house, with hands-on hugs and spanks on the bottom and love. And he made churches to get together to hear each other sing, and to look at each other and talk to teach other, and minister to each other and help each other die well.

So to dispense with the entire bodily dimension of togetherness in order to substitute a video dimension of togetherness—like this right now—would, I think, be spiritually defective, would be contrary to Christ’s understanding of the church, and would be hurtful to the soul.

There are mysteries here in human relationships that we can’t quantify. And I don’t think that they can be replaced by electronic symbols.”

I think this critique, like Pastor Mark’s, takes the Web church too literally. The NewSpring Web Campus and other churches are actively encouraging relationships in the real world to complete the web campus experience.

But he also is clear that communal worship must be physical and is not sufficient if it is only a sense of communal gathering, as would happen in a chatroom.

What’s your take?


Written by NickCharalambous

June 29, 2009 at 9:55 am

Posted in community, web campus

Tagged with ,

8 Responses

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  1. I enjoy going to “online church” even though I’m a Pastor at another church for the sake of connecting with different people online and also listening to some great bible communicators. However, there has to be a physical connection. Connecting online is good, but it lacks so much compared to physically meeting someone. Words do not always tell a story in the way a picture can.

    Alex Penduck

    June 29, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    • Agreed … physical connection should be stressed, encouraged and enabled. Shouldn’t that possibility soften the critiques from Driscoll and Piper?


      June 29, 2009 at 6:29 pm

  2. Thanks for the link to the Driscoll book – I hadn’t read that before. I noticed that he ended with, “This can be a ministry of the church, but not the fullness of the church.” Perhaps in the future Driscoll himself will offer online services for those travelling or too sick to come, but not as a “normative” experience.


    June 30, 2009 at 8:58 am

    • Well, Driscoll seems to have shown his hand on that by showing the Easter services live this year (and I think last year, too.) Claiming the fullness of church online is a bold thing to do, no doubt. But whether as “church” or ministry, a web campus creates a great “cornerstone” for being the church in a resource rich, social, immersive, interactive environment like the web. I think the potential is breathtaking as a way to expose people to Christ’s teaching, and help them grow in faith and in love for each other.


      June 30, 2009 at 10:03 am

  3. “normative” puaha.

    yes. and no.

    John (Human3rror)

    June 30, 2009 at 9:55 pm

  4. […] what are you thinking? Thanks Ipiphanist for starting the […]

  5. […] other bloggers have chimed in on the topic too. I can’t say that I disagree with Piper’s take and I will never […]

  6. […] what are you thinking? Thanks Ipiphanist for starting the […]

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