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Welcome to First United Church Of 192.168.0.1

*These are my opinions in a rather shotgun style*

1. Small Groups are a reaction from the local church to the lack of organic community within their walls.
2. The actual church “building” creates a limit as to how large the church can grow.
3. The actual church “building” dictates how most churches do ministry.
4. Most people who attend church do so with little if any of their true lives being shared.
5. Relational Depth can only be achieved my the willingness of the loudest person in the room to silence themselves.

All these are the nuggets that are floating in my head right now.
Why?
Because I’m wondering something.

People email me all the time telling me that Ragamuffin Soul is “their church”.
At first I resisted this and told them to go find one.
But I know they have not.
And they are here everyday.
Sharing more than they have in any church building their entire lives.

I look at the above opinions on the American Church and see those issues not existing online.

1. Organic community is what has to happen in order for online tribes to foster.
2. Walls are gone.
3. Walls are gone.
4. The anonymity of an online tribe gives people a feeling that they can be instantly vulnerable and speed up the loss of anonymity.
5. You can skip a screamer in a comment section or chat room. I can’t do that in an offline small group.

So as I process these things…I wonder.
What would a focused church that exists solely online look like?
I have no idea.
Is this something that is even possible?
I think so.
No. I know so.

What do you guys think about this stuff?
Do you even think about this stuff?

Los

  • Margo

    if it exists solely online there is no fellowship. and if the small group is online..that isn’t fellowship because people are talking together. i can’t say how much fellowship has impacted my life at church and without it, or without the experience of worshiping with others, i don’t see much life.

  • Emily Miller

    I think there is a measure of accountability that cannot be truly achieved online. It is great to think that the anonymity of online allows people to be vulnerable to a degree they wouldn’t be in person, but it also allows for people to hide behind the online persona. I have been a follower of your blog and your online persona for several years. I have not interacted much for several reasons, but I would not pretend to ‘know’ you or ‘fellowship’ with you without making a connection offline.
    I do think online-only church is likely coming, but I’m certain it would not be for me.

  • Bradley

    I will guess the majority will disagree with this post.

    • ragamuffinsoul

      The whole thing?!!!! 😉

  • chrisdwalker

    I think it is possible and I think about it often.

    Have you ever prayed regularly for a person that you don’t really know? There is something about prayer that connects people no matter the distance.

    And then it is exciting when you do get to meet in person. Thinking about how Paul longed to visit the churches he was writing to.

  • Andy Akins

    There are millions who tune into Church Online at Lifechurch.tv every week. A lot of these people don’t go to a local church. I’ve seen many saved on there. It’s easier to be open online. The only problem is you lose the relational side of church. People can come in and disappear just as fast online.

  • BrinaHarwood

    I’m part of an online community that began with one man’s blog. It’s pretty cool to see people connect in online conversations and then watch it spill over to Facebook/Twitter/Instagram. It can happen. I never thought about it until I found myself in the midst of it.
    That being said, I would never replace physically going to church and being part of connecting to people in a real-time way with going solely online. I guess I’m firmly in the “both” camp.

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  • While I don’t doubt that some people form stronger attachments via online communication than others, I personally don’t develop the kind of deep relationships that I need without seeing people face to face. Real life involves inconvenient things. Things like moving. Things like needing someone to watch your kid while you take your wife to the hospital.

    For me, the kind of friendship that is needed to change my reaction to those inconvenient things from “uh…sure… I guess” to “of course I will” is not developed through a relationship that exists based on convenience of online communication .

    Today my closest friends are online, but they are also the people I hang out with. I care about them because I’ve had to work to be with them. This might not apply to everyone, but for me, online church is great for being able to find teaching that resonates with me more than what’s available locally, but when it comes to relationships, I don’t connect.

  • Hincapie

    The real question is “where does it head?”

    I’m a big fan of online ministry, even as the first steps into community. But not online church.

    Question: do you love your family? Would you be fine to only have a relationship with them online? My cousin was deployed several times to Iraq. Did he appreciate Skype, email, etc with his wife and two girls? Absolutely! Would he choose online family over family “in the flesh?” NO!

    I can share much online, be vulnerable, etc, yes. But I cannot grow very far unless you are in my life, seeing my expression, attitudes, treatment of my wife. “For God so loved the world – that he didn’t Skype in!” The incarnation is our model.

  • Brian McNarry

    I think that an online community has viability and traction, but for me there is always the point of serving that will be missed in a purely digital church. The greatest times of my own growth with Christ have come from when I have given of myself, my time, and my money to the church. While time and money can easily be given in an online setting (ie: google hangout small group, online giving,) the opportunities to physically serve one another and meeting each other’s needs in an online church are severely hampered.

    Things like postponing a fishing trip to go help a friend build his fence, or dropping by on a single Mom to take care of mowing the lawn or cleaning the eaves troughs won’t easily happen in a digital/online community.

    There’s a couple of faith communities where I consider myself to be a ‘member at a distance,’ because I share in their teaching via podcasts, but if anyone were to ask where my church was, it would be clearly my local church I am part of.

    Anonymity does let people get to vulnerability in sharing quicker, but it also puts up barriers to letting that vulnerability transition into advocating Christ’s transformation and journeying towards him.

  • Brandi

    “Small Groups are a reaction from the local church to the lack of organic community within their walls.”

    So darn true.

    The only way to connect to anyone in a church of 6,000+ is to join a small group.

    Because otherwise, connection is lost….

    I’ve contact my church about marriage counseling — no response.

    I’ve reached out to my church about helping with a volunteer issue they had — no response
    I’ve offered my “spiritual gifts” — no response

    This IS the problem with a 6,000+ congregation church. I am just a #.

    I’ve accepted the fact that our church is big and I am sure stuff slips through the cracks, but people should not feel that way.

    So, with that being said, people who feel like me look for connection elsewhere. Like here or Facebook in general. It’s easy to connect and be heard. As humans we crave connection and we will go anywhere to get it — even to cyber space.

  • Sasha Maples Johns

    I’ve never thought about it that way, but my closest friends and I don’t all live nearby and we have our own chat room….and we run a blog together that reaches people that are essentially telling us what you just said with out using the word church, so, yeah. I think so.

  • Michael Schutz

    I think digital interaction is a very valuable supplement to in-person connections, but that it should not serve as a replacement. I’ve seen many examples of what you say, Carlos – people opening up online in ways that they never would offline. That’s fantastic. But to be able to look in someone’s eyes as they speak, offer a handshake, smile, hug, etc. is such a huge part of living the Christian life together. As a pastor, things like online Baptism and/or Communion, while perhaps not invalid, miss a HUGE part of the point – those are not just visible, but tactile, experiences of God’s grace, designed to be done together in person as a church community. And online preaching and worship music – sure, you can get the “content”, but again, you miss out on so much of the benefit of doing that together with others. To seek that out as the primary/only form of “church” may give you what you need, but it greatly diminishes (not eliminates – I say “diminishes” very intentionally) your ability to support and encourage others. Seen from that perspective, maybe the greatest danger/harm in fully online church is not that you don’t get what you want (should that that the primary criteria for getting involved in a church?), but that you’re far less able to serve your brothers and sisters in Christ and far less able to allow them to serve you.

    There are a lot of other factors to this too: the danger of having just a few “super-preachers”, the lack of application of the Word to your local contexts, etc. But I think the full expression of Christian fellowship has to have an in-person c

    Is digital interaction valuable? Absolutely. Is it “real”? Absolutely. Those who dismiss it as something less than “real” are missing the point. But should it be the preferred and/or only way to interact as church given viable alternatives? I would argue it shouldn’t.

    Just as an aside, your #5 may be a point to consider as an illustration. Yes you can skip an online screamer/troll. And that may be valuable to the rest of the group by being able to ignore that person. But as you say, in an offline group, you can’t ignore so easily. What about the opportunity for that person to be discipled by the group helping him/her grow and learn so that he/she can actually silence him/herself? If you can’t ignore it, you have to deal with it. Could the “being able to ignore it” actually be a detriment to community-building rather than a help?

    In fact, maybe that’s a larger point in this whole discussion – fully online interaction makes it very easy to ignore what we want to ignore. Maybe one of the primary benefits of in-person interaction is that we can’t be so choosy about what to ignore, and maybe that’s a good thing.

  • Kris Van Houten

    IMO, I think substituting face to face relationships with ones that are screen to screen is dangerous, because it allows us to be lazy, never seeing the world as it really is, but only as the me focused digital fantasy that we shape to our liking. It’s for this reason that I think technology is actually making the problem worse in many ways.

    The answer to messed up local churches isn’t technology, but theology. Use the internet for the tool it is, but not as a replacement for reality.

    Find a church that is full of sinners who love Jesus. Hopefully, you’ll fit right in.

  • Liz Roberson

    How tempting would this be for me?!?! I’m definitely one that doesn’t always feel heard by people because I’m not as loud or forceful or driven. I love commenting on something online because I can get a whole thought out before I’m cut off.
    That said, my current local church experience has been the most refining and sanctifying time of my life. Fun…not always. Easy…not hardly. I kind of want to quit every week because it gets hard being close to people and doing life together…really. It’s messy knowing others and being known, but it is worth it.

  • Jane Figueras

    this sounds very interesting & very doable, cause God has no limits. I think Shaun King may have been looking into this.

  • I really resonate with you, especially the idea of small groups as a reaction to what we’re missing. That said, I definitely think online needs to be a complement, not a replacement.

    Wherever the body of Christ meets is called church, and it can be
    anywhere. But the Bible clearly calls for structure and membership
    because without it, we crumble. I think this is why we see in Scripture that:

    God wants pastors, elders, and deacons, and he wants us to devote ourselves to their teaching—even if it’s longer than 20 minutes (Ephesians 4:11-12, Acts 2:42). Sometimes leading the church becomes such a full-time job that they must appoint others to take care of the physical needs of the church (Acts 6:1-7).

    He wants us to respect, submit to, and show confidence in our
    authorities in the church, who watch over our souls and must give an
    account for doing so (1 Thessalonians 5:12; Hebrews 13:17).

    He wants us to “come together as a church” and have some sort
    of membership in local churches (1 Corinthians 11:18). He wants us
    joined to something: the church (Acts 14:21-23), the body of Christ
    (1 Corinthians 12:27). Otherwise, there’d be no grounds for the com-
    mands of church discipline (1Timothy 5:19-20).

    He wants us to “behave in the household of God, which is the
    church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy
    3:15). He wants us to do all things “decently and in order” in the church
    (1 Corinthians 14:40). He wants us to partake in the Lord’s supper
    (1 Corinthians 11:26), pray (Acts 2:42), baptize (Matthew 28:19), sing
    spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19), and read Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13).

    He wants us to practice our spiritual gifts to serve others as faith-
    ful stewards of his grace in its various forms, speaking as those who speak the very words of God, and serving as through his strength alone
    (1 Peter 4:10; Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11).

  • mdunbar

    I haven’t read all the comments, nor thought thru all the issues that can arise. I am a pastor and dedicated my life to the flourishing of God’s local church. But in my church, it is hard to share openly, because of the lack of relational time people have. I think a church that exists online would have no less issues than a church that has face to face relationships. Our task as XNs is to believe and learn what it means to be a disciple and then go out into the world and make disciples. That happens when someone sits in church and listens and then goes into the world. That can easily happen with an online community as well. Face to face isn’t really authentic face to face in the church most of the time. But the most important part of the XNs life might be learning how to be authentic face to face in their current world not just in the church. So, online church might be a perfectly valid way of doing it. Also, if someone is going to be lazy with their relationships and discipling, that can happen online or in a face to face church. I know it happens in mine all the time, whether I desire it or not.

  • Koala

    Online community is great, but:

    “I didn’t see you at church last week. How are you going?”

    “You’re doing exams.. here’s a pot of soup to keep you going”

    “You have an appointment. Can I babysit so you don’t have to wrangle kids at the clinic?”

    “I’m struggling. Can you pray for me and keep me accountable”

    “I need a hug”…. ***HUGS***

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  • Linda

    my whole comment was eaten and now the incredibly wise words are forgotten…

  • Dennnis

    There are a number of thoughts that come to mind as to why the Virtual Church idea – while appealing to some – will be problematic in the long run:
    1. Physical – Jesus was PHYSICAL with his followers. He touched them, He blessed them, He healed them, He hugged them! He was physical. I look forward to my Sunday and mid-week worship services – and my two small groups. Hugs… handshakes…. and talking face-to-face! The physical and loving touch of a hug or a squeeze on shoulder to a brother or sister who is hurting and in need goes a long way.
    2. Spiritual – was are admonished in Scripture to not “forsake the assembling of our selves”. Corporate worship plays an important spiritual role in the body of believers. We are also taught in Scripture that He sent them out “two by two”, and that “where two or more are gathered in My Name, there I am also”. There is literal power in numbers. When we come together corporately for worship and teaching – our spirits are united with His Spirit and He is there in our midst! The very Power of God – Dunamis – that raised Jesus from the dead – is present and available!