The Church Body and the Internet, Part 1
The question about interactions between the Church and the Internet came up recently so I wanted to touch on a few basics of this topic. I am going to post several parts to this topic over the next month or two, so I consider this to be an introduction to the topic itself, not a conclusion.
Of course I am going to touch on the importance of a website, social networking sites and their effect, content the Internet contains that may keep us in line or cause us to fall short, the list can go on forever I think, but I will try to stay focused.
Living on the Internet
For the last 15 years my wife and I have earned our living through the Internet in one form or another, so when one discusses the church and the Internet today, it touches on a basis for something I am extremely familiar with and a place I generally spend most of my days through work, and as with most today, many other things from paying bills, entertainment, and overall general information.
I recently wrote a short piece on the importance of a church to have a website, called Does a Church Need a Website? After writing that post, is now acts as a spring board for this topic, so it was kind of strange for me to hear a message directly speaking about the Internet and the church a few weeks ago.
Does The Church Use the Internet Effectively?
I have watched the growth and changes the Internet has gone through, since the early 90's, from a Believers perspective, and I did then, and do today, think it is one of the most underutilized areas of the church, and a place for enormous witness potential that lies in wait.
By underutilized, I don't mean having or not having a website that shows worship times and directions. I mean having a witnessing presence to meet and address the needs of individuals on a personal level, the way it is described through Acts 1:7, a local, national, and worldwide reach, in a way and medium that is used and understood by our society. A way that probably each generation of Believers and potential Believers to come will be far more familiar with than your average baby boomer (nothing against them).
* Acts 1:7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Yes, there are many who come to Believe through traditional methods, and all those are important, but one can not ignore the Internet as a great channel to reach others. It doesn't have to be someone around the world. It can be, but you can reach out to local people as well. There are many that are comfortable communicating through the Internet today that will not respond to traditional means for one reason or another.
Communication is the Anchor Today
I think it is important for us as a church body to recognize this, use the resources available, train the personnel, and actively communicate with people in a manner that anyone under about 40 would expect. This is not just email (and this is important), but through facebook, youtube, twitter, blogs, and whatever communication method is being actively used.
It doesn't mean we are to engage in unethical behaviors, or compromise our beliefs in any way. What it does mean is that we should reply to emails, actively seek out those ways that Believers and possible Believers communicate in today's world, and be ready to engage people in ways The Church may be neglecting.
Of course, you always have to look for some worldly examples (since we do actually live in the world right now), but where none are perfect, there are some that have an Internet presence that come to mind, like Ragamuffin Soul, check out his latest post, The Little Church Down The Block, and maybe Stuff Christians Like (for something a little off topic I guess), with his running list of truths (see latest #186. You down with O.P.P.? Whoops, I meant G.O.D.)
There are countless others, those are just two that come immediately to mind when I think of Believers using the internet for God's Glory. Stay tuned for part 2, coming soon. What about it? What ways does your church communicate in today's electronic world?