So what could I possibly have to add? Not much, except… why not?
Seriously, churches are failing, our denomination is dying, we aren’t relevant, yada, yada, yada… You’ve heard it all before if you’re engaged in these conversations at all. We can continue to try nothing, in hopes that that will somehow work, or we can try something new. Something absurd. Something ridiculous. Something as ridiculous as going to those we love and care about in a form that they’ll understand.
Those folks that won’t darken the doors of our churches? They’re online. They won’t come to your potluck, but they’re on Facebook. They won’t read your newsletter, but they’ll follow you on Twitter. The one criticism I keep reading about all of this is that a church online isn’t incarnational. Maybe. But isn’t the incarnation about the fact that God pursues us? God comes to where we are and spends time with us? I don’t know. In a strange way, this seems very incarnational. At the very, least it’s incredibly missional.
You can’t replace a hug. There’s no substitute for eye contact. The hungry can’t eat my tweets. I get that. To me this new venture is about having a hub, a place where folks can be nurtured and strengthened to go out into the word and touch the mess of others lives and have them touch the mess of theirs. We’ll gather in our virtual world and think and pray about how to do justice and mercy in tangible ways. We’ll use the tools at our disposal to think about how to make the reign of God visible in the very real worlds that we all inhabit. And we’ll build relationships. Real relationships.
I got on Twitter at the end of 2010. Throughout 2011, I tweeted about the rough situation I was going through in my church only to find that I was not alone. One of the people who reached out to me was Katie Mulligan, whose blog I’ve linked to above. She was in a very similar church situation. When Katie and I finally met face-to-face, we dove right into conversation. It was like we had known each other for years. The small talk was unnecessary. A friend of mine asked me “have you two met before?” Well… we had, just not “in real life”.
There’s certainly a danger here. The anonymity that can be created by the internet an allow people to hide behind layers of bullshit. But there’s an opportunity here as well… for some people, the online interactions give them freedom to be more themselves. This is especially true of us pastor-types. Perhaps for many, this will be an opportunity to build relationships that are free of bullshit. It’s a worth a try, right?
A church online? Yeah, why not!