Is an Online Church Really a Church?
As a Christian who majored in media design, I cringe when I visit a church website that I know was assembled at the birth of the Internet and hasn’t been touched since. While many congregations might think it frivolous to invest in an online presence, more and more people are gathering in digital communities and using the Internet to find places to connect. The Church is missing out if we ignore the Internet’s potential to meet the culture where it’s at.
Crosswalk contributor Elizabeth Klein’s recent article makes a case and point for this. Coming out of a challenging life situation, Klein was searching for a church support group. “When you’re in crisis and you don’t attend church and yet you are looking for a support group, easy access is key. So, thank you to all the churches that make it uncomplicated for us to connect.”
On the other hand, there seems to be a growth of churches using the Web as an alternative way for people to be a part of the church, similar to a satellite campus except they are only online. These churches are replacing the need for members to physically gather together in worship. In his article, Is an Online Church Really a Church?, Ed Stetzer warns that this go against God’s original intent and design for the gathering of believers.
He writes, “[A]s I see it, a church (among other things) is a gathering of believers under the Lordship of Jesus Christ that practices two ordinances, seeks to advance His kingdom, and holds each other accountable in covenant… I don't think an only online church can do that.”
The balance, Stetzer says, comes from using an online presence to enhance, not replace, personal presence in community. “The best way to do church online is to intentionally work to move everyone possible from being alone on the screen toward being in community with others and being incorporated into a covenant community… A good balance could be for churches to say about their online presence, ‘We will be there only if you can't be here.’”
Clearly, more and more people are engaging in online spaces. It seems prudent that the church should be there too, but should churches make it possible to “attend” without ever leaving your house? What do you think? Has the Internet and social media impacted your church experience for better or worse? Share in the comments section!
Kelly Givens is the editor of iBelieve.com.