I have been overwhelmed by the reaction to my first #digidisciple post for @bigbible. Some people have said it has helped them understand just how useful and effective social media can be in networking and faith building when someone is mostly housebound. Most people responded to my personal story which is great. I am already finding new friends and building on existing friendships through using social networks more which has been an encouragement to me. Being able to give mutual prayer support is something which can’t be underestimated, and is an important part of Christian community. I am also interested in exploring how best the church in general can reach people like me in terms of being part of both online forms of church and also a face to face community.
Going to church online
I was on twitter again, on a Sunday afternoon and spotted a link on the twitter feed for Rick Warren to the video of that Sunday’s sermon. The link went to their online campus. This was brilliant for me, because next to the video was the sermon outline, and all I had to do was type my notes along with the sermon. Writing can be laborious for me but at best is painful and tiring: typing, not so much. The outline next to the video was useful as it was a case of filling in the blanks therefore typing as much or as little as I wanted to and gave me something to follow. Part of the online campus is the chat room, which ran simultaneously. I am not always a fan of online chat rooms but decided to give it a go. I was immediately made to feel welcome, and the assistant moderator said I could watch the service “in my jammies” and not have to care! This helped me relax, much like an icebreaker in normal conversation, helping me join in with the existing conversations. I quickly got acquainted with people. I like the interaction of the chatroom, just like in face to face Church settings, or on Twitter when I use Twitter for mutual prayer support. ”He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:10-11
Face to face conversations are valuable too. I find them extremely tiring so found the chat room easier on this particular day. I realise doing church this way isn’t for everyone. I have to say it was very helpful this particular Sunday as although I made it to my own church I hadn’t been able to concentrate much. I am aware that ‘doing church’ in this way (online) takes a large amount of energy and dedicated people which many churches don’t always have, and it won’t be the answer for everyone, but surely we have to do something? I wholeheartedly agree with Tanya Marlow in “Facebook, Friendship and the Gospel” that a balance has to be struck between using social media like Facebook and being face to face with fellow believers in a good church both forms of communication can serve different purpose. As Tanya points out it is wise to be cautious when using online forms of church as well due to the false sense of intimacy which could be created by using the chat rooms or online small group and the potential to over-share.
Online church vs. face to face church or both together?
A couple of weeks ago in the pre-service bible study bit at Church we were looking at the “Church without walls” idea which is part of the preamble in our church handbook. It is something our church tries to embrace. We were talking about church being a movement and going to where people are, so I said it was something I had been thinking a lot about, and explained my experience with the online campus version of Saddleback Church’s service and how there were people I felt we just weren’t reaching. This started a very helpful and worthwhile discussion regarding alternative forms church, community and evangelism, including the importance of balance between online relationships and face to face church I’m now having a think about how our church might have more of an online presence. We already have a website and a church Facebook group for members, but I am keen to develop this, rather than just write about it. Any suggestions are very welcome regarding how we might do this, or any stories of how your church did the same and whether it worked or not would be great.