Meeting People Where They Are -- On the Web?

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It’s almost old news - the Facebook church. Many churches now have Facebook pages and use them to share prayer requests, discuss topics, give news about the congregation’s people and events, share photos and so on. Some churches have gone way beyond just a Facebook page.

Northland Church from Florida has been in the news many times for being a “Facebook church.” They call themselves “a church distributed.” Their main site is in Orlando, FL, but they have thousands of members who participate from other sites throughout the world, from their homes, from small gatherings in each others’ homes called “house churches,” and via the web. Those not in Orlando attend live services streamed onto Facebook or their website and viewed by individuals or these groups gathered together at various sites.

Lifechurch.tv is another example of a church with some members who physically meet together but many others who meet virtually. Northland and Lifechurch.tv are only two examples, I’m sure there are many churches going beyond news and photo sharing on Facebook or Twitter.

Recently I was talking with my friend about 20-somethings and the way that many of them, even though they grew up going to church every Sunday, do not go to church regularly now when they’re in their twenties. Someone once told me about one young man who, when asked why he didn’t attend church, said, “I take my free time very seriously.”

I asked my friend whether he thought we should embrace that and enrich our church’s web presence, stream our services, have more ways to virtually meet together, help them to get more church without coming to church. He kind of wrinkled his nose and said he’d prefer to challenge them to think of going to church in a different way, not as a burden but as a joy.

I agree with that. Absolutely. On the other hand, what’s the best way to make that challenge? When Christ was on the earth, he met people where they were. He didn’t say that the tax collectors had to become honest before he ate dinner with them, he ate dinner with them and then pointed them in the way of living their life as a reflection of their faith. He didn’t throw stones at the sinful woman, he said that whoever had no sin himself should throw the first stone, then he told the woman, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8.1-11)

Does meeting people where they are involve using social networking or other types of technology? Is this even the right way to construe Jesus’ actions on earth? Can technology be the way we lovingly challenge them to become a part of the worship community? The two examples I wrote of above, Northland and Lifechurch.tv, do a lot of encouraging of just that kind on their websites. They provide many ways for visitors to their pages to connect with others in person rather than just virtually.

What do you think? Do you know anyone who virtually attends church, or do you yourself? Is this virtual church something we should be investing more time, money and energy into building? 

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