Kicking Off an In-Depth Conversation About Online Church

Online ChurchAs I mentioned in my review earlier today, Douglas Estes’s book SimChurch (affiliate link) is taking the conversation about online church to the next level.  I would like to build on what that by organizing a more in-depth discussion about various aspects of online church.

Most conversations about online churches boil down to advocates of virtual church arguing their case vs critics of virtual church arguing their case with both sides defensively digging in their heals.  These posts/arguments get a lot of attention because of the drama, conflict, and emotion they spark. I’ve got to admit I’ve even joined that ruckus a time or two.

What I’d like to do here over the next few weeks is focus on specific issues and aspects of online church one at a time.  The objective is not to definitively prove whether virtual churches are legitimate churches or not, but to help the church become better by discussing where virtual churches have unique the potential to advance the kingdom of God and where they face challenges to becoming healthy, fully functional churches.

Here’s a tentative schedule of the topics we’re going to cover here over the next several weeks:

  • Dec 1: What is a biblical church? What does a church (online or offline) need to do to be a real, healthy church?
  • Dec 3: Worship & the Theology of Presence. Scripture calls believers to gather together regularly to worship God & that when we gather together God is present with us.  Can people in a virtual church really be present together even though they are not physically present?  And can God be present in that setting?
  • Dec 8: Sacraments. Scripture tells us we are to be baptized and that we should gather regularly to celebrate communion.  Can virtual churches celebrate baptism and communion?
  • Dec 10: Ministry, serving, & loving one another. The early church was known for its love, both for one another and for those outside the church in the community.  Is it possible for people in a virtual church who are separated geographically to really serve one another and to express God’s love to those who don’t know Christ?
  • Dec 15: Community. Can genuine, intimate relationships be developed in an online church?
  • Dec 16: Church discipline. One of the less popular functions of the church is to confront sin within the church.  Many real-world churches struggle with this because when confronted people often just leave and find another church that won’t confront them.  It’s even easier for people to jump ship in cyberspace, so is church discipline an essential function of a church and is it possible in a virtual church.
  • Dec 17. Evangelism. Evangelism is perhaps the most compelling reason for the existence of online churches.  They have the opportunity to share the gospel with people who real-world churches cannot.
  • Dec 22. Discipleship.
  • Dec 24. Wrap-up – 10 Things I Learned from the Online Church Blog Series

What do you think?  Is this discussion interesting/important to you?  If so, please help spread the word via email, Twitter, Facebook ,etc.

Are there any other issues/aspects of online church that you think should be discussed?

And don’t forget to vote in this week’s poll (right sidebar) about the importance of the issues surrounding online church.

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

11 Responses to “Kicking Off an In-Depth Conversation About Online Church”

  1. Ambitious goals and topics, all — but I’m glad you’re taking them on. I’m even more happy to hear this:

    “The objective is not to definitively prove whether virtual churches are legitimate churches or not, but to help the church become better by discussing where virtual churches have unique the potential to advance the kingdom of God and where they face challenges to becoming healthy, fully functional churches.”

    I hope that spirit holds throughout the conversation — If so, I think it will be a useful and groundbreaking one!

  2. This is a great discussion to have. Can we get participation from some of those involved in the online church movement? Maybe you can specifically invite some of them? I will stay tuned and contribute to the conversation as I have time. My position on online church is summed in my review of SimChurch here.

    Dave

  3. Dave, I certainly hope we have participation from those involved in the online church movement. Great idea making personal invitations to those involved in the development or pastoring of online churches. I’ll invite as many as I can. I hope you and others who read this will help spread the word as well.

  4. Definitely a good discussion to have. There are quite a few things people don’t think of when engaging this topic. Will be interesting to hear what people’s thoughts are as we go through this.

  5. Paul:
    Thank you for the invitation to watch/join the conversation regarding online church. The landscape is certainly changing… Church attendance is decreasing, social networking is exploding, and views of Christianity and “the church” are troubling (Unchristian, Barna surveys)… I believe there are millions who are not comfortable taking a step to go to a physical church… that step certainly seems easier online. Overall, my view is Yes and Yes. The physical church and online church can help people take steps toward Christ. And there are real challenges keeping many Online Church leaders awake at night as we wrestle with how to best connect people, encourage people, and disciple people online style. I pray for unity and wisdom for all those facing these issues head on…

    • Hey Mark, thanks for your comment. I applaud churches like Granger for taking a leap into the realm of online church even though we don't have all the answers and having figured out all the implications. I would imagine you and others at Granger have discussed a lot of the issues we're going to be discussing in this series and you have a lot of insight on them, so I hope you'll share some of what you've learned from your internal discussions with us here.

  6. about starting a church on line what is financial support i need to be requried briefly described the total concept on online church

  7. pl send me details

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