As 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.