Friday, April 27, 2012

iChurch: Do You Digital Praise?



I've seen a number of stories on the increasing popularity of e-worship. Church websites, live streaming services, podcast preaching and iPad apps have revolutionized the way people fellowship and learn. But is it the best way? Albert Mohler is cautious:

"... There is something good, healthy, and Great Commission-minded about the eager use of new communication technologies. Digital technologies and social media have transformed our world, redefining how human beings engage one another and how we all access information. A church without a digital presence is a church that, to many people, simply doesn’t exist.

I am very thankful for the ability to access massive sermon libraries in audio or video form from preachers of the past and from pulpit titans of the present as well. Go online and you can read the sermons of Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, and a host of others. Preachers in churches of any size can establish a global reach for their ministry. Digital technologies allow the collapse of distance and time and these platforms also allow the Gospel to jump geographical and political barriers.

For all this we should be thankful. I eagerly use online Bible programs and do research through digital media. I am thankful for the platforms for ministry and communication represented by social media. I am grateful for these new tools and technologies and I make use of them to reach people around the world.

At the same time, there are dangers. John Mark Reynolds of Biola University is cited within the article, and he addressed the danger inherent in these technologies: “How can the Christian church utilize the tools media has given us without being subsumed by them? You don’t want delivery to become everything.”

That is a crucial issue. But the challenge should not be addressed only to churches. Research indicates that a significant number of Christians are tempted to allow these technologies to serve as a substitute for participation in a local church. This is deadly and dangerous for believers.

Christ clearly intends for his people to be gathered together into congregations. The fellowship of the saints is a vital means of grace for the disciple of Christ. We can be enriched by means of listening to sermons online and by delving deeply into the ocean of knowledge found within Christian websites, but these cannot replace the authenticity that comes only by means of the local church and its ministry.

Believers need the accountability found only within the local church. We need to hear sermons preached by flesh-and-blood preachers in the real-time experience of Christian worship. We need to confess the faith together through the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We need to confess our sins and declare forgiveness by the blood of Christ together. We need to be deployed for service in Christ’s name together."
 Read the rest here. What do you think?

Want to know more? Try these links:

The Digital-Church Manifesto
A New Church Rising- The Digital Church
Your Church: Is There An App For That?
Do Churches Really Need Their Own iPhone Apps?

Or watch this segment on Religion & Social Media from PBS' "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly":




2 comments:

Jesus-in-the-city said...

Great topic!

I for one, as you know, Li, LOVE church online! I'm a stay at home mom of an infant with a husband who travels 60% of the time, AND I'm a relative new believer who didn't grow up in a church environment, so a lot of the time, I feel like the apostle Paul in the three years after he got saved, soaking up as much of the Word as possible, from the Book, from online sermons and podcasts or Christian programming. I do go to our brick and mortar church when my husband is in town. We like to go as a family and our church is an hour away so traveling there by myself with LG isn't the easiest. I would never say that a Christian can SOLELY worship at home by themselves because we need community for communion. Our pastor joked that when he got saved he used to take communion at home by himself and then he realized that the whole point of communion is COMMUNITY, so you can't really have communion by yourself.

That being said, I am SO THANKFUL for the amazing online ministries I listen to all the time! Newsong Irvine, Mars Hill, North Point Community Church, Cornerstone Similar Valley, lifechurch.tv, among others, richly bless my heart and my home, in this day and age. As a Christian who wants to limit a lot of programming from the world via tv and movies and radio, not entirely, but considerably, it's important to have godly resources to fill in the gaps of the digital age, at least in my experience. why should worldliness and ungodliness and just things that aren't rooted in Christ be able to corner the market of media? I think online churches provide a really great alternative for people who have a need to remain culturally relevant in their worship, and there are just as many people who aren't really Christians or who aren't really taking in what the Holy Spirit is ministering in church as there are at home on their couches watching lifechurch. The Holy Spirit makes the difference not the environment... Our body is the temple now, thanks to Jesus, and not a building.

Like I said, there is nothing like worshiping at my home church, Times Square Church, in NYC. I don't expect the same experience worshipping at home as I do worshipping and fellowshipping at church, but I am a witness to the fact that the Holy Spirit can work and move in ANY environment. God says, if you hunger and thirst for Him, He will bless you and He says His Word does not go out void and He also says that nothing is impossible with God, so can people be encouraged, blessed, built up, empowered by the Holy Spirit through online churches? A resounding YES is my personal experience!

Another thing that our family does that works for us if we don't make it church and end up watching online is that we try to invite brothers and sisters over for fellowship once a week, when hubby is in town, and that way we are enjoying face to face communion with believers which ALWAYS richly blesses us and our home!

Love to see what other people think!

Alisha De Freitas said...

I think your pastor's point is key. There are some parts of living a Christian life that are not spectator sports. In order to be in communion with the Body of Christ, we must be part of the community.

I think there are many people today (more and more actually) who combine traditional church with podcasts, devotionals online, websites and the like to grow in Christ. Throughout the week, I usually read Scripture off my iPad or the PC. I also like to keep up ith apologetics online, too. It's part and parcel of being a 21st century Christian... Or o it seems.

Thanks for the comment!

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