Wednesday, July 11, 2007
The Virtual Church on the Rise
If you snooze you lose, and you may feel the heat sooner rather than later.
For example, have you been attending church online of late? What, you didn't know you could attend church, or synagogue, or the mosque on line? Well yes, you can, sort of. Now, I am not talking about a web link to a live worship service in a real church. No, I am talking about websites where you can go to pray, to network, to join others in studying the Bible, to exchange pictures, and so on, and no they are not just glorified chat rooms.
Consider for example, this recent article from the NY Times about holy space on the internet--
For example, have you checked out www.hisholyspace.com and www.xianz.com or
www.mypraize.com? How about www.holypal.com ?
One thing these sites have in common is that they are strictly monitored, prayer is encouraged , foul language is banned and good things happen. One of the reasons for the rise of such sites is to provide an alternative to the My Space site which sometimes has racy adds and other content and participants offensive to many Christians. If you think I am being overly cautious when it comes to MySpace, the Times article drops this little bomb--
"Last month, MySpace agreed to hand over the names, addresses and online profiles of convicted sex offenders after attorneys general from eight states demanded that the site, which is owned by Fox Interactive Media, do so. MySpace also deleted the profiles of 7,000 convicted sex offenders." There are wolves and other predators out there you know.
If you'd like to try something fun and Jewish try www.shmooze.com, though you might want to sift it a bit before you let your children loose on it.
In my view, there is no real danger of this phenomenon replacing the real church, or even the church newsletter, but it certainly reveals that Christian people are looking for contact with unknown but like minded Christian folks. And there is nothing inherently wrong with that. We used to write pen pal letters. Now people go to websites and make friends from around the world and have their faith nurtured.
Several things about my own teaching online have made me think of Gal. 3.28 where Paul tells us something of what the church ought to look like-- a place where ethnic, social, and gender differences should not be allowed to determine how we are viewed, or for that matter what roles we play in church. In some ways, it is easier to accomplish Gal. 3.28 online.
What I have discovered is that online, and without picture IDs you have only minds-- there are no handicaps, no race, no gender, no social impairs, no elites-- just minds. Various sorts of folks who would not normally speak up in a real class are often the most vocal online because their negative inhibiting factors are gone. Check out the websites and see what you think-- in the meantime look at the picture above again and remember---
You've got to be flexible to get near to the heat and action without getting burned.