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Internet church

I wanted to address one of the newest manifestations of evangelicalism to appear in the church: internet campuses.

Basically, instead of going to church, you stay home and watch church online. The worship and sermon are streamed to your web browser, and with many of these churches you have the option to chat with other users in a “lobby” or one-on-one.

The granddaddy of Internet church, of course, is LifeChurch, a megachurch based in Edmond, Oklahoma with off-line campuses throughout Oklahoma and in several other states.

Other churches have followed its lead, the most recent being Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, Nevada (NewSpring in South Carolina plans to open an internet campus in early 2009). Leadership Network links to several churches’ internet campuses.

And you have to think that other churches will jump on the bandwagon, if this sort of thing takes off.

I once jumped on the bandwagon, myself. I had seen how well online fellowship could work, and so at a time when I wasn’t going to church at all and disgusted in my own way with the evangelical circus, I participated for a few months in one of those internet campuses.

I do not doubt the leaders’ hearts and intentions in starting and maintaining their church’s internet campus and desire to use it as a tool to reach people for Jesus. That’s why I’m reluctant to criticize them.

But my experience is that, as a church, I found it to be very limited. I could watch a sermon, listen to the worship music and do so without having to get dressed up.

There was something else I was looking for in a church, besides solid theology and resolve to honor Jesus Christ, and that is pure, deep fellowship.

Perhaps it was because I already had fellowship online elsewhere, but it just wasn’t happening at this internet campus. I did the small groups, talked with people in the lobby, but nothing seemed to rise above a superficial, polite level.

So, I eventually left the internet campus in frustration and, perhaps without realizing it, chalked up the internet campus experience to be another part of the evangelical circus.

My thinking on internet campuses has changed since then, and is now similar to what Mark Driscoll says about them (the original video can be viewed at Mars Hill Church’s website, or at this site; scroll down on the transcript next to the video, down to Play Here 1:05:34 and watch Driscoll give his take on internet church).

I don’t know yet whether or not to consider internet church part of the evangelical circus. It really depends on what the churches and their leaders do with the concept.

It can become a place for lazy people to watch church and give money without giving commitment.

It can become a waste of bandwidth, as fewer and fewer people decide they don’t want to watch the ‘cool’ pastor and faux-CCM worship music.

Or perhaps it can become a tool to reach hurting, disaffected people with great needs, including with some the need to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord of their lives.

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  1. London
    August 13, 2010 at 1:37 am

    “It can become a place for lazy people to watch church and give money without giving commitment.”

    I know what you meant by this sentence. However, I think the same thing can be said for any number of brick and mortar churches too.

    I hang out at an “internet church” of sorts. It’s really just a webcasting of my buddy’s house church, but I, for the most part, feel at “home” there. I feel like it’s the place I belong, the place I know is always going to be accepting of me when I show up. It just feels “right” somehow. Not every week…some weeks due to technical difficulties I feel like I’m locked out of the party just watching through the window…but most of the time, it feels like the right place for me to be.

    I have a harder time feeling like I “belong” when I’m at a 3D church than I do online. I don’t know the vocabulary they use, or the expected way to behave, or the “inside jokes” or the way to fit in or find a way inside the “in crowd”.

    I don’t feel that with these guys, even when I’m in the same place they are. I feel safe and that I am part of them. We use the internet as a way to stay connected with each other.

    Sux to have to type everything, and have someone else read it outloud to the group on my behalf, but…it’s better than not connecting with them at all. Or sitting in a room full of people I don’t know.

    Rambling…

  2. London
    August 13, 2010 at 1:45 am

    My friend in the UK and I are plotting to find a way to use the internet streaming to have a “shared” service with me in ABQ, her in the UK, them in CA, our friends in Ukriane, our friends in Korea and now maybe some new friends in Paskistian. Might try for some time around Christmas, maybe share Christmas traditions of each country with each other…don’t know yet how we’ll do it, but we’ll figure something out.

    Never before has something like that even been possible. The opportunities that the internet affords is amazing…

  3. BrianD
    August 14, 2010 at 10:22 am

    I would say as a general rule it’s best to be part of a group offline with other live human beings.

    Here, the saying “there’s always an exception to a rule” comes to mind: your situation may be that exception.

  4. London
    August 15, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    No reason a person can’t do both
    Being connected with folks on line does not negate the possibility of hanging out with people off line which is what I have found alot of people think.

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