On LIne Community – Does It Work?

Yesterday I posted statistics on how social media is shaping our lives .  It is interesting to see the response to this and recognize the different ways in which we grapple with deluge of social media in relation to our faith.  There are lots of resources emerging to help us maintain a strong and vibrant faith in the midst of this.  I wanted to highlight a couple that I have found very useful

This interview of Mennonite Pastor and author of “Flickering Pixels“, Shane Hipps by Rob Bell is a great place to start.

For a more in depth interview you may like to check out this post on the Mustard Seed Associates blog

Lynne Baab’s latest book Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World is another great resource

Of course virtual communities are springing up all over too.  In light of that I thought that this post by Neal Locke was another interesting twist on the conversation:

Technology changes things.  But technology is a part of God’s Creation, and a gift:  We can use it for good, twist it to evil, or ignore it.  The last option, while always popular, has rarely been successful.  Gutenberg’s printing press changed the world, paving the way for the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution. Because it made possible the Reformation, it also brought drastic changes to the church, changing almost every visible aspect of Christian worship and theology in just a few generations.   In our generation, the internet and digital communication have already brought about drastic changes, and will continue to transform the church in sweeping and dramatic ways in a short span of time.

In the past few decades, church participation in our culture has been in steep decline.  And yet, as millions of people leave behind behind their communities of faith, millions more are finding community online, in places that a few years ago wouldn’t have even qualified as places.  Worshiping communities of Christians are also beginning to appear online, especially taking root in 3-dimensional synthetic interfaces known as Virtual Realities, or Virtual Worlds.  The writers of this confession are among them.  Read the entire post

And my question once again – What do you think?  Does social media and our interaction on the internet strengthen or weaken faith?  Are we deluding ourselves by thinking this is a God given medium or are we appropriately taking advantage of the cultural tools God has made available?



7 Responses

  1. Christine — thanks for the link to our Confession, and for raising some great questions, too. Obviously, most of the people in my online communities do see virtual reality as a God-given medium, but I’d also be quick to add that none of us are turning our backs on face-to-face interactions in physical spaces either.

    Just like you’d be hard pressed to find a church today that doesn’t use *some* form of digital communication (whether a website, or even email at the least), you’d probably be equally hard pressed to find online communities that don’t use and foster offline relationships to some degree. Personally, I prefer to look at church communities as falling somewhere along a “technology spectrum,” rather than an either/or proposition.

    Oh, and as the excerpt above alludes to, it’s also helpful to remember that the book, the pew, and even the baked bread we use for communion….these are all examples of technology in worship as well.

    Hope you get some great feedback on your post!

  2. Christine, has a way of helping us understand our identity beyond “cultural extensions” as Edward T. Hall talks about in “Beyond Culture”. The introduction of his book paints a picture of the cultural delusion that we are beyond our own limitations. When in fact as mediums change throughout culture, so do our understandings of self, society and God.

    This is why Shane’s point is so valuable for the ongoing theological conversation of how mediums transform our understanding of God. Christine has a way of applying practices that ground us in mystical reality of God and engage in the possibilities that God is actually at the work of reconciliation on our planet, and we can actually participate in our families, communities and work places.

    At this moment the powerful western church seems to be scattering for more ways to control the message, when the medium has radically shifted the power to the people who use it and engage in online communities of faith, etc. That is why the emerging christian conversation over the past decade has been so interesting and helpful in my own formation through our interconnected communal landscape online.

    There is transformative RSA Anima film from J.R Rifkins Empathetic civilization http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7AWnfFRc7g which has helped me understand why it is possible to “save” our planet. From my own faith tradition (Anabaptis/Mennonite) and study of missional thought as well as a practitioner in the growing landscape of social enterprise, I see a magnitude of possibilities for the church (people of God) to “reclaim mission” as David Fitch would say. I would like to suggest we name our fears with this ongoing evolution of humankind because of information and technology. Then as a faith community we can begin to move past them as a collective movement toward the reign of God.

    • Scott thanks so much for this post. Loved the Rifkin video and going to post it today. The thought that we are soft wired for sociability, attachment, affection and companionship is particularly encouraging – though in some ways it just confirms what Jesus has always told us. Love God & love your neighbour, befriend them, love them, recognize you are all part of the same family

  3. […] couple of days ago Scott Hackman left a comment on my post On Line Community: Does It Work.  He included a link to this video by Rifkin on the Empathic Society.  Evidently we are all soft […]

  4. As a mediator I observe the potency of mirror neurons all the time. However, it seems that there is an insecurity within a lot of the protestant churches I have observed about how one shows up. This creates a problem about what messages are being silently transmitted. Much has to do with the terrible ‘oughting’ and ‘shoulding’ that so many Christians appear to be trapped into. So the journey is understandable if emotionally and psychologically challenging. Friar Micha

  5. […] with this ongoing evolution of humankind because of information and technology. Then as a faith Community we can begin to move past them as a collective movement toward the reign of […]

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