Changing Culture: changing church?

13 11 2007

Many churches are facing the very real prospect of becoming an irrelevant oddity. We are witnessing significant cultural shifts that demand we reconsider some of how we do church. And much of it is driven by the internet.

 

The first major shift in society is that community is shifting from the local to the global. It wasn’t that long ago that if you needed some food supplies you walked to the local shop. Now people have no issue with driving past several local stores to get to a large regional shopping mall. And with the growth of the internet, the notion of a global mega store providing food to homes all around the western world isn’t that far fetched. We also see the shift from local to the regional in the church. People will drive past numerous local churches to attend the right church. But a global church?

 

11th-nov-07-1st-service_003.jpgAbout 8 months ago I planted a church in the virtual world of Second Life. We built a church and have been developing the community, which numbers nearly 300 at the moment. (click here to check out some more images) We presently offer three services and a Bible study, with plans for two additional services to start in the coming weeks. Membership of this community is made up of people from around the world. One service can include people located in 12 different countries.

 

I am not suggesting that this will replace church as we know it, but it may well become a valid and significant form of church. The internet is quickly becoming a normal part of our lives, it is time for the church to take the internet seriously or risk ignoring a major form of communication. To learn more about this church plant click here.

To read more about the church and the internet click here.

 

The second shift can be seen in the forces that influence society. From principally being corporations and governments in the past to now including you! Well you and hundreds of thousands of others. Through such websites as youtube, Myspace, Facebook and WordPress you can communicate your thoughts and ideas and if the crowd likes it, many thousands or even millions will experience it and be influenced by it. For centuries the church has worked on a model where the influencer was the pastor or Bishop or some other form of leadership limited to a few. Now more and more people are expecting a voice. What would church look like if many were given the chance to make decisions about the life of the church?

The Mars Hill Church in Seattle has recently set up a website called Ask Anything in which anyone can post a question for the senior Pastor, Mark Driscoll to answer as the topic of a sermon. On the website the top 50 questions are listed, with the facility for anyone to vote on there favorite questions. (Click here to see the website.) Mark will then preach on the top nine questions.

One of the top questions with 7500 votes so far is,

‘What can traditional/established churches learn from the “emerging” churches?’

Visitors can also post comments on the question with some 58 comments made on the above question including this from Bryan Dickerson,

This question needs to be up towards the top. We have so many struggling churches who know nothing about how to reachlagging-behind.jpg post-Christian America. The established church is lagging behind and the quicker it can catch up to culture, the greater the impact it will make for the Kingdom. 85% of churches in America are not growing. Statistics regarding teens and 20 somethings show that they simply aren’t going to church. I believe Driscoll and others like him are making the adjustments necessary to connect with “post-Christian America.” These churches are more authentic, missional, incarnational, and sensitive to culture.” I’m tired of churches that sit on their hands and say “Well, reaching young people is for such and such church down the road. We’re a more traditional church and we’ll leave that type of ministry to others.” Regarding lagging behind… Most churches are 5-10 years behind culture; they are slow movers and they allow opportunties to pass them by. For example, when AIDS broke out in America, the church didn’t know how to respond, and when it did, it was commonly the wrong response. The church could have made a great impact in the homosexual community if it had reaching out to AIDS victums; instead, we did nothing. I think too many churches are doing nothing today and instead of reaching out and embracing postmodern emerging people, we scoff at them and thank God we are not like them. We can’t lag behind. We need to look past the exterior and embrace them with the unchanging Gospel.

 

It is key that the internet becomes part of our thinking within the church. This is not so much about having a website but a web strategy. How can we leverage the internet to fulfill our mission?

It is also critical that we as the church spend time monitoring the culture so that we can respond early enough to assure our relevance and place within the culture.

In my next post I will provide practical suggestions on how to monitor the culture.

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One response

19 11 2007
Steve

For more than 15 years now I’ve been hoping that through electronic networking I’d be able to amke contact with people of similar interests and discuss things with them, but cyberspace is just as scattered as geographical space. Even if I can’t find people to form a discussion group in my street or suburb, perhaps through the internet I can find them in different places. But no, this one is on this newsgroup and that one is in another, this one is in one mailing list and that one in another. This one is in a Facebook forum and that one has a blog.

I went to a meeting of the Southern African Faith Communities Environmental Institute, and suggested that they have an electronic mailing list to keep in contact with each other, but they all said they didn’t want any more e-mail. And it’s been like that for 15 years or more.

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