November 18, 2009

In Our Own Words 11/17/09-CNN Reports on Online Churches

CNN has posted an interesting piece on the growing trend of online churches. They report on the different approaches and goals ministries have for going online, and also the concern about the lack of face-to-face community that is lost by worshiping through the Internet vs. in a brick-and-mortar church building. Here's an excerpt:

Supporters of online churches have a common response to their skeptics: Try before you criticize. The virtual experience goes far beyond using live chat rooms to exchange emoticons instead of hugs and handshakes, they say.

Links allow congregants to "raise their hand" and publicly commit to Christ, while prayer requests and one-on-one guidance are a click way. Sermon notes can be shared and discussed. And many online churches are aided by volunteers, allowing them to hold services several times each day.

The Internet campus of the Flamingo Road Church in Cooper City, Florida, pulls in more than 2,000 congregants from around the world during its Sunday services. Pastor Doug Gramling said his three children are part of the Internet generation that will eventually decide the future of worship. They use Web tools to stay in constant connection with friends over vast distances, which Gramling says "gives me confidence that it can happen in online church."

But the disconnect from physical closeness is what Hyatt said he's "fighting hardest against." His own church offers online extensions such as podcasts and forums. But he believes "the computer
screen is a supplement, not a replacement."

That last statement is how we have approached the presentation of worship services here at Straight, Not Narrow. Although Jim sees this site moving more toward being a form of online church (Brenda doesn't), we strongly agree that anything we offer here is not a complete replacement for being an on-site participant in a live worship experience. We believe that the offerings here are best used for encouragement between church services, or as a closest-to-the-real-thing you might have if there is no affirming congregation near you.

We believe there is a lot of value in that, and we have seen that from the other side as our church, Believers Covenant Fellowship, is seeing significant growth in it's live broadcasting. So far, that is not keeping members away who are content to watch from home--it is broadening the reach of our ministry, involving people who don't have another place to call their church home. It is also helping us stay connected to sister churches on the West Coast by having the opportunity to participate online in each others' services.

We believe that people and churches who ignore the technology and the availability of some wonderful worship resources on the Internet are the ones who are losing. In effect, we think they are limiting God, saying He can't use cyberspace to bless and reach people.

Of course, when we do that, we're not really limiting God, just the blessings we are open to receiving from Him.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jim and Brenda:

    Though sites like yours can indeed be a life saver for those who have no regular church, let me be the first to say that online church cannot replace the fellowship one feels and needs, that live fellowship with other believers provides. Bob and I watched all of the podcasts from the Renewal weekend after we returned home and loved them, however what they did was remind us what a wonderful time everyone had, and how we wished we could do it all over again. I do believe that the internet, and online church, as well as sites such as yours is providing a growing need for those who don't have a home church, or those afraid to enter one, for fear of being attacked from the pulpit. We were away from the church for several years, thinking. as long as we had God we were ok. But we pined for the fellowship that attending regularly at church provided. Now that we are back I can assure everyone: "There is no life like it." What you are both doing is a valuable work for His Kingdom. I believe it is another important bridge, that the lonely and broken-hearted can use to carry their hurts to Jesus. Keep up the fantastic work, it does not go unnoticed.

    Our love and blessings,

    Lloyd and Bob