Feb 9, 2011

Against Virtual Church

I'm a big fan of technology. I think it is absolutely amazing what we are able to do with it in terms of transportation, communication, medicine, and so many other fields. However, there are some things that are not improved by technology, even if they are possible.

Being part of the local church is one of those.

We can look at Hebrews 10:24-25 for the instruction to meet together regularly. The Church is to administer the sacraments, and until we have some sort of Star Trek teleporter device we have to be physically present with other believers to have a baptism or the Lord's supper. The church is to sing to each other for each other's good. Yes, it is possible to transmit audio among a virtual group. However, there is something different about being in a room full of people singing a great hymn to each other.

One of my more significant fears about a virtual church is losing the opportunity for sanctification by being around other redeemed sinners. When you get frustrated with a virtual relationship, you can turn it off. You can defriend, not reply, or change email addresses. The problem seems to have gone away and requires no more work on your part. However, if you are a member in a local church, you can't just turn off someone - at least not for very long. This is particularly true in the smaller churches where I have the most experience. You have to deal with that person and that situation without taking an easy way out. And hopefully you both grow through the process of working through friction. Of course, someone can just stop going to church, but an involved leadership would follow up on that.

I'm not saying that people can't form communities that are only virtual/online. As long as there is some means to communicate, there can be a community. And yes, that virtual community may be strong and can be a support to you. But there is much, as I noted above, that the virtual community can't do. And no virtual church (whether based on TV, Second Life, Facebook, or whatever) can bring you chicken casseroles when you've had some major event like a death in the family.

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