Monday, October 11, 2010

Point, Click, Amen!

Last week, I went to Leawood, Kansas (outside of Kansas City) with six of my Trinity coworkers to the annual Leadership Institute at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. CoR is the largest United Methodist congregation in the U.S. with over 14,000 members. They are always on the cutting edge of evangelism (a concern particular to my own position), and they do many tasks of the church extremely well. Some pastors would consider these approaches a little too innovative and straying from the truest definitions of church, but I generally admire their work. As such, there was one particular topic breached last week that raised some eyebrows- including my own.

That is, online worship. CoR has what they call an "online campus" of their church. Internet surfers can view worship services from the comfort of their laptops without ever heading out the door to grace the threshold of a sanctuary. And as they view the services, they can chat with their online pastor, who answers their questions about the church. The response to this approach has been phenomenal. Thousands tune in online every Sunday for online worship. Many have converted to Christianity because of the online worship experience. And several have even become motivated to shut down their computers and visit the church in person for the first time in decades.

The main criticism of this approach is obvious: without interpersonal interaction, can this really be church? Christ calls us to be in tangible communion with one another. That is the foundation for the Eucharist. It is why we have baptismal, confirmation, and membership candidates stand up in front of the whole church. In order to "bear one another's burdens" (Gal. 6:2), don't we have to be physically present with one another?

But CoR and its senior pastor, Adam Hamilton (pictured above), are showing us that "tangibility" has changed in the 21st century. Hamilton admitted that he has issues with the approach as well, but that his opinion does not really matter. Instead, it's about what people need in today's world to start the path of Christian discipleship. Reality has been altered by "the cloud". Pokes, tweets, and e-mails are the first line of reachability in today's world, and we simply need to adjust to it. I agree with his assessment of today's world. However, I hope the church is not satisfied to stop evangelism at the first line of reachability. It is my desire that tools like online worship are not a substitute for worship, but instead a means to bring folks into real, interpersonal (read: non-cyberspace) communion. Your thoughts?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Jesus Is a Friend of Mine

If you must watch one YouTube video today, please watch this one.