OK, I admit I am completely biased in this area.
For me a live church experience beats a virtual church every time. There is something to be said for being in the room as opposed to watching it on television or streaming over the internet.While I love the new opportunities that technology brings I find that it often brings more limitations to our spirits than we realize.
Virtual church is not something all that innovative; it has actually been around since the 1920’s when radios began to proliferate the country. People could listen to a church service over their radio in the home. With the advent of television after World War II many preachers took to the airwaves the so called “TV evangelists”. Some did good work; others gave complete justification for the negative stereotypes that have developed around them. With the growth of the internet in the 1990’s many more grasped the idea that the church could be broadcast directly into the home. Many churches today have virtual church ministries that stream over the internet to computers, tablets, and mobile phones. Most are just broadcasts, but some who realize the limitations are trying to make them more interactive and leverage the available social networking tools particularly Facebook and Twitter.
Facebook vs. Face to Face
While I myself use these same tools in my daily life and find them useful for certain things, there are some things that Facebook, Twitter, and the like are not able to do well at all. They do work well in helping people maintain contact over distance and time, to give people short updates about what is going on in their lives, and they can certainly get a whole bunch of people out to a party or flash mob very quickly.
What they are not able to do is tell a good story. They are also of little use for you to hear a good story. Listening and telling stories are the foundations of meaningful relationships. In a healthy marriage, a husband and wife find time to tell the stories of their lives each day. A healing conversation for a friend in trouble can only happen if you take time to hear his or her story; there are no shortcuts. While a broadcast can tell a church’s story, or more accurately, stories that people like me want you to hear, they are exclusively a one-way street. A virtual church is not able to hear your story in a meaningful way. The only way I can explain it is while a Facebook chat is nice, sitting with an old friend on my back deck sharing food and drink is way better. I really don’t know your true story until I am face to face with you sharing real food and real
drink. Therefore, a virtual church can never be sacramental, because to be so requires real physical contact. There are no hugs in cyberspace. Sacred things need a physical reality.
Live Church: Home and Away
I do share some things with those who advocate the virtual church. I am convinced they can be good tools to help people learn about Jesus and engage a real church. More importantly, I share the goal of the attempt to bring the church into your home. However, I am unwilling to settle for “virtual” church, at Holy Cross we want to bring the real church home. It is written the book of Acts Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts (Acts 2:46NRSV). It is a vision of church at home and at a community location.
It is much in line with what Moses taught Israel to do to bring their faith home. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9NRSV). This is much more than passively staring at screen, it is really living the faith. So I invite you to come out again to church, bring the best of it home, and most of all, keep it real.
Keep the Faith,