My local paper has a series this week on “India 2.0,” which describes the transformation taking place in India due to the high tech boom there. Many are saying that parts of India could be the next Silicon Valley. But as I read the article my thoughts turned in a different direction, namely “How has the Internet affected the church?”
The term “Church 2.0″ is not new. A Google search returned 22,700 hits. Much of the discussion seems to focus on how the church is or is not like Web 2.0. Some from the “Emerging Church” camp want to claim the term as their own. I want to take the discussion in a somewhat different direction.
It is questionable whether anyone can claim that there is a new version of the church coming into being that deserves the “2.0” moniker. If anyone could make that claim, it would probably have to be the reformers. We have the same Gospel, the same mission, and the same basic functions as the church in the 1st century. Calling a new trend “Church 2.0″ is overstating things. In fact, many of the things that are said to be “new” about “Church 2.0″ are simply a return to the model of the church in Acts. But we live in a culture influenced by the Enlightenment that views anything “new” and “cool” as much more interesting than the “Old, old story.”
However, I do think that the web has serious implications for the methods that we use in ministry. So maybe we should call it “Ministry 2.0,” although even that is overstating the case. The basics of ministry are the same, only the tools that we employ are different. So let’s look at some examples of how ministry is impacted by the Internet:
- Evangelism 2.0?
- Fellowship 2.0?
- Sunday School 2.0?
Many people today live their social lives at least partly on-line. They meet new people, share their experiences, and seek and give encouragement through the Internet. How can we do a better job of sharing the Gospel through on-line relationships? There are quite a few people doing “Internet evangelism,” but much of it is has little connection with a church body. How can churches, not just individuals, do more in this area? Should churches consider bringing a “Pastor of Internet Ministry” onto the staff? Or, since much of this ministry can connect with people around the world, maybe we should support Internet missionaries?
To what extent can on-line relationships fulfill the need for fellowship? How can this serve as a ministry tool? Can we substitute an on-line group chat for a small group meeting? What about chat prayer meetings? Numerous articles point out that at least some “face time” is essential for healthy relationships, but how much is enough? How far can we go with cyber-fellowship before we lose something essential?
How can we use the web to enhance our teaching and training ministries? Here I think that we have barely scratched the surface of what could be done with today’s technology. This is actually one of my key interests, and I will write more on this topic in the future.
Many are moving to apply Web 2.0 to the church.has a list which he calls “semi-definitive.” Kevin Hendricks wrote an article on “What Web 2.0 Means for Your Church.”
I have shared some thoughts on this topic in brainstorming mode, so none of these ideas are fully developed. Perhaps you can think of some other areas to add to my list. I invite you to join in the conversation.