What Would Jesus Blog?

Archive for February, 2011

Church ‘where you’re at’

by on Feb.14, 2011, under Uncategorized

It’s a fairly regular occurrence that I read about an exciting new ministry wanting to minister to people ‘where they’re at’. Aside from the terrible grammar, I broadly agree. I think it’s really important that we follow models of ministry that focus on going to where people are and minister to them in their own particular situations, rather than attempting to attract them to our own little world. Reading through the Gospels and the accounts of the early church I see very little imperative to extract people from their lives to follow Christ, but rather countless examples of ways in which people’s lives are transformed by following Christ – often it involves their situation changing, but that comes as a result of following, rather than as a prerequisite. I actually find it quite arrogant to try to attract people – there’s ways of following Christ that are as alien to me as my church would be to a lot of people, so I can’t for a second hold up how we do it as in any way particularly special. I also hear a lot about how people are spending more time online – it doesn’t take a huge leap of logic to say that people are online, the church should be where people are at, therefore we should set up ministries to this hoard of people online, right? I mean, just take Facebook – half a billion people all in one place, what else does an evangelist want?

The problem is, that to meet people ‘where they’re at’ requires them to be somewhere – to say that being logged into Facebook is being somewhere just doesn’t work. It’s a fallacy to mentally model websites on physical meeting places, however tempting it may be. Internet pioneers and early observers did just that – anyone remember the original GeoCities? It was organised into streets (topics), and you had an address on that street. It was fantastic, but how often did you actually ‘walk’ down the ‘street’, and how often did you just type what you wanted into Altavista or Lycos? Early journalism about the Internet talked about it being the final frontier, a realm to be discovered, and early mental models were of a physical realm entered through a computer rather than a means of transport. That’s changed so much now – computers and the Internet are rapidly becoming ubiquitous and the way that we view them has changed. The Internet isn’t a different world any more – it’s an increasingly integral part of our very local lives.

Where people ‘are at’ is in their homes and around their cities, connected to the Internet regularly, if not all the time. It’s a thread running through their lives and a part of their identity, so it should be the same for the churches that seek to minister to them. That’s scary because it means that online ministry isn’t something that ‘people who understand these things’ can do, it’s something that every church has to examine. Whether they choose to reject that online thread of their life as an act of protest, or informedly deem it irrelevant to their minister, or choose to embrace it and use it for God’s glory, ignoring it is no longer relevant.

As ever, ministries face opposition, and there’s a lot of FUD (fear, uncertainly and doubt) about online ministry. But, I’m up to way over 500 words; dispelling myths can wait!

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