Online is real life, too

One of my most recommended books over the past year is Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch. It’s a wonderful non-fiction read that gives the tech literate and luddites alike information about how the other half lives. We live in a strange time when internet and tech usage can sometimes split along generational lines, but the fast evolving pace of our online life together means our divisions are more complex than that. What is clear is that all of us are communicating with one another in complex and meaningful ways–and for many that includes the internet.

A division that often comes up in my conversations with church folks is around whether or not the ways we gather online is “real.” Perhaps you are part of this group.

“It’s just not the same!” they might say. “I don’t feel connected through a screen. I need to be able to see people physically in-person.”

My spouse is part of the other camp. “What do you mean this Zoom call isn’t really meeting?” he’ll say. “What do you want to do, lick the table and sneeze on one another in-person?”

Of course, many of us fall somewhere in-between. But we have to be compassionate and cautious as we continue to explore the shape of what church is to be in the future. Does online worship feel hollow for you? You are not alone. But you may be worshiping alongside someone who feels fully connected for the first time in years. Are the most meaningful friendships you have been formed online? Wonderful! But your neighbor maybe be unable to access internet speeds that make connecting online even possible.

What I would advocate is remembering to listen to one another about what forms authentic community connection. When we listen, we can be reminded of the giftedness that is present in this time. How unique to have such diversity and opportunity for communication!

Be in touch if you’d like to have a conversation about how technology is changing our churches. I’d always love to chat at communication@missionalchurch.org

By Rachel McDonald

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