Is Cyberchurch Legit? (Blogger Limelight) ~ BitterSweetLife

Friday, January 06, 2006

Is Cyberchurch Legit? (Blogger Limelight)


(You may want to read: Blogger Limelight Explained.)

Over at A Mile From the Beach, Andy kicked off a Limelight discussion on what is popularly known as the "Cyberchurch." Andy asks for takes based on these four premises from a Relevant Magazine article:

  1. Cyberchurch is People, not Institutions
  2. Cyberchurch is not a Department Store for Consumers
  3. Cyberchurch is neither democratic nor non-hierarchical
  4. Cyberchurch does not replace the physical and it does a poor job reproducing it
I found the topic interesting because of 1) its ambiguity, and 2) its somewhat contradictory nature. For example: How does one claim membership in the Cyberchurch? Would an occasional IM or email do the trick? The relationships in such a movement would be entirely voluntary, and quite possibly ephemeral. As well, the very concept of Cyberchurch is necessarily a paradox (if not a contradiction) because "church," as modeled by Christ, is founded squarely on the kind of serving and speaking that can only take place within flesh-and-blood relationships (see point number 4 above).

So, what kind of beast is the Cyberchurch? What functions can it perform? As the Relevant piece states, "Cyberchurch is people..." I found it interesting that the other three points are negative, that is, they state what Cyberchurch, according to the author, is not. Maybe this is because some people tend to inflate the potential for online spirituality (i.e., "Why go to church?!") But in my opinion, additional positive statements are needed if this concept is going to be fleshed out.

By saying "Cyberchurch," are we merely saying "Christians who happen to be online at the moment?" Well, OK. But that's not exactly showstopping.

Personally, I'm not overly excited about the tag, "Cyberchurch." After I've said it about five times, it's already feeling slightly ridiculous. I'm not sure I want to dress up online friendships with a new, spiffy title. Why not simply consider the Web as a helpful staging area for conversation and encouragement, a new means for discussion - though with some necessary limitations.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not down on online conversations - in reality, I benefit from them a lot. I just feel cautious, in our culture of isolation and materialism, about giving people extra incentive to drop out of "real" life and sign in online. I love the connectivity and friendships that have been formed via this blog (Christian and otherwise). But I'm reluctant to adopt a label that may be misleading, and perhaps, unnecessary.

All told, I think the conversations that occur in the "Cyberchurch" context are legit, and often very motivating. It's the label that I'm unsure about.

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Andy said...

Ariel - an excellent point on the "movement". After all, we are all just staring at a monitor and hacking away on a keyboard, not really "talking" to each other.

Perhaps Cyber Church is the wrong term - maybe we should just be Christ's body. We just happen to be sharing our thoughts and ideas on faith online.

J said...

Good thoughts, AJ. I think you are right on with your concerns about the isolationist tendencies of the cyber world. I love blogging too, and I really enjoy the contacts that can be made online, but I do think it is important to keep in mind that the church is, and has to be, something distinctly physical. You just can't substitute for honest-to-goodness in person contact.

Andy said...

Looks like Will at has a Limelight on Cyber Church...

andrew jones said...

you are right - the term "Cyberchurch" is a lame tag and very few people use it.

But it was used 10 years ago a lot and the book "Cyberchurch" (1997) was quoted in teh article - the point of the article being a ten year assessment of cyberchurch conversation.

peace (from the author of the article)

Ariel said...

Thanks for the clarification, Andrew. I'm really glad to hear that the term "Cyberchurch" is in the margins.

And now, a hearty round of applause for Andrew Jones, internet guru par excellence, and the guy who got me started with!


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife