So I happened across www.godbit.com the other day, a very interesting site devoted to the relationship between theology and technology. One of the more interesting posts was concerning appropriate use of websites by churches. I’ve always felt that there are a number of churches that completely misunderstand how to effectively use the web as a tool for ministry. The following is a copy of my response to the thread at www.godbit.com.
…A central theme running throughout Scripture is that of people and their relationship to God. Where I think the church has wandered, in this modern age, is in its understanding of people as ‘individual’ rather than ‘community.’
The majority of church based websites I’ve visited market to the ‘individual’ as a consumer. Snazzy flash interfaces, video clips of the service, online bookstores, and my personal favorite, the top ten list of why this church is different (and therefore better) than other churches. While this has proved successful in terms of the seeker sensitive goal of making church welcoming, I believe it also perpetuates individuality by limiting church to product and viewing the individual as a consumer of goods.
A more theologically appropriate use of the web would focus on the relationship of people towards Christian community. For instance, in addition to posting the sermon notes, or an mp3, follow up with the sermon by creating a blog to generate feedback and discussion. Instead of a prayer request submission form, integrate this in a discussion forum to allow viewers participation in the act of praying and to share in the resolution - likewise for those "Here’s what’s going on" email newsletters. In this way, you’re using the web to bring individuals together, providing a means for dispersing knowledge and sharing life stories, and helping members, and hopefully outsiders, build connections.
Thus the real benefit of the web, and the part most overlooked by churches, is the ability to connect people. If you examine many of the programs in a church you’ll most likely find that one of their primary functions is to build relationships. The web has already proved itself to be an excellent device at building relationships, particularly because it can do so independently of time and location. Can/should the web be pursued as a means of replacing the B&M church? "By no means!" Should the church be present on the web as a tool to build the community? Absolutely!