Last time, we thought about the development of the Virtual Elite, who have come to dominate our state and the wider societal structures, and the threat to Christians arising from the ever-increasing shift to working and living online. Such profound changes in behaviour inevitably affect our churches and our Christian lives, too. A mind shaped by a dominantly virtual life will find it harder to accept the importance of the physical in Christianity. If you don’t believe me, consider our worship services.
Who would have believed a few years ago that many Christians would claim that a virtual meeting on a website could be a meaningful substitute for congregational worship? Yet here we are, many Christians ‘voting with their feet’ to prove my point. Gospel preaching involves personal engagement, the preacher directly interacting with the people, looking us in the eye, responding to our reactions, and driving home the message powerfully as a result of this responsiveness.
Online ministry can never engage like this. It is always in danger of becoming a parody, with the preacher on the monitor more easily amusing us as we detachedly observe his peculiar body language on the screen, instead of drawing us in to engage seriously with him – and through him, with our God.