-Pastor Melissa Fain-
What is ministry?
That question has taken center stage in my mind as I meditate.
For a decade I have written here on a regular basis. The meditations side has existed like clockwork, as I have been better about keeping up with it than most paid, brick and mortar, ministers. As of late? My posts are starting to slow, as I might write one week, and illustrate the next. The longer I write, the less likely I think you are to read. That means it’s no longer an effective form of ministry. Something about this site has to change.
I have also kept a weekly worship. Even before Covid, there was online worship. It felt necessary at one point. It feels deserted now.
The internet is a very selfish place. I’ve always known that. It’s the piece of the puzzle Mark Zuckerberg fails to see as he thinks Meta will be the next new place for community. A true community gives and takes. It’s reciprocal. The internet just takes. Even those who want to be taken. They, I guess I should say we, want to be taken. We turn ourselves into a commodity in the hopes that it will result in us being “given.” What, you may ask? Perhaps fame or fortune? The more we want to be taken, the more the internet loves us. If we never ask for anything in return, there is no shame in taking, and ideas are stolen and reused without permission. Even though it will destroy the person, the internet is okay with the pillaging. They don’t have to see the remaining husk of the person, and a new person wanting to be taken will willingly take the previous one’s place.
I was intentional with my language. Yes, there are people who go online to give something. That relationship is almost always the internet taking from them and giving nothing back in return until the person must quit before they are destroyed.
It brings me back to my question: What is ministry? Specifically, online ministry.
I know I’m painting a broad stroke here, but I’m going to say it.
Most churches are very selfish on the internet. I’m not saying that, like they are some digital Scrooge that takes from the less fortunate with miserly glee. Their selfishness comes from an antiquated view of the world wide web. Most churches began using the internet back when it was simply an online bulletin board. The whole purpose was to post what was important, and leave. There were no interactions. It was also free advertising, back when many churches were paying $100s to put events in the local paper. The internet was giving churches something! Greedily they gobbled it up, without considering how this introduction to the internet would inform how they would use this resource moving forward.
You would think, after Covid, they would be forced to see their internet habits and learn healthier actions and attitudes online. Instead, they continued to be insular. Once again, I don’t think this is some plot to hoard their resources and take up a miserly duty to be visited by three Spirits every Christmas Eve. It is more like wearing blinders they don’t know they have.
They saw how difficult it was to worship online. Instead of asking, “How do we make this experience more interactive for those unable to come to church?” they thought, “How do we get back to in-person worship?”
Instead of seeing the person who logged on to watch a church’s livecast, they see a possible future donation. The trauma of the person ignored for the number in attendance.
Hardly no one is going on Reddit, and looking at /r/Christianity, a place many broken by the Church find their first home. No one is wondering why they are still losing members, and what that means to God’s call on the world.
About a decade ago, I heard a very important minister yell, “I didn’t stay here to watch the church die!” He meant that specific church, and the words have stuck with me, as I feel many ministers are at least thinking about it as they continue their insular practices.
When I was looking for churches to sponsor us, there was one church that began looking possible. It turned out, they wanted to gobble up the resources and destroy the seed. It would prolong their death, while destroying us immediately. All taking. No giving.
But online ministry!
Look at me! I’ve once again written pages of text for no one to read! What is my problem?
I needed all of that, to explain why part of online ministry needs to be about giving.
I mean, the church needs to give. I don’t mean we need to give to the church. The physical churches are hemorrhaging. Even the ones who think they are doing well, are only taking in the leftovers from the smaller churches who are already dead or at death’s door. There is no growth in the church today, only the illusion of growth.
We also need to be creative, and creativity is severely lacking globally. We need groups of people just shooting ideas, and trying them until something sticks. It’s not rocket science, but it is incredibly difficult when we’ve replaced education with standardized tests.
Right now, that’s what I’m trying to figure out. Not the answers, but how to get the people so we can find the answers together. How to share our resources, and innovate.
I have great ideas. I want those ideas to be real. Right now, I am stuck with the dying word, a few pretty pictures, and worship.