Why Online Church is Important
-Rev Melissa Fain-
I'm going to lay out two important points. First, I'm going to also explain why traditional evangelism is not working. Second, I'm going to explain why the church needs to focus more on the internet.
Traditional Evangelism Cannot Work Today
Stick with me because I think this is going to make a metric ton of sense if you read what I have to say.
Generally speaking, the average human understands culture as geographical, as in, cultures are separated by land masses. Probably because of propaganda during the World Wars, our first thought turns to National Cultures. Whether we want to admit it or not, we still have an American culture.
Beyond that, I would say, most everyone would also be able to see smaller cultural identities. For example, in the United States, there is a Southern Culture, just as much as there is a Californian or Texan culture. Now, you might not be considering it, but socio-economic circumstances create cultural norms as well. There is a culture to affluence as much as there is a culture to poverty. There are also cultures around ideas or things. There is a sports culture, as much as there's a crafting culture. Even though I haven't played in a band in decades, I understand and know the band culture, and can slip back in when needed. I can translate that language.
Finally, families have their own culture. This is one we don't normally consider because our family culture is our base. We are born into it, and subconsciously or consciously, we judge everything around us by it.
Now, back in the 1950's, similar family cultures lived nearby. It was a good shot that your neighborhood would be filled with family cultures that were relatively the same. This was because people grew up and stayed in their community. This made evangelism easy too. Not only were WWII soldiers coming home and flocking to community organizations, the communities themselves were culturally similar, making it easy to speak and connect with one another.
Then something happened. Travel. Mass-transit to be exact. It used to be, if you wanted to work in the city, you had to live in the city. Then the automobile came and if you wanted to work in the city you had to at least live in the suburb of the city. Now there are people who live hundreds of miles away from their office, and they fly in during the week, and go home on the weekends. Our cultures are mixed beyond measure. No longer are we laying down roots. Instead, we are dropping an anchor. There is nothing permanent anymore about the word, "home."
What does this have to do with traditional evangelism? Because of how we travel and live, churches rarely mirror the culture they are rooted in. Even then, we are still using census data to help us understand the people outside our doors, When it comes to evangelism, the census is drastically flawed. Census data assumes two things: First, that there is a mass of similar people living in your area. True, they all might be making a similar amount of money, be around the same age, and other basic information, but those people are from all over. They are simply anchored by your specific congregation. Second, the Census data looks for things we can quantify. The base culture, the family, isn't something the Census can read or know. Those family cultures are becoming more and more jumbled. Evangelism, as we understood it, was reaching a demographic, when it needs to be a family by family event.
Back to the internet. We, as a people, feel that disconnect. We want to hang out with like-minded individuals. We don't feel comfortable getting to know our neighbor, because that requires learning a new culture. It's like learning a new language, and terrifies some, and overwhelms others. That's when the internet comes in.
Why Must It Be Online?
People are finding their voice online. Cultures are coming together around niche ideas and thoughts. For better and worse- the internet gives us communion. Like it or not, we are apprehensive in real life, and willing to connect online. If the church truly wants to evangelize, it now must be online.
I sat in a board meeting about 15 years ago listening to people talk about the advertising budget. For years, they paid $15 a month to have a larger ad in the phone book. Congregants concluded that people were not looking for churches in a phone book anymore, and they could make a free website, so they did away with their advertising budget.
Let's trade out the word "advertising" for the word "evangelism." This church basically did away with their evangelism budget because they saw the internet like a bulletin board instead of a community.
Consider this: Instead of using the internet to let people know the church is here, use the internet to let people know the church knows they are real and loved by God.