– A Social Media-friendly Church

Since this is a religious post, I should start with a confession:

This post is entirely inspired by one Chris Brogan did yesterday.

However,  since he reviewed as a non-believer I reckon my angle on this will be original.

I’m interested in the implications of as one of many churches now using social media to engage new audiences. For sure, churches operating on New Media platforms is nothing new. However, this is usually for the purposes of either post-service dissemination of material or archiving. But there are a new breed of church 2.0s that are conducting services in real-time with social media tools that connect you to for one-2-one real-time prayer (MSN Bless-enger?!). I guess if it’s a healing service on the laying on of hands is done with a Facebook ‘poke’!

Interestingly, Chris noted that “lots and lots of people were chatting in the live chat window”. However is this such a good thing? If I were in an actual service, the noise of people having conversations around me would detract from the speaker. In the same way, I wonder how much people are really listening to the sermon whilst they tweet and watch for responses in their feed.

And what of the instruction to the Hebrews to “not stop meeting together” (Heb. 10:25)?

A #hashtag might be a platform, but it certainly lacks the seductive draughtiness of a church nave filled with fellow worshippers.

And how are sacraments such as Communion supposed to be administered to an online audience?

Not even a Macbook Pro can withstand the effects of water baptism!

Furthermore, will digital churches increase our mainstream culture of consumerism and individualism (i.e. Church must serve me at my desk, but I don’t serve it) or will it widen our experience and appreciation of the global Christian community as we converse with believers from across the globe?

Is this really church at all?

For me, these are concerns not criticisms. This novel adoption of social media has much potential for good.

For those who are wary of stepping into a bricks-and-mortar church, offers a low pressure environment to experience church in one’s respective comfort zone. The *social* media aspect of also provides a great service to those who are unable to leave their homes and find the *broadcast* nature of television and radio sermons unsatisfying. Furthermore, the missional aspect of Christianity becomes a whole lot easier when the punters are willingly congregating in your Twitterfeed!

Consequently, I’ll be watching the development of online churches with interest. So long as these sites are supplements rather than replacements of the real thing, then I see no harm in it. In fact, I think its high-time The Happy Church jumped on the social media bandwagon too! 🙂


About jonathanrose

Raconteur. Intellectual. Showerman.
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12 Responses to – A Social Media-friendly Church

  1. Johnny Laird says:

    Hey Jonny

    Nice post

    You should hook up with by buddies, Dana & Chris to get the inside scoop on


    • jonathanrose says:

      Will pursue the connection JL – I’m beginning to appreciate *just* how connected and hooked up you are to the online #twurch scene! Amazing.

      What are your thoughts about online churches?

      Are you entirely for them or do you have some [constructive] criticisms?

  2. @digitaldion says:

    I like all creative expressions of Christian community! is great!! But, I prefer ‘meatspace’ community. Blessings!

  3. Scott Gould says:

    Hey Jonny

    It’s a tough one. I know there are people on both sides of the argument with this.

    The Bible encourages social interaction because we are a BODY. It’s who we are. We grow this way. So as long as LifeChurch (or any church) is encouraging engagement with one another, I’m cool.

    The question then is, is virtual engagement ok? My response is always that virtual engagement is a start, but not the end.


  4. Rob Sharp says:

    Interesting blog! my thoughts quickly are that this is really a classical ontological issue amplified by a misinterpretation of the Greek work Ekklesia, as a physical church building.
    Ontology is the study of being or existence and ultimately asks ‘what am I.’ As Christians our ontology is as Essentialist’s (I am primarily an unseen ‘essence’ eg a spirit which effects my seen world) rather than a Materialist (I am only what is physical seen in the mirror) thus we believe in dualism (that ‘I’ is first spiritual then physical) and idea the contemporary philosophy rejects.
    The devoted Christian Descartes tried to prove that there was more to him than met the eye through his now famous statement “I think therefore I am” asserting that even when his physical body is gone through his written down thoughts he still, in a sense, existed. Interestingly the Greek word the Bible uses for itself is ‘logos’ which was understood by the Greeks to be the very mind of that person written down, so when John say the “The Word was God” he didn’t mean ‘physically’ rather that Gods mind, His ‘essence’, was in it. If I burn the Bible I don’t physically burn God yet I can communion with God in a very real way by reading His mind the Bible because his ‘being’ is there through His thoughts. For our materialistically programmed minds this seems ‘mystical’.
    The Greek word Ekklesia literally means ‘called out people’ or ‘beings’ but the paradigm of western philosophy, which has embraced materialism and rejected essentialism, means the word evolved to refer to a mere physical location. As a Christian it is a MASSIVE ontological mistake to believe church is primarily a physical building. When Jesus promised to be with us if we gathered together it is in His ‘essence’ not in a ‘physical body’. As Christians, and thus dualists, we believe we are primarily a non-seen ‘essence’ (spirit) and then a physical being (body) but the common interpretation of church has been physical first then spiritual, because we are so used to a materialist framework. I once preached a message ‘You don’t go to church’ arguing that you ‘ARE’ church everywhere you go. Being with someone with out being able to see or touch them used to be very alien to us, but now due to things like this it is becoming normal. Personally, I hope that ‘social media churches’ will help swing the centuries old misunderstanding of church being something you go too, back towards something you ‘be’.

    • jonathanrose says:

      Rob Sharp you horrible little man 😉 – you know FULL WELL that I know ‘ekklesia’ is not merely the ‘physical church’*!!

      I also FULLY agree with all the above. Of course it’s not the building but I am making a case for the benefits of the corporate body meeting together physically. That’s all.

      PS Please come back to blog and wow me with your theology – I would really appreciate the input/correction/instruction!

      *Only cos I read Driscoll’s ‘Vintage Church’ recently! 😉 I was even going to use the word ‘ekklesia’ in this article but thought it would be over the heads of the average reader!! Now I can count you amongst my readership, expect more New Testament Greek references ha ha ha!

      • Rob Sharp says:

        haha oh Jonny your a good egg!
        wasn’t really correcting you as much as chiming in!!
        although, if i may say, I think you prove why i should write what i did. by saying ‘is not merely the ‘physical church’ I think you represent the mental agreement of most christian that sure its not just about the building. but I’m arguing that it is purely 100% metaphysical!!!! when you die and have no body you are still fully part of the church!!!
        what im saying is that you could be in a church ‘service’ and not experience the essence of church and equally you could be on the bog and watching online and experience ‘church’ –
        The experience of church is when my being, my essence, not my body connects with your essence and Christs = church. it can happen over coffee or in a catholic service…
        although i agree that this transaction of beings is often best utilised in person and group like a church service – church is NOT the service, let us not mix up the pipe with the water just because it runs through the pipe.
        what i was trying to do was reframe the question toward how can we better ‘be church’
        sorry for more dribbles but i strongly feel our consciousness of what church is has a materialistic bias in the language.
        peace out trout!!

  5. I’m with Scott on this one – Virtual attendance is always a great way in, but should lead to real life attendance when possible.

    I have been following for a while, a friend of mine went to one of their campuses in Edmond, OK and I know many that tune in to the services (or similarly watch HillSong TV every week on God TV).

    I have also been a long time listener to Rob Bell’s sermons and the other teaching staff and Mars Hill in Grand Rapids Michigan and in ways I feel connected to that congregation through those podcasts, despite never actually going to the church and only meeting Rob fleetingly when he came to London earlier in the year for the Drops Like Stars tour.

    But all of these attendances are distanced, virtual and to a certain extent – shallow. Not in a bad way, but in a way that it’s hard to appreciate what it means to be part of the Body of Christ from a distance. Jesus calls us into his Church to be part of one body – so virtual attendance for me is kind of like only seeing my right arm on TV once a week – it just doesn’t compare to the real thing!

    Good post – keep up the good work, you have inspired me to carry on the conversation – it’s one that will continue to be questioned and may even become more relevant in this post recessional culture where big church on low budget is hard to sustain!

    • jonathanrose says:

      JP – thanks for getting in the mix.

      The thing about podcasts and listening to sermons on tv is that they are *broadcast* – so as the SM advocates would say, it misses the *social* aspect and can fairly be described to be – as you say – “Shallow”

      However, my worry is that when the *social* aspect of is integrated alongside the podcasts, live broadcasts etc that it fosters a ‘shallow’ community experience whilst misguiding the people that it is a ‘deep’ as church can get.

      I agree with both you and Scott though – it’s start and not the end. In fairness, LifeChurch.TV is a brilliant model of this as they have a lot of ‘after-broadcast’ care that pushes people towards ‘physical’ local churches.

      JP I’m really glad that it’s inspired you to “keep on the conversation”. I’m beginning to see the ‘identity’ of my blog and what I hope to do with it becoming clearer and clear. Hopefully we can cross-pollinate (not in a weird way lol) and collab some time in the future! (we’ll discuss my fees at a later date)

      Respect – J’Ro x

      PS Considering you’re getting to be quite a significant figure embedded in the social media industry – I’d appreciate if you hear of any events or phenomena re: Christianity-New Media if you let me know or forward me some stuff. Would be seriously appreciated! 🙂

  6. Dave Bish says:

    I think it’s an interesting idea, and particularly for accessibility to someone who wouldn’t want to come in… but online can’t be an substitute for being with people, and lack of wanting to be with people is an issue in itself that the gospel challenges.

    I guess I have a high view of what a church meeting in some form or other ought to be – certainly should be a place of sacrificially loving others, of kindness, of patience, of bearing with people… (not very likely to bear with someone on…line..?)
    Online is good for many things, and can be a context for relationships but if there’s no face to face, no shared activity, no shared meals, no shared sitting under God’s word, no praying and worshipping together then something is lacking.

  7. S Young says:

    I’ve found the gathering together of brothers and sisters online to be at least as sustaining, and in fact often more so, than “real” churches. The joy of meeting some of those people in 3D shows there are certainly gaps in the online experience, but nonetheless I don’t consider it inferior to the experiences I’ve had in trying to connect meaningfully and lastingly with people in any of the “solid” churches I’ve attended over the years.

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