The digital world is fast becoming our new reality and, like many, I am a proponent of the value it has in connecting us to a broader audience.
I appreciate that Facebook has helped me reach across oceans and the span of decades to be in touch with childhood friends from South Africa who are now spread across the globe. And I celebrate the advantages that social media, optimized websites and online advertising offer our churches.
But… doubt has been gnawing its way in over time. It’s the rabbit hole of information, news and opinion available every second of every day. It’s the visibility of all our “friends” without the necessity of one-on-one relationship building. It’s how, in a quiet moment, I’m inclined to reach for an app instead of using the opportunity for prayerful contemplation as I would have before. I found I yearned even more for times around the dinner table with friends and family, for my gardening and walks with the dog.
Somewhere in this realization came an epiphany. As communities where people gather face-to-face and build relationships both with God and one another, churches are even more valuable in world that is increasingly virtual.
While the social trends of online communication will no doubt increase so too will our sense of valuing the moments when we are really living, face-to-face. NPR recently featured coverage about “technoference” a term newly coined that describes the way that technology can disrupt personal interaction. And even more poignant, groundbreaking blogger, Andrew Sullivan has announced he plans to stop blogging. In a recent post, he said: “I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again.”
It is into this space that I believe our churches have the unique opportunity to offer meaningful and relevant communal experiences that help us make real connections.