Facebook Church

I’m starting to feel old. I’m old enough to remember when the Muppets had a hit TV show. My favorite sketches had to do with the two old grouches that sat in gallery and criticized and complained about the quality of everything the younger Muppets were doing. Those old codgers have probably gone on to puppet purgatory, but no fear, I’m coming along to step into the old curmudgeon’s role. How did this happen to me?

I feel old when I hear about things like Facebook Church. I’m no Luddite. I’m on Facebook, where I have more than two friends (take that, Josh Harris!*). I’ve got this blog. I’ve set a couple of churches up with community forums and groups. I was one of the earliest adopters of email (told you I was old!). I see advantages and opportunities in Internet use. I’ve got credentials in IT and in ministry. And like Ricky Mokel, I think about stuff.

But I can’t get my head around Facebook Church.

I think I understand that Facebook offers ways to make contact and foster communication within an exponentially growing group of people — I haven’t found it particularly useful that way, but others say they have. OK, I’ll grant that’s a good thing to take advantage of.

But the developers of Facebook church are thinking large:

“It is an application that will leverage our new Internet Campus technology to allow people to “attend” and be a part of a church community in Facebook. We are extremely excited about the opportunity to connect with people inside this explosively viral environment.”

They are serious about calling it “church”.

But I’ve not seen any genuine community on Facebook, to say nothing of the unique community that is church. How will the members of this church learn to bear with each other, growing in patience, handling each others’ hearts, if all the relationships are virtual? How will they sing to each other the psalms and hymns and spiritual songs that rise from Holy Spirit filled hearts? Will “smileys” and avatars replace hugs and holy kisses?

One lifechurch.tv member raises this set of questions:

Does engaging people “right where they are” carry the risk of _leaving_ people right where they are? Do we face the risk that members of the Facebook Campus will think of the Almighty–like much of facebook–as just something to entertain them while they procrastinate on a term paper? Are we just making it easier for people to be lukewarm Christians?

Those are good questions; I would think they’d be worthy of great discussion. Here’s one answer he was given:

From my perspective you raise a great question. However, I think it is the same question pastors ask themselves every week when they look out at their congregation and ask; are we just here entertaining our people while they procastinate on life?

Might I offer this suggestion? To any pastor wondering if, perhaps, you are just entertaining people while they procrastinate on life, fiddling while Rome burns… stop. Don’t go to Facebook. Turn around. Go back to the gospel. Plunge in; explore what it is, and how it speaks to us, to all of us, in all of our cultures. Soak this in until every spiritual pore is saturated. Stay, and soak. Don’t go back into the pulpit until your heart is about to burst with wonder at the glory of God; until your mouth is overflowing with Jesus, Jesus and the gospel, the cross, and the resurrection and hope and love and unspeakable joy; until your desire is no longer to please men (or your fear to displease them) but to share the awe and majesty and ecstasy of God and his mighty works in Creation and Redemption; until your heartbreak is that men and women are wasting their lives, sucking desperately at broken cisterns of small, useless, temporary pleasures while the towering waterfalls of God’s grace and mercy and pleasure and delight roar within his church.

Don’t fiddle with Facebook, at least not right now. There may be a place for that, and no doubt good things can be done there. I’m sure we’ll all learn more about that. But rather than trace out the ever-growing contours of Facebook, help your people trace out the infinite — and satisfying — contours of the gospel.

Explore posts in the same categories: Christ-centered preaching, What is church?

One Comment on “Facebook Church”

  1. b.go Says:

    For me, Facebook as church is a starting place, not a destination. Most unbelievers I have relationships with straight-up refuse to attend church. However, most of them have “lives” online. These same people who put a hand in my face if I try to share a verse I’ve found useful in my own walk—people who have vowed never to set foot in a traditional church—would happily click on a link I sent them to check out a simple new application, even if it’s actually called “Church.”
    Jesus didn’t drag people into big buildings and pound his fist on a pulpit to get their attention. (Actually, He usually avoided those people, unless it was to confront them.) He walked around where people were, and He engaged them directly, with meaningful insight that mattered to them personally. There’s plenty of harvest; it’s laborers who are in short supply. Attend your brick-and-mortar church, get fed, get mature… and then get “boots on the ground” in the field, and help lead people to Christ.
    I heard Bill Hybels say something awhile back that really challenged my selfish ambition for Bible knowledge. He said that (God forbid) if Willow Creek burned to the ground tomorrow, his personal spiritual life would continue without a hiccup. If that’s not true of me, then I would argue that I don’t actually know Christ—certainly not in the relationship way that He describes when He says that His sheep know His voice, and that they know His Father, because they know Him.
    After all, this isn’t all about me, about the knowledge I can stuff into my head. It’s about God; it’s about Jesus. His mission statement was to seek and to save the lost. He loves all of us, whether we know Him or not. The best expression of my love for Him, my gratitude for what He did for me, is to share Him with people who don’t already know Him, and have the privilege of making that introduction.
    BTW, I remember the Muppets, too. And I’m happy to say the two old grouches are alive and well (and griping) at a delightful Muppet theatre inside the California Adventure theme park, across from Disneyland. I got to see them two weeks ago. They’re as wonderful as ever. 🙂

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