Has the advent of the Internet and computer technology led congregations toward the “virtual church,” undermining the face-to-face relationships that have long characterized congregational life? Two recent studies, one supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the other by the Indianapolis Center for Congregations, suggest not.
The emergence of the Internet and the World Wide Web as a source of information, a venue for publishing, and a forum for dialogue now defines libraries nearly as much as the more familiar milieu of printed texts. The technological dimensions of this shift are less intriguing than the cultural ones. And from where I sit, the developments are a decidedly mixed blessing.
Seminaries that use computers in teaching are often tempted in one of two directions. They either oversell the importance of the technology or underutilize it. They either promise the congregational equivalent of a flight simulator, or else use PowerPoint as a glorified overhead projector.
Imagine a pastor preaching on the rebuilding of the city. Her text is Jeremiah 32. The city of Jerusalem has fallen apart, she tells her congregation, and its citizens have been taken into exile. Yet in the midst of this chaos, the prophet Jeremiah claims that the Lord has told him to buy a piece of property. His investment is a declaration of hope.