Each week pastors experience exhilarating opportunities and make agonizing decisions. Often the moments of decision erupt unexpectedly. There is no time to prepare. That was the case for Pastor Charlotte Robinson last fall at her church in Almond Springs, California.
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.
The rise of the Internet’s World Wide Web in the mid-1990s launched an unlikely hero into the media spotlight: Johann Gutenberg, the 15th-century inventor of movable printing type and technological forefather of the vernacular Bible. Reporters, Internet columnists and even some scholars began parading Gutenberg before the public as a kind of poster child for the digital revolution.
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.