Via Scott McKnight, I came upon this blog post by Richard Beck about how Facebook is killing the church. Yes, you heard me: Facebook is killing the church.

The difference between Generations X and Y isn't in their
views of the church. It's about those cellphones. It's about
relationships and connectivity. Most Gen X'ers didn't have cell phones,
text messaging or Facebook. These things were creeping in during their
college years but the explosive onset of mobile devices and social
computing had yet to truly take off.

So why has mobile social computing affected church attendance? Well, if
church has always been kind of lame and irritating why did people go in
the first place? Easy, social relationships. Church has always been
about social affiliation. You met your friends, discussed your week,
talked football, shared information about good schools, talked local
politics, got the scoop, and made social plans ("Let's get together for
dinner this week!"). Even if you hated church you could feel lonely
without it. Particularly with the loss of "third places" in America.

But Millennials are in a different social situation. They don't need
physical locations for social affiliation. They can make dinner plans
via text, cell phone call or Facebook. In short, the thing that kept
young people going to church, despite their irritations, has been
effectively replaced. You don't need to go to church to stay connected
or in touch. You have an iPhone.

Sure, Millennials will report that the "reason" they are leaving the
church is due to its perceived hypocrisy or shallowness. My argument is
that while this might be the proximate cause the more distal cause is
social computing. Already connected Millennials have the luxury to kick
the church to the curb. This is the position of strength that other
generations did not have. We fussed about the church but, at the end of
the day, you went to stay connected. For us, church was Facebook!

I think this post exposes one of the weaknesses of the modern-day
church, and reminds us what church is all about. Churches are of course
made up of humans, so they are social communities, places where people
connect with one another. Friendships are made at church. People find
their future husband or wife at church.

The problem isn't that churches are social communities; the problem is
when that's all they are. In the heyday of mainline churches,
congregations could get away with being a religious Elks Club. But what
happens when new communal spaces like Facebook come around? Well,
people don't need to go to a church to meet other people when they can
do that on Facebook or Twitter or someplace else.

Churches have to be places where we can connect with each other, but
also remind us of the holy. They have to be places where we are formed
into the likeness of Christ. Yes, they need to be places of social
connection, but that can't be the main thing anymore. It never was
supposed to be.

Originally posted at Questor Pastor.

Dennis Sanders

Dennis Sanders is lead pastor at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of St. Paul in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. He blogs about faith and autism at The Clockwork Pastor, part of the CCblogs network.

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