One of the major issues facing believers and churches in the real world is a “come and see” mentality. There is safety in having a neutral place to invite friends and strangers to a variety of activities. This desire for a safe and comfortable environment exhibits itself in the construction of special buildings. As a result the neutral place is designed to meet the needs of believers. In so doing it often becomes a place that is uncomfortable for the uninitiated.
The same tendencies can be found with church websites. There seems to be a desire to create a safe space specifically targeted to believers. Church websites often contain the language and culture of Christianize a tendency that raises barriers between the church and the world.
As with church in the real world in order for virtual church to be effective at sharing the good news it needs to go outside its’ safe and comfortable confines. Ministry in the virtual world needs to happen outside the walls (virtual or real) of the church.
The Internet is a world filled with many languages and cultures. Their are places for those who enjoy sports, book clubs, gardening, and many other special interests. In this world there are those who are digital natives. There are also those who could better be described as digital immigrants. One group has grown up with the Internet while the other group has adapted to it. There is a place for both and they both bring there own unique characteristics to the virtual world. For believers it means being strangers in a foreign land twice over.
So, though I do think church websites can be an effective ministry tool there needs to be a mindset that we are sent not relocated. We are sent to make disciples including digital disciples. Therefore, as followers of Jesus we are not of this world (real or virtual) rather we are sent into this world (real or virtual).
Website definition, a connected group of pages on the World Wide Web regarded as a single entity, usually maintained by one person or organization and devoted to a single topic or several closely related topics.
“This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace.”
1 Peter 1:1-2 NLT
“I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.
Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.”
John 17:14-16, 18-19 NLT