7. HOW MUCH OF A VIRTUAL EXPERIENCE ACTUALLY TRANSLATES?
With more and more congregations streaming their services, it raises the question of what happens on the other end?
First, I suspect the attention span of viewers and listeners is fractured and intermittent. Watching while running on the treadmill is not the same experience as being in the room live when something is taking place. Listening while cooking dinner and while the kids are running up and down the hall is not the same as being seated and attentive for a sermon. Sure, people have been distracted in church for centuries, but it’s a different kind of distraction.
Second, even if you sit in rapt attention to what’s being streamed on your device, is it the same as being in the room? If you only watched online for a year or attended for a year, would your faith be different?
Because so much online content consumption is often done while people multi-task, it will lead to a distracted discipleship if that’s the only form of church people experience.
8. IS A DIGITAL RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRISTIANITY ENOUGH?
As physical attendance continues to decline and digital engagement increases, will it be possible to have 100 percent or near 100 percent digital relationship with Christianity, much the way you have a completely virtual relationship with gaming, movies or Hollywood?
I really think something gets lost by a mainly digital experience.
A high percentage of couples today meet online. But no couple who meets online wants to stay online: The goal is to meet in person and (maybe) start a life together. Should Christians be different?
If the goal is to do life together, to engage in a mission together, to quite literally change the world together, well…that involves actual human relationships.
But in a world where more and more are choosing virtual connection over real, we’ll have to see what that produces.
9. WHAT HAPPENS TO KIDS WHOSE PARENTS ONLY ATTEND ONLINE?
This one bothers me more than most. Parents will often skip out on attending church because they’re busy or want a day off.
And parents can easily catch up on a message and maybe even still get to a small group.
But what about kids?
You can’t download a relationship or a friendship.
When parents skip church, kids lose far more than the parents.
What happens to a generation of kids who grow up relationally disconnected? Actually, I think we’re seeing the results of that already. Just read the news.
10. WILL FRAGMENTED INDIVIDUAL BELIEVERS CARRY THE MISSION FORWARD?
Whether the future trends are toward more online engagement or just more sporadic attendance with no online supplementation, the question is whether fragmented individual believers will carry the mission forward?
The church has always been strongest when it’s been a movement of people gathered around a common set of mission, vision, values and strategy.
The hyper-individualism of our current culture (I’ll do what I want when I want to) runs at crossed-purposes to the Gospel and the mission of the church.
I realize many Christians argue they’re done with church (I wrote about that here…the comments will curl your hair), but that still doesn’t change my view that the only one who believes Christians are better off alone is the enemy.