The Fall 2011 alumni magazine from Yale Divinity School (Reflections) is entitled “iBelieve: Facing the New Media Explosion”. The entire issue is devoted to musings on the impact of technology on religion, theological education, and Church. So much has changed so quickly in this arena that it is no wonder many congregations and church leaders seem to be stymied by what is happening, despite the fact that most of the people in attendance on Sunday morning are armed with cell phones, many have FaceBook pages, have Skyped with their college-bound children, and may even be tweeting good bits from the sermon.
Some of the questions posed for our consideration are how will Christians of the 21st century imagine theology, and how will they tell their Story? How will digital natives bring forward new metaphors for God? What is the role of technology in worship? What if when “two or three are gathered” happens online and not in person – is that Christian community?…and so the questions mount.
What is clearly voiced in the articles is our need to intentionally wrestle with what it means to be Church in the face of the social media environment. To me, what seems to be important here is not to lose sight of what Church actually is at its heart – people in relationship with God, the Gospel, and with one another.
In person with hands held around the altar at Communion, at the bedside in a hospital, or sitting at the keyboard engaged in an online Bible Study, we are bound together by the message, and only incidentally by the method. Each type of connection has its strengths. The speed and breadth of spreading the Gospel in the online world combined with the sensory manifestation of the incarnational theology of Christianity is an amalgamation full of energy and exciting potential. I can’t wait to see where the Spirit is leading us… or was that tweeting us?