Technology, The Great Commission and Authentic Christian Community
Spreading the word by any means possible, most specifically via media outlets such as radio, television and the internet, has been always been criticized for diminishing the power of community and sustained practices of nurturing discipleship of the believer. Nested within this critique lies in the theological debate about direct and mediated experience. Religion is thought to have a set of “authentic” forms and practices, which can be experienced only directly.
Worship, community, revelation, prayer, private piety, and religious instruction are each thought to have special benefits (or indeed to be accessible) only when experienced without mediation. Mediated communication is thought necessarily to intervene in such direct experience and thus detract from it, or even destroy it. What is fundamentally different about internet as juxtaposed to radio and television evangelism, is the potential for direct, one on one interaction between evangelists and seekers. Rather than a one way, passive transmission of music, sermons, or “brochure ware” the internet today opens up a more relational way of leveraging communication technology in service of the great commission.
The state of the Web now is essentially about relationships, not computer screens. People want ‘connectedness’, the opportunity to share in a two-way or multiple conversations, to feel they belong to a community. From Facebook to Second Life that is happening every hour of every day via online community. Koinonia online.
In his exploration into the base communities of Latin America in Ecclesiogenesis, Leonardo Boff wrote “Grace and salvation are always expressed in sacramental form. They do not come like a bolt from the blue. They find their path to the hearts of human beings through all manner of mediations. The mediations can change, but grace and faith cannot.”
Whether a face-to-face encounter with a witnessing Christian, a life in a well established and traditional church, or via the airwaves of radio television, radio and the internet, the belief that the Holy Spirit can work in and through any vehicle is what propels the successful media evangelist forward into new territory.