Jared pointed us to Doug Estes’ piece on Out of Ur on the myths surrounding online church, and rightly criticized it.  It is not his best work.  All I can say is, read the book.  From the excerpts I have read (2 or 3 chapters), Doug sincerely attempts to offer a reasoned case for online church that—and this is crucial—distinguishes the various meanings of the term.  I found what I did read to be quite helpful.

I am on the record as being opposed to online church.  So I will simply point out that if the arguments for it aren’t persuasive, neither have been the critiques against it.  Few seem to acknowledge the missional impulse that is driving it and explain why and how we should appropriately constrain our missionary activity (Mark Roberts is an exception—his treatment of it has been fair and insightful, which is what we’ve come to expect from him).

Additionally, as I argued at the Christian Web Conference, I have yet to see how those evangelicals who adopt video sermons as normal for their weekly worship gatherings have any grounds on which to defend those who want to move such gatherings online.  Certainly the same Spirit who can overcome space and time for the preacher’s body can overcome space and time for the congregations’ bodies.  Unless, of course, we want to make the pastor a special category.  Online church seems to be the logical extension of models we have already adopted.

But more importantly, I think the whole conversation has reinforced for me that evangelicals are people who love fads.  Church growth, seeker sensitive, emerging...and now we’re on to ‘online church.’  We love getting all worked up, talking a lot about it, and then we all eventually move on and keep doing our own thing.

Of course, that doesn’t mean such fads don’t have any impact.  The center gets pulled in various directions as the people on the fringe’s make their case.  Case in point:  video sermons are now the center, while 5 years ago they were the fringe. But we are suckers for the next cool way of ‘doing church,’ a treadmill that is difficult to keep pace with.

Articles by Matthew Lee Anderson

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