Only a few years ago, if I had said that one of the main ways that God wanted us to reach out to a world in need was through the internet, I am convinced that the vast majority of us would have stopped listening, thinking instead that I was out of touch with the real way that people interact. Some young people might be reached online, but for most of us, especially most of us over the age of 40, we saw connecting online as a small part of human communication.
The pandemic has changed all this. All of us, and I mean virtually all of us, have simply had to go online to connect with others and in doing we have discovered some great new ways of connecting. WhatsApp groups, Zoom, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube are some of the many new ways that we have sustain and develop our connections with others.
And this is true for us as individuals and for us in groups. Everyone of us is now online and we have learned to communicate and to connect online – deepening relationships with others through this technology.
Now, like the rest of us, I am aware that much of this new technology is dangerous for us and there are many pitfalls for us engaging with others online. But I am also ware that online connections are becoming increasingly normal for us all. We are not just zooming our families, we are seeing our doctor like this, and being interviewed for jobs like this, and even going on dates like this.
As a church it has made increasing sense to us to invest in the technology to livestream our services. Our online ALPHA course was more successful than any we ever held in person. Being able to hold our small groups online has enabled more couples to come than before.
And we know that if anyone is interested in anything, the first thing most people will do, is to ‘google’ it. As a church are being discovered online. We are being explored online. We are being experienced online.
I am not sure of all the implications of this on us as a church family, but I know that we can’t ignore it. Indeed, we must surely embrace it. For the last 2000 years, what happened inside church services was invisible to people outside and one of the biggest barriers to finding out about the faith was having the courage to cross the threshold of a church. Today, this is easy and statistics show that people are doing this all the time. This Sunday, I expect that there were people watching our livestream that have never been inside our building before – looking to see what we are like, what we believe, how we behave.
As we move forward, we are going to need to grow in our ability to make the most of this technology – both as individuals and as a church together. We have come a long way since January 2020 and we have only just begun.
If you are especially interested in helping us develop our online connection and presence as a church, please do get in touch with me. I’d love to explore with you how we could use your energy, expertise and enthusiasm for this vital way of reaching out to a world in need.