Antoine at MMM asks, “How Do Faith-Based Organizations Respond to Increasingly Mobile-Connected Members and Communities?” His question echoes a central dynamic shaping not just religion, but all social organization going forward.
How do faith-based organizations respond to virtuality? The hardest part may be convincing the community that there’s a good reason to sit and stare at a stage, listening to a religious lecture. The virtually-connected faithful now have on-line access to the finest religious teachers imaginable, accessible at their convenience, 7 x 24 x 365. Of what value is physically proximate information (e.g., stage-centric priests and pastors) when the average adherent can now access the best sermons and cross-referenced commentary on-line?
Finding better information elsewhere, the virtually-connected community will restructure their physical gatherings to really connect and be present with each other like they do on-line all week long. When this happens, pastors can step off the stage and interact with people. Gifted teachers can teach in smaller groups where true interactivity can take place. Intimate, organic F2F gathering becomes the central focus, not a mid-week breakout session.
Why would anyone spend time sitting passively (“alone together”) in an audience to hear a comparatively mediocre religious talk when far better material is available on-line?
We all have something to contribute. We are not consumers, we are participants. A virtuality-connected community (which is everyone in my son’s generation) will increasingly mimic their on-line engagement in F2F gatherings. I believe this signals the end of the monologue church era. “Church” is redefined, in part, from a place of one-way information transfer to a distributed, interactive gathering which fosters authentic collaboration in many ways mirroring the multi-way virtual experience.
Is it the end of the religious sermon? Likely not. And certainly there is a place for the stage. But generational changes in social networking assure that a profound shift is underway. And this gives me great hope for a virtual reformation in the way we live and connect as a glocal community.
ADDED: thanks to Scot McKnight for reprinting this post.