Christianity on the digital frontier: Part IV
Are 21st Century Christians around the world up to the challenge of witnessing to the 21st Century? Are the ways of “doing” church meeting the needs of those who now turn to the internet for everything? Perhaps answers lie within the digital realm itself.
Insights editor Adrian Drayton attended the eFormation Conference in Washington DC this year. To find out how and what Christianity can be online.
In the FOURTH part of a special FIVE-part series, focus is upon digital cathedrals and social changes we all need to grasp.
(Click here to read Part II: Get active online or Part III: Forming faith — digitally)
Growing and expanding church online
Rev. Keith Anderson is a pastor at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church near Philadelphia, and is co-author with Elizabeth Drescher of Click2Save: The Digital Ministry Bible. A leader in digital ministry and a prominent speaker and author in his field, Anderson’s work on religion, new media, and popular culture has appeared on websites such as The Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches, Day 1, and The New Media Project.
“Social media has reshaped the way we live our lives,” summarised Rev. Anderson at eFormation. “We live faith not just in a church building. Fewer people are joining churches and attending services. We can lament that — or go to where the people are.”
Anderson’s plenary described how we can build our own “digital cathedrals” across local and digital gathering spaces, sharing stories of faith communities and ministry leaders from across the country who are engaging and shifting the field of ministry practice and helping to point the way forward. “There is a danger if we keep doing what we’re doing, and ‘be’ and ‘do’ church the way we always have,” explained Rev. Anderson.
“When our instinct is to turn ‘in’, we need to see our churches as much more expansive, networked entities. Some of the thinking around adaptive leadership is really helpful when thinking about how church can grow and expand.”
Lee Rainie is director of internet, science and technology research at the Pew Research Center in the US. He is a co-author of Networked: The New Social Operating System and five books about the future of the internet that are drawn from Pew Research findings. “A big social change is under way,” explained Rainie. “There are three revolutions that have unfolded.
“The first is the Internet broadband evolution. In the very first research done by Pew Research, surveys revealed that half of Americans were online (46 per cent). Now, it’s 80 per cent. It has changed the way they use their networks to learn and share things.
“The second revolution is the Mobile Connectivity Revolution. Right now 88 per cent of adults have mobile phones — 46 per cent have smart phones — which means they can connect with people, media and data anywhere, any time, if they carry around a device.
“The third revolution is the Social Networking Revolution that is taking place inside technology. More than half of Americans use social networking sites to tell their stories, to build their networks and to share in the social media revolution that is taking place.
“People are using these technologies to do something that is profoundly human. They are connecting with other people and sharing their stories. They are not hooked on their gadgets, they are hooked on each other.
“People get information in new ways now,” continued Rainie about the ramifications of the three revolutions. “They share information and use social networks in new ways. It is a completely different media ecology from the one that existed a generation ago. Each person has become a communication and information switchboard connecting persons, networks, and institutions.
“At the same time, each person has become a portal to the rest of the world, providing bridges for their friends to other social circles. This is in contrast to the long-standing operating system formed around large hierarchical bureaucracies and small, densely knit groups such as households, communities, and workgroups.”
Research on digital habits
• Pew Research Centre: A non-partisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the USA and the world. They conduct public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and other data-driven social science research.
Click here to visit Pew Research Centre
• McCrindle Research: As Australia’s social researchers, they take the pulse of the nation. They research communities, survey society and analyse trends.
Click here to visit McCrindle Research
• National Church Life Survey: NCLS Research is a world leader in research that specialises in connecting churches and their communities. Their thoughtful research focuses on well-being, spirituality and church health.
Click here to visit NCLS
Read the full digital issue of Insights August/September issue