One of the most interesting phenomena of the Internet is uploading. People today no longer want to simply passively download stuff from the Internet. Now we can offer our own news and opinions on the Internet by blogging and personal web sites. According to Technorati.com, a new blog is created every 7 seconds. People have a deep desire for their voice to be heard.
My kids instant message friends around the world because they want and need to connect with others. How about the incredible success of YouTube.com, where people can share their own videos, and Facebook.com, where young people have a way to tell their own stories? My college age daughter spent the summer volunteering in Ecuador and posted her pictures on Facebook for everyone to see. My son did the same with his Greece pictures. Facebook bills itself as a “social utility that connects you with the people around you.”
There are one billion google searches every day, up from 150 million just 3 years ago. One third of those searches come from outside the United States. When author Thomas Friedman visited the headquarters of Google in 2001 and asked what words are googled the most, the answer was “sex”, “God”, and “jobs.”
For what are we searching? I believe people are using the Internet to express themselves, to look for meaning, to connect with others, and even to find a life partner. I’ve officiated at a number of weddings of people who met on the Internet. A pastor on our district met his wife through the Internet.
In an increasingly impersonal world, how is the church going to respond to our human need for community? I believe there is an intense desire for people to be connected through the church. We don’t always do a very good job of it, however. Certainly, we can and must use technology to reach out with the good news. Just as youth today use cellphones, Web sites, instant messaging, blogs, iPods, Blackberrys and vlogging (video journaling), so the church needs to “get with the program.”
Technology is one of our most underutilized tools in outreach and evangelism. However, technology will never replace the greatest strength of the church, which is the ministry of presence and face-to-face interaction. Remember, people today would often rather upload than download.
- People really don’t want to hear one more answering machine. They want to hear a real, live voice when they call the church.
- People really don’t really want to watch your church service on the web unless they were out of town for worship. They want to sit next to real live human beings and hear a real live preacher.
- People really don’t want to sit passively in the pew for a church service. They want to be actors in the drama of worship, interacting with the worship leaders and the congregation, offering praise to God.
- People really don’t want to be left alone during worship. They yearn for a gentle touch and a kind word, for someone to know their name, to develop relationships and life-long friends.
- People really don’t want to just be pewsitters. They want to engage the Word, talk about their faith, dialogue with others in small groups, and be a part of fellowship activities.
- People really don’t want the church to be a place where they always receive. They have a deep need to reach out to the world in service.
- People really don’t want remain stuck. They want to grow, learn and be empowered by the Holy Spirit. They are hungry and thirsty for grace, for living water, for the bread of life.
Yesterday was the kickoff for fall activities in most of our district churches. How is your church going to be a spiritual utility that connects people with God and others around them this fall? How are you going to offer connection and community? Are you starting small groups? Are you offering Disciple Bible Study? Do you have fellowship events planned? Do you encourage everyone to have a voice? How will you challenge your congregation to actively transform the world?
People are searching at this time of year. The harvest is ripe. I don’t care if “God” is one of the 3 most popular words to Google. I know where I can find God. See you in church!